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US Homeland Security Finding New Tools to Fight Terrorism

The two-year-old Homeland Security Department is undergoing a major restructuring to better address potential threats to U.S. security. Critics say the department is too big, and lacks centralized leadership. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff announced the organizational changes Wednesday at a press conference in Washington.

Michael Chertoff took over the 180,000-employee agency less than five months ago, and immediately undertook a comprehensive review of the organization charged with protecting the American home front.

He announced to the press corps, "Our goal is to maximize our security, but not security at any price. Our security strategy must promote Americans' freedom, prosperity, mobility and individual privacy. Our Department must drive improvement with a sense of urgency. Our enemy constantly changes and adapts, so we as a Department must be nimble and decisive."

U.S. authorities have conducted preparedness exercises, such as one at the Pentagon, to evaluate their readiness for terrorist attacks and other emergencies.

Secretary Chertoff's plan is intended to increase national preparedness for a biological or nuclear attack.

His six-point plan includes the creation of a new intelligence director who will be responsible for coordinating intelligence analysis and a chief medical officer who will focus on preventing bioterrorism attacks on people or on the food supply.

Priority has also been placed on improving security at American airports and on mass transit networks, and Mr. Chertoff says U.S. border security must be enhanced. "A second imperative is the need to strengthen border security and interior enforcement, as well as to improve our immigration system. We cannot have one approach without the other."

Members of the opposition Democratic Party have criticized the Bush administration for not acting on similar recommendations that were made more than a year ago.