SARANAC LAKE - Congressional candidate Chris Gibson - Republican challenger to Democratic U. S. Rep. Scott Murphy in New York's 20th Congressional District - says he'll make the tough decisions in order to get a handle on the nation's spiraling deficit.
Appearing on WNBZ radio's North Country Today program recently, Gibson said he would work to eliminate the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, an agency which is budgeted to spend $54.7 billion in 2011.
According to Gibson, the U.S. took the wrong route following the Sept. 11 attacks. Rather than adding another agency, the government should have concentrated on enhancing communications between existing agencies, he said. The various agencies had a substantial amount of intelligence information on the impending attacks that should have been vetted and shared to prevent them.
"What we should have done is consolidated - we should have streamlined our organizations," he said. "I believe we should have declared war on our enemy and gone after al Qaeda. What we did instead was typical, but not helpful. Our response after Sept. 11 was to grow the size of government."
He said creation of the Department of Homeland Security added a substantial number of six-figure salaries and more bureaucracy rather than addressing the core problem, which was streamlining intelligence gathering and enhancing inter-agency communication.
Gibson said those additional executives also received benefits and pensions the U.S. couldn't afford. Also, the Bush administration spent billions of dollars constructing facilities to house Homeland Security units - more money Gibson said shouldn't have been spent.
"We should have created a joint inter-agency task force among the agencies we had already - and gone after our enemy," he said. "We won World War II without the Department of Homeland Security. We're never going to have enough money to harden every port, every bridge, and every key building - although some of that needs to occur.
Gibson said the U.S. should concentrate on more decisive military action.
"What we need to do is recognize the fact that al Qaeda declared war on us - we didn't declare war on them," he explained. "We need to take precision action against them - we don't need more big government."
Gibson said his observations are backed up by 24 years of active military service. Over the course of his 24-year Army career, which included four combat tours in Iraq, Gibson rose to the rank of Colonel.
Gibson's stance in terms of making cuts to the federal budget is in sharp contrast to his fellow Republicans running in New York's 23rd Congressional District - Saranac Lake accountant Doug Hoffman and Watertown businessman Matt Doheny.
During a recent debate, Hoffman and Doheny said they would cut into the deficit by eliminating Congressional earmarks.
But those earmarks make up a negligible chunk of the nation's spending. Defense, Medicaid and Medicare, and Social Security account for at least 60 percent of federal expenditures.
Gibson explained politicians need to start by thinking big and make the painful cuts, however unpopular they may be.
"We have to do it," he said. "What we need now is leadership. This is the first time since 1974 we have no budget - we've got no budget, because our leaders in Washington D.C. don't want to stand behind the hard choices that are necessary to move forward."
In his tour through the North Country, Gibson also said he would be seeking answers to the shortage of doctors in the Adirondacks region, a problem he said is likely to worsen without decisive action.
The federal government's caps on payments to general practitioners, soaring patient loads, and excessive awards in medical lawsuits are all contributing factors, he said.
Gibson supports repealing Obama's health-care bill but pursuing initiatives to reduce medical costs.
Gibson is running a close race with Murphy. The most recent poll numbers, offered up by a conservative organization, show Murphy with a slim five percentage point lead over the Kinderhook Republican.