Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, hailing the President’s signing of the historic homeland security bill today, issued the following statement:
The President’s signing today of the bill to create a coordinated, consolidated, and accountable Department of Homeland Security is a major victory for the American people. But there is little time to celebrate. Now the hard work of marshaling our strengths and closing our vulnerabilities begins.
This is not only the largest and most complex government reorganization in half a century. It is also the most urgent. While we have been debating the creation of this Department, our terrorist enemies have been plotting and planning to exploit our vulnerabilities. We must close the gaps in our domestic defenses as quickly as humanly possible. Keeping America safe is government’s first priority and most important responsibility. Implementing the law cannot be relegated to bureaucracy as usual.
For more than a year now, Governor Tom Ridge has performed admirably as Director of the White House Office of Homeland Security-a position that regrettably gave him far too little authority to protect America from terrorism. That’s why Senator Specter and I first proposed the creation of a cohesive new Homeland Security Department thirteen months ago. With the new authority and accountability that comes with being a cabinet secretary, he should be able to quickly overcome turf battles and lead with strength.
The list of tasks is long and growing. The Administration and Congress must work together to rapidly confirm a Secretary and other top leadership; forge a clean, clear chain of command from top to bottom; fuse and systematically analyze all intelligence streams so that we never again miss such clear signs of danger; spark the development of cutting edge anti-terrorism technologies, medicines, and vaccines; partner with local police and fire departments to improve our preparedness in every community; and do much, much more.
The dedicated managers and employees of the affected agencies must continue the vital work of protecting America while working closely together to transition smoothly into the new Department.
All the while, we in Congress must carefully oversee the creation of the new Department-appropriating the necessary resources, refining the law as necessary, and keeping a watchful eye to ensure that all employees are given the support and protection they need to perform their difficult jobs as effectively as possible.