Thornberry: Government must revamp for new security needs

A House lawmaker is calling for the widespread reorganization of government agencies, including the military, as the nation addresses its post-Sept. 11 security needs.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington have broadened the meaning of national security, which now includes not just military preparedness, but also border security, public health and infrastructure protection.

"The changes we are seeing in homeland security have a number of implications for the role of the military, the role of other government agencies, and how they all work together and with state and local officials," Thornberry said Jan. 15 at a meeting of the Precision Strike Association in Arlington, Va.

Information sharing is key, he said.

"Think about how much we have relied on information during the war in Afghanistan: information about the enemy, who is often proving harder to find; information about each other so as to avoid friendly fire; information about what's happening now in terms of real-time targeting; and information about the political situation so we better understand the views of the people there and their loyalties. All of this information must be linked together," he said.

The military, the executive branch and Congress should reorganize to make information sharing easier and decision-making faster, he said.

"When we look at homeland security, more than 40 agencies and departments have a piece of the pie," Thornberry said. "A coordinator in the White House, such as Gov. [Tom] Ridge [director of the Office of Homeland Security], can do a lot of good, but he cannot do everything, especially without direct budget authority and a clear chain of command. If we are serious about fighting this war at home and abroad, we will need to combine some agencies while creating or dismantling others."

Thornberry introduced a bill, H.R. 1158, last March that would create a new cabinet department of homeland security and combine agencies responsible for border security, cyberterrorism and emergency response.

"I am hopeful something along these lines will be in the president's budget for next year," he said, and added that Congress needs to look at giving Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld broad authority to reorganize the military, subject to congressional veto.

Congress must change, too, Thornberry said. At least 19 congressional committees have jurisdiction over terrorism-related areas. That overlap consumes too much agency time and energy, hinders effective congressional oversight and prevents adoption of a comprehensive strategy, he said.

The Precision Strike Association, Leonardtown, Md., works to advance the science of precision guided weapon systems.

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