Gordon Brown last night signalled that the government was considering setting up a government department for homeland security.
Calling for tougher measures on fighting international terrorism in what appeared to be a carefully choreographed move to bolster his position as prime minister in waiting, the chancellor said in a keynote speech security would be a top priority in his spring budget.
By 2008, he explained, taxpayers would be funding an annual budget of Â£2bn on counter-terrorism, twice the amount spent before the atrocities of September 11 2001.
“We will examine the case for a single security budget, assessing also how we secure the best co-ordination in delivery and accountability, including the appointment of the relevant committees and their investigative power,” he told the Royal United Services Institute, a security think-tank in London.
Previously, the government has rejected the idea of a specific department for homeland security, proposed by the Conservatives in the wake of the new terrorist threat after 9/11. But yesterday, a senior Treasury source told The Herald Mr Brown was now “open-minded” about the proposal while Tony Blair’s spokesman, instead of again rejecting it, said it was being kept under review.
I’m somewhat surprised to hear this idea being raised right now in the UK. The UK already has some very effective homeland security and counterterrorism institutions (MI5, Scotland Yard, etc.), so I’d worry about imposing a new layer of bureaucracy that diminishes their effectiveness. It does make sense to strengthen the Home Office and enhance its links with departments that have secondary security responsibilities such as Transport and Health. But I don’t really see a good reason to create a new homeland security department alongside the Home Office at this time.