U.S. security officials have announced a massive reorganization of the Homeland Security Department to better protect the country from a catastrophic terrorist attack.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff detailed the reorganization plan in a speech in Washington.

Secretary Chertoff says the objective is to better detect and stop a massive terrorist attack that could involve the use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

"DHS (Department of Homeland Security) will concentrate first and foremost, most relentlessly, on addressing threats that pose catastrophic consequences," he said. "Some of the tools needed to prevent, respond or recover from such awful scenarios are already in place. But others do need significant improvement."

Mr. Chertoff says his department will centralize its intelligence analysis function and that a new division devoted to preparedness will identify the nation's most vulnerable sites, including chemical and nuclear plants as well as bridges and dams.

Secretary Chertoff says more personnel and technology will be deployed to border areas so that the United States can gain control of its borders and do more to stop illegal immigration through better passenger and cargo screening.

But he also said that U.S. officials are working on ways to reduce obstacles for those who have legitimate reasons to enter the country.

"Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice and I will, in the near term, announce a detailed agenda of work and innovation that the Department of State and DHS [Homeland Security] have already begun to work together to ease the path for those who wish to visit, study and conduct business in the United States," Mr. Chertoff said.

Secretary Chertoff says the department is also committed to improving security for mass transportation systems in the wake of the recent attacks in the London subway system.

He said this would include detection systems for explosive devices as well as chemical, nuclear or biological weapons.

But Democrats like Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia complain that the Bush administration is not willing to spend the money necessary to make the improvements required in mass transit.

"It will take a commitment of energy, imagination and, yes, more funding, to better secure our homeland," he said.

Secretary Chertoff's plan is the first major reorganization of the two-year-old Homeland Security Department since it was created by the Bush administration and Congress in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks.