To better coordinate America's domestic defense, President George
W. Bush wants to create a Department of Homeland Security. The
new cabinet-level organization would have control over 22 current
independent agencies, including the Coast Guard, Immigration and
Naturalization Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Only the FBI and CIA would remain independent.
"America needs a group of dedicated professionals who wake up
each morning with the overriding duty of protecting the American
people," Bush said.
Homeland Security would employ 170,000 people with an operating
budget of $37.4 billion budget. By contrast, the Department of
Education has a bigger budget ($54 billion), but a smaller staff
The head of the department would serve on the President's cabinet,
on the same level as the Department of Defense, the Department
of Justice, and Department of Health and Human Services. That
level is the highest rank for an agency in the executive branch.
Last year, on a much smaller scale, the White House created the
Office of Homeland Security. The office is led by former Pennsylvania
Governor Tom Ridge, and has a staff of 100 people. Because Ridge
has no budget control over other agencies, and agency heads don't
have to answer to him, he has not been able to accomplish his
mission. Bush wants to remedy that lack of power by creating the
cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security.
The Republican-led House passed a bill approving Bush's proposal
in July, before the summer recess for Congress. The Democrat-controlled
Senate wants more time to debate the proposal. The Senate will
take up the issue when Congress reconvenes in September.
"If ever there was a need for the Senate to throw a bucket of
cold water on an overheated legislative process that is spinning
out of control, it is now," says Senator Robert Byrd, Chairman
of the Appropriations Committee and Democratic Senator from West
One sticking point: Federal unions representing 50,000 workers
in the government are against the idea, saying it would take away
their ability to bargain for wages and protect themselves from
discrimination. That's because Bush is proposing that executives
in the new department have more freedom to hire, fire, and transfer
workers a power he says is important to protect national security.
The President is lobbying hard, trying to overcome the Democrats
who are wary of the proposed changes in hiring practices. "It
is important in times of war to have flexibility," Bush says.
"I need flexibility to be able to run this department."