Hawaii lawmakers consider homeland security office

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii lawmakers are considering creating a new homeland security office with the state Department of Defense. Supporters of the measure said having such an office at the state level will improve efforts to prevent terrorist attacks in Hawaii.

"For one, it does show the state's focus and desire to have an office that will look at our own infrastructure and our own needs and wants," said Sen. Will Espero (D-Ewa Beach), who also noted that the measure is appropriate in the wake of the explosions at the Boston Marathon earlier this week.

"When you look at what's happening in Boston and the East Coast, I think this shows the important of having an office within your own jurisdiction," he said.

The measure has the strong support of State Adjutant General Darryll Wong. He heads the state Department of Defense, and also leads the State Civil Defense and is the homeland security advisory to the governor.

"Rather than going through several layers of personnel at State Civil Defense to get information that he (Wong) may need to pass along to the governor, he can go directly to the office of homeland security, get that information, and then provide that to the decision makers here in the state," said Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony, state defense department spokesman.

Anthony also said currently, some State Civil Defense workers also handle homeland security issues. The measure would change that. "You're getting an alignment of people who are doing things that are specifically related to anti-terrorism or the prevention of terrorism, rather than, say, working on disaster mitigation as well as homeland security issues."

Critics say, however, that creating such an office at the state level will only duplicate what's already being done by local civil defense agencies and law enforcement, as well as the federal Department of Homeland Security. Testimony against the measure also said it will waste money.

The bill to create a Homeland Security Office is currently before a House-Senate conference committee, which plans to discuss the measure again on Tuesday.

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