Sunday, March 28, 2004

Star Telegram | 03/28/2004 | Molly Ivins and the Hart-Rudman report of 1/31/2001

Molly Ivins - Star Telegram | 03/28/2004 | A brief, shining moment amid the mud storm
... This thesis is born out by the eerily prescient and tragically ignored Hart-Rudman report on terrorism, presented on Jan. 31, 2001. (And let me point out that the media deserve much blame here, as well: All the networks ignored it entirely save for CNN, which did it justice. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal never printed a line about it, though The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times both did thorough jobs.)

That commission concluded, "Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers." It recommended a series of practical and effective steps.

Of the various institutions, Congress deserves some credit for trying to pick up on the report, which clearly would have moved us ahead by six months on terrorism planning. Donald Rumsfeld, not one of my favorites, also deserves credit for vigorously backing the report.

Congress scheduled a hearing on the Hart-Rudman report for May 7, 2001, but according to reports at the time, the White House stifled the move because it did not want Congress out in front on the issue.

True, the report was initiated by Clinton, but the commission was bipartisan and included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other Republicans. On May 5, the White House announced that rather than adopt Hart-Rudman, it was forming its own committee on terrorism headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. That group never met.

Odd that Rumsfeld was an advocate, but Cheney dropped the ball. What was going on there?

It does seem like yet another validation of Clarke's thesis.

The CNN article Molly Ivins mentions is still online. That's good, because on reading it one can see the problems with it. The focus on science and engineering education as a crisis may have blunted its impact. This is in the good old days, when the now almost forgotten Oklahoma strike (remember when the nation thought it was an Iraqi attack?) was still on people's minds ... - Guarding against an attack - February 1, 2001

New steps needed to prevent terrorism in U.S., panel says

The guilty verdict in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and the scheduled execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh have renewed awareness of the perils and possibilities of terrorism. An expert panel, convened by the U.S. Defense Department, said this week that America is vulnerable to a "catastrophic attack," recommending a reorganization of several government agencies to combat terrorism and increased investment in education and scientific research. While few officials doubt the group's research, some question whether these suggestions are possible and necessary.

WASHINGTON -- A "catastrophic attack" is likely to strike the United States in the next 25 years, and the National Guard should be retrained as America's main protector against such an assault, an advisory commission on national security said this week.

In its report issued Wednesday, the panel recommended a reorganization of the State and Defense departments and more investment in education and scientific research.

Additionally, the commission recommended the creation of an independent Cabinet-level National Homeland Security Agency to coordinate a national strategy against terrorism.

"If we have a disaster, and we think it is quite probable in the next 20 to 25 years, we're not prepared to deal with it," former U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman, R-New Hampshire, and co-chairman of the commission, told CNN.

The bipartisan U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century was headed by Rudman and former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colorado, and includes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Georgia, among its 14 members.

The panel, commissioned by the Defense Department, spent more than two years making its evaluations, which included hundreds of interviews with national security experts.

The second-biggest threat is inadequate scientific research and education, something the panel said poses "a greater threat to U.S. national security ... than any potential conventional war that we might imagine."

The United States is presently not prepared to deal with terrorism on its home soil, says former U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman

The commission said the United States will lose its technical edge upon which national security is based if dramatic steps are not taken soon to increase the number of Americans studying advanced science, math and engineering.

As a result, the report recommends a "science and technical education act" offering loans to college students studying science, math and engineering, with the loans being forgiven if the student agrees to work for the government for a given number of years.

"We put science, and science and math education, second ... because we believe it's second only to the threat of a weapon of mass destruction (hitting) one of our cities," Gingrich said.

"The national security establishment has to look seriously at how much" is spent on such programs, Gingrich added.

The proposed security agency would take over the Border Patrol, the U.S. Customs Service, the Coast Guard, the FBI counterterrorism center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, among others. The proposed agency also would assume responsibility for cyber security from the Commerce Department and the FBI.

"Some serious gaps presently exist," said Hart, noting that more than 40 agencies currently respond to various threats or attacks. "They are not presently coordinated either to protect, prevent or respond to a major terrorist attack."

Added Rudman: "We're not talking about creating a new bureaucracy. We're talking about taking a number of bureaucracies and consolidating them into one streamlined organization."

Rudman said the nation needs to be able to respond adequately to potential terrorists who could use chemical, biological or even small nuclear devices to cause destruction in the United States.

State National Guard units would take on homeland security as their primary task under the commission's proposals. The commission also recommended a series of upgrades of U.S. intelligence gathering against potential terrorists.

Giving the Guard an elevated role is not a new idea. The Clinton administration, for instance, had planned for the Guard to operate a national missile defense system, should one be deployed.

While the commission does have strong backing, many of its recommendations are likely to face stiff opposition due to the magnitude of some of the changes.

The panel also advised higher pay and better benefits for military personnel, particularly captains and majors, where attrition rates are highest.

Federal agencies are poorly coordinated to respond to terrorism, says former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart

On another front, the report argues that the National Security Council at the White House has too much power and should be strictly limited to giving the president advice on policy.

"Ever since (former Secretary of State Henry) Kissinger, it has become more and more operational," said one commission member, "because they don't have any congressional oversight to speak of so they can do whatever the president wants them to do -- à la Oliver North."

The operational power should be returned to the State Department, the commission report argued.

Bush administration officials said they will look closely at the commission's recommendations. But the proposal for a National Homeland Security Agency is sure to stir controversy, because it will take resources away from some well-entrenched agencies.

And critics such as James Steinberg, who was former President Bill Clinton's deputy national security adviser, said agencies simply need better cooperation in the fight against terrorism, not another new agency.

The 2001 concern about science and engineering deficits as a threat to national security is interesting -- especially in light of today's outsourcing impact. US students are starting to avoid those domains; they may be right -- trade theory predicts outsourcing will have a devastating effect on many engineering and knowledge domains.

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