Fleischer Morning Conversation with Reporters 6/6
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 6, 2002
Press Secretary's Morning
Conversation with Reporters
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
10:04 A.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning. Let me give you a very brief walk-through of the President's day, and then I have a lengthy statement I'd like to make. The President began with his usual morning briefings from the CIA and the FBI. Then he convened a meeting of the Homeland Security Council. Later he will do a drop-by -- the Prime Minister of Croatia is here to see Dr. Rice. And those are the public events on the President's schedule today.
Let me get to another item. Last year, you may recall, on May 8th, the President directed the Vice President to oversee the development of a coordinated national effort to protect America from catastrophic harm from weapons of mass destruction. Flash forward to the events of September 11th, and in the aftermath of the attack on our country, the President moved immediately to help protect the country by the creation -- through the creation of the Office of Homeland Security.
On September 20th, the President appointed Governor Ridge as the Homeland Security Advisor and announced the creation of the office. Governor Ridge was sworn into this office on October 8, 2001.
At the end of October, on October 24th and 25th, the President was in meetings with members of Congress where they were discussing the war on terrorism, our response. And members of Congress discussed with the President some of the issues that they had viewed as important about the structure of the Office of Homeland Security. At those meetings, the President and Governor Ridge indicated that there was an immediate need that could not wait for legislation to get America protected through an immediate creation in the White House of Office of Homeland Security.
Members of Congress who had suggested legislation to make it a Cabinet-level post and a statutory post said at that time publicly that they would not proceed with their legislation, given the results of that meeting. At that meeting, Governor Ridge made clear -- and this is a quote -- that "he may recommend down the road a realignment." Members were assured that because of the immediate threat to the nation, what was most important was to focus on security through an immediate office that was empowered by the President to protect the country, and not to get into jurisdictional or legislative proposals that can take quite a bit of time to get enacted into law. Nevertheless, Congress understood then that this administration would take a look down the road.
From December through March of 2002 -- and to March of 2002, Governor Ridge and Homeland Security conducted a review of options for consolidating and reorganizing border agencies. Throughout the same time, at the President's direction, Governor Ridge and Nick Calio consulted with members of Congress to discuss ideas for border reorganization. I think you're familiar with much of that. As a result of the process and the experience that the border reorganization effort led to, the President, in discussing the structure of protecting the country, with Andy Card and with Governor Ridge, gave impetus to today's announcement.
On April 11th, if you recall, Director Mitch Daniels testified before Senator Lieberman's Government Affairs Committee and said, quote, "The President has said from the outset that the structure for organizing and overseeing homeland security may evolve over time as we learn more and as circumstances changed." He further noted that, "Should the review ultimately recommend to the President a different homeland security structure, there is a chance it may resemble Senator Lieberman's bill."
On April 23rd, Andy Card and Governor Ridge convened a small White House working group that put into motion today's announcement in specifics. This working group began meeting on a daily basis to put the details out that I will discuss with you in a moment, and that will lead to the President's announcement tonight. Throughout April and leading into early May, they refined the proposal that the President will make to the Congress tonight, worked on the specifics of it. And the President was briefed on it throughout this period by Andy Card and by Governor Ridge. This was something that was discussed at length, throughout that time and results in tonight's announcement.
Tonight -- I have just gotten off the phone with the bureau chiefs for the networks and others, and the President tonight will give an address to the nation. We have requested time from the networks. And in that address, the President will give an update on the war on terrorism. He will also announce the largest reorganization of the United States government since Harry Truman reorganized the government in 1947. And the purpose of this reorganization is to protect the homeland from terrorist attack.
The President believes that as much as has been done by the various entities of the government, with great success, that we can and we should do more. Specifically, the proposal the President will make will create a Department of Homeland Security at the Cabinet level. It requires congressional approval. And this new department would have four key components in it. The first is border and transportation security,; the second is emergency preparedness and response; the third is chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear countermeasures; and the fourth is information analysis and infrastructure protection.
This new department would draw from -- principally from eight Cabinet agencies, as currently constituted. In some cases, it would draw substantially from the resources within those agencies, and redirect them into the new department. In other cases -- it would draw from some small elements of those existing eight Cabinet departments. It would also reach into and touch other independent agencies.
And the President looks forward in remarks that will last approximately 15 minutes to discussing the reasons why he believes this is so important to the protection of our nation, as he addresses the American people tonight.
Q What time?
MR. FLEISCHER: At 8:00 p.m. And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.
Q Are the leaders coming in?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Vice President and others are briefing members of Congress about it. So the leaders have been informed, and are being informed.
Q On the Hill, not here?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, that's correct.
Q Will Governor Ridge head the new department?
MR. FLEISCHER: Governor Ridge -- by the way, we will arrange for the White House press corps a background briefing by a senior administration official --
Q When will that be?
MR. FLEISCHER: We're working on the exact time. I'm going to try to do it early to mid-afternoon. And our intent there is to give you as much specific and substantive information as is possible. But let me put it to you this way: Governor Ridge will be the one fighting for the creation of this department. Governor Ridge will be the voice and the face of the message for creating this department.
Beyond that, as you know, Congress has to also approve it, the creation of it. But beyond that, I have to fall into our normal formula of not discussing personnel. But you will see the Governor.
Q Will the President be appointing him?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I just indicated the formal answer to that is I never discuss personnel. But Governor Ridge is going to be the face and the voice of the person fighting for the creation of this department. I mean, he's the one -- he and Andy Card really are the two who led the internal effort to create this department and make it Cabinet level, its new structure.
Q So this would take, say, Coast Guard from Commerce and the Immigration portion of the INS from Justice, Customs from Treasury --
MR. FLEISCHER: You will get those specific answers a little later today. Just because there are briefings underway, I'm not at this specific moment going to describe which specific entities. But you're thinking along the exact right lines. This is a major restructuring of the federal government, the biggest restructuring of the federal government since 1947. The 1947 restructuring was as a result of the need to fight and win a Cold War, to recognize the differences in moving from World War II to the fight in the Cold War. This is a restructuring of the government recognizing the need to fight an enduring war against terrorism on a permanent basis, because it's the creation of a Cabinet department, which is permanent.
Q Ari, how will this address intelligence gathering, sharing, and analysis specifically in the wake of the investigations going on, and more broadly, why is this necessary?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I mentioned, there are four major divisions within the department: border and transportation security; emergency preparedness and response' chem, bio, radiological and nuclear countermeasures; information analysis and infrastructure protection. So within that fourth, there would be a component within the fourth that deals with information analysis. And the purpose of that is to pull information together to provide for a fusion of information.
That entity within the broad department will serve as a customer of the FBI and of the CIA. Their central mission is unchanged. But this new department will have an entity that works with them as a customer to receive information, to provide a central place for systematic analysis of terrorist threats within the United States, and as a way to have better fusion of information. It's complementary to FBI/CIA in that sense.
Q Where will the President be giving this address?
MR. FLEISCHER: From the Cross Hall in the Residence.
Q Everybody is going to say that this is an effort on this day, when Judiciary Committee hearings are getting underway, to divert attention from whatever intelligence analysis failings there have been. Would you respond to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The purpose of this is the same as the purpose of what Congress is involved in, which is to protect the country. And protection of the country -- as I indicated, you know the time line this was done -- protection of the country is a priority any time.
Q If it's in the Cross Hall, does that mean there will be an audience?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, no. A speech to the nation on camera.
Q -- chose that spot?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
Q Ari, on the tick-tock, when exactly did the President sign off on the idea? You talk about April 23rd, Card and Ridge and a small -- when did the President get the proposal and say, this is a good idea?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes. Well, throughout that period, right around the time of the border reorganization, as we talked about just doing a very small piece of this, that's when the President, discussing this with Andy Card and with Governor Ridge, said we need to really take a look broadly at the total way we protect our country. The time is coming to act. And as I indicated, the first small working group meeting took place on April 23rd.
Q Who was in that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Secretary Card, Governor Ridge, White House Counsel -- it's an internal White House working group. And throughout that period then, from late April into early May, Andy and the Governor would discuss the ongoing project with the President, fill him in. On May 3rd, Secretary Card described the working groups -- well, Andy repeatedly described it to the President. The determination by the President to proceed was made at the end of May. That's when the President, having viewed this for one of the approaching final times, gave the go-ahead and said, I sign off, I agree. So, late May.
Q One final question. In terms of, how much did discussions about the FBI -- the President even saying the other day that the FBI and the CIA were not communicating properly -- how much did those revelations come out over the past few weeks influence this new agency?
MR. FLEISCHER: It was not a part of it because this is so much bigger and broader. In fact, to go back and -- not a part of it except to the degree, as Director Mueller has said, we need a fusion of information, analysis of information. So there is the recognition that we still need to keep the FBI, CIA working closely together. And this new entity will be one place where information will get pulled together.
But I went back and I was looking at my notes of some of the discussions that the President had with the members of Congress in October of 2001, and the President in that meeting said we weren't communicating as well as we needed to be doing. So when the President said it last week, I think many of you have heard the President say things like that before. And it's all part of the -- going from a peacetime society to a society that's mobilizing for war.
Q When you say Ridge will fight for it, do you expect strong opposition?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry?
Q You said that Ridge will be fighting for it. Do you expect strong opposition?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President hopes not. I mean, the President views this as the best way to protect the country. Now, the initial reaction from the Hill has been good. But reorganizing the government is never easy. It involves turf, it involves hardworking Americans who enjoy being in the agencies that they're in who will have to adjust to change. And as the President discussed with the Homeland Security Council this morning, change is not easy, but it's important to do this.
Joe Allbaugh, the head of FEMA, said to the President this morning in the Homeland Security Council meeting that -- he congratulated the President on the initiative, and said, you're an agent for change, we're all agents for change, or else what are we doing here? And I think that represents the thinking of the Cabinet and the people who are directly affected by this.
But we will work very closely with the Congress on it. Congress -- this must be approved by Congress if it is to be put into law. Congress currently has 88 committees and sub-committees with jurisdiction over homeland security. So clearly, it does raise issues as far as jurisdiction on Congress. And these issues are important, these issues are sensitive. And we will work with the Congress to make the case why this is the best way to protect the country. And many members of Congress have legislation that is similar to this.
Q What will this cost? Do you have any idea what this will cost?
MR. FLEISCHER: The cost of this will be essentially budget neutral, and the reason -- well, the reason for that is, I'm not going to name any specific agency until a little later in the day, but an existing agency that's part of one department will be picked up in whole, and moved to this department.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, not physically. (Laughter.)
Q Well, where will it physically be?
MR. FLEISCHER: You're misunderstanding how some of these agencies work. There is one agency in particular that has its own building, its own office, they report -- they are part of a different department right now. They will remain in that building, they will remain in that office, they will have the same employees, the same people, but they will not report to the Secretary they currently report to, they will report to the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Q At some point that new Secretary is going to want his own building, or her own building.
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, okay, but it doesn't mean that everybody working for that Secretary needs to pick up and move, and go to that Secretary's building.
MR. FLEISCHER: Just as -- well, just as currently you have entities within the federal government that report to Cabinet Secretaries who don't physically house out of that Department. Now, there will be transition costs, so there will be some level associated with such things as physical or geographic movement. There will be some element to transition costs.
Q Ari, do you --
MR. FLEISCHER: Wait a second. I'm going to stay here for a little while. But essentially, it is a budget-neutral move, because you're talking about essentially the same number of people with the same budget, reporting to a new Cabinet Secretary.
Q But the budget for the agency, after it's established, what are you anticipating, what would you like, what do you want?
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll try to get you more specific information on that later today. That will be available.
Q Did you mention Senator Lieberman because the President's proposal is close to his?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I would -- I know you will talk to Senator Lieberman, you'll talk to other people on the hill. But I think members of Congress, when they hear this, will realize just how carefully this administration was listening to their ideas. There are many proposals that were studied by this group. There are different commissions that have weighed in on the best way to protect the homeland. Many members of Congress in both parties had specific ideas. And you will now be able to compare this proposal to their specific ideas. And that's another reason the President believes that this will be received well by most of the Congress.
Q Many Americans may see this as a bureaucratic reshuffling or an addition of a new layer of bureaucracy. How will this be more effective than the current state of affairs?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President will explain that tonight when he describes the reason for this, the mission that these people will have. But the President views this as a way to help people who are doing their job and doing it well now, so they can do it even better by bringing it into one domestic agency that has responsibility as the one lead department with Cabinet-level status for protecting the homeland. And the fusion of these various departments which are mostly entities within this new department, which are to a substantial degree security related, protection related, border related, transportation related, there's a health element to it, as well -- what they do every day for a living, these people, is focus on protection. Now they will be able to focus on protection with like-minded colleagues in one department whose goal is domestic -- is homeland protection.
Q Do you have any sense of the magnitude, of the size of the agency, in terms of staffing? Hundreds, thousands?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the reason I -- we will have that for you and I think we'll have it for you a little later on. But there's notifications going out to various departments and those notifications are going to proceed before I say so publicly.
I want go to people who haven't had questions yet.
Q Will this announcement tonight in any way ease what the President himself referred to the other day as some of the back-biting and CYA activities going on interdepartmentally?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think this announcement is so much bigger than any of this, the recent noise between level threes within the two agencies. It's just so much bigger than that. Go back to '47. This is a major reorganization.
Q Ari, will the President tonight lay out a deadline for when he wants congressional action?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President will ask Congress to pass this legislation this year.
Q And will any functions currently done in the CIA and the FBI be transferred into this new department?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think within the FBI there's one very small entity. But no, the missions of the CIA and the FBI continue with no substantial changes. This is the creation of a new department to make all these departments stronger. That's why I'm indicating, if you look at the structure of it, it's much bigger than that.
Q Will there still be an Office of Homeland Security within the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, there still will be an Office of Homeland Security in the White House. In those October meetings, Governor Ridge and the President said to the members of Congress that were we to create a department, we would still need a White House office to serve as a coordinator. So there would still need to be a White House office to coordinate all this activity.
Q Would the Cabinet Secretary work here or --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, at the new agency.
Q At the new agency?
MR. FLEISCHER: Just as current Cabinet Secretaries do.
Q Ari, I just have one more question --
MR. FLEISCHER: Wait a minute. I want to make sure we everybody who had something. Sir?
Q Ari, how does this square with or affect the report that Governor Ridge was supposed to release this July?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is a central component of the strategy. This is one key element in that strategy; this is the structure.
Q Why did the President change his mind? When he created Governor Ridge's office, he specifically said he did not think it should be a Cabinet --
MR. FLEISCHER: Because -- and this is why I spent some time on those October 24th and October 25th meetings -- watch what is about to happen now. We have now a specific legislative proposal to the Congress. It will be interesting to see how quickly the proposal can be enacted into law.
In the wake of September 11th, the immediate focus was to protect the country, to build the resources, the domestic preparedness, the biological preparedness, stockpiling pharmaceuticals, the developing of a budget, working with state and local law enforcement personnel. The entire mission of homeland security in the wake of September 11th was action.
Now what you will see is a shift to work very closely with the Congress on a lengthy, internal, deliberative process that's legislative, to get this enacted into law. There was no time for that last year; it was time for action. And that was the mission of homeland security.
This is going to be debated. This is going to be worked through with the Congress. Again, the focus of the President last year was immediate protection of America. And that's why the President and Governor Ridge indicated an openness to doing it down the road, but at that time, the immediate priority was the protection of the country.
Q Has legislation been written and a sponsor of it found?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is making the proposal tonight, and we're confident it will move forward through the Hill.
Q -- to address this sort of surprising development here that a Republican who came to Washington who believes in small government is now creating a massive addition to the bureaucracy.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, no, it's not a massive addition to the bureaucracy.
Q You said it was the biggest reorganization since --
MR. FLEISCHER: Reorganization, but you said addition. A reorganization is different from an addition. Keep in mind, if you take 100 workers from Department X and put those 100 workers in Department Y, you still have 100 workers. They've been reorganized. But it is not an addition to the government, because you're working with the same, essentially, group of people.
Q Just to be clear on that, there will be no addition to the size of the federal government, the overall bureaucracy?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q No extra bodies?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct. That's why I said it's essentially budget neutral. It's a reorganization.
Q So what you're relying then on is having the intelligence analysis from FBI, intelligence analysis from CIA to funnel their stuff to this new agency. How do you still prevent turf battles from these agencies who might want to hold on to that stuff? I mean, you're not saying you're going to have new intelligence agents at this agency, you're taking FBI and CIA, their information is supposed to be funneled --
MR. FLEISCHER: Kelly, so long as there is government, there will be elements of turf. Nobody can deny that. But what this is designed to do is improve the current system, by bringing all these various elements of homeland security into one department. And it is viewed as complementary to the efforts of the FBI and CIA in that one section of it.
We'll take one more, and then I'm going to go.
Q Ari, you touched this a little bit, if you could elaborate, though. How does the President envision keeping this from becoming an unwieldy bureaucracy, with so many different functions under one roof?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, actually it's -- the President views it just the opposite, from a management point of view. And the reason for that is because in the current structure, where all these different agencies are, agencies that have a responsibility for homeland security are so spread out and are so disparate, in so many different agencies, that that's where it's really unwieldy.
In an effort to make it more organized and better -- functioning better, with greater controls, is the effort to bring it all into one agency. This is why members of Congress had suggested it. This is some of the independent proposals that Governor Ridge and Andy Card and their staff looked at. And that's why it's now coming together under one department, for the exact purpose of making it more organized, making it function better, making it function tighter.
All right -- oh, there will be no briefing today, since the President is addressing the nation tonight. And we will get you the exact times of the background briefing. There will be handouts, there will be hard copies. You'll have a lot of information.
END 10:28 A.M. EDT