Homeland security office to unveil national strategy in June
The Office of Homeland Security is scheduled to present a national strategy on preparing the United States for terrorist attacks to President Bush in June, a Bush administration official said.
The Office of Homeland Security is scheduled to present a national strategy on preparing the United States for terrorist attacks to President Bush in June, a Bush administration official said Wednesday.
If approved by Bush, the strategy would provide a roadmap for the multitude of federal, state and local agencies involved in homeland defense, many of which have been competing against each other for the same roles and resources, the official said during a wide-ranging speech sponsored by the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
Although the speech was off the record, an Office of Homeland Security spokeswoman gave Global Security Newswire permission to report the official's remarks.
"It tries to be a national strategy, not just a federal strategy. We try to speak not just for the federal executive branch but for everyone in America," the official said.
"We need to distribute it across many different actors," he said, referring to the plethora of "different, disconnected, variously located and sized" federal, state and local organizations that participate in homeland security.
"It will at least lay out a plan, a sort of format that people can see, hopefully agree to, accept and then use to organize their own activities."
Any strategy put forth by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge will not have executive power because Ridge does not hold a Cabinet position, but if Bush backs the plan, as analysts expect, it will likely carry a lot of influence.
Bush administration officials have proposed spending $38 billion on homeland security in fiscal 2003, including $6 billion for bioterrorism, $2 billion for border security and $3.5 billion for first responders.
First responders, including International Association of Firefighters officials scheduled to testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday, have been clamoring for the proposed funds--and demanding some sort of national guidance on how to best prepare for terrorist and weapons of mass destruction attacks.
Before the fiscal 2003 funds are distributed, Office of Homeland Security officials want to make sure there is a national strategy in place that tries to avoid the current overlaps, oversights or redundancies among the various federal, state and local players, the official said.
"Right now what we're seeing is confusion about who's supposed to do what," the official said.
"We have an argument between the federal government and the states and the local governments on who should pay for different and new activities under homeland security, and of course everyone wants the other guy to pay."
The competition, the official said, includes not only struggles between different agencies within the "federal family" but also among various offices within agencies.
In Congress there are varied committees that "oversee the exact same thing," and there are competitions within the state, municipal and county governments across the country, the official said.
White House officials, he said, "have an argument with the private sector about who's supposed to kick in and incur this cost. Should it be borne by the general revenue or should it be borne by a customer base for a product?
"I've been astonished at how much of my time is spent on resource issues--who's going to pay what?" the official added. "After about a month or two, post-Sept. 11, all of a sudden these sort of green eyeshades came out and took over the debate."