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Wednesday, 20 November, 2002, 02:51 GMT
Congress approves US security body
US National Guard
National defence has become a priority for Bush
The US Senate has voted overwhelmingly to create a Department of Homeland Security, long advocated by President George Bush.

The decisive 90-9 vote settled a lengthy dispute between Congress and the White House over whether to move ahead with the plan.


Setting up this new department will take time, but I know we will meet the challenge

President Bush
The result paves the way for the biggest government reshuffle in half a century.

The new department will merge 22 agencies with a combined budget of about $40bn to deal with the threat of international terrorism on American soil.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the bill on 13 November.

President Bush said he would sign the bill into law.

"Setting up this new department will take time, but I know we will meet the challenge together.

"I look forward to signing this important legislation," he said.

Intelligence failures

President Bush initially opposed the bill, first proposed by Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman in the wake of intelligence failures which became apparent following the attacks of 11 September, 2001.

Tom Ridge
Tom Ridge is expected to head the new department

As it gained support, however, he offered his own version several months later, and it became the cornerstone of his counter-terrorism policy.

President Bush made the bill's passage a key issue in mid-term elections earlier this month.

The move was held up for months by wrangling between Democrats and Republicans over how the administration planned to combine so many agencies and staff into one department.

The new cabinet-level department will include the Coastguard, Secret Service and the Border Patrol, but not the CIA or the FBI - the two departments most heavily criticised for not preventing the attacks.

Closer co-operation

Correspondents say the White House believes the department will give the president the tools he needs to make the country safer, by increasing co-operation and co-ordination between often competing agencies.

Critics say it fails to resolve the intelligence lapses that preceded the 11 September attacks.

Although President Bush will sign the bill into law next week, it could take as much as a year to complete the mammoth shake-up.

The new department will employ 170,000 people, making it Washington's largest reorganisation since the creation of the Department of Defense after World War II.

President Bush is widely expected to appoint his adviser on homeland security, Tom Ridge, to head the new department.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ian Pannell
"Some people are saying this new department will be too big and too bureaucratic"

Key stories

European probe

Background

IN DEPTH
See also:

08 Nov 02 | Americas
05 Nov 02 | Middle East
26 Aug 02 | Americas
21 Sep 01 | Americas
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