Chertoff unveils Homeland Security revamp plan

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Wednesday announced plans to rearrange and consolidate several agencies at the department -- the first reorganization since the department was created two years ago.

"Modest but essential course corrections regarding organization will yield big dividends," Chertoff said, adding he would implement several of the changes while others would require legislation.

Chertoff plans to pull the Federal Emergency Management Agency out of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate to become, once again, a stand-alone agency reporting directly to him.

The secretary would like a division dedicated solely to preparedness. The preparedness wing would include the office that doles out funding for first responders. The first responder grant program is currently located within Chertoff's office. Moving it underneath another layer of bureaucracy could ignite the ire of lawmakers sensitive to its funding activities.

However, House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said he was "ready and willing" to help Chertoff achieve "these ambitious goals and get the department on track."

The secretary would like to dissolve the Transportation Security and Border Protection directorate, which former Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson ran. Officials running agencies under that umbrella -- the Transportation Security Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau and the Customs and Border Protection bureau -- would report directly to Chertoff.

The secretary also plans to dissolve the Information Analysis and Information Protection Directorate -- a division plagued with technical and policy problems -- to focus more attention on intelligence gathering. The former assistant secretary of information analysis would become the chief intelligence officer to disseminate information throughout the department and with other federal agencies. Other changes include a new departmentwide policy office and promoting the cyber czar to an assistant secretary level.

Chertoff also said he plans to eliminate the 30-minute seating rule after departure and before arrival into Reagan National Airport.

In response to last week's London bombings, Chertoff said the department has worked extensively with the transit sector and first responders to strengthen the overall security of transit systems. He added that "multiple funding streams" have been made available to support rail and transit security projects.

The Senate is debating the fiscal 2006 Homeland Security spending measure and several senators have introduced amendments to increase funding for mass transit systems. Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., has argued that states have received an estimated $8 billion for transit projects and that $150 million from last year's spending measure has yet to reach states. But there were signs Wednesday the White House is taking Senate Banking Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., at his word as he readies an amendment to boost mass transit security funds by $1.2 billion, which could require some budgetary sleight of hand to remain within spending limits.

Office of Management and Budget Director Josh Bolten told reporters that the "mass transit money is an issue that's in discussion with the Congress" and suggested compromise could be made to make room for additional funds within existing accounts.

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