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Bush Unveils National Security Strategy - 2002-07-16

President Bush has unveiled a detailed strategy to protect Americans from terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. The lengthy document calls for strong action and a coordinated approach to domestic security.

The National Strategy for Homeland Security is, in essence, a plan of action. More than eight months in the making, it is meant to be the guiding philosophy behind all future domestic counter-terrorism measures. In its almost 100 pages, the document lists steps that should be taken to prevent further terrorist attacks. At the core, is creation of a national Department of Homeland Security.

Creating the new Department is a massive undertaking involving more than 100 government agencies and almost 170,000 federal employees. But President Bush said a coordinated approach to combating terrorism is essential to meet the overriding objective. "All of us agree that protecting Americans from attack is our most urgent national priority and that we must act on the priority," he said.

Members of Congress and top administration officials surrounded the president as he unveiled his homeland security strategy and talked about the big challenges ahead. He urged lawmakers to speed up work on his proposed government reorganization and begin debate on the necessary legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security by early August.

"There are a lot of tough decisions that will be made as we develop and discuss and debate how to move forward. But I am confident that members of both parties and members of both chambers know that the security of our nation is the goal," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush said the current approach is, in his words, a "patchwork of overlapping responsibilities." And he noted his national security strategy addresses that problem by setting out lines of authority in Washington and beyond. "This comprehensive plan lays out clear lines of authority and clear responsibilities responsibilities for federal employees and for governors and mayors and community and business leaders and the American citizens," he said.

The homeland security strategy is wide ranging and envisions a number of changes in state and federal laws over the coming years.

It calls for expanded extradition treaties with other countries, and enhanced presidential powers to re-organize the government and transfer funds from one agency to another.

Long term initiatives include strengthening port security, the development of new vaccines against biological agents, and the deployment of more sensors to prevent terrorists from using radioactive and nuclear weapons.

On the state level, there is even a recommendation to change the rules for driver's licenses, setting national guidelines and making it tougher for terrorists to get this important form of identification. The administration is not, however, calling for the creation of a national ID card.