|Voinovich voices problems on homeland security bill
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — For Sen. George Voinovich, passage of legislation creating a Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday was more than a major step toward protecting the nation from terrorism.
It also marked a personal triumph. Voinovich, R-Cleveland, managed to get parts of his plan to strengthen the quality of the federal work force into the bill.
“With better tools for recruiting, retaining and training people, we can make sure that the best and brightest enter government service to fight terrorism,” Voinovich said. He has warned that the upcoming retirement of hundreds of thousands of federal workers threatens a human capital crisis.
Voinovich and Ohio’s other senator, Mike DeWine, R-Cedarville, joined a majority of their colleagues in voting for the landmark legislation. They said it makes the nation safer.
The bill, which the Senate passed 90-9, merges all or parts of 22 federal agencies into a single department to provide a coordinated response to terrorist threats. Approved by the House last week, the legislation now goes to President Bush for his signature.
DeWine said the legislation increases security, but he cautioned that the nation remains unsafe.
“We cannot tell the American people that we are safe, because we aren’t,” he said. “We are safer than yesterday but not as safe as we can be tomorrow.”
Voinovich agreed with most provisions in the bill. However, he was among a group of senators who won a pledge from Sen. Trent Lott, who will become Senate majority leader, to reconsider several recent additions to the legislation next year.
Congress approved the bill with those additions, which include criteria that some say favors putting a university-based homeland security research center at Texas A&M.
“We’re going to get that changed because Ohio State (University) ... would like to get a piece of the research work that needs to be done,” Voinovich said.
Voinovich also objects to a provision that limits the liability of drug makers that produce vaccines. Many Republicans support the limits, which they say are needed to encourage the production of vaccines against biological warfare.
“I think that (limit) ought not to apply to lawsuits that have already been filed,” he said.
DeWine did not express opposition to any provisions in the legislation.
Voinovich’s federal work force provisions will add chief human capital officer positions in 24 federal agencies and give government managers more flexibility in hiring.
The bill gives the federal government more latitude in using buyouts to reshape the federal work force. It broadens the opportunity for workers to pursue academic training
and allows highly paid government employees to be paid even more.