WASHINGTON – President Bush is defending his administration's efforts to secure the homeland as this week's release of the Sept. 11 commission's (search) report reminds Americans of the nation's vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
On Wednesday in the Rose Garden, Bush signs a bill to develop and stockpile vaccines and other antidotes (search) to biological and chemical weapons. The legislation provides the drug industry with incentives to research and develop bioterrorism countermeasures, speeds up the approval process of antidotes and, in an emergency, allows the government to distribute certain treatments before the Food and Drug Administration has approved them.
On Thursday, Bush is to sign the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, giving qualified off-duty and retired law enforcement officers the ability to carry their concealed firearms nationwide. That same day the Sept. 11 panel releases its report saying the U.S. intelligence community missed the significance of "telltale indicators" of impending terrorist attacks, partly because of its piecemeal approach to intelligence analysis.
Later on Thursday, Bush travels to Illinois to tour the Northeastern Illinois Public Training Academy in Glenview, Ill., and give a speech on homeland security.
Bush told supporter in St. Charles, Mo., Tuesday night that fighting enemies abroad is the best way to prevent another attack on U.S. soil.
"In this big, sweet country of ours, there's no such thing as perfect security," Bush said. "The threats to this homeland are real. We know that the terrorists want to strike the United States again. They want to disrupt our way of life, or cause panic or great fear."
He said his administration has reorganized the government to increase communication among federal, state and local governments. The FBI also has changed its mission to make sure that counterterrorism is the top priority, he said.
According to a poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 71 percent of Americans think the government is doing a "fairly well' or "very well" at protecting the nation against another terrorist attack. But the poll also said that a majority believe terrorists have at least the same ability to strike inside the United States as they did on Sept. 11, 2001.
U.S. officials are hoping that Project BioShield (search), which Bush is signing into law, will yield enough new-generation anthrax vaccine to dose 25 million people. Federal health officials also hope that the $5.6 billion program will provide antidotes for botulism and anthrax, a safer smallpox vaccine and a long-awaited children's version of an anti-radiation pill.
The program passed the House on a 414-2 vote on July 15. The discovery of sarin gas in a roadside bomb in Iraq and ricin and anthrax attacks against the Capitol spurred the Senate to pass it 99-0 in May.
"Modern terrorist threats come not just from explosions, but also from silent killers such has deadly germs and chemical agents," Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., an author of the bill, said in a statement released Tuesday night. "Project BioShield creates a lifesaving partnership between our government and the private sector to develop the vaccines needed to project our citizens from this bioterrorism. This bill could save millions of lives."