WASHINGTON – Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) Friday stressed the need for the federal government to fix persistent management problems plaguing federal agencies that threaten national preparedness and response in the war against terrorism. Thompson’s remarks came during a panel discussion with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the American Enterprise Institute’s “Winning the War Against Terrorism – Next Steps” conference.
“We’ve had years of waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government, and a government that can’t balance it’s books is a government that’s clearly unprepared to meet the challenges that are here and on the horizon,” said Thompson, who has been pleased with the Bush Administration’s early efforts to address management reform. “We’ve got to look across the board and see what we’re really going to have to have in terms of financial management, critical infrastructure, public health systems, and private partnerships in order to get the job done.”
Thompson said federal management needs have been sidelined for other national priorities for too long and that government reform is now of critical importance. He pointed out the national security dimension of the human capital crisis, as agencies and departments struggle to recruit and retain people for positions throughout the federal government. “We need to rearrange our domestic priorities,” he said. “Clearly, we must do more militarily, increase spending as we’ve been told by the Congressional Budget Office to do, modernize, realign, and work more with the intelligence community.”
Despite early successes in the war against terrorism, Thompson said sustaining American will in this war will be an ongoing effort. He urged the United States to prove its willingness to use the military, technological, and intelligence might it has, but has been reluctant to use in previous engagements for fear of destabilizing international coalitions.
“There’s a cost to alliances, as we’ve seen with our troops returning from Desert Storm without finishing up the job decisively,” Thompson said. “We must not compromise what’s in our interest for the sake of a coalition. I’ve been afraid that our enemies looking at our history, in Beruit, Somalia, and Haiti for example, would think we have the technological power necessary, but not the will. I think that idea is being dispelled, but we have to really prove that we have the will to use what we have at our disposal.”
He continued, “We were not prepared for what happened on September 11, but we should have been. We had plenty of warnings and we knew that international terrorists were becoming bolder and more aggressive. But we were unwilling to confront those supporting terrorist networks. We cannot afford to avoid this problem any longer.”