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Homeland Security Plan Leaves Some Experts Skeptical - 2002-11-26

Some national security experts doubt the creation a new U.S. government Department of Homeland Security means the nation is now better protected against terrorism. It could be years before the 22 agencies brought together under one department are working together effectively.

When President Bush signed the Homeland Security Act into law Monday, he launched the biggest government re-organization since the creation of the Defense Department after World War II. But in doing so, he acknowledged changing the ingrained ways of Washington's multiple and at times competing bureaucracies will not be easy. "To succeed in their mission, leaders of the new department must change the culture of many diverse agencies," says Mr. Bush.

And that, experts say, will be the hard part. "There's going to be a certain amount of chaos," says counter terrorism expert Neil Livingstone. "You could argue that the Defense Department has not gotten all the bugs out [eliminated all problems] in terms of that consolidation. So it's going to be a while before this agency is fully up and functional."

Officials at the 22 agencies that will make up the new department have been sparring for months over budgets, responsibilities and their ultimate position in what will become the new pecking order of Washington.

"This is going to take years to implement and meanwhile we are an open society in a world that requires something more tight [effective] than that," says Bruce Aitken, president of the Homeland Security Industries Association, a new lobby group formed by scores of companies wanting a piece of the new agency's $40 billion budget. "Traditionally, homeland security federal spending was about $5 billion a year," he says. "This is the beginning of the process, not the end. It's not going to change overnight and we've got a lot of work to do."

But some experts warn that rather than creating a new agency to protect against terrorism, fundamental changes are needed at existing agencies, like the CIA. The spy agency has been blamed for failing to pick up on intelligence that critics say might have helped prevent last year's terrorist attacks.

"The CIA has now become part of the problem," says Kenneth Allard, a former U.S. army intelligence officer. "And part of the reason why they are is the fact that you have too many white Anglo-Saxon Protestants with masters degrees in Soviet studies who are still there who have absolutely no clue about Iraq, about al-Qaida or about what we are facing with religious based fanaticism."

Neither the CIA, nor the FBI - two agencies on the forefront of the war on terrorism - will be part of the new Department of Homeland Security.