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The U.S. Commission on National Security was tasked to evaluate the current national security climate and propose changes needed to meet new threats. The commission was formed under President Bill Clinton in 1998 and issued its report on January 31, 2001. The 14-member bipartisan commission was headed by former Senators Gary Hart (Democrat, Colorado) and Warren Rudman (Republican, New Hampshire).

The commission's report offered recommendations to correct deficiencies in five key areas:

  • ensuring the security of the American homeland;
  • recapitalizing America's strengths in science and education;
  • redesigning key institutions of the Executive Branch;
  • overhauling the U.S. government personnel system; and
  • reorganizing Congress's role in national security affairs.
Chief among their concerns was homeland defense. The commission warned that America was vulnerable and likely to be attacked sometime in the next twenty-five years:
The combination of unconventional weapons proliferation with the persistence of international terrorism will end the relative invulnerability of the U.S. homeland to catastrophic attack. A direct attack against American citizens on American soil is likely over the next quarter century. The risk is not only death and destruction but also a demoralization that could undermine U.S. global leadership. In the face of this threat, our nation has no coherent or integrated governmental structures.
Elsewehere, the report calls for greater integration of the Department of Defense into defending the homeland. It points out that the economy is vital to national security and that the Secretary of the Treasury should be on the National Security Council. It also mentions that the State Department has been crippled by moving almost all of its security functions to the National Security Council and needs to play a larger role in national security.

Though the bipartisan commission spent two and a half years, travelled to 25 foreign countries, and spent millions of dollars to produce its recommendations, President George W. Bush rejected them. Instead he believed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency could handle the job -- though he did ask Vice-President Dick Cheney to do another study.

Seven and a half months after the report was issued, in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks, President Bush reversed position and announced that he was creating a new Cabinet-level office of Homeland Security.

The complete report can be found at: www.nssg.gov

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