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Homeland security

Tell it like it is

Tell it like it is

August 13, 2002|by TONY BUDNY

Editor's note: The Homeland Security department bill is now stalemated as the administration and Congress face off over civil service protection issues for the department's potential personnel. President Bush is on a month-long vacation and the Senate is in recess until September.)




William Thornberry (R-TX), submitting legislation for the Bush administration, has proposed a bill that, if passed and signed into law by the President, would authorize 22 Federal agencies, including the Coast Guard, Immigration and Naturalization Service, the FBI and FEMA, to merge into the Department of Homeland Security. It is a blockbuster reorganization that will create a new department only surpassed in size and scope by the Department of Defense.

It's enough to make former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge a major political leader (if he is appointed to head the cabinet level department).

It's even enough to bridge party lines and allow election-year players to seize a key issue by the throat and show voters that a secure country is their top priority by supporting the legislation.

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President Bush says the new department won't cost the government more money, since it is just a merging of budgets of the various agencies. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill say if it doesn't cost more, it's an aberration, since the new 170,000-staff-people-strong department will embark on uncharted territory.

With all the talk, the true question seems to be: what's all the fuss about anyway?

I've asked 12 people between the ages of 14 and 18 in the past two weeks what they thought about this issue and, one by one, they drew the same blank.

Few had even heard of the possibility of a merger and none had a quotable comment.

Could it be lack of media attention? Hardly. In the weeks following the announcement of the bill, it seemed as if the day would not be complete without a political talk show mentioning it. Lately the debates in the Senate regarding the bill have even picked up.

So what is the reason for this ignorance? Why is it that people in my age bracket seem not to care?

I'm sure civic virtue is alive and well in the younger generations, for to say otherwise would be myopic and biased, but the concern may be that our hands are simply tied.

I know the "one person can't make a difference attitude" is a common one, especially when voting is an often misused right even in the adult population. But, need we remember that reorganization of FEMA in 1993 changed the focus of policies and planning away from national emergencies, including that of terrorist attacks, to simple natural disaster relief.

No, one person can't make much of a difference, and that is why we need to be a nation united. We need to make sure politicians don't make crucial decisions for us.

Hagerstown resident Tony Budny, 17, is a senior at St. Maria Goretti High School in Hagerstown.

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