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Jewish World Review June 26, 2002 / 16 Tamuz, 5762

Morton Kondracke

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Congress should heed the other
warnings in Hart-Rudman report


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Utterly vindicated on Sept. 11 and since, former Sens. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) and Gary Hart (D-Colo.) deserve to be heeded now - not only on homeland security, but on education, scientific research and the upgrading of government service.

The two chaired an all-star Commission on National Security that warned in 1999 that a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil was inevitable and called in February 2001 for creation of a Department of Homeland Security.

They were hailed last week as "the Paul Reveres of our age" by Senate Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), who added, "unfortunately, your warnings were not heeded."

Rudman joked last week that "we printed 100,000 copies of the report and 99,800 were stored in a warehouse until 9/11. On 9/12, they were all gone."

When the commission originally unveiled its report at a press conference, a New York Times reporter left early, declaring there was no story in it.

The Bush White House referred the panel's findings to Vice President Cheney for study, but it went nowhere until well after Sept. 11.

The commission's recommendations did serve as the blueprint for homeland security legislation approved by Lieberman's committee in May - and, it appears, for President Bush's new proposal on the subject.

The White House claims that Bush's plan was the product of an exhaustive, secret internal review, but - with a few exceptions - the organization chart of his proposed Cabinet department looks like a detailed version of the one on page 18 of the Hart-Rudman report.

The two former Senators appeared before Lieberman's committee last week as a follow-up act to Bush's homeland security director, Tom Ridge, making his first formal appearance before Congress.

A packed room of Senators, reporters and spectators watched Ridge. The crowd vanished when Rudman and Hart spoke, but what the pair said offered rich insight on homeland security.

And, given their commission's prescience on terrorism, its report deserves new attention to its warnings on other threats to U.S. security, including inadequate investment in science, education and public service.

Supporting the administration, Hart and Rudman backed an intelligence-analysis function for the Homeland Security Department, and - along with Ridge - opposed its collecting intelligence or routinely receiving raw data from the FBI and CIA.

And they adamantly opposed suggestions that the new department have direct authority over the FBI and CIA. Hart said the agencies would lose their ability to make independent judgments and would tailor their findings to the wishes of their bosses.

Contrary to administration claims that new homeland security costs could be kept in check, the co-chairmen indicated they would be substantial. They singled out new Coast Guard ships and personnel, Border Patrol and customs agents, information technology for intelligence agencies and protection for old Soviet weapons of mass destruction.

"It's going to be very expensive," Rudman said. "But it would be disastrous not to spend it."

Rudman also disputed Bush's plan to free the new homeland department from normal civil-service regulations to give the secretary flexibility in hiring and firing. Union and Democratic resistance, he warned, will "sink the department," he said.

Rudman said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has moved swiftly on recommendations to make homeland security a major mission of the National Guard, establish a Northern Command for U.S. defense and create an assistant secretary's post for homeland security.

Among the original findings of the Hart-Rudman commission, one of the most striking is that "second only to a weapon of mass destruction detonating in an American city, we can think of nothing more dangerous than failure to manage properly science and technology and education for the common good over the next quarter century."

The report calls for doubling of federal scientific research spending, creating scholarships and loan-forgiveness programs for science students and teachers and raising teacher pay "to or near commercial levels."

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JWR contributor Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Send your comments by clicking here.

© 2001, NEA