Lieberman Warns Against Short-Changing Homeland Security

WASHINGTON – In the wake of a new report on homeland security, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., pressed the Bush Administration Friday for adequate funds to protect Americans from terrorist attack here at home.

“So far, there’s been a lot of talk from the Bush administration about protecting homeland security, but very little action,” said Lieberman, who led the effort to consolidate 22 government agencies and programs into a new department. “Without the proper resources, linked to a comprehensive strategy, the security of our ports, our communities, and our critical infrastructure will always be lacking. It’s time for the administration to exercise some leadership and put its money where its mouth is.” Lieberman’s comments came as the General Accounting Office released a new report that said the start -up of the new Department of Homeland Security will cost money. The Bush administration has said the consolidation will save taxpayers money. “In the long run, savings may well be realized, but any reorganization will incur start-up costs, as well as require some funding that may be temporarily redundant, but necessary to maintain continuity of effort during the transition period,” the GAO said. “More important than a precise cost of the transition is the recognition that there will be short-term transition costs and that these costs need to be made transparent in a transition plan for congressional consideration,” the report said. The report comes amid a bitter, year-long dispute over funding a variety of homeland security measures. In August, President Bush vetoed $5 billion that would have been delivered immediately to state and local first responders. Earlier this month, the administration announced it would wait several months before releasing an additional $1.5 billion for law enforcement and anti-terrorism assistance. And the administration has failed to help speed along already-appropriated funds to local communities – including some of the funding that was provided immediately after September 11th. “Homeland security will be nothing but a pipe dream unless the president expends some of his political capital in the debate over current appropriations and to ensure the necessary commitment of resources in his upcoming budget,” Lieberman said. “There are critical needs that must be met to fulfill the promise of this department.”