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Candidates on the Issues: Homeland Security

One of the larger questions hanging over the presidential election is whether the country is safer from another terrorist attack because of steps the Bush administration has taken since Sept. 11. NPR'S Pam Fessler reports it's an issue that President Bush and Democratic Senator John Kerry have only begun to debate.

Democrats say that more money needs to be spent to equip and train fire, police and emergency workers who might be the first to respond to a terrorist attack. And they criticize the White House for not acting more aggressively to protect such facilities as ports and chemical plants.

On a tour of an operations center at the Homeland Security Department last week, Vice President Dick Cheney defended the administration's measures. He cited a tripling in the Homeland Security budget to $30 billion, saying "The terrorist threat to America remains. That's why the president and I will continue working to do everything we can to improve the government's capability to protect the American people."

But it's a dicey political issue. Barring another attack, no one really knows how safe the country is, says Fessler.

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Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.