President Bush, meeting his national security advisers, said Monday that "we live in troubled times" but he expressed confidence about protecting the nation from harm.
On his first day back from vacation, Mr. Bush traveled to the Pentagon to confer with senior military advisers. He sat around a table with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and others.
Mr. Bush was to travel to the State Department later to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He also was having lunch with a group of people identified by the White House as experts on Iraq.
"We live in troubled times, but I'm confident in our capacity to not only protect the homeland but in our capacity to leave behind a better world," Mr. Bush said.
"It's very important for the American people to know that we're constantly thinking about how to secure the homeland, protect our interests and use all assets available to do our jobs," the president said.
Mr. Bush's meetings came on the inaugural day of a Mideast truce, but the list of challenges spread far beyond the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel.
While that deadly battle has dominated headlines and the attention of the administration's diplomatic team, sectarian violence has surged in Iraq and created what some consider the greatest threat to stability there since Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled three years ago.
Nearly 12,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are being sent into Baghdad to curb the surge.
Meanwhile, efforts to get North Korea and Iran to restrict their nuclear ambitions remained stalled.
The president's visits to the Pentagon and State Department were the first of several that he plans this week with key advisers. Tuesday, he was to meet with his homeland security team at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va. On Friday, he scheduled a summit with economic advisers at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.
Mr. Bush usually holds the meetings each August at his ranch near Crawford, Texas. But with the pressing issues abroad and his party at risk of losing control of Congress in the November elections, Mr. Bush limited his time away from the White House this summer.
Also Monday, a