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President Bush Outlines Homeland Security Plan

Aired July 16, 2002 - 09:29   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Bill, we're going to go straight to that shot at the White House, as we await the president's statement. He will outline for us his homeland security plan, some of which Governor Ridge shared with us this morning. Among other things, there will be new proposals for new standards for state driver's licenses, new technology to detect chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and a pretty hefty price on it, $100 billion a year to keep it going. Some of the costs will be assumed by state and local governments.

Here's the president of the United States.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Vice President and Governor Ridge, thank you all.

I want to thank the members of Congress who have come to discuss the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. We just had a really productive meeting on this important issue. All of us agree that protecting America from attack is our most urgent national priority and that we must act on the priority.

I want to thank the speaker, Speaker Hastert, and Leader Gephardt, as well as Leader Lott and Senator Reid (ph) for being here. And I appreciate so very much their agreement that we ought to have a debate about the creation of the Department of Homeland Security on the floor of both bodies before Congress leaves for the August break. These four leaders have shown a strong commitment to get something done on behalf of the American people.

I also want to appreciate -- the members of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security are here, Chairman Armey and Vice Chairman Pelosi and other members.

Both Republicans and Democrats are charged with reconciling the work of numerous House committees who acted this past week. They face a significant challenge, but I'm confident they'll meet the challenge because they, too, want to do what's right.

I also welcome members of the House and Senate who have been long interested in changing the way our government protects our homeland. Senators Lieberman and Thompson and Collins, Congresswomen Harman and Tauscher and Congressmen Thornberry, Gibbons, Chambliss, Portman and Shays. These are members who had an interest in reform prior to September 11. They've been working on this issue for a long time, and I appreciate their input and their willingness to stay involved in the process. I want to thank them for their past efforts.

The American people need to know these members of Congress are working hard and working long hours.

And during the next couple of weeks, they'll be working hard to get something on the floor of their respective bodies. And that's good. That's good for the American people.

There are a lot of tough decisions that will be made as we develop and discuss and debate how to move forward. But I'm confident that members of both parties and members of both chambers know that the security of our nation is the goal; it's the most important thing that they'll be focused on, is how best to secure the United States.

We also understand that the current structure of our government is a patchwork -- to put it best -- of overlapping responsibilities, and it really does hinder our ability to protect the Homeland.

And so, we're working with both parties in both chambers to effect a strategy that will make it more likely that not only this administration and this Congress can deal with the true threats of the 21st century but, as importantly, future administrations and future Congresses will be able to deal with the threats that will continue to be directed at a nation which loves freedom.

I -- right after the September 11th attacks, I established the Office of Homeland Security in the White House and gave it a critical mission to produce a national strategy for homeland security.

And today, I'm sending to Congress our new national strategy for homeland security. This comprehensive plan lays out clear lines of authority and clear responsibilities -- responsibilities for federal employees and for governors and mayors and community and business leaders and the American citizens. With a better picture of those responsibilities, all of us can direct money and manpower to meet them.

In the war on terror, the American people are showing tremendous strength and great resolve. Our unity is a great weapon in this fight. And by acting together to create a new and single department of homeland security, we'll be sending the world a signal that the Congress and the administration will work together to protect the American people and to win this war on terror.

Again, I want to thank the members for their hard work. I appreciate the long hours that they're putting in. I appreciate their love for American and their patriotism during this trying time for our country.

May God bless the American people and may God continue to bless America.

Thank you very much.

ZAHN: We are going to wait to see if the president took any questions. He obviously did not. John King standing by. John, one thing that caught my ear is when the president talked about urging a healthy debate on homeland security and the new department they're talking about creating with Congress before the August recess. Is this a new gauntlet being laid down?

Unfortunately, we can't hear, John, right now, and I can't even begin to read his lips this morning to tell you what he just said. Let's just take one more try at that.

Once, again, it's becoming clear to all of us exactly what this new homeland security plan will entail. Among other things, the new proposal will include much tougher standards for getting state driver's license, new technology to detect chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

And, Bill, one of the changes they're thinking about addressing is taking a look at this law that will allow for the military to be used domestically in different situations that we would envision.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: I think as we look at the plan today as being announced and unveiled, so long as no more terrorist activity in the country, the plans looks all well and good. Once the first terrorist attack hits the country, albeit cross your fingers that it never happens again, then you start reexamining things. The parallel we're drawing right now is what happening in the Middle East. We're trying to protect the United States, very difficult to stop terrorism when they are intent on doing it.

ZAHN: We have got John King. Another chance to take a whack at the question. What about the August recess deadline? Before you guys go out and gals go out, let's debate health -- in a healthy way this whole homeland security direction.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president wants the bill on desk as soon as possible, creating this new department so it can be up and running by next January 1st. And remember, it was the Democrats -- the president is a Republican obviously. It was the Democrats who said, let's try to get this all done, and to the president by September 11th. There are some disagreements in the Congress, some debate over the particulars of the plan but the president is likely to get most of what he wants here, and what he would like to do is get that bill here as soon as possible, because of the dramatic transformation it will require here in the federal government, and as the plan goes out to state and local governments.

And you're hearing it, especially now in the budget environment, a lot of mayors and governors are saying, hey, wait a minute, what exactly will you be asking of us? How much will it cost? How much will the federal government pitch in? So the president's view is the sooner the better. Congress has agreed to debate this in the next week or so before they break. They're supposed to leave August 3rd and then they'll be out until Labor Day.

So to get it to the president Congress, has a lot of work to do. The president relatively optimistic, as you heard him there. ZAHN: John, I know you were concentrating on the president's speech and homeland security issues this morning. Any reaction from the White House to what has gone down in the settlement of Emanuel, where it is now confirmed that seven Israelis have lost their lives after a bus apparently was first ambushed by a bomb, and then gunmen opened fire on the rest of the victims.

KING: National Security Council officials still gathering information on that initial reaction as simply to condemn the violence yet again. Look for the White House to have an official statement later in the day. But certainly as they gather information here again, yet another setback. Just this week, Secretary of State Powell meeting with other key foreign ministers, trying to at least slowly advance the president's hopes toward getting a dialogue created in the Middle East. Once again, another bombing, obviously another setback for diplomacy that some would already say is in very deep trouble.

ZAHN: Thanks, John.




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