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Update: Security Shake-up

June 7, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: The President’s plan for a new cabinet post on homeland security. Kwame Holman begins.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Tonight, I propose a permanent cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security to unite essential agencies that must work more closely together.

KWAME HOLMAN: The President’s plan would put 22 federal offices and their 169,000 employees under one new cabinet- level department with a budget of $37 billion.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Employees of this new agency will come to work every morning knowing their most important job is to protect their fellow citizens.

KWAME HOLMAN: Mr. Bush said a Department of Homeland Security, which must be approved by Congress, would have four principal tasks: tighten control of U.S. borders against terrorists and explosives, alert state and local governments to terrorist threats and assist them in emergencies, protect the populace from biological, chemical or nuclear weapons, and synthesize intelligence from all the federal government’s civilian and military sources into a single daily status report.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Analysts will be responsible for imagining the worst and planning to counter it.

KWAME HOLMAN: The President met first thing this morning with a bipartisan group of members of Congress who sit on committees that oversee the operations of the federal government. Some anticipated “turf battles” over control of the affected agencies.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I think the most important thing is to get this done quickly. We are going to face opposition, but we’re, you know, we’re together. And I think the burden of proof has to be on anybody who would oppose the creation of a Department of Homeland Security.

REP. WILLIAM “MAC” THORNBERRY: We have to overcome, whatever turf protection, whatever parochial protection is there. The good news is that for more than a year or so, some of us have been working on this on a bipartisan basis in the House and the Senate. And so the group is together, and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to get it done this year.

KWAME HOLMAN: There was some cautious criticism; Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle spoke of the likelihood Congress will make necessary changes to the plan. The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, David Obey, said, at first glance, the President’s plan seemed “fairly haphazard,” and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said Congress “needed time to digest it.”

The President said he was counting on the bipartisan group of allies he assembled to help convince their colleagues.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Now, in terms of turf battles, there’s nothing wrong with a good turf battle fight. And one way to… one way to win that argument is to call upon the good services of effective members of the House and the Senate, and that’s what this meeting is all about. It’s the beginning of winning the turf battle.

I think most members of Congress understand the need to act. If you look around this table, we’ve got members here with plenty of seniority and plenty of stroke and plenty of… and plenty of credibility to move this package through both the House and the Senate.