|Bush Calls for Massive Security Agency|
In what the White House called the "biggest restructuring of the federal government since 1947," President Bush has proposed creating a massive new Cabinet-level federal agency to protect America from terrorism.
"Tonight, I ask the Congress to join me in creating a single permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission -- securing the American homeland and protecting the American people," said President Bush in a televised address to the nation.
If approved by Congress, the new Department of Homeland Security would concentrate on preventing future terrorist attacks by strengthening: border and transportation security, emergency preparedness and response, dealing with bioterrorism and protection of critical infrastructure, like power plants and reservoirs.
The new 170,000 employee agency would become the second largest agency in the federal government, surpassed only by the Department of Defense, and have an initial budget of $37 billion. It would also be the first new government agency created since the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1988.
According to President Bush, moving the functions and employees of several existing agencies to the Department of Homeland Security would provide America with a single, well coordinated agency capable of:
- protecting the American homeland
- securing U.S. borders, transportation sector, ports, and critical infrastructure
- synthesizing and analyzing homeland security intelligence from multiple sources
- coordinating communications with state and local governments, private industry, and the American people about threats and preparedness
- coordinating efforts to protect the American people against bioterrorism and other weapons of mass destruction
- helping train and equip emergency first responders
- managing federal emergency response activities
- placing more security officers in the field working to stop terrorists, while requiring fewer resources in Washington managing duplicative and redundant activities that drain critical homeland security resources
White House chart detailing the new Department of Homeland Security (.pdf file)
Among the existing agencies that will be contributing to the Department of Homeland Security, President Bush listed, the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization, Transportation Safety Administration and Federal Emergency Management Administration.
Bush's plan to create the Department of Homeland Security has wide, bi-partisan support in Congress, where leading Democrats called for the Office of Homeland Security to be granted agency status shortly after it was created. President Bush initially opposed the move at that time, saying he needed more time to evaluate the idea.
"Many of us in Congress have said for some time that domestic security should be coordinated under a Cabinet-level position," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota), in a prepared statement.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), however, expressed reservation about the plan. "The question is whether shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic is the way to go," said Kennedy.