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Meet Senator Thompson

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Fred's Q&A From the 2004 Panetta Conference (revised)

Leon Panetta: welcome, both of you, to the Monterey Peninsula. Let's begin by talking a little bit about the broad subject of leadership in the 21st century.
Last century we defeated fascism and communism. In order to do that, we had to build a strong defense. We had to build strong alliances. We built NATO, helped create the U.N.. This century, the threat is obviously terrorism.
We have a strong defense, but can we win without building strong alliances? Has Iraq hurt our credibility, or our ability to develop those kinds of alliances?

Fred Thompson: Leon, we shouldn't have to worry about whether or not we could go it alone if we had to. Hopefully it doesn't come to that. We should strive to avoid that, if for no other reason because in any democracy, I think the people's willingness to sustain protracted hostile and unpleasant activity is limited, and I think that when there is a lack of national support, it's more difficult to maintain the support inside your own country, when people see that. However, it's not exactly like we're in the habit of doing that. I think we've gotten a bit of a bum rap because of that.
We certainly had a coalition in 1991. We went to Iraq. We were part of a group with regard to Kosovo. There are over 30 countries involved in Iraq today, so it's not like we're going out and looking for ways to become unilateral. The real issue is, we're the world's leading power and the world's leading target. What about those instances when try as we must -- and admittedly we could have done better in our diplomacy this time around, but let's say, try as we must, we see a situation that we think is of vital importance to us, and we cannot get the French and Germans, for example, to go along, or the united nations, who is usually, you know, relying upon the United States to be the end of the spear when we agree on activities to do together.
What about it then?
Obviously none of us will want to give anyone else a veto over United States actions, that it feels like it needs to take in its own self-interest, so the question becomes instance by instance, what is really in our self-interest and what is worth going it alone for. We've been given a lot of blame recently. I think some of it justified, a good deal of it is not, but you have to look at the other side of that equation.
Why is it that some of the European countries try every way they can to not cooperate with us?
Why were the French and Germans and Russians trying to get economic sanctions lifted from Saddam?
Why were so many leaders around the world apparently in on the food for peace scandal that we're seeing now?
So there's some blame on the other side. Why were so many countries doing deals with Saddam for oil before all this broke?
So there are two sides to it, and it all comes back to situation by situation, and our need to properly evaluate each situation as to what's in our legitimate self-interest and how far we're willing to go in protecting it.

Leon Panetta: Let me ask you about -- the President has said, the Solicitor General said in arguing before the Supreme Court, that we are a nation that is at war and admittedly we are losing men and will on the battlefield, but we are also a nation that when we are at war has demanded shared sacrifice by the American people. But we have not been asked to pay for this war and we're looking at a price tag that could run anywhere from $150 to $200 billion. Most of that's borrowed money. We have not been asked -- we have a military force that's deployed almost everywhere in the world. You're talking about a deployment of 130 to 150,000 troops in Iraq for an indefinite period of time, but we've not been asked to institute a military draft.
And we are asked not to pay attention to the pictures of caskets that return from Iraq. Can we be a nation at war and somehow pretend that that war is not real, and demand sacrifice?

Fred Thompson: well, I don't think anyone is trying to avoid recognition of the caskets that are coming home. But I agree that we have not been treating this as it is, a war. I don't think the average person feels that way. I think we could have done more to spread the burden. I think, for example, this would have been a great opportunity early on to say ok, we don't want to do it, but now we're going to have to have a tough energy policy.
The source of a lot of this is our dependency on oil from that part of the world, so we're going to have to give something, business is going to have to give something, and we're going to need a better energy policy.
So yeah, I think we could have done a lot better in terms of sharing the sacrifice. So it makes it very important that we have some fiscal policies, in order to carry on those things.
Let's take, for example, that this was a just endeavor in Iraq, which I happen to agree with. But it's going to be extremely expensive. Homeland security, we just merged 22 departments of homeland security. It's going to be extremely expensive.
We don't realize how much we're going to have to do in terms of protecting our infrastructure. Most of it's in private hands in this country, all the railroads and rail lines and highways and bridges and things of that nature, nuclear plants and things of that nature.
The cost is going to be tremendous. When a long drawn-out protracted war that our leadership has not properly explained to us yet, we've had war declared Against us back, the first time was 1996 and then 1998 again by Osama Bin Laden. Nobody paid much attention to it.
We're going to have to pay for it.
That means we're going to have to have very sound fiscal policies to keep our economy churning, and that's why George and I will launch into another debate as to what sound fiscal policy is, and the right mixture of taxes and spending. Our non-defense discretionary spending from 2001-2003 went up, what, 15%. We cannot sustain the spending side. Others say we can't sustain the tax cuts.
Whatever, we've got a big deficit, and it's going to get bigger when the retirees retire, so it all mixes together.
We've got to pay for it, it's going to be extremely expensive, but we're not doing the things on the fiscal side that are necessary to put us in the economic position, strength wise, in order to get the job done.

Leon Panetta: I'm well aware of the Ted Koppel controversy. But, don't you think we are entitled to share in the pain of those losses?

Fred Thompson: yes. But I think it's a waste of time and energy to have a big controversy over that, but the question gets into motivation and I don't know what's in Ted Koppel's mind.
I tend to be a little bit skeptical myself, but it's not enough to, you know, tear the sheets up over, in my opinion. I think we need to all recognize that what's happening there, and the full picture of what's happened, and the reason we're there, as well as the difficulties we're having while we are there.
Leon Panetta: let me ask you about Iraq. We've had a rough few weeks in Iraq.
We've had the bloodiest month that we've ever had, in April. We obviously have now these pictures of abused prisoners. That isn't going to help our situation with regards to the Arab world. In Fallujah, we are now beginning the process of turning power over to former members of Saddam's army, some of whom have been members of the Republican Guard.
We fought this war to get rid of Saddam Hussein and those who supported him and now we're returning power to his generals. What's wrong with this picture? Where did we go wrong, and what do we need to do to fix the situation?

Fred Thompson: I'm very concerned about this. There's a lot wrong with this picture. Was it napoleon who said if you say you're going to take Vienna, you'd better go ahead and do it, and we are looking weak right now.
I don't know what's going on there, what the strategy is, why they're doing what they're doing, bringing in a former Saddam general, television cameras, people applauding and so forth, and the next day I hear, well, this guy is probably not going to be the guy anyway.
The whole situation is a great challenge. You've got to make a decision between two very bad choices. It looks to me like if they take Fallujah, that it's going to play Al-Jazeera, you know, forever. And it's going to be rough and it might cause uprisings in other parts, and it might prove to be disastrous.
On the other hand, in my opinion, if they do not take Fallujah, that is guaranteed -- and bring in Saddam's old generals, that is guaranteed to prove disastrous.
A fellow who spent time down there and whose opinion I judge, I value highly, has said that the one thing we need to remember is that we must keep the Shi'ites on our side, and I just don't see how that does that. They are talking tactics as well as strategy, I guess, in terms of battle situations down there, but mistakes have been made. Sound like Nixon, don't I? I think -- it seems to me war is a succession of mistakes. Mistakes were made in the Korean war, mistakes and setbacks came about in world war ii. Certainly here, we probably went in without enough troops in retrospect, certainly now it seems like a no-brainer, although that's still debated. Some people think that running off the old Saddam military was a bad idea. As conventional wisdom, maybe that's true.
I don't know.
Underestimating the difficulty of pacifying the place clearly was a mistake, although I don't remember that many commentators and experts before the fact predicting that this was what's going to happen.
A lot of people thought we shouldn't go. A lot of people thought we were going to meet more resistance than we in fact did. We made a mistake as to the strength of the resistance to start with. It was easier than what we thought, turned out to be. But regardless, if you're carrying out this operation, it's your responsibility not to make mistakes, if they can be avoided, and that was a mistake. So we can spend a lot of time looking backward, but looking forward, I believe that over a period of several years now, we have slowly but surely developed a reputation, not as a country that's looking for a fight or looking to unilaterally invade folks for the fun of it, but if we pull out when things get tough, as we did in Somalia, as we turned around in Haiti, the port there, as we did in Lebanon, a lot of people interpret our leaving when we did in Iraq in 1991 in retrospect, as weakness. The many times we've been attacked from African embassies to the attempt in the airport in Los Angeles, the following year, to the following year of the world trade center before, and our tepid responses to all that. All of that has led us to a situation where people are expecting us to do that again and if we do that again, it's going to make for a much more dangerous situation.
That's a fear for us.
That's a theater of war there. If we got out of war tomorrow and had no involvement forever, it would be a terrible blow to us, but it would just simply change the theater to another one.
Or several more, including the possibility of a very real possibility -- and I think probability, of a theater of war in this country, many cells are here already.
Some think, you know, waiting to be activated. I do not know. So it is a problem. It is a mess.
But it is not one that I think we asked for. It is one that we're struggling to come to the right answer to, and I think pulling out of there and running and not doing what's necessary to be successful there -- and at least give those people an opportunity, ultimately they've got to be the ones to decide what kind of country they're going to have, but giving them an opportunity to live in a different kind of society now that Saddam and Uday and Husay, how soon we forget, now that they're not running things anymore.

Leon Panetta: let me ask you on the weapons of mass destruction, because we all -- when I was in the white house, we were briefed on the existence of weapons of mass destruction. I'm sure you had briefings that were very similar to that, and Bob Woodward's book, George Tenet says when the President even raises a question about it, that it's a slam dunk, that weapons of mass destruction are there. And that obviously we found out that they were all wrong. How could our intelligence, how could our intelligence be so wrong about something so important?

Fred Thompson: I agree with George. I think it's a matter of lack of adequate human intelligence and lack of adequate analysis. We let down our guard after the Cold War in many respects.
Intelligence was one of them, especially human intelligence. Our military budget, our military personnel cut back and so forth, all for some years, led up to September 11. It takes a lot sometimes to get our attention. Osama had declared war on us. We'd been attacked several times, abroad usually, weren't paying that much attention. That's the intelligence background in a nutshell.
On the weapons of mass destruction, the people who thought there were weapons of mass destruction include, besides President Clinton, our C.I.A. The business about Saddam being capable of reconstituting his nuclear program came from a national intelligence estimate. That was not made up by Dick Cheney.
All the foreign intelligence allies that we have came to the same conclusion. All of the members of the Senate select Committee on intelligence that I served on, that I know of, came to the same conclusion. Some of the President's most vigorous critics now said at that time that Saddam posed an imminent threat at that time, including myself.
We were apparently all wrong about that. The jury is still out and maybe he hasn't had them for a while, maybe they're in Syria, who knows. But the significant thing is, I believe, is that if we had left Saddam alone, he still had his infrastructure.
He still had his scientists. He still had his capability. He still had his desire.
I can't prove this, but in my opinion if we had not gone in there, there's no question, in my opinion, in a few years, Saddam would have had nuclear capability to go along with what he admitted in terms of having chemical and biological.

Leon Panetta: Senator Thompson, the U.S. did a pre-emptive strike in Iraq because of the threat of weapons of mass destruction. How difficult will it be for the U.S. to ever get support again for a pre-emptive strike against another country?

Fred Thompson: Well, I still think it depends on the circumstances that the United States is faced with and how effective we make our case about those circumstances.
I think part of our problem in this case was that so many of our European friends as well as other people around the world did not be appreciate or believe the nature of the threat, that terrorism essentially was our problem, we were the number one target, and we didn't make an effective enough case as to the nature of the situation.
I think unfortunately, the war will be seeing that play out, in other ways, as the Spanish have. I think that had more to do with their support than just their support of us in Iraq.
And Bali -- other places, of course, we've already seen. But I think there are two parts to it.
First, our allies, as I was alluding to earlier, I think we've got to make the case, we've got to have much better intelligence, and as you pointed out earlier, intelligence is never perfect. It's an imperfect science, and ours is certainly not where it should be.
There are all kinds of scenarios in the future that would present terrible quandaries for all of us. We're all focused now on this one place.
It will be resolved one way or another before long. What kind of world are we going to live in afterwards?
Are we going to have a situation where we cannot act unless we have 100% intelligence that is unassailable, which I think probably virtually never happens.
Suppose someone comes in and tells the President that they have information of something that's about to happen and particular place and location of the most severe consequences.
But the source, there's only one source, and the source of that has a spotty record, sometimes he's been wrong and sometimes he's been right.
What do you do in a situation like that?
Those are the tough decisions we're going to be required to make more than anybody because we're the number one target and we're the leading nation.
So we're going to have to work effectively and try to make our case as best we can to our allies.
On the other hand, I think that some of our allies have to have a different attitude themselves about things. I think there was certainly mixed motives and most of them not very laudable in terms of some of our European friends with regard to Iraq. I think they had self-interest, self-dealing. I think that they were more than happy to kind of stick it to the United States.
They had been chafing for a long time because of -- chafing for a long time because of everything from our turning down the Kyoto Treaty to back even before the Bush Administration. There's been talk of American arrogance and that sort of thing. So hopefully, they will see what Thomas Friedman wrote about in the "New York Times" a while back.
He said, this is a war between the forces of order and the forces of disorder, and if the forces of order do not understand this and pull together and come together and get over their petty differences, we're going to be in deep, deep trouble, because the forces of disorder are everywhere. They're organizing, and they can be tremendously destructive and a handful of people can get their hands now on the technological resources to kill thousands and thousands of people. We don't even talk about weapons of mass destruction anymore, out of the context of Saddam Hussein.
But they're still out there, they're proliferating, we're always finding new countries and rogue nations that have stuff that we didn't know that they had, so that's the kind of world that we live in, and the United States and our allies, better learn how to work together and confront this problem jointly, because as I say, it is everybody in the free world's problem.

Leon Panetta: You're both lawyers, and you're a former Judge. What are your feelings about holding American citizens and denying them basic rights in the name of fighting terrorism? I think there was a case that was argued within the last few weeks that involved holding a U.S. citizen and declaring him an enemy combatant and therefore depriving him of right to counsel, right to a hearing, et cetera. Is the executive branch justified in doing that in the name of war?

Fred Thompson: That of course begs the question, what is his constitutional rights? I think the history of warfare and our judicial system, from what I recall, weighs in on the side of the President in this case. I think that President Roosevelt, for example, exercised these prerogatives under the war making powers and the constitution given to the President.
The real question is whether or not this is a typical kind of situation. Obviously the President can't violate any citizen's rights as such, or whether or not this is a wartime situation, where the rules of the game are totally different, and if someone can be detained just like a prisoner of war, until the hostilities are over.
Incidentally, if they were tried here and sentenced, they would probably wind up serving a lot more time in confinement than under their present circumstances even though hostilities are probably going to go on a long time, they'll probably get out sooner. The situation involving the Chicago case is Mr. Padilla. His parents were, I believe, citizens of Saudi Arabia.
They were in the United States briefly and this is not relevant legally, but he was born in the United States. He'd just come back from Pakistan. The allegation is that he was planning to -- he and others, to set off a dirty bomb here in the United States.
I think the resolution to this -- the problem that I have with it is that there needs to be a procedure to cover situations where someone is captured and held in error.
Everyone ought to have the right, like I think article 5 under the Geneva Convention, ought to have the right to come before a judge and say you've got the wrong guy and I can prove it.
And I think that's where the Administration made a mistake and I think hopefully that's what they're gravitating toward. But simply showing some threshold, not as in a regular criminal case where you have to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt, but at least some kind of prima facie showing that ok, we got him, here is where we got him, here were the circumstances and we got a right to keep him, and at least press that threshold.
I'm uncomfortable with anybody, even under wartime circumstances, if they're not in an active combat situation abroad, being held indefinitely without some kind of judicial review, but I don't think it's required to have the same kind of judicial review that you have in a typical criminal proceeding.

Leon Panetta: Let me ask you, there is a lot of money obviously involved not only in the Bush campaign, but Kerry is out raising the same kind of money. We've got television ads appearing. They're beating the hell out of each other.
They're accusing each other of virtually being unpatriotic, that both have not served this country well, and I think it was John McCain who finally said, you now, the Vietnam War is over, for goodness sakes, let's move on.
If they're beating each other up this badly now, I mean, in six months, what is the impact of that in terms of the American people's attitudes towards the Presidential race?

Fred Thompson: The American people have shown boundless capability to absorb unprecedented onslaughts to their sensibilities in politics. And I guess this will be no exception.
I don't know what -- obviously, what they're doing is -- you know, the thing that bothers me most about presidential politics and the mud slinging, I'm sure before it's over with, they'll have enough -- each side will have enough money to sling about all the mud they want to, so that doesn't -- but it's that we have to wait until the presidential campaign is over before we can have some serious discussions about serious problems.
A presidential campaign is the last place in the world you're going to have a serious discussion about a serious problem. We're sitting here watching ourselves walk off a cliff, you know, in the out years, past the projections that we're all talking about now in terms of entitlements and what's going to happen when the boomers start to retire, and just as one example, there are others, but everybody is afraid to talk about it, and the common statement each year is that well, we can deal with that as soon as the election is over.
That's what elections are supposed to about. And that has to do with leadership, and it has to do with not just being a sponge and receiving what you're getting out there and your poll numbers tell you, but actually leading and I think that politicians underestimate the ability of the American people to appreciate something like that, and I think the precise answer to your question, I think most people will turn it off, will turn most all of it off, and probably until sometime after the world series and the important things are over with. And then they'll see who's standing and the election will actually depend upon things that haven't happened yet.

Leon Panetta: Let me ask you both, if there were another -- god willing it won't happen, but if there's another terrorist attack, what will be the impact between now and the election?
We saw what happened in Spain. What is the likely impact of another September 11 on the race between President Bush and john Kerry?

Fred Thompson: That's a very good question. I think there will be two competing factors if that happens, and one is the feeling that oh, my god, all this wouldn't Have happened if we'd not been so energetic abroad, obviously working to bush's detriment. The other one would be we're not going to show the people of The world that we're like the Spanish.
They're not going to decide who's going to be our President, these terrorists are not. I think you'll have those two competing things. I also think, it depends on when it happens. I think if it happened real close to the election, people would rally around the flag and that would benefit Bush. I think if it happened somewhat out from it, that that would probably work to his detriment.

Leon Panetta: what is the appropriate role of the federal government when it comes to outsourcing of jobs overseas?

Fred Thompson: I think that the recent rise of protectionist sentiments are very detrimental potentially to our economy. I agree with Senator Mitchell 100% on what he said about free trade and the benefits, and it helps our people buy cheaper products. It helps other people in other nations who aspire to be economically successful, to lift their standard of living. And we gain in the process. Nations that trade openly are by and large successful nations.
Nations that do not, by and large are not successful. That's the whole thing for me. I do think that it would be a mistake to impose environmental and labor standards on these fledgling, some younger countries or small countries or poverty stricken countries, because I think the best thing we could do as a condition for free trade with us, the best thing we can do to alleviate those kinds of problems is to have free trade, and it's only helping lift them out of poverty that free trade will bring about that they will improve their environmental conditions, for example, not because of any mandates we lay on them.

Leon Panetta: President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney testified before the 9/11 commission with no press coverage. Should the public know what was said and why?

Fred Thompson: I think that there's something to be said for a certain amount of informality in a situation like this. They're trying for -- in a way, I would like to have had a transcript of it, but I think the main thing is to impart information, and if they're really interested in information, on having a frank back and forth and give and take as they did with the President and Vice President as they did with President Clinton and Vice President Gore, I think this forum and this format with regard to this commission, which I think is a bipartisan commission and nobody is going to get away with anything of any substance, I think, is a decent format to do that in. And I incidentally think that from all the turmoil that they've had from time to time and controversies that the commission has had, that a couple of important things are going to come out of it.
One is that the American people now know what those of us who have been in the Senate, especially those of us who have been on intelligence Committees, and the American people, if they have been paying attention, should have already known, and that is that we have a great deficiency in terms of our intelligence capabilities and what that leads to, and I think President Bush has now said that we need reform, we need to do some things differently. He has somewhat of an excuse, I think, in a way seven months, how much can you do it, takes longer and longer to get a team together, each succeeding President it takes longer and so forth.
Up to a point. But it became obvious some time ago that we had great deficiencies there and it had to be done. I think he's making that statement now, one that's long overdue, quite frankly, and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that now everybody has seen how bad the situation is and what the consequences are. The other thing that's coming out of the 9/11 Commission is the consensus, it seems like by the Commission, that sometimes, sometimes pre-emptive action is something you have to do. We can debate over when and where and so forth, but the President is taking a lot of criticism, by the majority of the Commission, it seems, for not having done more before September 11 in terms of -- it could only be described as, pre-emptive terms.

Leon Panetta: Let me ask Fred: how did a person who was a counsel become a movie actor? And then become District Attorney on "law and order"?

Fred Thompson: First of all, I appreciate the compliment. I once pointed out, I said I just happened into this thing, I never took an acting lesson.
They said we know, we saw it. We've seen your work. No, it's like most things that have happened of any importance in my life, total serendipity. I was practicing law, they made a movie about a case I had and I played myself in the movie, so it was a terrible mistake that they made, letting me in on the inside there, because I wouldn't turn them loose, so I did 18 features and then for the Senate, and I often say that with all of the political activity in Hollywood, that I had to leave the Senate and go back into show business to get my points heard again.


Friday, May 11, 2007


Fred Thompson

- Served on the US-China Economic Review Commission
- AEG Scholar specializing in Diplomatic Relations and Foreign Intelligence
- Special Counsel to both the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations under President Reagan
- Chairman of the International Security Advisory Board currently; a high-level panel charged with evaluating long-term threats to U. S. security
- Member of the powerful Senate Committee on Finance, which has jurisdiction over, among other things, international trade.
- Member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
- Member of the National Security Working Group, which observes and monitors executive branch negotiations with foreign governments.
- Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an organization that promotes improved understanding of international affairs through public and private discussion.
- Member of the American Enterprise Institute for Policy Research, studies national security and intelligence, with a focus on China, North Korea, and Russia.
- Chairman of the Government Affairs Committee 1997-2001
- Ranking Republican Minority Member of the Government Affairs Committee 2001-2003
- Chairman of the Youth Violence Committee 1995-1997
- Chairman of the Senate Government Oversight Committee
- Foreign Relations Committee, 1995-96
- Member, Judiciary Committee, 1995-98
- Member, Constitution, Federalism and Property Rights, 1997-98
- Member, Technology, Terrorism and Gov't. Information, 1995-98
- Member, Finance Committee, 1999-2002
- Finance subcommittees Member, International Trade, 1999-2002 Member, Taxation and Oversight, 1999-2002 Member, Social Security and Family Policy, 1999-2002 Member, Health Care, 1999-2002
- Earned "Restoring the Balance" Award from National Conference of State Legislatures; given annually to national policymakers committed to federalism and its impact on issues involving state legislators
- Recognized by Citizens Against Government Waste for his report documenting the federal government's staggering levels of waste, abuse, and mismanagement. Thompson presented the report, which includes his recommendations for addressing those problems, to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mitch Daniels at a press conference in Washington. Report includes analysis of the four biggest challenges facing the federal government: workforce management, financial management, information technology management, and overlap and duplication. In addition, the report includes an agency-by-agency appendix citing examples of waste, fraud, and abuse. The report also contains a list of the "Top Ten" worst examples of mismanagement in the government. CAGW is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in government.
- Interest Group Ratings:
- National Abortion Reproductive Rights: 0
- US Chamber of Commerce: 100%
- ACLU: 11%
- American Conservative Union: 85%
- AFT: perfect 0
- League of Private Property Owners: 90%
- National Tax Limitation Committee: 97%
- National Taxpayers Union: 88%
- ADA (liberal): perfect score
- Supported Newt’s Contract with America 100% of the time
- Planned Parenthood 0%
- NARAL 0%

Important Proposals and Inclusions Introduced while in the Senate:
- Nuclear Proliferation Act
- Special Counsel Act
- Aviation Security Bill Amendment
- FY 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Bill
- Regulatory Right-To-Know Act
- Homeland Security Workforce Act
- Homeland Security Education Act
- The Thompson amendment in the Treasury-Postal Title (Section 646) of the
Consolidated Appropriations Bill
- Regulatory Improvement Act (S. 981)
- Thompson Amendment to the National Homeland Security and Combating Terrorism Act
- Thompson Amendment to the National Employee Savings and Trust Equity Act
- The Federal Emergency Procurement Flexibility Act
- The Federalism Accountability Act
- The Government Information Security Reform Act (GISRA)
- The Thompson Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act
- The Truth in Regulation Act

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Weekly Column 12-20-01

Education and Retention Essential To Our National Security
Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
December 20, 2001
Uzbek, Serbo-Croation and Arabic.
These are just a few of the languages spoken in regions of the world central to our national security. With few Americans speaking these languages fluently, the problem is clear. If we can't read or write in these languages, our ability to collect intelligence information is compromised and our national security is at risk.
Language, science, and math skills are areas relating to our national security where our federal workforce lacks the necessary degree of proficiency. With an unprecedented increase in the number of federal employees retiring, this problem is exacerbated.
I recently joined with two of my colleagues in the Senate to introduce a pair of bills that provide a comprehensive strategy to deal with these weaknesses. The Homeland Security Education Act and the Homeland Security Federal Workforce Act address specific problems in the federal government's ability to recruit and retain the most talented and qualified national security professionals.
Through the Homeland Security Education Act, experts will be drawn into fields relating to National Security through educational grants, loan forgiveness programs, and opportunities for overseas language training. In addition to this, foreign language education will be addressed and developed at all levels, from elementary schools to universities and beyond.
The Homeland Security Federal Workforce Act will also create incentives to join the federal workforce at agencies including the Departments of Defense, State, Energy, and Justice as well as the CIA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Security Agency. Like its sister legislation, it will establish loan forgiveness programs and educational grants.
The Workforce Act will also create a National Security Service Corps, through which federal national security agencies will conduct exchange programs for mid-level employees. Perhaps most importantly, this legislation will better track our future needs for national security personnel by requiring agencies to address human capital needs when assessing agency strength and future plans.
These bills were a product of many of the recommendations made by the Hart/Rudman Commissionon National Security in the 21st Century earlier this year. The commission warned in its most recent report that maintaining American power in the world would depend on the quality of our federal workforce. Such a recommendation was underscored by the events we witnessed on September 11th.
Employing the best possible federal workforce is a matter of national security. The federal government's workforce crisis is real and will remain unless we begin to think strategically about what our needs are and then match our most skilled people with opportunities for development and incentives to stay.
For more information on this column or other issues, visit my website at http://thompson.senate.gov.

Weekly Column 11-30-01

Fighting the Scourge of Methamphetamine
Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
November 30, 2001
Methamphetamine, commonly called Meth, is a drug many people had never heard of until recent years. Yet it has spread through our state at a dangerous rate, taking a toll on our people, our environment, and our local governments.
Congress has taken action to combat Methamphetamine, recently providing $20 million to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in Tennessee and across the country with the cleanup of toxic meth labs. The production of methamphetamine, a dangerous chemical process carried out in labs often hidden in private homes, many times results in chemical explosions and fires. While dangerous to manufacturers and users who face serious burns and long term consequences including lung disease and rotting teeth, children living side-by-side with labs are affected as well.
Tennessee investigators arrested several adults on child abuse and neglect charges earlier this year after young children were discovered in homes and apartments housing labs. In the worst of these cases, a small child died in February of cardiac arrest reportedly caused by complications from severe burns suffered during a meth lab explosion.
Methamphetamine production also threatens our environment, with five or six pounds of toxic waste generated by every pound of meth produced. And the cleanup of just one meth lab costs from $3,000 to $100,000, depleting the financial resources of our local communities.
Tennessee law enforcement officials have actively responded to the meth problem, shutting down labs and arresting manufacturers and distributors. In Dunlap, during a three-day meth crackdown in October, Sequatchie County Sheriff's investigators confiscated at least four working meth labs, leading to 13 arrests. In September, members of the Marion County Drug Task Force destroyed approximately 30 labs and arrested 58 people on charges ranging from possession of marijuana to manufacturing meth. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, 510 meth labs were seized in Tennessee between January 1999 and July 2001.
With the funds set aside by Congress, in addition to a $1 million grant pledged to Southeast Tennessee by the Department of Justice, our local law enforcement officers will be able to continue eradicating these labs and protecting our environment without draining limited resources from our local communities.
Meth is a dangerous drug, not only for what it does to users and manufacturers, but also for what it does to the innocent bystanders who are dragged into its path. Finding and destroying labs is the first step in combating the underworld of methamphetamine and I'm very pleased Congress is supporting these efforts. For more information on this column or other issues, visit my web site at

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Weekly Column 11-05-01

Effective Government Management Will Be Vital In War on Terrorism
Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
November 5, 2001
In peacetime, effective government management is very important. In a time of war, it's vital.
Success in the war against terrorism is going to require efficient use of our government resources and effective management of government personnel. Recently, I introduced legislation referred to Congress by President Bush that seeks to make our government more responsive and better equipped to effectively manage its workforce and resources.
The legislation, which includes the Freedom to Manage Act and the Managerial Flexibility Act, makes it easier for Executive Branch management to increase accountability, reduce unnecessary costs, and manage for results. The Freedom to Manage Act will help the government recruit and retain people with needed skills, increase the flexibility of federal property management, and allow agencies to budget for results. The Managerial Flexibility Act would allow other reform proposals, submitted to Congress by the President, to be considered quickly by the Congress. I will work with my colleagues on the Governmental Affairs Committee and others in the Senate to enact this important package.
Programs attempting such accountability have worked well when attempted in the past. The Navy successfully experimented with performance-oriented pay for more than a decade. However, the authority for them to extend that program or make it permanent, or for other agencies to experiment with similar programs, required special authorizing legislation. The Managerial Flexibility Act allows a successful demonstration project, such as the Navy's, to be made permanent and available for other agencies to adopt in the future.
Federal managers complain that the federal hiring process takes too long and is too complicated, often preventing them from hiring the most qualified candidates. This legislation would allow them to hire the most qualified individuals as quickly and efficiently as possible by using alternative ranking and selection procedures while maintaining veterans' preferences. As with the Navy example above, this undertaking was successfully implemented for over a decade, by the Department of Agriculture.
One of the greatest challenges to effective management involves outdated and ineffective laws. This legislative package would call on agency heads to identify such laws and Congress would be required to consider repealing them quickly.
At a time when our national security is being tested as it has never been before, this legislation allows the Department of Defense to best manage its personnel. In January 2001, the General Accounting Office reported that the Defense Department, like other federal agencies, continues to face difficulties in hiring and retaining the people it needs to accomplish its mission. With shortages in intelligence analysts and computer programmers, our intelligence gathering capabilities are stretched to the limit. We must grant the Defense Department the flexibility it needs to hire and retain those individuals essential to protecting American interests.
Portions of our government have suffered from a lack of quality management for some time and we're now reaping the harvest for a lot of it, especially in regard to our national security. There has never been a more crucial time to reform the management of our federal government and the legislation we're pursuing is a strong step in that direction.
For more information on this column and other issues, visit my web site at http://web.archive.org/web/20020626124250/http://thompson.senate.gov/.

Weekly Column 10-01-01

Fighting Back Against Terrorism
Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
October 1, 2001
In the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, our nation is being tested as we?ve never been tested before. In fighting a war against terrorism, we are confronting an enemy that has no stated diplomatic goals, no real territory of its own to defend, and no remorse about killing countless innocent civilians.
Following September 11, many said we were living in a new world. However, the world changed long before these attacks. Osama bin Laden declared war on us years ago and commission after commission warned us that we had better be ready to deal with a terrorist attack here in the United States. Now it?s happened and we will respond, not out a sense of anger or thirst for vengeance, but out of a desire for justice and to prevent future incidents.
During his recent speech before Congress, President Bush emerged as a true world leader. The President?s words were simple and direct. He gave voice to the spirit of the American people. And I can?t think of a more talented group than Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell, National Security Advisor Rice, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to help him plan and carry out the task at hand.
The President?s campaign against terrorism has begun. We are assembling and beginning to deploy our military forces. Our diplomatic efforts have resulted in declarations of support and pledges of assistance from around the globe. One of the primary weapons in this campaign will be cutting off the terrorists? money supply. The Treasury Department has frozen approximately 30 Al Qaeda accounts in the U.S. and almost 20 overseas. The Justice Department has arrested or detained over 400 persons and issued over 4,000 subpoenas. In the vital area of information gathering, over 100 countries have offered increased intelligence support. Approximately 150 arrests and detentions of terrorists and suspected supporters of terrorism have taken place in over 25 countries.
At the same time, Congress has worked in a bipartisan manner to pass important legislation to aid the President?s efforts. We are working on additional pieces of legislation to combat terrorism, increase security at airports, and boost our economy. We know at the outset that we won?t agree on everything, but the partisan squabbling over issues that aren?t as important has been replaced by bipartisan agreement to work on issues that are.
Finally, I have been heartened over the past several weeks by the response of Tennesseans to this tragedy, though it came as no surprise. In the days following September 11, I repeatedly saw stories from all across the state about local efforts to help the victims and their families. I was filled with pride to see the Volunteer spirit on display during this crisis. I had the honor to spend some time at the Pentagon meeting with a group of Tennesseans from Memphis who were assisting with the recovery efforts there. I was impressed not only with their dedication, but with their spirit in the face of a very difficult task.
Shortly after the attacks, I was fortunate to be able to travel across Tennessee, meeting with folks and talking about what had happened, and what was going to happen. I talked about how this will not be a quick made-for-television war marked by pinprick responses. We?re in for the long haul, and we?re going to have to make sacrifices. The Tennesseans who came up to me, whether it was following a church service, an event at a school, or elsewhere, demonstrated a strong resolve to see this through.
Our opponents are counting on just the opposite. They are banking on the false hope that we will not be able to sustain such a high level of commitment. They are wrong. They don?t understand us and they underestimate us. This will be their downfall. As President Bush said in his speech, this campaign will not be won in a matter of weeks or months. Rather, the fight against terrorism will be a sustained effort that will last years. But in the end, we will prevail.
For more information on this column and other issues, visit my web site at http://web.archive.org/web/20020626123651/http://thompson.senate.gov/.

Weekly Column 09-14-01

We Cannot Alter the Past, but We Can Affect the Future
Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
September 14, 2001
In this time of unmatched national tragedy, I realize that words cannot begin to express the sorrow and anger that fills our hearts. Despite this, we must make every effort to express these feelings, on behalf of the family and friends of thousands of innocent victims, and on behalf of our entire nation.
We teach our children that the United States is a beacon of hope and liberty for the world. Today they must be wondering how or why we, of all countries, could become the world's main target of such savagery.
We are a target because those teachings are true. It is because our history and the principles on which our country was founded go against the trends of human history. Before the United States, the world saw thousands of years of "might makes right," of rulers and dictatorships of all shapes and forms, and of religious intolerance and subjugation.
We have shown the world that it doesn't have to be that way. And today's tyrants and would-be tyrants cannot afford to let that example stand. But stand it will. If this giant has been sleeping as some say, it has been awakened once again and will not rest until an example has been made of those who would murder our innocent citizens and tear at the very fabric of our national existence.
We must act as a deterrent to outrageous activity when our interests are involved. And America's response in this matter should set a lasting example of what happens to those who unleash bloody attacks -- especially upon our own soil. The time for carefully measured pinprick responses to terrorist activities has passed.
Since our victory in the Cold War, we have become somewhat complacent in the notion that the most significant danger to our nation has passed. We have seen such a mentality played out in dialogues about our military budget and we have heard it in our rhetoric. We attempted to decide with precision what the chances were of a missile attack by a rogue nation or by terrorists versus a suitcase bomb versus a biological or cyber attack. This recent attack should remind us of how faulty such predictions can be.
Surely, we must now realize that as the world's number one target, we must protect our citizens from all of these possibilities. While protection can never be complete, who is going to decide which window of vulnerability we are going to allow to remain open?
The old Soviet threat has been replaced by new ones that are in many ways more dangerous and more deceitful. We have been warned about this repeatedly -- by the Hart-Rudman Commission, the Gilmore Commission, by the Bremer Commission and by the experts in numerous committee hearings. Surely, now we will listen.
It is essential that we resist the temptation to place our defense requirements in secondary position to our domestic wish list. And surely, we must reevaluate the wisdom of America contributing to the proliferation of military useful technology simply because we want the sales. It is my belief that this is what the Senate did when it recently passed the Export Administration Act.
If we place short term considerations, our desire for profit, or our desire to maintain record high surpluses above our national security, we will become much more vulnerable to the potential of experiencing more days like one we so recently endured.
Historians tell us of another Democracy that after major military success cut its military budget, turned inward, and failed to react to provocation in hopes of maintaining peace. A nation whose leaders followed the popular demand for more butter and fewer guns, and who felt that if worse came to worse, technology could bail them out and that treaties with dictators would substitute for defenses.
That country was England after World War I, and those policies contributed to causing the biggest war in the history of the world. We must not make a similar mistake.
We cannot alter the past. But we can affect the future. In the coming months, I will join my colleagues in the Senate in considering our appropriations bills. In our budget considerations, we must do everything necessary to keep this country safe. It is not only the right and necessary thing to do. It is also the real tribute we can pay to our citizens who have paid the ultimate price simply for being American.
For more information on this column and other issues, visit my web site at http://web.archive.org/web/20020626123043/http://thompson.senate.gov/.

Weekly Column 08-31-01

A Presidential Call For Washington Reform
Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
August 31, 2001
Public criticism of the way government operates is not a new phenomenon, nor is it entirely unhealthy. Our democracy benefits from the voices of critics and champions alike who drive the constant battle for improved efficiency and transparency in Washington. But the watchful eye of the public cannot itself bring about change in Washington. What is needed and has been sorely missed in recent years is real leadership from the executive branch in enacting management reform.
Too often, seemingly urgent national problems shine the limelight of hope on the newest, fix-all government program. Soon, such hope fades into indifference and the program is doomed to join the long list of government programs that meant well, but just didn't achieve their goals. The President needs to work with Congress to put an end to the Washington way of constantly creating and expanding federal programs before looking strategically at what would actually produce improved government performance. I am pleased that President Bush is making good on his pledge to do just that.
This spring, Director Mitch Daniels of the President's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) joined me as I released a comprehensive report, titled "Government at the Brink," documenting the daunting management problems the Bush Administration inherited. It included an analysis of management challenges involving the federal workforce, government finance, information technology, and overlap and duplication, as well as recommendations for addressing those problems. OMB Director Daniels welcomed the report and promised to work with Congress to curb pervasive mismanagement.
Recently, President Bush took the next important step in reforming the federal government by outlining an impressive management agenda, integrating government-wide and program-specific initiatives that will improve the government's performance. His Administration not only identified fourteen long-neglected management problems in the federal government, but set forth logical and realistic goals for fixing them. By targeting specific deficiencies and setting achievable goals for improvement, we have the opportunity to see real results.
A number of the reforms the President outlined complement the work of the Governmental Affairs Committee. For instance, the agenda calls for improved financial management to curb the loss of billions and billions of taxpayer dollars each year, something the Committee has been addressing for many years. It encourages a strategic approach to hiring, training, motivating, and retaining the right employees for federal jobs. It proposes increased competition throughout government to improve efficiency and encourage innovation. It advocates tying the federal budget process to performance measures so that federal dollars will produce maximum results. And it promotes efforts to use the power of the Internet to make interacting with government easier, cheaper, faster, and more comprehensible.
President Bush's substantive initiatives for reforming the federal government illustrate that his administration refuses to succumb to the contagious indifference that has afflicted so many in Washington for so long. By tackling mismanagement early and head on, the President is walking the walk of positive change he and I both hope will spread from the highest office in Washington to the local post office in rural Tennessee. Genuine, results-oriented leadership from those working in government is necessary for real change in the federal government. I am encouraged by President Bush's management initiatives and look forward to working with him to make sure that the American people are provided with the efficient and effective service they deserve.
For more information on this column and other issues, visit my web site at http://web.archive.org/web/20020527154108/http://thompson.senate.gov/.

Weekly Column 08-06-01

Congress is Working to Address Tennessee's Agriculture Needs
Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
August 6, 2001
Tennessee is fortunate to have an extraordinary agricultural community. Our farmers work hard to produce outstanding agricultural products for folks here in Tennessee and across the country. Unfortunately, Tennessee farmers have battled rough times in recent years. While farming is an inherently risky profession, weather conditions, persistent pests, and changes in markets have made things even more difficult. However, Congress is taking steps to help our farmers through legislation and by approving much-needed funding for agriculture. I'm pleased to announce that important funding for Tennessee projects has been included in the Senate Agriculture Appropriation bill for Fiscal Year 2002.
* The Senate bill includes $72 million for the Boll Weevil Eradication Program, and a portion of these funds will be directed toward the completion of Tennessee's program. Boll weevil infestation has placed added production costs on cotton growers in Tennessee and across the country. In states where the Boll Weevil Eradication Program operations are complete, growers have benefitted from lower costs, increased cotton production and significant environmental benefits from reduced pesticide application. Increased support for the Boll Weevil Eradication Program is a big win for Tennessee growers.
* $3.6 million in funding has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) effort to stem the spread of fire ants through the South. Fire ant infestations have caused considerable problems for Tennessee's agricultural community. These are aggressive insects that, in large numbers, can seriously injure or even kill livestock, pets, and humans. USDA's quarantine program restricts the movement of regulated articles like soil, plants, and sod from quarantined areas in order to prevent the spread of imported fire ants into areas that are not infested. The program has helped states develop a consistent set of rules for all nurseries in quarantined areas to prevent the spread of this damaging and invasive species. We must address this problem in the safest, most efficient way possible.
* The bill provides $600,000 for the horticulture research initiative at the University of Tennessee. Floriculture and nursery crops collectively constitute the third most valuable crop in the U.S., after corn and soybeans. Our state has a vibrant nursery industry and a growing floricultural and greenhouse industry, but there are many challenges that must be addressed. These include pests, pathogens, and weeds, as well as a lack of environmentally-friendly production practices. The targeted, mission-based research conducted at UT will certainly help to meet these challenges.
* $450,000 is included in the bill for UT's wood utilization project, which is a part of UDSA's Special Research Grants Program. With these funds, UT has started the Tennessee Quality Lumber Initiative to improve lumber quality and manufacturing productivity at hardwood sawmills. In addition, UT has also conducted research and industry outreach on wood residue utilization. By creating more efficient methods of disposal and by directing wood residue to companies for other uses, the amount of waste received at the state's landfills has already been reduced.
In addition, the Senate recently passed the Emergency Agriculture Assistance Act of 2001, legislation to address the continued economic crisis affecting farmers. The bill provides $4.6 billion in supplemental income assistance payments nationwide for producers of grain, wheat, rice and cotton. In addition, $900 million is provided for producers of cottonseed, oilseed, peanuts, wool, and tobacco.
These are important steps toward strengthening our agricultural community. Tennessee's farms cover more than half of our state's land area and are extremely important to our economy. Farmers preserve the rural way of life, feed millions of Americans, and provide an enormous portion of our nation's exports. I look forward to our continued work in Congress to address the needs of Tennessee agriculture.
For more information on this column and other issues, visit my web site at http://web.archive.org/web/20020626123429/http://thompson.senate.gov/.

Weekly Column 07-01-01

Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
July 1, 2001
Tennessee is fortunate to be the home of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, often referred to as the crown jewel of the national park system. The Smokies cover over half a million acres and host an astounding variety of plant and animal species. The natural beauty of these mountains and the abundance of recreational opportunities also make the Smokies the nation's most visited national park. Each year the Smokies welcome more visitors than the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Parks combined.
As a result, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is arguably the nation's most threatened national park. Due to the high number of visitors it receives each year, the Smokies are suffering from extraordinary wear and tear. In addition, air quality problems have landed it on the National Parks Conservation Association's list of the ten most endangered parks in the country for each of the past three years. Most shocking to me is that, according to park officials, air quality in the Smokies is so poor during the summer months that hiking on backcountry trails is more hazardous to your health than walking along the streets of Manhattan.
As chairman of the Great Smoky Mountains Congressional Caucus, I have made addressing the needs of the Smokies a top priority. Too often, the budget debate in Washington focuses on short term needs rather than on long term infrastructure deficiencies such as the neglect of our national park system. I believe the federal government has a fundamental responsibility to ensure the protection of our national parks for future generations to enjoy. I have called on President Bush to help us address these concerns, and I am encouraged by his commitment to help eliminate the National Park Service's maintenance and repair backlog, as well as to address air quality problems in our national parks.
Traffic congestion is contributing to the air quality problems in the Smokies, detracting from the enjoyment of those who visit, and threatening public access. Accordingly, I have cosponsored the Transit in Parks Act, legislation designed to help the Smokies and surrounding communities deal with growing regional transportation problems threatening the park's future. The legislation would create a federal transit program, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and provide $65 million each year for the next six years to develop alternative transportation systems such as light rail, alternative fuel buses, and bicycle and pedestrian pathways. It encourages national parks to work with states and local communities to address these problems and provides federal funding to help implement meaningful solutions.
I am pleased that the Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved $4.7 million to construct a new science research center and laboratory in the park. This facility is part of a national effort to better understand and preserve natural resources and biologically diverse ecosystems, as well as to provide researchers and students with new opportunities to learn more about conservation efforts and threats to our national parks. In addition, $375,000 has been approved by the committee for restoration and repair of 77 pioneer log cabins and more than 100 historic structures throughout the park.
I am hopeful the full Senate will move quickly to approve this funding. We have also requested $300,000 in federal funds to be used in ongoing efforts to monitor ground-level ozone and other air pollutants in the Smokies as part of the East Tennessee Ozone Study.
The popularity of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has placed a significant burden on its infrastructure and services. However, I am confident that we are taking important steps toward preserving this national treasure for our children, grandchildren, and the generations to come.

Weekly Column 06-22-01

Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
June 22, 2001
Tennessee has several nicknames, but is most often referred to as "The Volunteer State." This nickname originated during the War of 1812, when Governor Willie Blount issued a call for volunteers that resulted in thousands of enlistments. Today, there are many extraordinary Tennesseans volunteering their time and talents, a few of whom have recently received much-deserved recognition for their selfless, outstanding service.
Heather Henderson is a young Tennessean working to make a difference. The teenage Girl Scout from Ooltewah has received national recognition for her work with the Craniofacial Foundation of America, which supports the Tennessee Craniofacial Center in Chattanooga. Heather worked to organize a camping weekend at Booker T. Washington State Park for patients and families of the center.
The planning of the weekend involved many logistics, including seeking donations from the community and funds from the Ronald McDonald House Children's Charities. In addition, the weekend's activities, meals, and medical staffing had to be arranged. This is no easy task for a teenager with school duties and other responsibilities. When she planned the camping outing last year, Heather designed the weekend for 16 participants. However, she received such an overwhelming response that the number of participants doubled.
For her effort and dedication, Heather was named, by Girl Scouts of the USA, one of only eleven Girl Scouts nation-wide to receive the Girl Scout Gold Award, Young Women of Distinction. Heather's "Dreams Do Come True" project will continue to make a difference in people's lives, as the camping weekend will be continued in the future under the Girl Scouts of Moccasin Bend Council.
Two Tennesseans recently traveled to Washington to receive Jefferson Awards from the American Institute for Public Service. Jefferson Awards are given on both the local and national level to recognize ordinary citizens for outstanding community and public service. These volunteers give their time without any desire for recognition or reward, and they are nominated by various Jefferson Awards media sponsors.
Willie Mae Nunley was nominated by WRCB-TV in Chattanooga for her perseverance and dedication in helping low-income citizens in Grundy County. Willie Mae, who was raised in poverty herself, began her service over a decade ago. She and her friends founded the Appalachian Women's Guild, which provides families with numerous resources and services such as food, clothing, job training, counseling, and crisis assistance.
When a fire tragically consumed the Guild, Willie Mae worked to rebuild the facility and continue its service to those in the community. In addition to the Appalachian Women's Guild, Willie Mae founded The Barefoot Boy Program, which helps families receive clothes and basic school supplies such as books, paper, pencils, and backpacks. By providing students with the supplies they need, but might not be able to afford, Willie Mae is playing an important role in helping students learn so they can succeed in the future.
Dr. Allen O. Battle, a clinical psychologist and teacher at the University of Tennessee Mental Health Center was nominated by The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. He was recognized for dedicating his life to helping others emotionally and physically through establishing an all-volunteer Memphis Suicide Prevention and Crisis Center. For nearly 30 years, Dr. Battle has taken time from a busy practice to recruit and train volunteers to work at the center and take calls from those in crisis. Dr. Battle has also worked with numerous programs and agencies, including the Memphis Police Department, to train individuals to deal with suicide threats and other mental health crises.
Work like this saves lives and strengthens those around us. Tennessee is fortunate to have compassionate individuals like Heather, Willie Mae, Dr. Battle, and the many others in our state who have answered the call of service. When we work to strengthen our communities through good works, we remove barriers, give people a chance to succeed, and strengthen our nation for the better.

Weekly Column 06-15-01

Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
June 15, 2001
I hope Gale Norton, our new Secretary of Interior, has seen the movie "Home Alone." Because that's what she is as the only confirmed political appointee at the Department of the Interior. Other federal agencies aren't much better off ? The Department of Education has just two of 16 appointees confirmed, or 13 percent; Justice six of 34, 18 percent; Transportation four out of 18, 22 percent; and Treasury just five out of 21, or 24 percent. In fact, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill had to travel all the way around the world to a meeting of the Asian Development Bank because he didn't have the appointee in place that he would ordinarily send. This is a real problem.
When our system of government was designed more than two hundred years ago, the Founding Fathers realized that in order to do the work of the people, the efforts of elected officials would need to be supplemented by the service of non-elected public servants. In order to prevent them from abusing their significant power, our Founding Fathers included in the Constitution a requirement that certain high-ranking officials receive the advice and consent of the Senate in order to assume their influential positions. The theory behind this process is that even though the appointees themselves are not elected, the public can hold the President and Congress responsible for the appointee's actions while he or she serves the public interest.
Over time, our federal government has grown in complexity. The executive branch has expanded immensely, and Congress has been required to handle many more nominations than the Founding Fathers would ever have imagined. The entire appointment process has become so difficult, complex, intrusive, and expensive that some of the best-qualified people are reportedly turning down the opportunity to serve the public. Citing privacy concerns, severe post-employment restrictions, and the sometimes low public image of government officials, potential appointees are reluctant to enter the fray.
It is incumbent on the President and Congress to ensure that appointees meet exacting standards. But all too often the appointment process becomes mired in politics. Nominees face burdensome, duplicative, perhaps unnecessary paperwork, and confusing ethics laws which in large part have lost sight of their initial purpose. In fact, the process of recruiting and confirming nominees has evolved into a bureaucratic maze that has been referred to by some as a "hazing process." It is neither the responsibility nor the right of Congress to divulge every intimate detail of a nominee's life to the public's insatiable appetite for knowledge of its elected officials. While potential conflicts of interest need to be identified, what a nominee did with his or her lunch money in the fourth grade does not.
The broken appointment system is unfair to both the appointee and to the President, and the problem seems to be getting worse with each new administration. If estimates are right, it may take a full year for President Bush's nominees to be appointed and confirmed. The President will be without his necessary key advisors for one-quarter of a presidential term. To date, only 120 out of 495 nominees have been confirmed.
It's clear we're going to have to look at things differently. During my tenure as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, I presided over a set of hearings on the state of the presidential appointment process, where those most familiar with the confirmation gauntlet presented thoughtful and reasoned testimony identifying ways to improve the process. Witnesses identified ways the White House can improve the way it addresses the issue. Further, the Senate needs to take a look at timing, the holds process, and the many duplicative forms. The Office of Government Ethics has made recommendations on ways to reduce the paperwork burden nominees must complete.
I plan to pursue improvements in this area. The ability of a President-elect to attract the best people to public service and put them to work is obviously of critical importance. The process must be streamlined in order to make it easier for the President's nominees to accept appointments.
Recently, the Presidential Appointee Initiative released a "Nominee's Bill of Rights," calling for Congress and the White House to treat nominees with fairness, courtesy and respect. Paul Light, Senior Adviser to The Presidential Appointee Initiative, noted, "If we believe - as the Founders did - that public service should be both a duty and an honor, the White House and Congress should make the process simple, fast, and as fair as possible."
I can't imagine anything of greater civic importance than getting the right people to heed the call to public service. Further, we owe it to the President and his key appointees the ability to get a team in place in a timely fashion. The government should not be responsible for maintaining undue barriers to public service, and the President must not be asked to do the people's business with only a skeleton crew in place.

Weekly Column 06-08-01

Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
June 8, 2001
One of my primary objectives since coming to Washington has been to monitor the way the government operates and to crack down on the waste, fraud, and abuse that results from mismanagement within federal government agencies. Recently, I released a comprehensive report documenting the daunting management problems the Bush Administration has inherited from the previous administration.
For some time now, our government has been mismanaged to an extent that the average person would find shocking. The federal government's core management problems have persisted for years and, in fact, have grown worse. They are ticking time bombs that will undermine everything else that the government is trying to do and will exact a terrible toll on public trust and confidence in the federal government.
My report, Government at the Brink, shows that our government is on the verge of major program failure. It includes a detailed analysis of the four greatest challenges facing the federal government, including workforce management, financial management, information technology management, as well as overlap and duplication.
The good news is that federal agencies already have a wealth of tools to combat these problems. The missing ingredient up to now has been leadership and sustained commitment from the President and Congress. If we can develop the political will to take on these problems, solutions will surely follow. Our report outlines some specific recommendations for the various problems, but before we can get serious action on them, several other things have to happen:
Political leadership: The President and Congress must make clear in word and deed that resolving these management problems is one of their priorities, and that they will keep after the agencies and the government's key management agency, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), until the job is done.
Agency follow-up: OMB must establish specific performance goals, measures, strategies, and timetables to resolve the problems. They should use as a starting point potential solutions that have already been identified.
Investing in improvements: As part of their improvement strategies, agencies and the OMB must identify funding needed to resolve the problems and Congress must be willing to provide it. If done right, relatively modest investments in improvements will repay themselves many times over.
Linking funding to results: Both the President and the Congress need to insist on reliable performance information to determine what's working and what's not, and then hold agencies and programs accountable where it counts - in their budgets. Where programs overlap, we should concentrate our resources on those that work best or can be made to work best. The fact that a program isn't performing well doesn't automatically mean it should be defunded. Maybe it needs a legislative fix or even more funding. However, letting non-performing programs simply continue as is should not be an option.
The new OMB Director, Mitch Daniels, joined me recently at a press conference in front of the Capitol to announce the release of the report. He said improving government performance is a top priority of President Bush's and that our report would serve as a road map as the Administration implements its reform agenda.
I was very pleased to hear that, because a degree of public skepticism toward our government is a healthy thing. Rampant cynicism is not. We cannot change the fact that we have these problems, but we can certainly take the necessary steps to find sensible solutions that will in turn make government more effective and better serve taxpayers

Weekly Column 06-01-01

Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
June 1, 2001
For the last decade, the American people have seen the federal government take an increasing share of their personal income, and federal taxes are at an all-time high. I am pleased to say that help is on the way, as Congress recently approved the Tax Reconciliation Act of 2001, a historic tax relief plan. This bill, passed by both the House and Senate, and soon to be signed into law by President Bush, contains every major element of the President's original tax cut proposal.
The plan provides $1.35 trillion in tax relief over the next 11 years, cutting tax rates across the board, eliminating the death tax, providing relief from the marriage penalty, and doubling the child tax credit. It provides an immediate boost to our economy, puts money back in people's pockets this year, and provides tax relief to every American who pays income taxes.
I'm very pleased that the bill we passed cuts income tax rates across the board. Every income taxpayer gets a tax cut, rather than having Congress pick winners and losers based on government-sanctioned behavior.
Beginning this summer and throughout the fall, taxpayers will get refund checks from the federal government, and their tax bills will continue to go down over the next ten years. This year, single taxpayers will get a refund check of as much as $300, single parents will receive up to $500, and married taxpayers will get as much as a $600 refund check.
The Tax Reconciliation Act helps farmers, small business owners, and others by addressing the onerous death tax. Our bill repeals the tax in 2010 and provides some immediate relief as well. For example, the current estate tax exemption of $675,000 will increase to $1 million in 2002, and it continues to increase after that until it is completely repealed.
Saving for a child's education is not always easy, but the bill we passed will help parents save by increasing the limit on education savings account contributions to $2,000 a year and allowing the funds to be used for K-12 expenses. It permits tax-free distributions from state prepaid tuition plans, such as Tennessee Best, and allows private institutions to offer prepaid plans.
Some other key provisions include expanding the earned income credit and making the child credit refundable to put more money in the hands of millions of working families with children. In addition, the plan increases the adoption tax credit to $10,000, increases the child care tax credit, and creates a new tax credit for employers that provide child care facilities for their employees.
Personal saving in this country is at an all-time low. To make it easier for Americans to save for their retirement, the tax plan will increase the IRA contribution limit to $5,000 and allow for IRA catch-up contributions. It also will create a new low-income savers tax credit of up to $1,000 for contributions to an IRA or 401(k) plan. In addition, it enhances pension portability when Americans change jobs and simplifies pension rules for businesses and their employees.
In recent years, those of us who have tried to cut taxes have seen our efforts thwarted by President Clinton's veto pen, but this year we have achieved success. I believe this tax relief package is a an important step toward reducing the tax burden for Tennesseans. By doing so, we help to improve the quality of life for families working to make ends meet and set the stage for long-term economic growth.

Weekly Column 05-25-01

Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
May 25, 2001
Every citizen in Tennessee and across America has a right to his or her privacy. However, in these times of rapidly changing technology, people are uncertain and fearful about who has access to their personal information and how that information is being used. In fact, a recent poll shows that Americans perceive government as the greatest threat to their personal privacy, above both the media and corporations.
Last summer, after the Clinton White House Office of National Drug Control Policy was found to be using unauthorized information-collecting devices, also known as "cookies," on Internet search engines, I requested that the General Accounting Office (GAO) investigate federal agencies' use of these devices on their own Web sites.
GAO only had time to investigate a small sample of federal agency sites, but they found a number of unauthorized cookies, despite the Clinton Administration's restriction on their use. In one case, GAO found a cookie that was operated by a third-party private company on an agency Web site under an agreement that gave the private company co-ownership of the data collected on visitors to the site.
As a follow-up to the GAO investigation, Congressman Jay Inslee and I worked together on an amendment to require all agency Inspectors General to report to Congress on each agency's Internet information-collection practices. The findings of these reports are cause for concern.
According to the Inspectors General, some federal agencies have been struggling to manage their Internet sites and data collection practices without violating Administration privacy policies. Although fewer than half of the reports have been completed, the Inspectors General identified 64 federal agency Internet sites that were using unauthorized information-collection devices during the last days of the Clinton Administration.
Most Inspectors General also commented on the need to create and enforce agency-wide procedures for the maintenance of federal Internet sites. I commend those Inspectors General that are working to eliminate cookies and bring the Web sites into compliance with existing privacy policies.
As Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, I am deeply concerned about privacy protection. Accordingly, I have held a number of hearings on the security of government computer systems and have conducted oversight of federal agencies to ensure that citizens' privacy is not being abused.
Recently, I introduced The Citizens' Privacy Commission Act. This bipartisan legislation will address the concerns people have about the potential misuse of their personal information by the government. It establishes an 11-member commission to examine how federal, state, and local governments collect and use our personal information.
The legislation also instructs the Commission to make recommendations to Congress on how to map out government privacy protections for the future. The Citizens' Privacy Commission will investigate all aspects of privacy in the government, such as FBI e-mail interception, IRS data security, agency Web site privacy, as well as the current applications of the Privacy Act of 1974 and other laws addressing government privacy practices.
One of the Bush Administration's early priorities should be to address the previous Administration's failure to comply with their own Internet privacy policy. The federal government should be setting the standard for privacy protection in the Information Age. I believe my legislation takes a critical and necessary step toward establishing privacy standards and guidelines for the future.

Weekly Column 05-18-01

Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
May 18, 2001
The State of Tennessee is rich in military tradition and is home to the finest men and women serving in our armed services. Each time I visit one of our state's military installations, I am so proud of the high level of skill and professionalism demonstrated by our troops. I recently had the honor of celebrating Armed Forces Day with members of the Tennessee Army National Guard at McGhee-Tyson Airport in Alcoa. It was an exciting day as we held a christening ceremony for the Guard's newest aircraft, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter.
State-of-the-art aircraft, like the Kiowa Warrior, are a necessity if our troops are to carry out their missions. Every single day, our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line, whether they are in battle or simply carrying out their daily duties. It is critical that our weapons systems remain on the cutting edge. During the Gulf War, our military technology was critical to our success. We must ensure that military technology continues to be a top priority.
I have said time and again that one of the primary responsibilities of the federal government is protecting the security of the American people. With the Cold War over, some argue that national security does not need to be as much of a priority as it once was. I disagree. It's true that we enjoy peace and prosperity, and it is true that America is the strongest country in the world. However, the world is still a dangerous place and rather than facing one primary threat, as was the case during the Cold War, we now face several.
Both Russia and China are proliferating weapons of mass destruction and the materials to produce them to nations like North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. As evidenced by the recent incident with our reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea, the Chinese are not happy about our presence in that part of the world. China and other nations are increasing their efforts to obtain our highly sensitive national security information - information that could one day be used against us.
As Members of Congress, we must ensure that our troops have the resources they need to carry out their duties. We must continue to increase funding for research and development, for procurement, and especially for quality of life. We cannot send our troops into battle ill-equipped.
We cannot continue to cannibalize our vehicles and aircraft, leaving some to sit unused.
We also cannot continue to ask our troops to do more with less, while increasing their operations and asking them to stay away from their families for longer periods of time. Many of our troops live in substandard housing, and some even qualify for food stamps. This is unacceptable. Fortunately, Congress has taken steps to improve their quality of life through pay increases, as well as increased funding for housing, recreational, and training facilities. We must continue this commitment.

Weekly Column 05-11-01

Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
May 11, 2001
Federal taxes are at an all time high, and folks in Tennessee and across America bear a heavy tax burden. They are taxed when they work, when they put gas in their cars, when they buy groceries, when they save for the future, and even when they die. Folks should be rewarded, not punished, for working hard, and we in Congress are trying to do just that.
Both the House and Senate recently agreed on a federal budget for the next fiscal year. The purpose of the budget is to serve as a road map for how we will fund America's priorities. Included in this budget are dollars that will eventually be directed to Tennessee for priorities such as national defense, education, national parks and roads, help for our farmers, and a host of other important priorities.
I am very pleased that the budget also allows for significant tax relief for all Tennesseans. Specifically, the budget calls for $1.35 trillion in tax relief over the next eleven years, beginning this year (2001). In the next few weeks, the Senate will begin to map out the specifics of this plan.
The plan included in the budget will reduce income tax rates for every American taxpayer, with the greatest benefit going to the lowest-income taxpayers. As structured, it would remove six million low-income families from the tax rolls altogether. In addition, the plan provides for an immediate economic stimulus of $100 billion in 2001 and 2002, and authorizes additional tax or debt relief if surpluses exceed expectations.
We will also be working to repeal the death tax and provide significant marriage penalty relief. Folks should not have to pay nearly $1,400 more in taxes each year simply because they are married. Eliminating the death tax will ensure that our family farms and small businesses can be passed on for generations to come.
Recently, we recognized what many have come to call "Tax Freedom Day." This day was designated to emphasize the fact that many taxpayers actually work from January until the month of May just to pay their taxes. In 1992, National Tax Freedom Day fell on April 18, but with taxes now taking a larger portion of income, Tax Freedom Day was on May 3 this year.
We must put a stop to this trend. It's just common sense. When we have excess cash flowing into Washington, and we have more than we need to operate the government, we should return a little back to the folks who earned it in the first place. If we leave it in Washington, it will get spent. This money belongs to hard-working Tennesseans and that is who should decide how to spend it.
The President and the Congress are committed to providing tax relief this year. That's good news for Tennessee

Weekly Column 05-04-01

Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
May 4, 2001
President Bush recently announced plans to develop a National Missile Defense (NMD) system that would protect the United States and our allies from future attacks by rogue nations and terrorist groups. This robust, multi-layered system would incorporate ground and sea-based assets initially, and would also protect the U.S. from accidental and unauthorized launches.
I strongly support the President in this important initiative. Even though the Cold War is over, the world remains a dangerous place and the threats are growing. Rogue nations such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea have, or will soon have, the capability to launch a ballistic missile against the United States or its allies. Some of these countries have already conducted test launches. Many have extensive nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs; and a few of these countries are proliferating these dangerous technologies to others. Of particular concern to the U.S. is that many of these states use terror and intimidation as major foreign policy tools.
Deterrence alone is no longer an effective strategy. We must also develop the means to defend ourselves from the unpredictable and ever-changing threats we face today. Moreover, by building a missile defense system, we will also prevent the blackmail and coercion that adversaries may employ to limit our freedom of action abroad when our allies or interests are threatened. In addition, we may also deter potential adversaries from pursuing costly and time-consuming programs to build these destructive weapons.
Today's world is fundamentally different than it was 30 years ago. For that reason alone, we need different concepts and capabilities in order to defend our country and our interests. We must move beyond the constraints of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and do what is necessary to protect ourselves. That said, we should work with our allies and the Russians to establish a new framework, and a new relationship, that reflects today's strategic environment. To this end, the President will send senior U.S. officials to consult with our allies in Europe, Asia, and Canada, and to reach out to other interested countries. I applaud the President's willingness to take the time to hear the views of our friends and allies.
I am troubled that some do not recognize the need for measures that enhance our national security. Critics charge that missile defenses will start a new arms race, yet they fail to mention that China and Russia have been modernizing their nuclear forces for years. Opponents of NMD also cite the threat posed by "suitcase bombs" and other means as the ones requiring greater emphasis. We all agree that the United States should seek to counter the threat posed by terrorists armed with a weapon of mass destruction. This is why we spend more than $11 billion a year to deal with threat of terrorist attacks. At the same time, though, the $2 billion we spend annually on missile defense is wholly inadequate for addressing the rapidly growing threat of a missile attack. We need to do both in a balanced manner.
The federal government's primary role is to protect our country and its citizens. We in Congress are working to ensure that our military has the resources it needs, while we also strive to improve our defenses against terrorism and missile attack. While advances in technology have made the world smaller and the threats greater, they have also improved our ability to defend against these threats. But first, we must change our way of thinking as we seek to develop and employ new systems and technologies. What Thomas Jefferson said 200 years ago still rings true: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

Weekly Column 04-27-01

Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
April 27, 2001
I have often said that lawmakers have a breach to repair with the folks who sent them to Washington to do their business. With each election, we see more disenchanted voters, fewer young voters, and greater cynicism than before. We in Congress are committed to working with President Bush to heal our political wounds, renew a spirit of optimism, and change the way we do business in Washington.
Upon being elected, President Bush said, "Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism." During his first 100 days in office, the President has worked to set a new tone in Washington, building on his promise to work with both Republicans and Democrats to address the issues that are important to Americans and Tennesseans. He promised to usher in a new way of thinking, and he is keeping his word.
Focusing on his compassionate conservative agenda, he has already presented plans to cut taxes, strengthen our economy, improve schools, empower faith-based and community organizations to help those in need, rebuild our military, and improve the quality of life for our men and women in uniform. During the first 100 days, America has faced some tense situations, particularly overseas, but the President has led with a steady hand without compromising our country's principles.
The President has been decisive, measured, and realistic with regard to foreign policy. He is committed to working with our friends and allies to advance our common security around the globe. During his first 100 days, the President traveled to Mexico and worked to strengthen alliances in our hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas in Canada, guided diplomacy that brought home our crew when they were unlawfully detained after a mid-air collision over the South China Sea, and personally met with more than 20 world leaders to build relationships and discuss common interests and concerns.
Only days after assuming office, the President took his education agenda into various elementary schools, meeting with teachers and visiting with students. One of the top priorities of the Bush Administration is to improve education, because every child in Tennessee and across America deserves a first class education that will carry them toward a bright and successful future. The President and Congress are near an agreement on a comprehensive, bipartisan education reform bill.
Earlier this year, the President submitted his first budget to Congress. It is a good budget that will fund important priorities, reduce historic levels of debt, and provide tax relief to working families in Tennessee and across the country. We have been working to cut taxes across the board while also eliminating the marriage penalty and the death tax and providing education tax credits. The Senate passed the budget with the support of no less than fifteen Democrats, proof that an emphasis on teamwork is yielding results.
Recognizing the importance of bipartisanship, the President has met with members of both parties to discuss the issues. In addition, he has taken his agenda directly to the people by visiting more than half of our states already.
The President's leadership is helping to replace a culture of gridlock and cynicism in our nation's capital with a constructive spirit of bipartisan respect. When debate is focused on shared values, respect, and results, accomplishments will prevail.

Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson
Former U.S. Senator (R-TN)