Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) criticized the Bush administration’s preparation for terrorist threats and outlined his plan to improve homeland security Friday in the Marvin Center, keynoting an Elliott School of International Affairs seminar on bioterrorism.
Lieberman, a candidate for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, spoke before more than 200 students, administrators and national media, beginning the first of four homeland security seminars hosted by ESIA this spring.
“This administration has been too slow, too protective of the status quo and too unwilling to back up tough talk with real resources … as a result, we remain in too much danger today,” Lieberman said. “We can and must do better.”
Lieberman specified three initiatives for homeland defense improvement. The first initiative would provide for first responders to emergency situations, such as policemen and firemen.
“Nine million first responders need more than moral support,” Lieberman said. “They need resources.”
The senator’s initiative would increase funding and training and improve the communications capabilities of the groups. Lieberman also suggested the creation of a national homeland security academy, “a kind of West Point of homeland defense,” to help train first responders.
The second part of the Lieberman proposal would increase the security of U.S. ports, borders and transportation systems. Thirdly, Lieberman proposed increased use of U.S. military strength for domestic defense.
Lieberman also recommended expanding Reserve Officer Training Corps programs at colleges and universities to include homeland defense training, as well as the addition of extra incentives to programs like the GI Bill to attract more participants.
In his remarks, Lieberman criticized the appropriations in the federal budget for homeland defense, charging that the Bush administration is “not willing to make homeland security the funding priority it must be” and that the current budget allocations “favor the wallets of the few over the safety of us all,” referring to the Bush administration’s proposed tax cuts.
Lieberman also called on the government to provide “clear and concrete” methods so “citizens can protect themselves,” referring to statements made earlier in the week by an official of the Department of Homeland Security. The statements advised citizens to buy supplies like duct tape and plastic sheeting and to build home shelters in case of biological or chemical attack, prompting a rush on those items in stores across the country but providing little other information on preparation.
Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Brian Roehrkasse said the department is “about to begin a public education campaign, which has been in development for some time, that stresses citizen preparedness and family communication.”
The public education campaign will work with Project Bioshield, the national bioterrorism preparedness plan President Bush presented during the State of the Union address in January.
“It is unacceptable and shameful that seventeen months after 9/11 we are only marginally more secure,” Lieberman said. “We owe it to our nation, to our family and to ourselves to do better.”