Emerson's chief of staff discusses homeland security

Saturday, June 7, 2003

Before Sept. 11, 2001, the federal agencies that guarded America's shores were a hodgepodge of groups in various places. Since, it has been put under one umbrella group called the Department of Homeland Security.

And it is still a priority in Congress, according to Lloyd Smith, U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's chief of staff, who spoke at First Friday Coffee before a group of Cape Girardeau business leaders.

"It was the largest reformation of government in our lifetime," Smith said. "And Congress is trying not to just give money to bureaucrats."

Smith said U.S. Senators Kit Bond and Jim Talent, along with Emerson, are working to see that money is getting to first-responders, such as emergency personnel like police officers and firefighters.

"We want to make sure the equipment and other tools are getting to first responders," Smith said. "But it is still a tough, tough decision on how to divide the money up."

There is still some flaws in the system, he said. Smith pointed out that only half of the security forces at U.S. airports have fully completed their security checks.

"How comfortable does that make you feel?" he said. "America is safer today, but we've got a long way to go."

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