WASHINGTON – Reacting to President Bush’s claim Wednesday that great strides have been made to protect American shores from terrorist attack, Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said the Administration’s declarations are not matched by the reality. Persistent and glaring vulnerabilities remain, Lieberman said, while the Administration has routinely failed to provide the leadership and resources necessary to correct them.
“The Bush Administration has little reason to swagger,” Lieberman said. “In fact, it has consistently fallen short of its responsibility to protect the American public at home. The good news is that we now have a Cabinet-level department that can focus critical attention and resources on these problems. Unfortunately, the Administration thus far has failed to offer the vision or resources the Department needs to succeed in its mission.” As a leading advocate for the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, and ranking member of the Senate committee with oversight responsibilities over the department, Lieberman has spent the last nine months meticulously analyzing the start -up of the new cabinet-level agency. While he has noted some successes – for example, there has been an improvement in aviation passenger screening – he has also expressed disappointment in chronic under-funding of many of the department’s key functions. Among the outstanding gaps in homeland security Lieberman cited are insufficient funding for state and local first responders, inadequate information sharing with state and local homeland security officials, scant progress on port and container security, an absence of vision for protecting the critical infrastructure, and an unwillingness to challenge the status quo to forge a powerful new terrorist threat information center in the department. “Insufficient funding – especially for the men and women on the frontlines of the domestic war against terrorism – continues to be a serious handicap,” Lieberman said. “Nevertheless, I remain committed to working to overcome the array of challenges facing the department to help it become the homeland security lynch pin we envisioned it to be.” Specifically, Lieberman noted the following as a partial list of vulnerabilities that remain in homeland security: