Momentum building behind homeland

Two members of Congress said June 18 that it would take years before the Homeland Security Department is fully operating, but with any luck, the money will begin flowing to enhance U.S. security in the next six months.

Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) said Congress is moving swiftly to approve the new agency that would be responsible for securing the home front. But in the meantime, lawmakers must continue to provide the money for agency-by-agency security systems.

"There's going to be a little hesitancy to move ahead right now. We're in a period where we're going to be appropriating the money, and the agencies are not ready to give it out," said Davis at the Fortune One Conference in Falls Church, Va. (Federal Computer Week is a co-sponsor of the event).

Although the urgency to secure vulnerable systems is extensive, Moran said, it would take at least six months to get things moving and it's "going to take years to get individual components working together."

And the threats persist, he said. "We're not even adequately checking the hold of a plane.... There are many ways you could attack the United States."

Meanwhile, President Bush's homeland security adviser, Tom Ridge, was presenting a hastily constructed legislative blueprint June 18 for creating the domestic security agency. The new agency would absorb the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Customs Service, but not the FBI or the CIA. Lawmakers vowed to hold prompt hearings on the legislation.

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