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Bush outlines homeland security strategy

President Bush, joined by Vice President Dick Cheney, unveiled his national security plans in a White House ceremony Tuesday.
President Bush, joined by Vice President Dick Cheney, unveiled his national security plans in a White House ceremony Tuesday.  

From Mike Ahlers and Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Tuesday unveiled a national strategy for homeland security that includes proposed standards for state driver's licenses and new technology to detect chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge called the plan "the best way to protect America."

"We've engaged the law enforcement community around this country, but there are also certain things we can do within this country outside of law enforcement that would be a deterrent to an attack," Ridge said. "The president's strategy gives us a road map to accomplish that."

The plan lists various domestic terrorist threats and ways to prevent, pre-empt or respond to them. Its report notes the need to be prepared and flexible as enemies "strategically adapt their offensive tactics to exploit what they see to be the weakness in our defenses."

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The Bush administration's proposal outlines budgetary needs, the planned overhaul of the FBI, the need to shore up security of U.S. infrastructure and provisions for protecting U.S. borders and ensuring preparedness for a response to a national catastrophe.

One proposal would encourage states to set minimum standards for driver's licenses, such as the number of years before a license would need to be renewed.

Other ideas include developing new technology to create better sensors for detecting weapons of mass destruction.

A senior Bush administration official said the report is not an "action plan" but an "overarching guidance directive" on how federal, state and local governments can better protect the country.

Other parts of the strategy include:

  • Expanding existing extradition agreements with other countries;
  • Reviewing the role the National Guard can play in preventing domestic terrorism;
  • Encouraging states to make terrorism insurance more readily available;
  • Placing a priority in the 2004 budget on developing more vaccines, helping the FBI and preventing the terrorist use of nuclear weapons through better sensors and procedures.
  • The three objectives of the new strategy include preventing domestic terrorist attacks, reducing the country's vulnerability to terrorism and minimizing the damage from attacks if they occur, according to the report's executive summary.

    "Terrorists are strategic actors," Ridge told a House panel on homeland security. "They choose their targets deliberately, and they choose them based on the weaknesses they observe in our defenses and in our preparations. They use speed and surprise to terrorize."

    Ridge added, "Protecting ourselves, therefore, requires that we be flexible and nimble as well, with the ability to quickly spot the gaps and move just as quickly to fill them. It requires improved coordination and communication between all levels of government in every sector of society.

    "And it requires something else: a thorough knowledge of our enduring vulnerabilities."


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