WASHINGTON ? Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (D-CT) today called for the establishment of a permanent, homeland security agency with broad responsibilities to protect against threats to the American people, including terrorist attacks. “With the horrifying images of devastation at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania fresh in our minds,” he asserted, “bold organizational change is demanded of us.”
At a hearing he convened to examine whether government was adequately organized to respond to threats to the American homeland, Lieberman expressed support for the creation of a National Homeland Security Agency, which “would be responsible for coordinating an array of federal activities relating to homeland security” and incorporate selected functions now undertaken by other agencies. Noting that current federal responsibility for terrorism was “divided and subdivided among more than 40 agencies, bureaus, and offices, which spend over $11 billion a year,” the senator supported consolidating and integrating many of these activities in a new agency whose director would be a member of the President?s cabinet.
Lieberman praised the President?s Wednesday evening address to Congress in which the President announced his intention to establish a White House Office of Homeland Security. “It?s a positive step forward,” Lieberman said of the President?s proposal, “although we may need to determine the contours, makeup, and powers of the new office.
“I hope to work closely with the Administration in crafting legislation to reorganize our government?s stewardship of homeland security,” Lieberman stated. “For my part, I think it would be helpful to have a permanent, statutory agency that could improve the effectiveness of our anti-terrorism efforts.” Lieberman favors establishing a robust agency, with budget and line authority, that could pull together anti-terrorism resources that are now widely scattered across government. “I am open to other approaches, but it seems to me that such an organization would be more effective than what we have now in preparing for, responding to, and preventing terrorist attacks,” he concluded.
The homeland security agency initiative was recommended by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century in a report earlier this year. The commission?s co-chairs, former Senators Warren Rudman and Gary Hart, offered strong testimony in support of the initiative. Other witnesses included Virginia Governor James Gilmore and former Ambassador for Counterterrorism Paul Bremer of the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, and David Walker, Comptroller General of the General Accounting Office.