WASHINGTON – Senators Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., Thursday proposed the creation of a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security with the authority and resources to carry out its mission effectively, while still being accountable to the public.
The move, spurred by the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, would reorganize the activities of scores of federal agencies that now have a part in combating terrorism.
?We need a robust, executive-level department to carry out the core functions of homeland defense, which are prevention, protection and preparation,? Lieberman said.
Added Specter, ?Governor Ridge can handle the job if he has sufficient authority. As a practical matter, it is impossible for Governor Ridge to go to the president every time there is a turf battle. There is a need for governmental structure in regards to homeland defense. That is the job of the Congress, and this legislation provides that structure.?
The new department would consolidate the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Customs Service, the Border Patrol, the Coast Guard and certain other agencies responsible for critical infrastructure protection under one administrative office that would plan and coordinate government activities relating to homeland security.
The Department would be divided into three directorates responsible for the prevention, preparation and protection of future attacks.
The Department Secretary would be appointed by the President, but confirmed by the Senate and, therefore, accountable to the Congress and the public. The Secretary also would have full authority over the Department?s budget and spending priorities and would be a full member of the National Security Council.
Representatives William Thornberry, R-Texas, and Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., are sponsoring similar legislation in the House. The Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Friday at 10 a.m. in Dirksen 342 to review a number of legislative proposals related to homeland defense.
The Lieberman-Specter bill is based largely on the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, commonly known as the Hart-Rudman Commission.