Bush signs new homeland security directives

President Bush on Wednesday signed landmark directives establishing new policies on assessing the vulnerability of critical infrastructure and the nation's preparedness to respond to a terrorist attack.

"These are foundational documents for our homeland security strategy," said a senior administration official during a conference call.

The first directive requires federal agencies to coordinate with state and local officials as well as the private sector to identify critical infrastructure vulnerabilities across all sectors, including information technology, telecommunications, chemical and transportation systems.

"We understand full well that the preponderance of these key infrastructures are owned by the private sector," said the official. "That philosophy permeates the document." The official said after federal agencies make an inventory of the key infrastructures, the departments would work with the private sector as well as state and local governments to protect those assets.

He called a national policy on critical infrastructure the cornerstone of the country's homeland security strategy.

The directive supersedes previous policies, including former President Clinton's directive known as PDD 63, which focused primarily on the economic fallout of a terrorist attack on critical infrastructures. Wednesday's directive goes further to include catastrophic loss of life.

The directive also requires the Homeland Security Department to continue to coordinate national cybersecurity efforts.

Each agency must submit their reports to Homeland Security within one year and each subsequent year after to the department's secretary.

The second directive requires Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to establish a "national preparedness goal" to create guidelines for spending on preparedness equipment. The official said spending on preparedness has increased by 1,000 percent since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The policy will lead to the secretary establishing standards for emergency responder equipment, said officials, who did not rule out the possibility of new regulations.

The new policy will be reflected in the administration's fiscal 2005 budget proposal due in February. One official said the initiatives would receive "very significant levels of funding."

For first responders, it also will seek to centralize grant-funding processes where possible.

The directives are partly a response to a congressional mandate to develop vulnerability assessments, officials said. They offered several reasons for why the administration has not fully addressed that mandate until now.

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