Experts: Empower homeland office
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Dec 19, 2001
The Office of Homeland Security needs more discretionary spending and authority
-- including coordination with state and local governments -- several current
and former government officials said at a conference this week.
The office was among the topics discussed during the Homeland Defense
and Crisis Management conference, co-sponsored by E-Gov and the National
Defense Industrial Association, in Washington, D.C., Dec. 18. (E-Gov is
owned by 101 Communications LLC, which also owns Federal Computer Week.)
Stephen Ryan, former general counsel to the Senate Governmental Affairs
Committee and now an attorney in private practice, said the government has
to decide under what model the White House Office of Homeland Security,
headed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, should operate.
He said Congress has to pass legislation providing the office, which
was created by an executive order from President Bush, with more discretionary
spending and veto authority over agency appropriations relating to homeland
security. Ryan said that the office should be an "opening gambit" for a
larger reorganization of some aspects of the federal government.
The power of the Office of Homeland Security (www.whitehouse.gov/homeland) appears to parallel the Office of the National
Drug Control Policy, which can validate agency budgets relating to drug
control policies and programs but cannot re-allocate resources, said Raymond
Geoffroy, who heads the security and law enforcement branch of the operations
division in the Marine Corps' Plans, Policies and Operations Department.
He said Ridge's office needs budgeting authority and oversight in order
to provide a unified and coordinated approach among federal agencies involved
in homeland security. Ridge previously said that his office is developing
a multiyear budget cutting plan across all federal agencies and has pledged
to cooperate with and assist state and local governments.
Mary Schiavo, former U.S. Transportation Department inspector general
and now an aviation disaster attorney in private practice, said coordination
among federal agencies as well as state and local efforts should become
a function of Ridge's office "in a yet-unknown grant of power to be able
to do that because it doesn't exist right now."
There were also greater calls for information sharing and coordination
among the federal, state, and local governments as well as between the public
and private sectors for protecting critical infrastructures, such as transportation
systems and the electrical power grid.
George Foresman, deputy state coordinator for the Virginia Department
of Emergency Management (www.vdem.state.va.us),
said the federal government has to fully engage the state and local governments
as equal partners in the fight against terrorism and assist them technologically
and financially. "The nature of this nation's preparedness for terrorism
is an ad hoc approach," he said.