In the largest government overhaul since the Defense Department was created in 1947, Washington revamped its security agencies after the 9/11 attacks. Security spending also surged, from $16.8 billion in 2001 to $55 billion this year. A look at some of the changes:
HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT
Twenty-two disparate agencies and 180,000 employees, including FEMA and the Secret Service, were merged under one roof in March 2003. The department oversees security operations at ports, on airlines and at U.S. borders. It is in charge of the nation's color-coded threat assessment for terrorism. Homeland Security also is the federal point of contact for state and local civilian authorities seeking intelligence or other classified information about threats. Though it was created in response to 9/11, the department shifted its focus from terrorism to "all hazards" shortly before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast last year.
TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
Congress rushed TSA into existence weeks after 9/11 as part of the Transportation Department. It moved into Homeland Security in March 2003. Though TSA was supposed to protect all modes of transportation, Congress gave it a list of tasks and deadlines aimed almost exclusively at preventing terrorist attacks on passenger airlines. Thousands of undercover air marshals were hired, trained and deployed aboard commercial flights. More than 50,000 security screeners were hired and trained to take over airport security from contractors employed by airlines. Billions of dollars were spent on installing bomb detection machines at airports to scan every piece of checked baggage for traces of explosives.
The top priority at the FBI changed from fighting crime to preventing terrorism. Hundreds of intelligence analysts were hired and assigned to FBI field offices, while hundreds of agents were shifted to counterterrorism cases from traditional jobs investigating bank robberies and other crimes. Additionally, the USA Patriot Act, enacted 45 days after the attacks, lowered the wall between intelligence and law enforcement, and relaxed standards for surreptitious surveillance in counterterrorism investigations.
The 16 spy agencies were put under the authority of one national intelligence chief, former U.S. ambassador to Baghdad John Negroponte. A National Counterterrorism Center was created to bring together employees from the FBI, CIA, the Defense Department and elsewhere to merge all threat information in a single location. The center has several hundred employees, among the roughly 100,000 who work in intelligence. Additionally, the CIA plans to increase by 2010 the number of operatives and analysts each by 50 percent, with an emphasis on "hard-target" languages such as Farsi, Urdu, Pashto and Korean. In the last two years, the agency has opened or reopened outposts in roughly two dozen countries.
The U.S. Northern Command, created in 2002, oversees domestic military efforts and coordinates help to civilian authorities. Combat air patrols over major cities, with the power to shoot down attacking aircraft, were started immediately after 9/11. Also, the Navy has new authority to intercept boats carrying terrorists or weapons, while Quick Reaction Forces and Rapid Reaction Forces of highly trained soldiers and Marines were readied to respond to potential threats on land. The Air Force developed the controversial TALON database to collect information about possible terrorist threats.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
More than $1 billion was distributed to local and state health departments and hospitals to prepare for a biological weapons attack. Health departments bought new lab equipment, communications systems and beefed up staffing, while hospitals prepared for treating mass casualties with drills, by training staff to treat smallpox and anthrax, and purchasing decontamination kits and medicine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed a health alert network to allow scientists to issue emergency bulletins to health departments around the nation. Also, $645 million was set aside to buy medicine, masks, ventilators and other supplies for the National Strategic Stockpile.
Source: The Associated Press