Homeland Security: The Next Critical Step
On September 15, 1999, the United States (US) Commission on National Security/21st Century issued its first (of three) reports entitled, “New World Coming.” Our first conclusion was that: “America will become increasingly vulnerable to hostile attack on our homeland and our military superiority will not entirely protect us. Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers.” In our final report, delivered to President Bush in January 2001, we strongly recommended the creation of a National Homeland Security Agency to collect under one civilian command elements of more than 40 separate federal offices and agencies with some responsibility for homeland security.
The President has taken an important step in this direction by the creation of a Homeland Security office or council. But more must be done. This agency should have the statutory and budgetary authority over these disparate federal elements in order to give its director, Governor Tom Ridge, the power needed to command results. Otherwise, his authority is only through exhortation and the involvement of the President in resolution of disputes between agencies.
The stakes are too high for this experiment to fail and then for our country to start again. The cost is human lives. This is not a squabble about bureaucratic power. This is an issue at the heart of American security in the 21st century.
Co-Chair, United States Commission on National Security/21st Century;
United States Senator, 1975-1987