Bush Gambles US Safety on $37Bn Security Shake-Up

By Cornwell, Rupert | The Independent (London, England), June 9, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Bush Gambles US Safety on $37Bn Security Shake-Up


Cornwell, Rupert, The Independent (London, England)


President Bush's proposal for an over-arching new cabinet department for domestic security may be the biggest shake-up for the Federal Bureaucracy in half a century. But there's absolutely no guarantee it will provide the protection that anxious Americans crave.

"We face an urgent need and we must move quickly," George Bush told the nation in his prime-time television address on Thursday. Despite successes in the War Against Terrorism, he said, "thousands of armed killers are plotting to attack us" and America simply has to change its ways.

Not since the National Security Act of 1947, when Harry Truman merged the various armed services into a unified Department of Defense, and set up the CIA, has a president so drastically reorganised government.

According to Mr Bush, the job of the new body is "imagining the worst and planning to counter it". But that alone does not mean that the new Secretary of Homeland Security, even with a budget of $37bn and a staff of almost 170,000, will have the clout so conspicuously lacked by Tom Ridge, who Mr Bush named as domestic security tsar just nine days after 11 September.

And success will depend on matters beyond the new Secretary's control: whether the endemic turf fighting between the CIA and the FBI, can be rooted out; whether the FBI can change its ossified internal culture; and whether Congress can deliver legislation to have the new department up and running by 1 January 2003.

Mr Bush's proposal bears every sign of hasty compilation, its announcement blatantly timed to deflect attention from the embarrassing testimony on Capital Hill from the FBI whistle-blower, Coleen Rowley.

The proposal has, however, drawn early and impressive bipartisan support from Congressional leaders. The real test will come when the House and Senate get down to details. Almost 100 committees and sub- committees on the Hill have a finger in the internal security pie. They will fight to retain their say, covertly backed by the eight existing Cabinet departments, which will have to surrender staff and entire agencies to the newcomer.

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