House Democrats score Homeland Security effort

| Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Jan. 16 disputed a report issued by House Democrats that criticized efforts to protect the country.

Democratic members of the House Homeland Security Committee alleged gaps in the areas of border security, port security, critical infrastructure protection, chemical plant security, cybersecurity, bioterrorism, first responder preparedness, intelligence, aviation security, nuclear stockpiles, civil rights protection and information technology.

"The reality is that anybody who looks at homeland security today in an objective way will acknowledge that we have serious security gaps that remain, and the task is to close those gaps in the shortest amount of time possible," committee ranking member Rep. Jim Turner, D-TX, said.

But Department of Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the report "completely fails to recognize the significant accomplishments" the department has made in protecting the country. Roehrkasse said some of the conclusions in the report were inaccurate, while others contradict priorities set by Congress through legislation, Government Executive reported.

For example, the report states that the Department of Homeland Security has not yet implemented a new immigration tracking system at U.S. land ports, where 80 percent of all inspections take place. But Roehrkasse noted that Congress does not require that capability until the end of 2005.