WASHINGTON -- In a major restructuring, President Bush will propose creation of a Cabinet domestic security department to take over border security, intelligence and other issues now housed in eight separate federal agencies.
"The purpose is to protect the homeland from terror," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. He said Bush is pleased with stopgap reforms enacted since Sept. 11 but, "We can and will do more."
The proposal, which Fleischer called the biggest government restructuring plan since 1947, will be announced by Bush in a Thursday night address from the White House. The White House has asked television networks to broadcast the speech.
The proposal, which must be approved by Congress, is part of a stepped-up effort to shield Bush from criticism that his administration did not do enough to prevent the attacks. Not coincidentally, FBI Director Robert Mueller was testifying before Congress Thursday about the agency's failure to anticipate the terror attacks.
Mueller recently announced a major restructuring of the FBI.
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said Congress had no inkling that Bush was planning this reorganization. "I think this is a very strong departure from the current situation. We'll have to listen to their rationale and to the Senate and House intelligence committees and see what they think about this."
Kennedy said he wasn't sure whether an internal reorganization was needed. "The question is whether shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic is the way to go."
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge is the current homeland security adviser, and Congress has been pushing a reluctant Bush to elevate the office to Cabinet status because lawmakers would have oversight authority over a new department of homeland security. As an adviser, Ridge has been able to avoid formal testimony before Congress.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.