The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 7, 2002

Radio Address by the President to the Nation

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THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Next week, our nation will pause to honor and remember the lives lost on September the 11th. We must also remember a central lesson of the tragedy: our homeland is vulnerable to attack, and we must do everything in our power to protect it.

We protect our country by relentlessly pursuing terrorists across the Earth; assessing and anticipating our vulnerabilities, and acting quickly to address those vulnerabilities and prevent attacks. America needs a single department of government dedicated to the task of protecting our people. Right now, responsibilities for homeland security are scattered across dozens of departments in Washington. By ending duplication and overlap, we will spend less on overhead and more on protecting America. And we must give the Department of Homeland Security every tool it needs to succeed.

One essential tool this new department needs is the flexibility to respond to terrorist threats that can arise or change overnight. The Department of Homeland Security must be able to move people and resources quickly, without being forced to comply with a thick book of bureaucratic rules.

For example, we have three agencies working to safeguard our borders: the INS, the Customs Service, and the Border Patrol. They all have different cultures and different strategies, but should be working together in a streamlined effort. Other federal agencies dealing with national security already have this flexibility -- the FBI and the CIA and the new Transportation Security Administration. It seems like to me if it's good enough for these agencies, it should be good enough for the new Department of Homeland Security.

In addition, the new Secretary of Homeland Security needs the authority to transfer some funds, limited funds, among government accounts in response to terrorist threats. This requirement is nothing new; such authority is presently available to numerous agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Energy.

The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would ensure the flexibility and authority needed for the Department of Homeland Security to effectively carry out its mission. The legislation now in the Senate would not. The Senate bill would not allow the new Secretary of Homeland Security to shift resources or streamline functions in response to a terrorist threat without a time-consuming approval process. And the legislation would keep in place a process that can take up to 18 months just to fire an employee.

The Senate bill also provides no transfer authority for the Secretary of Homeland Security. Under the Senate bill, the Secretary would have to ask the President to submit a supplemental budget request to Congress, and then wait for Congress to act every time new terrorist threats presented a need for additional funding. In this war on terror, this is time we simply do not have.

Even worse, the Senate bill would weaken the President's well-established authority to prohibit collective bargaining when a national security interest demands it. Every President since Jimmy Carter has used this authority, and a time of war is not time to limit a President's ability to act in the interests of national security.

Senators need to understand I will not accept a homeland security bill that puts special interests in Washington ahead of the security of the American people. I will not accept a homeland security bill that ties the hands of this administration or future administrations in defending our nation against terrorist attacks.

America has been engaged in this war for nearly a year, and we've made real progress. Yet more work remains. A new Department of Homeland Security will help us to protect our country, but only if it has the tools to get the job done. I urge the Senate to follow the House's lead and pass legislation that gives the department the flexibility and the authority it needs to protect the American people.

Thank you for listening.


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