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Bush Campaigns Hard to Create Homeland Security Deparment - 2002-07-22

President Bush is campaigning hard for his plan to create a federal Department of Homeland Security, as Congress approaches a series of key votes. Mr. Bush said he wants the biggest government reorganization in decades to move through the legislature in record time.

The president is highlighting different aspects of the war on terrorism, as he calls on Congress to support a coordinated approach to homeland security. Last Friday, he visited with thousands of U.S. troops. On Monday, he paid tribute to the government scientists who are developing the technology that will help detect terrorist acts and better protect the American people.

"We will fight on the frontiers of knowledge and discovery," Mr. Bush said. "In this new war, we will rely upon the genius and creativity of the American people." Mr. Bush spoke at a national research lab in Argonne, Illinois, a suburb of Chgicago, where he showcased new anti-terrorism technology. He said the scientific community is on the front lines of the war on terror.

"We've got a lot of brain power working on ways to deal with the threats we now face as we head into the 21st century," Mr. Bush said. "For example, I saw a warning and response system that will supply [emergency personnel] with timely and life-saving information in the event of a chemical attack on a subway or any other enclosed space."

The president said the government must be organized to support these efforts, stressing the need to merge the functions of more than one hundred federal agencies into a single entity dedicated to homeland security. "The world has changed," said Mr. Bush. "And so must our government change with it in order to allow all of us who have responsibilities to say to the American people 'we are doing everything we possibly can to protect innocent American lives.'"

A special committee of the House of Representatives approved legislation last week creating a Department of Homeland Security and sent it on to the full House for debate. A Senate committee could take similar action later this week.

During the flight from Washington to Chicago, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters the president wants to see quick congressional action on homeland security, trade, and corporate reform. Mr. Fleischer stressed time is running out, noting Congress will be on recess for most of August and the legislative year is scheduled to end in October.