Bush To Unveil National Homeland Security Strategy Today
President Bush today plans to unveil the nation's first homeland security strategy, which includes a proposal to establish a Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security and a number of public health provisions, the Los Angeles Times reports (Anderson, Los Angeles Times, 7/16). According to the 88-page summary released yesterday, the strategy calls for research on new vaccines and treatments to improve the nation's response to bioterrorist attacks and for studies on improved sensors to detect biological and chemical weapons, as well as a number of other provisions to prevent a "new wave of terrorism" in the United States. The proposed homeland security department, which would assume control of all or parts of 22 federal agencies and have a $38 billion budget and 170,000 employees, would serve as the "cornerstone" of the strategy (Miller/Haughney, Washington Post, 7/16).
However, according to a Brookings Institution study released last week, Bush's proposed homeland security department would place "too many different activities in a single department" and "should be significantly scaled back." The study recommended that HHS maintain control of biological and technical research on bioterrorist attacks. The study also said that the proposed homeland security department should not include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as Bush has proposed. The study said that the proposed department should focus on border and transportation security, intelligence analysis and protection of the nation's infrastructure (Miller, Washington Post, 7/14). Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesperson, rejected most of the recommendations in the study and said that Bush would continue to advocate a department that "looks at homeland security in total" (Becker, New York Times, 7/14).
Members of several congressional committees and opponents of Bush's proposal have sent recommendations similar to those in the study to the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, which will review them in a series of hearings this week, the Post reports (Washington Post, 7/14). For example, the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week voted to block the transfer of health research responsibilities from HHS to the proposed homeland security department. However, many lawmakers "remain loyal" to Bush. The House Government Reform Committee, for example, endorsed "much of the Bush plan as drafted." Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, who testified yesterday before the select committee, rejected a number of the recommendations but said that the White House would make "some concessions" on the proposal (Los Angeles Times, 7/16). The select committee plans to send a homeland security bill to the House floor for a vote next week. In the Senate, the Governmental Affairs Committee plans to draft a version of the bill at a hearing scheduled for July 24. The full Senate will consider the legislation before a month-long recess that begins Aug. 2, the Post reports (Washington Post, 7/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.