WASHINGTON – On the eve of the March 1 consolidation of over two dozen programs and agencies into the new Department of Homeland Security, Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Friday he was encouraged that the department was taking shape on schedule. But he also expressed disappointment with progress on several fronts.
“The full establishment of this department will improve domestic security for all Americans,” Lieberman said. “But the opportunity will be squandered if the Bush Administration fails to show the bold leadership needed to overcome the problems of our past. “The Administration says it will do everything in its power to defend Americans against terrorist attack, but it has been miserly when it comes to funding the effort here at home and has had no courage in the face of an entrenched intelligence community.”
After two Governmental Affairs Committee hearings on the Administration’s proposal to centralize the analysis of terrorist intelligence, Lieberman said he feared the department’s Intelligence Analysis and Infrastructure division – which remains leaderless – would be rendered moot. By creating a Terrorist Threat Integration Center under the authority of the Director of Central Intelligence, the Administration will limit the authority, resources, and scope of the intelligence unit within the Homeland Security Department.
“The White House is still reluctant to shake up the turf-conscious intelligence community,” whose failure to share information was partially responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Lieberman said. “This is not what Congress had in mind and, in fact, is contrary to what is written in law.
“This Administration has chosen the path of least resistance rather than exercising the bold leadership so acutely needed to overcome the intelligence community’s historic obstacles to sharing information. “We need an independent entity to integrate the intelligence from all the agencies,” Lieberman added. “The Director of Central Intelligence has his hands full processing intelligence about foreign, domestic, military and economic threats. The Secretary of Homeland Security’s one job is to worry about terrorist attacks in the United States. He is accountable, and the analysis of intelligence related to the mission of homeland security should be his responsibility, under his leadership.”
Lieberman has been sharply critical of the Administration’s failure to provide or use the necessary resources to protect American citizens from terrorist attacks within the nation’s borders. He has singled out the pressing need to train and better equip first responders, to bolster port security, and to put the brains and brawn of the U.S. military to better use in defense of the homeland.
“On homeland security, the Administration has consistently found itself in a ‘me too’ position, following, sometimes months after the fact, the proposals of others,” Lieberman said. “Rather than playing catch up, the White House should lead.”