Scenic photo of Dismals Canyon

Protecting the Homeland

February 14, 2003
In The News

Protecting senior citizens and creating jobs have been among the top of my priorities in Congress. While those topics remain important to me, and will continue to be, they are joined by an equally important issue: threats to our everyday lives and our national security.

Keeping every American safe both abroad, and in their own front yards, make up one of the most important tasks before Congress.

As you know, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is linked to our nation’s – and our world’s -- gravest and most serious threats. His regime possesses weapons of mass destruction and is working to acquire more. I believe, along with the President, that his weapons present real and immediate dangers to mankind. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently laid out a very compelling case proving this before the United Nations Security Council.

The entire international community has waited 12 years for his disarmament. However, he has made not even an attempt to meet that demand. Instead, he chooses to continue hiding current weapons stock, and his government’s efforts to expand it.

As you may remember, Iraq has a responsibility to show exactly where it is hiding banned weapons. United Nations inspectors are not on a scavenger hunt. Iraq has a duty to lay its weapons out for the world to see, and then to destroy them as directed. This agreement was part of a United Nations resolution adopted after Operation Desert Storm.

However, that has not happened. Saddam Hussein is a real and immediate threat to our nation, and the entire world.
National security also requires our nation to address security threats not yet identified. To that end, Congress has already approved, and the President has signed into law, a sweeping package of reforms bringing key elements of our protection efforts into one comprehensive department.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002, which was signed into law November 25, 2002, brought about the Federal Government’s most extensive reorganization since the creation of the Department of Defense.

This legislation brings together 22 agencies, a full 170,000 people, under one cabinet-level department addressing a number of issues, including:

- securing our borders, transportation sector, ports, and critical infrastructure;

-synthesizing and analyzing homeland security intelligence from multiple sources;

- coordinating communications with state and local governments, private industry, and the American people about threats and preparedness;

- coordinating our efforts to protect the American people against bioterrorism and other weapons of mass destruction;

- training and equipping our first responders, such as firefighters, police offers, and rescue workers;

-managing federal emergency response activities; and,

-putting more security officers in the field working to stop terrorists, and fewer resources in Washington managing duplicative and redundant activities that drain critical homeland security resources.

There are still many other duties that will be a priority for Congress over the coming year. The economy, improving Medicare, and providing a prescription drug plan for senior citizens who need help. However, protecting the safety of our great nation, and its people, is certainly among our most important duties. It is one we will not walk away from.