Bush Security Plan: States To Share Roles, Costs

State and local governments "can and should play important roles" in protecting people and property from future terrorist activity and will share the $100 billion annual cost with the federal government, according to President Bush's new homeland security blueprint

State officials and policy analysts said they are pleased that the plan reflects most of their top security priorities and concerns.

The 88-page "National Strategy for Homeland Security" cites three primary objectives for ongoing security efforts: the prevention of future attacks, reduction of the nation's vulnerability and quick recovery from attacks when they happen.

While the plan emphasizes federal leadership, Bush presented it Tuesday as "a national strategy, not a federal strategy." The document outlines several priorities for state governments that could spur renewed legislative activity in many states and continued consultation between state and federal authorities.

Among other things, the plan calls for:

  • Establishment of minimum national standards for state-issued driver's licenses;
  • Improved security for information systems and other possible electronic targets;
  • Efforts to crackdown on money laundering by suspected terrorist groups and accomplices;
  • Strengthened provisions regarding the continuity of the court system in the event of an attack; and
  • Reviews of quarantine authority that in many states still date back to the post-World War I-era.

State organizations said they have been in regular contact with Homeland Security director Tom Ridge since Bush created his office in October.

Several state priorities, including improved information sharing with federal agencies, streamlined emergency communications, the identification and protection of critical infrastructure and increased funding for public health preparations, are addressed in the document.

"This initiative will also reach well beyond terrorism to all hazards resulting in increased capabilities for any disaster that may threaten lives and property," said spokeswoman Karen Cobuluis of the National Emergency Management Association.

The Bush plan also calls upon state and local law enforcement agencies to "assign priority to preventing and interdicting terrorist activity within the United States" an expansion of traditional criminal investigation duties mirroring that taking place in the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Many states have put off major anti-terror initiatives in the hopes that the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) would provide clear direction and a stronger foundation for federal assistance.

State legislators and emergency management officials expressed support for the Bush strategy Tuesday afternoon. State Sen. Richard Moore (D-Mass.), who co-chairs a national panel of state legislators on homeland security policy, called the administration's plan a "green light" to the states.

"It certainly provides the framework from which both the federal and state governments can work in partnership to improve security and response capacity. Of course, the federal government has already made some funding available. [But] states, given our fiscal problems are looking for any additional help to make it possible to fulfill our part of the deal," Moore said.

One item in the Bush security agenda, the development of minimum standards for driver's licenses, may get substantial support from state officials over the objections of some civil liberties groups.

But Moore, a former Federal Emergency Management Agency official in the Clinton administration, echoed reservations that Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker (R) has made regarding an alternative approach that would federalize driver's licenses.

"There are people getting licenses who shouldn't have one. I'm not in favor of a national ID, but for strengthening the current state-based system," Schweiker told his fellow governors Monday during their summer gathering in Boise, Idaho. A top concern for state officials: making sure licenses issued to foreign national expire no later than their immigrant visas.

Moore also renewed a long-standing state wish that matching requirements attached to federal aid programs take the states' fiscal troubles into consideration.

The National Governors Association estimates state governments will spend $6 billion on post-Sept. 11 homeland security efforts by the end of this year, according to a figure cited by OHS.