- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Prior to recessing for the Christmas holidays, Congress inched forward a bipartisan bill that would provide funding to combat domestic improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a growing problem outlined last year in a National Intelligence Estimate released by the National Intelligence Council. That report found IEDs are the new weapon of choice for terrorists, particularly those with links to al Qaeda, who are seeking to attack Americans on their own soil. Congressional leaders like Maine Sen. Susan Collins, ranking member of the Senate homeland security panel, and Chairman Joe Lieberman of Connecticut have taken the lead to address the lack of communication and training among domestic law enforcers on the issue of IEDs.

In November, the Senate homeland security panel approved the bill, and in mid-December Reps. Peter King, New York Republican, and Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, brought the bill to the House, where it is awaiting review by the House Homeland Security Committee.

The National Bombing Prevention Act would strengthen the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Bombing Prevention (OBP) by authorizing $10 million for fiscal 2008 and $25 million each for fiscal 2009 and 2010 to tackle this threat of IEDs head-on. (Mrs. Collins and Mr. Lieberman also attached $10 million for the OBP in the omnibus spending bill recently signed by President Bush.)

The money would be used to train state and local law enforcers on IED detection tactics and enhance the Tripwire program, an online data-sharing network for intelligence and emergency workers to learn about terrorist bombing practices.

The bill also requires Mr. Bush to produce his long-stymied National Strategy for Bombing Prevention and would bolster research and development of counter-explosive technology. It would also serve as a catalyst for the sharing of military technology and expertise with civilian law enforcement agencies working to prevent IEDs.

An estimated 1,700 of the 4,218 coalition military deaths in Iraq were caused by IEDs, according to the Web site icasualties.org. Clearly, the military has extensive experience dealing with IEDs — it has spent more than $15 billion on developing counter-explosive equipment — and this technological progress must be transferred to our domestic front.

We urge both chambers to continue advancing this legislation, whose effects could be profound.

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