Fire Service Representatives Among Attendees at White House Homeland Security Meeting

Washington, D.C. – Firefighters and representatives of fire service organizations were among those invited to attend a July 26 morning meeting at the White House at which President George W. Bush addressed the issue of homeland security. Also in attendance were other emergency personnel, Cabinet members, governors, and community officials.

“We’re on the cusp of doing something right for America,” the President told the group. He thanked individually all Cabinet members and legislators, especially those who have been working to move a homeland security bill that will create a Department of Homeland Security through the Congress.

“We need that department for one main reason,” President Bush noted: “America needs a group of dedicated professionals who [will] wake up each morning with the overriding duty of protecting the American people.”

He noted that although the agencies in this department will have other duties, “protecting American citizens from harm is the first priority, the ruling priority of all of our government.” The four primary tasks of the Department of Homeland Security, President Bush said, will be the following:

  • To control our borders and prevent terrorists and weapons from entering our country.
  • To develop cooperation between the federal government, the state governments, and the local governments so that they can work with “our incredibly brave and dedicated responders.”
  • To develop technologies to detect biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons and to discover drugs and treatments to protect citizens.
  • To assemble under one roof the entities that have the resources and means to assess the threats to our country and to collaboratively develop plans to secure America.
The President said he is not going to accept legislation that limits or weakens “managerial flexibility to get the job done right.” He stressed that the flexibility to transfer personnel among departments would not undermine federal workers’ basic rights. This issue has surfaced in Congress and raised some concern in local unions. Workers, the President said, “will retain whistle-blower protection, collective bargaining rights, and protection against unlawful discrimination.” The Cabinet secretary, the President added, “must have the freedom to get people in the right job at the right time and to hold them accountable. He needs to move money and resources quickly in response to new threats without all kinds of bureaucratic rules and obstacles. And when we face unprecedented threats, like we are facing, we cannot have business as usual.”

“The President today continued to outline his strategy for developing the Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security,” John M. Buckman III, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), who was present at the meeting, explained. “The President knows what he wants, and now it’s up to Congress to deliver.”

Other fire service organizations represented at the White House meeting included the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, and the National Volunteer Fire Council.

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