WASHINGTON – Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Friday challenged the Bush Administration to respond immediately to the recommendations of a new Council on Foreign Relations report that concludes the U.S. government is still woefully unprepared to prevent another terrorist attack.
Given the report’s analysis that disorganization among anti-terrorism components of the federal government is still a major problem, Lieberman also urged his Republican Senate colleagues to end their filibuster against their own version of homeland security legislation pending before the Senate.
“It’s been over a year since the worst attack on American soil in memory,” Lieberman said. “A lot could have, and should have, been done in that time to shore up our domestic defenses. And yet, I’m afraid the time has been frittered away, and yet the nation is still in a dangerous state of unpreparedness.”
Lieberman pressed for the Bush Administration to assess and act quickly on the report’s recommendations, including to bolster homeland defenses by providing state and local law enforcement agencies with real-time information about terrorist threats and to immediately provide federal funding to equip local first responders to fight terrorism.
The report, issued by an independent task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and chaired by former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, said that, “a year after September 11, 2001, America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil.”
The administration has made little progress in key homeland security areas, according to the report, such as port and container security, protection of energy and water supplies, and public health preparedness for a chemical or biological attack.
“President Bush declared war on terrorism,” Lieberman said. “But this report shows that the war to protect our own citizens at home has barely begun. I deeply appreciate the task force’s commitment to keeping us all focused on the need to strengthen our homeland defenses.”
Lieberman particularly thanked Senators Hart and Rudman, on whose work he heavily relied in drafting legislation to create a new Department of Homeland Security last year. The creation of a homeland security department should be “enacted on an urgent basis,” the report said, and security vulnerabilities should be addressed quickly.
“Last week CIA Director Tenet told us that another attack may be imminent,” Lieberman said. “Now this report shows that we’re woefully under-prepared to respond to that threat. I hope this provides a wake-up call to my Senate colleagues who are inexplicably filibustering their own homeland security bill. We need a Homeland Security Department, and we need it yesterday.”