Task of building vast new security agency begins
Bush predicts 'tough battle' in Washington
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush urged Congress on Friday not to let turf battles sink his homeland security proposal as he tried to build support for the broadest federal government reorganization in more than half a century.
A day after telling the nation of his plans for a new Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, Bush summoned lawmakers to the White House for an initial strategy session on crafting legislation to create what would be the U.S. government's second-largest agency.
"We've got a lot of work to do to get this department implemented," Bush told reporters at the White House. "There's going to be a lot of turf protection in the Congress, but I'm convinced that by working together that we can do what's right for America -- and I believe we can get something done."
Early reaction to the proposal from Capitol Hill has been mostly positive, with support voiced by both Bush's fellow Republicans and by Democrats. But the task of creating such a vast new agency -- one with an initial budget of $37 billion and nearly 170,000 employees -- will be a challenging one.
Underscoring the challenge for lawmakers is the fact that 88 different congressional committees and subcommittees have jurisdiction over agencies affected by the reorganization.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut -- the running mate of Bush's 2000 presidential rival, Al Gore -- said the new department is "exactly what our nation needs now" and predicted Congress will pass legislation to establish it.
"The fact is that we're at war, and we've traditionally said in America that when at war, partisanship ends at the nation's borders. On September 11th, the terrorists brought war within our borders," Lieberman said.
Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, the top Democrat in the House, also expressed support. "I think we've got to do it," he said.
Some lawmakers, however, criticized various aspects of the Bush proposal. Some opposed lumping immigration services under a department whose mission is national security: Others questioned why the FBI and the CIA were left relatively unaffected by the planned overhaul.
"Most of the major federal infrastructure that currently deals with counterterrorism -- including 97 percent of the FBI and all of the CIA -- is inexplicably left out of the new Department of Homeland Security," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wisconsin, who supports creating a new department but opposes parts of Bush's plan.
Speaking to farmers in Iowa later on Friday, Bush said he expects a "tough battle" in getting the needed congressional approval for his proposal.
"This is going to be a tough battle, because we're going to be stepping on some people's toes. I understand that," he said. "You see, when you take power away from one person in Washington it tends to make them nervous. And so we're just going to have to keep the pressure on the people in the United States Congress to do the right thing."
Biggest reorganization since 1940s
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who was appointed by Bush in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks to head the new Office of Homeland Security, is considered a leading contender to take charge of the new Cabinet-level department. Bush said Friday he will dispatch Ridge to Capitol Hill to testify about the plan.
"I feel strongly that he can represent the interests of the administration on the Hill," Bush said.
Ridge said the new department would work closely with both the CIA and FBI, receiving information about terrorist threats and advising the agencies on situations where more investigation may be needed.
The new department, if approved, would include a number of agencies that are now parts of other federal departments, including the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the Border Patrol and the Customs Service.
The Department of Homeland Security would be second only to the Defense Department in size and would be led by a Cabinet secretary confirmed by the Senate. It also would include a centralized clearinghouse for analyzing information gathered by intelligence agencies and federal, state and local law enforcement organizations.
If enacted, administration officials say the change would amount to the largest reorganization of the federal government since the late 1940s, when the different branches of the military were consolidated into the Defense Department and the National Security Council was created.
The new department, Bush said, would mean "accountability is clear" as it relates to homeland security, and he rejected the suggestion that it would contribute to a bloated government, saying the consolidation of agencies dealing with homeland security would create "inherent savings."
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