Senators Call For New Structure To Fight Terrorism At Home

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa, and Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., Thursday called for a new structure within the executive branch to help fight the war against terrorism within United States borders.

                The proposal, building upon a bill introduced by Lieberman and Specter last year, would create a National Department for Homeland Defense to focus federal attention and resources on securing our borders and protecting the critical infrastructure.  It also establishes a White House Office on Combatting Terrorism to execute a national strategy for fighting terrorism and to facilitate government-wide coordination with intelligence and military agencies.

                ?The bottom line is if statutory and budget authority are not conferred upon the director of homeland security, the homeland defense of this nation will always be less than what it should be,? Lieberman said.  ?Governor Ridge and his successors need to centralize their authority so that our anti-terrorism policies are consistent and thorough.  They need the power to knock heads to overcome bureaucratic resistance, to eliminate wasteful duplication of effort, and to target precious resources.  And they need control over the budgets of agencies they are charged with overseeing so that those agencies will see clearly what needs to be done.?

                ?The federal government is fortunate to have secured the services of former Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania to take on this responsibility,? Specter said.  ?However, regardless of the close working relationship that the governor and the president currently have, this office needs to be institutionalized in order to survive beyond the term of a single president – to go beyond the term of Governor Ridge?s successor – in order to ensure that homeland defense receives the attention and funding it deserves.?

                Senator Graham said: ?I believe the person who should be in charge is Governor Ridge and I am deeply concerned that Governor Ridge cannot do all that the president intends for him to do – and that the nation needs for him to do – under his present authority.?

                The proposal was unveiled at a Governmental Affairs hearing that followed two hearings last fall on whether the government, specifically the executive branch, is adequately organized to meet the type of security threats expected after September 11.  The bill will be introduced shortly.

                ?The point is to set up a system that will allow us to better prevent, effectively prepare for, and quickly respond to terrorist attacks made against Americans on U.S. soil,? Lieberman said.  ?We must still ask, six months into Governor Ridge?s appointment, whether we are any better positioned to defend ourselves against another terrorist attack within our borders.

                ?Governor Ridge, I?m sure, has done everything in his power to make this nation safer.  But I fear this is not enough, and the reason is he lacks the necessary authority to overcome bureaucratic obstacles that always get in the way of major change in the way government conducts its business.?

                The department would combine the Coast Guard, the Border Patrol, Customs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and three smaller critical infrastructure offices.  The secretary, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, would coordinate with state and local governments and other federal agencies; provide planning guidance; oversee training programs; and generally call the shots in the event of another terrorist attack.

                The National Office for Combatting Terrorism would be led by a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed director charged with assessing terrorist threats and, along with the department secretary, developing a strategy and a budget to fight terrorism at home.  The director would have budget certification authority over programs in the terrorism prevention and response budget and would coordinate execution of the national strategy by relevant federal agencies – particularly those concerned with intelligence and law enforcement.   

Summary of Draft Legislation

By Senators Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Bob Graham, D-Fla.

                The proposed legislation calls for formation of a Department of National Homeland Security, at cabinet level, to plan, coordinate, and integrate U.S. Government activities relating to homeland security, including border security and emergency preparedness, and to act as a focal point regarding natural and manmade crises and emergency planning.  The legislation, which will be introduced shortly, creates a White House Office of Combatting Terrorism to develop an overall assessment of terrorist threats, to craft and oversee a National Strategy to Combat Terrorism, and exercise budget certification authority over spending to combat terrorism.

                                                                                                Title I

The Department Secretary

The Secretary would be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.  The Secretary would be a member of the National Security Council.

The Department Secretary?s Duties

The Secretary?s duties would include:

                Developing policies, goals, and plans to promote homeland security

                Working with state and local governments to protect homeland security

                Conducting exercise and training programs for federal employees involved in homeland security

Establishing effective command and control procedures for the range of potential contingencies, including those that may require military support

                Developing a response plan for homeland security and emergency preparedness

The Department?s Composition

The authorities, functions, personnel and assets of the following agencies would be transferred to the Department of Homeland Security:

                The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its 10 regional offices

                The United States Customs Service

                The Border Patrol, now under the Immigration and Naturalization Service

                The United States Coast Guard

The Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office now located within the Commerce Department

The National Infrastructure Protection Center and the National Domestic Preparedness Office, now located within the FBI

An office of Science and Technology would be established to advise the Secretary on research and development and other science priorities.

The Department?s Organization

The Department would be divided into three sections responsible for securing the border, protecting critical infrastructure, including computer systems, and emergency preparedness and response.


                                                                                                Title II

Director of the National Office for Combatting Terrorism within the White House

The director would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

The director would be an advisor to the National Security Council

The Director?s Duties

The director?s duties will include:

                Developing and reviewing a comprehensive national assessment of terrorist threats

                Developing, with the department secretary, a comprehensive strategy to combat terrorism

                Coordinating and overseeing the execution of the strategy by federal agencies

                Developing, with the department secretary, an annual budget to implement the strategy

Exercising budget review and certification authority over programs in the terrorism prevention and response budget.

                                                                                                Title III

National Strategy to Combat Terrorism

The National Strategy to Combat Terrorism will be developed collaboratively by the department secretary and the White House director.

The secretary will have the lead role on issues of border security, critical infrastructure protection, emergency preparation and response, and integration with state and local efforts.

The director will take the lead on strategic planning concerning intelligence and military assets, law enforcement and diplomacy.

A non-partisan, nine-member panel of outside experts will be established to provide an assessment of the terrorism strategy.