Bush touts DHS' interoperability

President Bush officially launched the Homeland Security Department on Friday, promising cooperation and interoperability for the 22 federal agencies being folded into it.

At a Washington, D.C. ceremony marking the March 1 opening of DHS—the largest reorganization of the federal government in 50 years—Bush promised a united defense because "oceans no longer protect America from the dangers of the world."

"Every member of this new department accepts an essential mission—to prevent another terrorist attack," Bush told Cabinet members and federal workers involved in homeland defense. "Yours is a vital and important step in reorganizing the government to meet the threats of a new era as we continue to work to secure this country."

Bush said the agencies joining the department will retain their long-standing responsibilities, but there will be information-sharing and interacting among agencies with the goal of preventing another terrorist attack.

The department will house a Terrorist Threat Integration Center that will integrate and analyze all threat information collected domestically and abroad. It will also include a science and technology directorate that will develop ways to detect weapons of mass destruction, he said.

"As these technologies are deployed, border inspectors will have better tools to intercept dangerous materials before they enter our country," Bush said. "Emergency services personnel will be able to identify biological or chemical weapons and agents so they can use the most effective decontamination methods available."

As part of the effort to detect biological threats, the department is deploying early warning sensors around the country to help detect potential biological attacks.

Beginning March 1, the Transportation Security Administration, the Customs Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and parts of the Immigration and Naturalization Service will be integrated into the Bureau of Customs and Border Control to protect the nation's borders because "we need to know who's coming in and who's going out of our country."

"And I will be issuing a directive ordering the establishment of a unified national incident management system. The system will provide government agencies with common procedures and standards for preparing and responding to emergencies," Bush said.

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