In his televised address to the nation Thursday night (6/6), Bush said the proposed Department of Homeland Security's top missions would include helping "state and local authorities respond quickly and effectively to emergencies."
Mindful of the long road that lies ahead as Congress debates the details, governors and state lawmakers applauded the Bush plan. "It will in my judgment improve the quality of threat assessments and reduce the likelihood that information will fall through the cracks," California Gov. Gray Davis (D) told reporters.
Davis' Democratic colleagues in Iowa and New Jersey issued similar statements as did two of Bush's Republican allies, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and Arizona Gov. Jane Dee Hull.
The new department the president envisions would includes several agencies that work closely with the states, including the Justice Department's Office of Domestic Preparedness, which handles federal grants for anti-terror equipment and training, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"Right now, it is rather confusing with the number of different agencies and funding programs. From the standpoint of focusing the ability of states to coordinate homeland security issues, this is a major improvement," says Massachusetts Sen. Richard T. Moore, who co-chairs a national panel of state legislators on homeland security issues.
Moore says similar overhauls are a strong possibility at the state level if and when Congress and the White House agree to a final plan. "The states will of course do as we historically always do: Our own thing. But it may make sense for states to look at how they should align their own agencies to deal more effectively with the new Department of Homeland Security once [it] is established," he says.