(Oklahoma City) Legislative leaders are preparing to appoint a special task force to examine security issues in Oklahoma, namely the state's ability to protect its citizens from a terrorist attack.
Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor and House Speaker Larry Adair announced the creation of the Joint Homeland Security Task Force today, saying the panel would be charged with assessing Oklahoma's level of vulnerability and its ability to respond to such a crisis.
"Even though the public's attention has been focused on the attacks on the East Coast, we've learned firsthand in Oklahoma that terrorism can strike anywhere, including our own backyard. We think it's important to have local people assessing the risks here and making recommendations to help us make our state a safer, more secure place," said Senator Taylor (D-Claremore)
"Public safety is the first duty of government," said Speaker Adair (D-Stilwell). "It is important that we relieve some of the public's anxiety by making sure we are doing everything we possibly can to protect Oklahomans from terrorists and the threat of bioterrorism."
In the weeks to come, task force members will review Oklahoma's existing security infrastructure, assess potential shortcomings and points of vulnerability and develop strategies for beefing up security and response efforts. Legislative leaders want the panel to be prepared to offer its recommendations when the lawmakers return to the State Capitol for the 2002 legislative session in February. Two executive branch task forces are currently examining related security issues, but Rep. Adair and Sen. Taylor said the legislative panel would perform a slightly different role, recommending specific changes in state law that might assist Oklahoma in the battle against terrorism, in addition to reviewing the state's security strategy. "We don't want to leave any stone unturned. The more people that we have looking at this issue, the better the chances of identifying problem areas that need to be addressed," said Senator Taylor. "We need to conduct a thorough examination of this subject and evaluate what resources we have, any we might need, and how to allocate those resources in the most efficient manner to fight any terrorist act," Speaker Adair said.
The task force will consist of three private citizens, four members of the State Senate and four members of the State House. The panel will be chaired by Ken Levit, the president of the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa. Levit is the former special counsel to the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He has also served as an attorney for the Crowe and Dunlevy law firm and as a legislative aide to former U.S. Senator David Boren.