Bush touts plans for new department
President urges Congress to act on homeland security
ARGONNE, Illinois (CNN) -- President Bush on Monday called on Congress to approve quickly his plans for a Homeland Security Department during a visit to the Midwest, where he toured a national research lab developing new anti-terrorism technology.
"This Department of Homeland Security will foster a new culture throughout our government, one that emphasizes cooperation and working together on behalf of the American people," Bush said in a speech at Argonne National Laboratory, outside Chicago.
Bush saluted the work of scientists, saying their innovations are at the forefront in the war against terrorism.
"The American people need to know we've got a lot of brain power working on ways to deal with the threats that we now face as we head into the 21st century," Bush told a crowd of employees and dignitaries.
"I saw a warning-and-response system that will supply first-responders with timely and life-saving information in the event of a chemical attack on a subway or any other enclosed space," Bush said. "I saw a project that uses new advances in genetic research to identify and understand biological agents that could be used against us.
"I saw computer simulations to help policy makers and first-responders anticipate the effect of an attack or natural disaster."
Argonne, one of the U.S. Department of Energy's largest research centers, was America's first national laboratory, chartered in 1946.
"Our scientific community is serving on the front lines of this war, by developing new technologies that will make America safer," Bush said.
The president urged lawmakers to pass a homeland security bill before the August recess. Bush's proposal would merge 22 federal entities into a new Cabinet agency to help safeguard Americans from terrorist attacks.
The Coast Guard, Customs Service, Secret Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency would be among the agencies folded into the new department.
"Both Republicans and Democrats are working hard at reconciling differences that may be had," the president said. "It's important for people to understand, particularly in Washington, this Department of Homeland Security is not a good Republican idea, it's not a good Democrat idea, it's simply an American idea, and they need to get their work done."
A House panel started work on its version of the legislation last week.
Currently, more than 100 federal agencies have a homeland security role, Bush said, calling it a setup that undermines accountability, coordination and focus.
The new department would concentrate on safeguarding borders, working with first-responders such as local police and fire departments, analyzing threats and promoting technological changes to counter chemical, biological and nuclear threats.
"We face an unprecedented threat, and we cannot respond with business as usual," Bush said.
Monday marked Bush's sixth visit to Illinois as president -- a state he lost in 2000.