Guest Column: Homeland office vital to America

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 10, 2002


Before the House of Representatives adjourned for its August recess, we voted to create a Department of Homeland Security and answered President Bush’s call to improve the federal government’s ability to protect the nation from terrorist attacks.

We are all painfully aware of how our nation and world have changed since September. New threats require new thinking, and the Department of Homeland Security will centralize and coordinate our efforts to provide government’s most basic function – protecting its citizens.

The bill the House passed states that the department’s primary mission is to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States by reducing our vulnerability. The department is also responsible for minimizing the damage and assisting in the recovery from terrorist attacks. The nation’s terrorism defense and response structure is currently a hodgepodge of federal, state and local agencies, but the Department of Homeland Security will coordinate these entities to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

For example, many agencies that defend our borders, including the Coast Guard, Customs Service and portions of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, will move to the Department of Homeland Security. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which leads the government’s response to natural and man-made disasters, will also fall under the department’s jurisdiction.

As we evaluated the events leading up to Sept. 11, the need for better organization and communication was apparent. The Department of Homeland Security will increase national security while maintaining the civil liberties and freedoms that make America unique.

DAVID VITTER represents Louisiana in the United States Congress.