President Bush created a center for religious initiatives within the Homeland Security Department on Tuesday, part of his government-wide effort to open federal contracts to religious organizations.

Bush's executive order said the new Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives would be dedicated to making it easier for religious and other community groups to provide social services.

The center, in conjunction with the White House, would audit the department to identify barriers to religious organizations' participation and encourage their involvement.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy, speaking from Texas, where the president was staying at his ranch, said that religious organizations responded after Hurricane Katrina with assistance in housing and other services for the victims.

"It only makes sense to have a direct liaison with the faith-based community in the Homeland Security Department," Duffy said.

Other administration departments such as Justice, Education, Labor and Health and Human Services also have such centers.