WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Tuesday expressed concern that a lack of communication and coordination between the federal and local governments may impair efforts to protect Americans from terrorism and guarantee a “swift, sure and seamless response” in the event of future attacks.
“Too often, in responding to homeland security threats we’ve faced to date, the federal and local governments have not worked hand in hand, but have tripped over each other’s feet,” Lieberman said. “Because this is the first modern war fought both abroad and on our homefront, the war against terrorism represents the intersection of one traditional federal responsibility—waging war and securing the nation—and one traditional local government responsibility—providing for the public health and safety of our communities,” Lieberman continued. “As a result, it should lead us to rethink some traditional federal relationships and reaffirm others, with the goal of leveraging our strengths to make us a more secure society.”
In addition to the communication gap, another problem cited during the hearing is a lack of funding needed to build the necessary security infrastructure. According to reports released by the National Governors Association and the National Association of Counties the cost of homeland security efforts could be as high as $3 billion or $4 billion in the coming year.
Witness Marc Morial, Mayor of New Orleans and President of the United States Conference of Mayors highlighted these coordination and fiscal concerns, releasing the final report of the Conferences’ Mayors Emergency, Safety and Security Summit, at the hearing. The report, entitled “A National Action Plan for Safety and Security in America’s Cities,” makes recommendations on emergency preparedness, transportation security, and federal-local law enforcement.
Lieberman praised Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge’s plan to form a state and local advisory committee, but questioned the office’s ability to streamline communication and coordination. “The challenge is exacerbated by the fragmented approach to counter-terrorism at the federal level – an approach that I believe would be greatly improved by the creation of a full-fledged, cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security with clear lines of authority and the power to get things done,” Lieberman said.
On October 11 of this year, Lieberman and Senator Arlen Specter, R-Penn., introduced the Department of National Homeland Security Act of 2001. The legislation, based largely on the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, calls for the consolidation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Customs Service, the Border Patrol, the Coast Guard and certain other agencies responsible for critical infrastructure protection under one administrative office that would plan and coordinate government activities relating to homeland security.