Governors announce new homeland security initiative, propose driver’s license project
Saying that homeland security starts with “hometown security” the National Governors Association announced a series of initiatives on Sept. 19 at the National Press Club in Washington. The measures are designed to help governors protect their citizens and their states from acts of terrorism and reinforce the critical role states play in the structure and implementation of a national homeland security strategy.
“It is the governors’ position that homeland security is really hometown security. This country was reminded last week that the battle against terrorism begins with first responders in our communities. We need a homeland security strategy that recognizes there must be seamless interoperability between states, local government, and law enforcement, fueled by federal resources and knowledge,” said NGA Chairman Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton.
To spearhead the work, which includes pilot projects to enhance information sharing among local, state, and federal officials and to strengthen driver’s license standards, NGA has formed a homeland security task force and named Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt and Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes as its co-chairs. Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner will also serve on the task force.
Leavitt issued a statement to say that state and local law enforcement and emergency personnel are critical to homeland security. He said that NGA’s Center for Best Practices will select five to eight states to help them improve sharing information among law enforcement, corrections, and the courts; state homeland security directors and first responders; and public health agencies, hospitals, and health labs.
“Since Sept. 11, 2001, states, all levels of government, and the private sector have sprung into action. But no matter how well-intentioned or how well-funded these efforts are, it won’t make much of a difference if they’re not all connected and communicating,” said the governor. Leavitt who managed a successful security force at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and is a member of President’s Bush’s Homeland Security Advisory Council. “The place for that to happen is at the state level and NGA’s new initiative will help us immensely in this endeavor,” he said.
Another issue facing the task force is choosing the best ways for states to strengthen driver’s license standards and authority. Some states have moved aggressively to address fraud and to close loopholes that terrorist and criminals have exploited. A new NGA project, in collaboration with the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Council of State Governments, will help states learn from “best practices.”
NGA does not have policy on the integrity of state driver’s licenses; however, a number of bills have been introduced in Congress since Sept. 11, 2001, that propose stronger federal requirements for driver’s licenses. NGA’s task force will focus on the national homeland security strategy’s recommendation to develop enhanced minimum standards for driver’s licenses.
In addition to making the announcements, the governors said they are hopeful Congress will include several billion dollars in homeland security funds for states when it considers a continuing budget resolution (CR) on Sept. 30. The CR is needed for the federal government to continue operating because the House and Senate have not passed their annual spending bills.
“To date the main costs of homeland security have been born almost entirely by state and local governments,” Barnes said. “We cannot wait until next year for financial assistance from the federal government.”
Also on Sept. 19, the governors released “A Governor’s Guide to Emergency Management Volume Two: Homeland Security,” a reference document for governors and their staffs. For an electronic copy of the guide, click here.