Hart/Rudman -- 21st Century Commission Recommends New Anti-Terror Cabinet Agency
Feb 2, 2001
A bipartisan panel led by former US senators Warren B. Rudman and Gary Hart on Wednesday called for the creation of a Cabinet-level agency to assume responsibility for defending the United States against the increasing likelihood of terrorist attacks in the country. The commission making the recommendation included high-ranking military and former Cabinet secretaries. Their report warned bluntly that terrorists probably will attack the US with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons at some point within the next 25 years.
The commission proposed a complete redesign of the National Guard to provide the proposed new "Homeland Security Agency" with U.S.-based troops to combat those who threaten a nation that for more than two centuries was isolated from attack by two oceans. The panel outlined a far-reaching reorganization of the Pentagon, State Department, National Security Council and other agencies, saying that they have become bloated and unfocused. The report even urged Congress to streamline its own committee structure to keep interference in national security matters at a minimum.
The commission acknowledged that implementing the recommendations would be difficult. Congress would have to pass legislation authorizing the changes. If all of the recommendations were to become law, it would mark the most sweeping renovation of US defense and foreign policy operations since approval of the landmark National Security Act of 1947. Like that measure, which refocused World War II-era agencies on the challenges of the Cold War, the commission's plan is intended to ready the nation for starkly different threats in a new century.
The panel, in what many are calling a radical departure from "conventional wisdom," recommended folding the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Customs Service, Border Patrol and Coast Guard into the new "Homeland Security Agency." It said that the National Guard should be "reorganized, properly trained and adequately equipped" to cope with natural disasters and attacks on U.S. targets by weapons of mass destruction. The commission said that the National Guard should be relieved of the responsibility of participating in overseas deployments and concentrate on security at home.
The report said: "The combination of unconventional weapons proliferation with the persistence of international terrorism will end the relative invulnerability of the US homeland to catastrophic attack. A direct attack against American citizens on American soil is likely over the next quarter century. The risk is not only death and destruction but also a demoralization that could undermine US global leadership. In the face of this threat, our nation has no coherent or integrated governmental structures."
US armed forces now are organized and trained to have the capability to fight two major overseas wars at the same time, a contingency the commission called "very remote." The report recommended abandoning the two-war strategy to permit the Pentagon to prepare for situations like the recent wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, which it characterized as far more likely. The panel said that both the State Department and the Pentagon "need substantial bureaucratic remodeling."