Collins praises, Lieberman blasts homeland security orders

Presidential Directives ? National Preparedness

Two homeland security presidential directives issued this week by President Bush drew praise from the chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and criticism from its ranking Democratic member.

The president's first directive — Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization and Protection — specifically named information technology as a national critical infrastructure that must be protected, along with telecommunications, transportation systems, emergency services, chemicals, and postal and shipping. Bush's order identifies the Chief Information Officers Council as the principal interagency forum for improving agency practices related to information resources.

Bush's other homeland security directive focused on national preparedness and assistance to state and local first responders. The President called for coordinating emergency training programs with federal agencies and ensuring that equipment purchased with federal funding is interoperable.

"These new directives are a welcome development in our efforts to improve homeland security, and I commend President Bush for issuing them," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. In the post-September 11, 2001, world "we cannot afford weak links in our critical infrastructure protection or gaps in our support for local first responders," she said.

Collins earlier this year introduced the Homeland Security Grant Enhancement Act, which proposes improvements to the first responder funding process. The bill was approved by the full committee in June, and awaits action on the Senate floor.

But Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn), the ranking Democrat on the Governmental Affairs committee, harshly criticized the President's critical infrastructure directive.

"This would almost be laughable were it not such a devastating failure for our country," Lieberman said. "Now, we discover the administration has been running in place, leaving us no closer to having meaningful protections for the vital systems and assets the country depends upon each day."

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