PROTECTING THE HOMELAND
Presidential aide explains, defends White House strategy
A top official in the White House Office of Homeland Security (OHS) explained and defended President George W. Bush's National Strategy for Homeland Security, issued July 16, and his earlier proposal for a Department of Homeland Security at a Brookings Institution forum last week.
"There is no perfect template for what a homeland security strategy should look like," said Richard A. Falkenrath, special assistant to the President and senior OHS director for policy and plans. And the strategy document "is not an operational plan," he said.
PHOTO BY LOIS EMBER
As developed, the document breaks homeland security into 10 basic areas and 84 specific activities. Those 10 areas are intelligence and warning, border and transportation security, domestic counterterrorism, critical infrastructure protection, catastrophic threats, emergency preparedness and response, law, science and technology, information sharing, and international cooperation.
Falkenrath admits that "this strategy is incomplete, as it does not deal with the international dimensions of homeland security." It doesn't address the war on terrorism, which the Administration defines as a component of national security. Indeed, Philip Zelikow, director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia and a forum participant, criticized this bifurcation. He believes "homeland security and national security will eventually be treated as indistinguishable."
The Administration plans to use the document "to structure the fiscal '04 budget explicitly around the [first] six areas identified for homeland security," Falkenrath said. The document will be used to set priorities among the 84 activities, and "for organizing the interagency process and for setting specific milestones for developing the operational plans we need," he explained.
On June 6--weeks before OHS released its national strategy--the President sent Congress "a very spare and parsimonious bill," just 35 pages long, creating the Department of Homeland Security, Falkenrath said. "We wanted just enough law to create the department and give it tools to succeed."
The Administration can work with the bill passed by the House, Falkenrath said, but the Senate bill now being debated "is a different story." That bill, he said, contains "no reorganization authority, no transfer authority ... and there is a lack of personnel flexibility." The President has asked for authority to move 5% of any budget account to another account to pay for the transition. If the final bill does not contain some transfer authority and other management flexibility--especially personnel flexibility--the President will veto it, he said.