America Under Fire: Nebraska Gov Mike Johanns
By Greg McDonald, Senior Writer
When they assumed office, none of the state governors could have anticipated the kinds of problems and challenges theyve faced since September 11. From time to time, Stateline.org is publishing their reflections on the state role in Americas war with terrorism. In this installment, Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns talks about appointing a security task force to help prepare the state for emergencies.
Terrorism wasn't a top priority issue in 1999 when Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns was reluctant to create a state Domestic Preparedness Task Force. Two years later, however, state residents would probably argue that it was one of his better decisions.
"I was somewhat skeptical...Part of me wondered if there was really a need for Nebraska to have a state-organized anti-terrorism task force," Johanns says, adding that he thought so little of the idea at the time that "we did not even talk publicly about the group's formation."
But he says things have changed since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Identifying potential terrorist threats and preparing for them is now one of the top priorities of his administration.
"There is no question that day changed our lives and our world. If I had told Nebraskans on September 10 that I would be deploying armed National Guard soldiers to our state's 10 commercial airports, they would have thought I was crazy," Johanns, a 51-year-old Republican who was elected in 1998, said in a recent email interview with Stateline.org.
Johanns says the attacks forced him to put much of his agenda, including pressing budget matters, on hold for awhile. Things are beginning to get back to normal, he says, but there are now new responsibilities that go with his job.
"There continues to be regular communication between my office and emergency management, the National Guard and the state patrol regarding the continuing terror threat. That sort of communication was rare and certainly not regular before September 11," he says