Murkowski orders military department reorganization

Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Gov. Frank Murkowski ordered a reorganization within the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to merge new anti-terrorism duties with the state's disaster response efforts.

The executive order was signed on Friday but made public on Monday.

Under the plan, Alaska's anti-terrorism duties will be overseen by an assistant commissioner also responsible for the state's response to natural disasters.

Assistant Commissioner for Homeland Security and Emergency Services Sam Johnson was appointed earlier this month. He will oversee the Homeland Security Division and the Emergency Services Division. Each division will have its own director, the governor's office said.

Adjutant General Craig Campbell said the change will allow his department to streamline its duties.

"My intention is to take homeland security and emergency services and build a single team. In my opinion, they are both emergency responders," Campbell said.

Much of the state's homeland security duties that sprang from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were put in place by the Knowles administration. Knowles established a deputy commissioner for homeland security and enlisted employees from other state agencies to take on anti-terrorism duties.

Murkowski's reorganization eliminates the deputy commissioner position but leaves in place five employees who will continue to handle homeland security issues in the departments of administration, health and social services, environmental conservation, transportation and public safety.

"Although these employees will remain assigned to their parent departments, they will work under the daily direction of the head of homeland security," Murkowski said in a statement.

The reorganization unveiled on Monday was part of several recommendations from a transition team Murkowski put together after he was elected in November.

In a report submitted to Murkowski in late December, the transition team recommended the governor eliminate a position now held by a former deputy commissioner for Military and Veterans Affairs.

Jim Chase, a Knowles appointee, has been serving as director of technologies and special projects since November 2001, when he stepped down as a deputy commissioner.

Part of his duties as special projects director included serving on the Technology Information Council and monitoring grants to the Marine Exchange of Alaska.

Murkowski's transition team said in its report that Chase's position was created in order to retain him under the Knowles administration. The job was funded by a vacancy within the Air National Guard, and the transition team recommended the job be eliminated immediately.

During a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Monday, Chase said he submitted his resignation when Murkowski took office in December but has continued working at his job while the new administration assumed power.

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