Security Strategy Sees Broad New Federal role.(PAGE ONE)

Article excerpt


President Bush yesterday proposed a sweeping homeland security strategy that includes calls for new secrecy laws, research into vaccines, tighter borders and the creation of "red teams" of federal agents who would think like terrorists and then thwart attacks.

The new strategy, nine months in the making, includes calls for high-tech methods to identify Americans and urges new nationwide standards on state drivers licenses. The plan also calls for an expanded U.S. military role in domestic security, which may include using troops to enforce quarantines after a biological attack.

The proposal also requests greater authority for the federal government to employ the National Guard, a power now reserved only for governors, and calls for standardizing travel documents for international visitors.

"Protecting Americans from attack is our most urgent national priority, and we must act on the priority," the president said in a White House Rose Garden ceremony as he presented anew strategy, which must be approved by Congress.

White House aides said the strategy - a series of broad recommendations and proposals contained in a detailed report released yesterday - will be broken up into smaller legislative items. Enacting the plan will take several years, they said.

State and local governments and the private sector would pick up a sizable chunk of the costs, although the proposal is vague on funding scenarios. Already, governors estimate states will pay more than $6 billion through the end of the year for security measures.

One of the proposal's boldest measures is the call for the creation of "red teams" within the proposed Homeland Security Department to work with U.S. intelligence agencies to anticipate and prevent what the White House calls "catastrophic threats."

"The new department would have certain employees responsible for viewing the United States from the perspective of the terrorists, seeking to discern and predict the methods, means and targets of the terrorists," the 72-page report says.

"Employing 'red team' tactics, the new Department would seek to uncover weaknesses in the security measures at our nation's critical infrastructure sectors during government-sponsored exercises."

The plan also seeks to:

*Expand extradition agreements with other nations.

*Work internationally to standardize foreign travel documents and make U.S. passports harder to forge.

*Ensure availability of terrorism insurance for U.S. business and property owners.

*Revise secrecy laws to make it harder for the public to learn about vulnerabilities.

*Outfit the Coast Guard with new ships and anti-terror gear.

*Set up lines of succession for state judiciaries.

*More closely monitor the 16 million shipping containers that cross into the United States each year.

*Augment vaccine stockpiles and begin research for new antidotes to chemical and biological weapons that could be used in an attack.

*Enhance the FBI's analytical capabilities.

*Improve cooperation among different levels of federal, state and local governments, and upgrade computer security.

The new comprehensive strategy is the work of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, who was ordered by the president in October to design the strategy. The White House said the administration consulted with thousands of federal, state, local and private-sector officials - including first responders, law enforcement officials, and mayors and governors who serve on the front lines in the war on terrorism - in compiling the strategy. …