Lawmakers to get state's homeland security plan

Saturday, January 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ An anti-terrorism task force will ask lawmakers to consider ways to give the governor more authority in an emergency and to monitor foreign students at Oklahoma universities.

The Joint Homeland Security Task Force met for the last time Friday to review the 54-page report that goes to legislators on Thursday.

The report's most important suggestion, panel members said, was the creation of a homeland security director who would be in charge of coordinating intelligence and resources for the state.

The report makes provisions for a nominating committee to choose the new director, but members were unsure how the nominating committee would be chosen.

The director would be a part of the governor's Cabinet, but not appointed by the governor. Instead, the task force wants the security director to be chosen by a nonpartisan committee.

The director would serve a six-year term. Task force members modeled the idea after the FBI director's term, which lasts 10 years.

``It needs to be as apolitical as possible,'' said retired Army Gen. Dennis Reimer, director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. ``That person is key.''

The report requests money for digital driver's licenses and requests that public and private colleges and universities be forced to turn over information on foreign students.

The information would be used by the state homeland security director to keep better track of where students are enrolled and to make sure they are enrolled in the subjects that they say they are taking.

During an emergency, the group wants lawmakers to decide whether Oklahoma's governor has the right to suspend statutes. Suspending the laws would allow the governor to move money from one fund to another and take over property and businesses as needed.

The group also will suggest a statewide communications system that would include several agencies and police and fire departments.

One communication plan is an 800 megahertz system that would cost about $50 million. Some task force members questioned the cost because the proposed system would last only about 10 years.