Lawmakers offer homeland security plans

Lawmakers offer homeland security plans

Sen. Joseph Lieberman proposes creating a National Homeland Security Department.

Shortly after President Bush named Tom Ridge and cybersecurity adviser Richard Clarke to head the Homeland Security Office, Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) proposed legislation creating a cabinet-level National Homeland Security Department with funding from and accountability to Congress.

The legislation would merge under one administrative office the Border Patrol, Coast Guard, Customs Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal organizations that play a role in infrastructure protection.

Similar legislation was to be introduced in the House by Reps. William Thornberry (R-Texas) and Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.). The two representatives are chairman and ranking Democrat, respectively, on the House Armed Services Committee's Special Oversight Panel on Energy Department Reorganization.

Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said the proposed department would have three directorates responsible for securing borders, protecting critical infrastructures, and preparing for and responding to emergencies.

Whether Ridge would head such a department is unclear. The Senate Judiciary Committee this month twice postponed meetings of its full membership to hear testimony on homeland defense from Attorney General John Ashcroft and Ridge.

Specter said in a statement, 'As a practical matter, it is impossible for Gov. Ridge to go to the president every time there is a turf battle. There is a need for governmental structure in regard to homeland defense. That is the job of the Congress.'

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