Bush Raises The Ante
"We've got to focus our priorities. We've got to set clear goals. If cultures need to be changed within agencies, we'll change the cultures, because this new war requires a 100 percent focused effort to protect the Homeland."
Bush's June 24 remarks to border-control workers in Port Elizabeth, N.J.

In creating a Department of Homeland Security, President Bush advocates a cohesive, Cabinet-level conglomerate that would be answerable to Congress. As lawmakers wrestle over the details of the mammoth agency that would combine as many as 21 government agencies, the goal is to have the department in place by the end of the year.

The creation of the Department of Homeland Security would empower a single Cabinet official whose primary mission is to protect the American homeland from terrorism. The department's proposed organizational structure would have divisions focused on

  • border and transportation security;
  • emergency preparedness and response;
  • information analysis and infrastructure protection;
  • protection from chemical and biological threats; and
  • natural disaster response and preparedness.

"Since day one, the primary mission of the Office of Homeland Security has been to develop a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist attacks and threats," Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said in a June 10 speech to the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation. "This proposal [of a Cabinet-level department] is the centerpiece of that national strategy. It gives us the structure that we need."

As recently as May 30, Ridge himself had said he would not support such a plan of reorganization. President Bush also seemed reluctant. Before Bush's announcement, several restructuring plans were floated.

Throughout April, the Bush administration vowed to pour $5-10 billion in funding for Homeland defense. A Brookings Institution study criticized Bush for "focusing too narrowly on preventing recurrences of the terrorist airliner crashes and anthrax mailings." The study goes on to recommend "taking more domestic steps to prevent those attacks in the first place."

The proposed department would draw heavily on the private sector for technology solutions to Homeland security needs. "The government can leverage existing information and new technology solutions to help win the war on terrorism," says S. Daniel Johnson, executive vice president of public services at KPMG Consulting Inc.

Daniel P. Burnham, CEO of Raytheon Co., a major defense contractor, said: "A natural migration of our defense capabilities [is to] contribute to the safety and security of people and communities," in a March address to the National Press Club.

Ridge said that the President's reform "touches nearly every Cabinet department and will affect nearly 170,000 federal employees."

"A national strategy, by implication, means we have to work and do a better job not just in our federal agencies, but we have to tie ourselves together with state and local government and the private sector as well," Ridge said.

Bush's announcement set several agencies into motion with the task of assessing the requirements of the new department. According to Comptroller General David Walker of the General Accounting Office (GAO), establishing the Department of Homeland Security will be a daunting task that should cost much more than the $37-plus billion Bush has allotted.

"There is likely to be considerable benefit over time from restructuring some of the Homeland security functions, including reducing risk and improving the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of these consolidated agencies and programs," he said in a report to Congress. "In the short term, however, the new department will clearly require additional resources to make it fully effective. Implementation of the new department will be an extremely complex task and will ultimately take years to achieve."

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