NORFOLK, Va. – Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) on Tuesday called for the Sept. 11 commission to keep working another 18 months to ensure that its recommended reforms are put in place — a proposal immediately welcomed by the bipartisan panel.
Kerry called on the president to implement quickly the commission's recommendations
"Now that the 9-11 commission has done its job, we need to do our job," Kerry said. "We understand the threat. We have a blueprint for action. We have the strength as a nation to do what has to be done. The only thing we don't have is time. We need to do it now."
Kerry said the commission should issue progress reports every six months, beginning in December. Among the questions they should address, Kerry said, are whether we are doing enough to strengthen homeland security, reorganize intelligence agencies, build global alliances and make America as safe as it can be.
The 10-member panel issued its final report on Thursday. Under legislation that President Bush (search) signed in March, the commission is to formally dissolve on Aug. 26.
Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the Sept. 11 commission (search), said Republican chairman Thomas Kean, a former New Jersey governor, supported the idea of the commission having additional time to continue its work.
"He hoped there would be some way to continue to speak out and take our case to Congress and the American public," Felzenberg said Tuesday.
The commission's recommendations included creating a new intelligence center and Cabinet-level intelligence director. An intelligence-gathering center would bring a unified command to the more than dozen agencies that now collect and analyze intelligence.
President Bush has a task force reviewing the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations and may act within days on some of them, White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said Monday with the vacationing president at his Texas ranch. She would not say which of the more than 40 recommendations Bush was likely to adopt or if he would make his own proposals.
In Boston, Kerry foreign policy adviser Jamie Rubin told reporters that keeping the commission intact would be an effective way to "bird-dog the bureaucracy" on implementing the panel's recommendations. He said it was unclear whether the commission's two leaders, Republican Thomas Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton, would be willing to keep working that long. "That's for them to say," Rubin said.
He added that the extended mandate could be financed either by an act of Congress or through private funding.
Speaking from the hometown of the world's largest naval base Tuesday, Kerry was playing up his experience in the Navy and his plan for military leadership.
"As president, I will never forget that our security and our strength begins with those brave men and women who wear the uniform as they stand watch somewhere in the world," said the decorated Vietnam War veteran. "And we should be grateful for their service."
Kerry said the release of the commission's report was not a time for politics, but at the same time criticized the president for delaying the commission's work and said internal administration fighting had set back reforms that could improve national security.
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said of Kerry's response to the report, "I think a lot of people will be suspicious that he's engaging in political gamesmanship."
Kerry is not scheduled to arrive in Boston until Wednesday night. Kerry also plans to campaign in Philadelphia before reaching Boston. He is to accept the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night.
On Monday, Kerry addressed a group at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and, donning light green clean room attire, toured the Orbiter Processing Facility (search) with Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson and Bob Graham of Fla., and former astronaut and Sen. John Glenn. in Florida.
The suits are required dress for anyone coming in proximity to the orbiter Discovery, currently being prepared for flight on the next Space Shuttle mission. Republicans were quick to distribute a photo of the event packaged with a 1988 photo of a helmeted Michael Dukakis in a tank that became a subject of ridicule.
"My hunch is that the brilliant Republicans who put George Bush in a flight suit to strut around an aircraft carrier won't get very far giving advice to NASA (search) and John Glenn about the kinds of coveralls to wear above The Discovery," said Kerry campaign spokesman David Wade.