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Security experts take shots at effort to create new department

President Bush's proposal to create a Homeland Security Department-and the disparate House and Senate bills to implement the sweeping plan-do not adequately address several issues that are crucial to the government's ability to effectively combat terrorism, several national security experts said Wednesday.

"The problem of intelligence sharing and intelligence fusion is not addressed by this reorganization," Michele Flournoy, a senior adviser for international security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said during a forum sponsored by the Cato Institute.

Flournoy said the new department should include a "national intelligence fusion center" to improve intelligence agencies' ability to share information with each other and with federal, state and local law enforcement officials. The new department also should establish an information classification system that could enable law enforcement officials to contribute to intelligence analysis projects, she said.

Flournoy emphasized the need for close ties with the private sector. She said the Homeland Security Department should include an undersecretary for acquisition whose responsibilities would be comparable to the Defense Department's undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics. The Homeland Security Department also should adopt flexible procurement mechanisms and be in tune with the technology industry, she said.

"Establishing a department culture that is really informed by 21st century commercial practices is going to be a key to success or failure here," Flournoy said.

Lawmakers must do more to prevent the proposed 170,000-employee department from becoming an oversized, disorganized bureaucracy, said Mac Destler, an international security expert at the University of Maryland. "The administration and Congress seem intent on making the new department larger than it needs to be, and probably harder to manage than it needs to be," Destler said.

Congress and the Bush administration should address those complex issues before enacting legislation create the department, according to Ivan Eland, director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute.

"If the president wants to streamline things, he should have done that before creating the new department," Eland said, adding that a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy will not improve the nation's ability to combat terrorist threats. "[Terrorists] probably look for chinks in the bureaucratic armor so they can find the cracks and attack there," he said.

Eland questioned the need for a department and said the congressional debate on Bush's proposal has been "very poor."

"The train is leaving the station on this department, but I'm ... not at all sure that this is going to lead to more homeland security," Eland said. "I think we need to cut before pasting rather than paste before cutting."