Good morning. Next week, our nation will pause to honor and remember the lives
lost on September the 11th. We must also remember a central lesson of the tragedy:
our homeland is vulnerable to attack, and we must do everything in our power
to protect it.
We protect our country by relentlessly pursuing terrorists across the Earth;
assessing and anticipating our vulnerabilities, and acting quickly to address
those vulnerabilities and prevent attacks. America needs a single department
of government dedicated to the task of protecting our people. Right now, responsibilities
for homeland security are scattered across dozens of departments in Washington.
By ending duplication and overlap, we will spend less on overhead and more on
protecting America. And we must give the Department of Homeland Security every
tool it needs to succeed.
One essential tool this new department needs is the flexibility to respond to
terrorist threats that can arise or change overnight. The Department of Homeland
Security must be able to move people and resources quickly, without being forced
to comply with a thick book of bureaucratic rules.
For example, we have three agencies working to safeguard our borders: the INS,
the Customs Service, and the Border Patrol. They all have different cultures
and different strategies, but should be working together in a streamlined effort.
Other federal agencies dealing with national security already have this flexibility
-- the FBI and the CIA and the new Transportation Security Administration. It
seems like to me if it's good enough for these agencies, it should be good enough
for the new Department of Homeland Security.
In addition, the new Secretary of Homeland Security needs the authority to transfer
some funds, limited funds, among government accounts in response to terrorist
threats. This requirement is nothing new; such authority is presently available
to numerous agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services,
the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Energy.
The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would ensure the flexibility
and authority needed for the Department of Homeland Security to effectively
carry out its mission. The legislation now in the Senate would not. The Senate
bill would not allow the new Secretary of Homeland Security to shift resources
or streamline functions in response to a terrorist threat without a time-consuming
approval process. And the legislation would keep in place a process that can
take up to 18 months just to fire an employee.
The Senate bill also provides no transfer authority for the Secretary of Homeland
Security. Under the Senate bill, the Secretary would have to ask the President
to submit a supplemental budget request to Congress, and then wait for Congress
to act every time new terrorist threats presented a need for additional funding.
In this war on terror, this is time we simply do not have.
Even worse, the Senate bill would weaken the President's well-established authority
to prohibit collective bargaining when a national security interest demands
it. Every President since Jimmy Carter has used this authority, and a time of
war is not time to limit a President's ability to act in the interests of national
Senators need to understand I will not accept a homeland security bill that
puts special interests in Washington ahead of the security of the American people.
I will not accept a homeland security bill that ties the hands of this administration
or future administrations in defending our nation against terrorist attacks.
America has been engaged in this war for nearly a year, and we've made real
progress. Yet more work remains. A new Department of Homeland Security will
help us to protect our country, but only if it has the tools to get the job
done. I urge the Senate to follow the House's lead and pass legislation that
gives the department the flexibility and the authority it needs to protect the