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Special report:The U.S. Response to Terrorism
Special report:Life after 911
President Bush's Speech on Homeland Defense The full text of President Bush's speech. 06.06.02
Terror Alert System
New Department of Homeland Security Posted:11.20.02
Now that Congress has passed the Homeland Defense Bill, the focus will shift to creating a new government department charged with protecting the U.S. against terrorism.
After months of bitter debate, the U.S. Senate passed a bill setting up the biggest government reorganization in more than 50 years.
The new Department of Homeland Security is expected to oversee 22 government agencies, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Coast Guard and the Secret Service - the security force that protects the president. It will become the third-largest department in the executive branch, employing nearly 170,000 federal workers.
"We're making great progress in the war on terror," President Bush said. "Part of that progress will be the ability for us to protect the American people at home. This is a very important piece of legislation. It is landmark in its scope."
First new cabinet-level department formed in 60 years
Once the president signs the bill into law, the Homeland Security Department will be the first highest-level government division formed since the Energy Department in 1977 and the largest government reorganization since President Harry Truman created the Department of Defense in 1947.
The department will have four major functions: protecting the border; supporting local agencies, like police and fire departments; detecting chemical, nuclear, or biological weapons; and analyzing all sources of intelligence. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who became President Bush's homeland security adviser after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, is expected to head the department.
Supporters say that having a single, centralized agency to direct homeland security efforts will strengthen the government's ability to stop terrorist attacks and fill the cracks in communication between agencies that may have caused the failure to detect terrorist activity in the past. But critics say creating such a huge agency would only water down the strength of those individual agencies and overburden one department.
During Senate debate over the department, Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia asked why the new agency is suddenly so necessary.
"Osama bin Laden is still alive and plotting more attacks while we play bureaucratic shuffleboard," Byrd said. "With a battle plan like the Bush administration is proposing, instead of crossing the Delaware River to capture the Hessian soldiers on Christmas Day, George Washington would have stayed on his side of the river and built a bureaucracy."
Some lawmakers were also unhappy with the way the homeland security bill was set up, including last-minute additions that would shield vaccine makers from potential lawsuits over negative effects the drugs may have on patients and manufacturers of airport security equipment who make faulty detectors.
Democrats and some Republicans said the new provisions amounted to special favors for Republican supporters. In order to get the votes needed to pass the bill, Republican Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott promised to remove them when the new Congress convenes in January.
The Next Steps
The bill will go into effect 60 days after President Bush signs it into law. However, lawmakers who pushed for the department acknowledge that it may take years to fully integrate the 22 different agencies, each with its own functions, traditions and cultures.
During that time, Homeland Security Director Ridge says he will talk to the heads of large companies that have gone through mergers to avoid the pitfalls of combining large, independent organizations.
"I would be foolish to ignore the reality of the logistics of this," Ridge said. "We're going to look for advice and counsel from a lot of folks."
Republican Senator Phil Gramm of Texas said that there are dangers in creating such a large bureaucracy, but added that this is a chance to try new ideas.
"We're going to run this department better than we run the rest of the government, and we might learn something that could improve the rest of the government," he said.
-- By Raven Tyler, NewsHour Extra
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