May 1, 2002
Think tank critical of White House security strategy
Study sees need to protect borders
By OTTO KREISHER
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration's approach to
protecting the homeland is weak in organization, lacks enough
funding and focuses too much on defending targets instead of
preventing terrorist attacks, according to a study released
yesterday by a prominent think tank.
The Brookings Institution study faults the administration's
concentration on preventing airliner hijackings and anthrax
infections, warning that terrorists are more likely to try different
targets and weapons.
The report was endorsed quickly by two members of Congress
who are considered leaders in the homeland security effort –
Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., and Rep. Jane Harman, D-Rolling
Hills. The two lawmakers complained that the administration has made a series of homeland defense moves without a
comprehensive guiding strategy.
"Without a strategy, there is no sensible way to allocate the
limited resources," Harman said. The Brookings report "should
have been written by Tom Ridge's office," she said, referring to
the homeland security director.
Thompson applauded the report's approach of putting the
priority on border security and prioritizing risks.
"Resources are limited. We have learned that we can't have guns and butter," he said.
The report recommends increasing homeland security funding
to about $45 billion a year – nearly double the current year's
A major theme of the study is preventing attacks through tighter
security on the Mexican and Canadian borders and at the
seaports, improved air defenses and a defense against
sea-launched cruise missiles. It makes no mention of the
administration's high-priority ballistic missile defense project.
The purpose of the tightened perimeter security is "keeping out
dangerous people and dangerous objects – notably weapons of
mass destruction, threatening aircraft and cruise missiles, high
explosives, anti-aircraft missiles . . . and certain other weapons – before attacks can be planned and launched," the report said.
The study, however, finds little value in the plans to create a
border security agency by combining organizations, such as the
Coast Guard, Customs Agency and Border Patrol.
The study also urged giving a greater role in domestic security
to the National Guard and improving its crisis response
capabilities by reorganizing some of the units now dedicated to
"If the Pentagon's primary mission is homeland defense, then it
would make sense to assign as much of that responsibility as
possible to the one military entity that is historically and
constitutionally charged with that role – the National Guard," it
Congress and the powerful guard lobby likely would oppose any
reduction in the guard's prestigious combat brigades.
The study recommended legislation that would reinforce Ridge's
authority and improve coordination and information sharing
among the many federal, state and local agencies that deal with
aspects of homeland security. But it dismisses the proposals to
create a new homeland security agency.
Harman, however, announced that tomorrow she will join a
bipartisan group of lawmakers in introducing a package of bills
that would expand and codify the functions of Ridge's office into
a new agency, would create a unified border security agency and
would require intelligence sharing among government