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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Asa Hutchinson

     FY 2004 Budget Fact Sheet

October 1, 2003

Asa Hutchinson
Hi this is Asa, delighted to be with you and looking forward to your questions.

Mathew, from New York writes:
Will ICE retain narcotics investigations?

Asa Hutchinson
Absolutely. It is essential to our nation's fight against illegal drugs We do hope to improve our coordination with DEA and other agencies involved in the fight.

Carloantonio, from Richardson writes:
More on news from Iraq: American's need to know that American soldiers are doing some good in that country. We hear daily reports of dying and sabotaged and wounded American soldiers but we do not hear any accounts or stories of American soldiers saving the lives of Iraqi citizens, improving the livelihood in that country, establishing a solid form of government.

America will support this war if they are given the impression that American troops are positively impacting Iraq. Give the media access to any and all proof that this is happening. We need visual accounts of American soldiers handing out food, medicine, providing electricity, water, shelter, and health care to Iraqis. We need visual and descriptive accounts of American soldiers helping each other.

Asa Hutchinson
Our efforts overseas in fighting terrorism is enormous benefit to our homeland security efforts. The disruption of cells, the intelligence gained and the leadership dismantled -- all help us to protect our homeland.

Glen, from Boston writes:
Is it true that U.S. Homeland Security officials will review visa applications only for those from Saudi Arabia?

Asa Hutchinson
That is the initial mandate but this year we will expand our efforts to 24 countries that are of particular concern.

Mikhail, from Fullerton, CA writes:
What is the vision and strategy for the management of the border with Mexico? What is the implementation time frame?

Asa Hutchinson
We have increased our border control agents and the use of technology from sensors to surveillance equipment. Also, we have a smart border accord with Mexico that increases cooperation by sharing information coordinating cases.

Ryan, from Walnut Ridge, Arkansas writes:
Dear Sec. Hutchinson, Greetings from a fellow Arkansan. As you know there is a huge debate on rather or not you will be running for the U.S. Senate from Arkansas. Lord knows we need you too Have you gave this thought any more consideration. God Bless You, Ryan

Asa Hutchinson
As much as I want to go back to Arkansas , it is important for the President that I finish my job at Homeland Security. Thanks for the encouragement though. I will be back in Arkansas down the road. Go Hogs, go.

Elizabeth, from Boston Mass. writes:
Dear Mr.Asa Hutchinson, I have aquestion to ask?If an American Citizen wants to visit Canada By Driving to Canada.What should he or she aexpect when they reach the Border between Canada and the U.S.Should they have to wait aong time to cross the Border. Sincerly, Elizabeth

Asa Hutchinson
I hope not. We've tried to heighten security but not to decrease the delays at the border crossings. There certainly should not be a wait going into Canada and when you return there should be a minimal delay.

Ron, from Arizona writes:
Why don't the federal homeland security statutes prohibit states like California and Arizona from issuing drivers licenses to illegals coming into this coumtry? The California situation is particulary troubling. These illegals will bea able to vote. Terrorists will have a valid drivers license, etc.

Asa Hutchinson
This has been a traditional state responsibility but we are working with the states to increase security features on drivers licenses. We also need to educate America that drivers licenses do not always indicate citizenship or anything other than they are permitted to drive.

James, from Clermont, FL writes:
Are you satisfied that your staff is looking at air cargo on passenger aircraft as a challenge to be solved not as problem to be eliminated?

Asa Hutchinson
Yes. There is more to do but the President with the new appropriation gives us about $50 million to improve air cargo security in aircraft. We'll be increasing inspections and tightening security.

Steve, from Washington DC writes:
What do you see as your major leadership challenges in successfully integrating the Transportation Security Agency into your directorate at the Department of Homeland Security? Thank you.

Asa Hutchinson
TSA has done a great job of improving aviation security and also treating the passengers with respect and with courtesy. They have integrated into the department very smoothly and they are very much a part of our transportation security efforts.

AL, from Boston Ma writes:
When do you plan to implement the initial phase of the U.S.VISIT program and what technology will be used.

Asa Hutchinson
The initial phase will be implemented February of next year in our airports and our seaports. This will apply to foreign visitors with visas. For the first time, we will require fingerprints and photos to confirm identity and to check terrorists watch lists. This will benefit security but we hope to do this in a way that will minimize inconvenience.

Anna, from Maryville TN writes:
Why don't we put the military on our borders?

Asa Hutchinson
Because protecting our border is primarily a law enforcement responsibility. When we are looking at individual violations that is a law enforcement responsibility. The military has its hands full in its missions across the globe. But they do play an important role in supporting our efforts. This includes intelligence, and equipment when necessary.

Lore, from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania writes:
How can we determine who really crosses over our borders either illegally or legally? We are a nation of immigrants and documentation as well as ethnicity can easily be falsified.

Asa Hutchinson
Document fraud is a major problem. That is why our government is mandating greater security requirements in travel documents. Eventually this will include a biometric component such as fingerprints and a photograph. This will enhance security and reduce document fraud.

Tom, from Scottsdale, Arizona writes:
What is the process that the Federal government requires to test, evaluate, and purchase the existing less-lethal TASER weapons for Customs, Immigration, Secret Service, etc. since over 3,000 law enforcement agencies have adopted and deployed TASER weapons at the patrol level?

Asa Hutchinson
On all new technology, we have our science and technology directorate test the technology, evaluate it and determine whether it is appropriate for use in the field.

R and D is a major effort in our department.

Kyle, from Washington, DC writes:
Is it true that no containers on ships are ever searched and is that something we should be worried about?

Asa Hutchinson
That is incorrect. We do inspections of the containers which come into our country but we concentrate on those we believe pose a danger or would be considered at-risk cargo. Our goal is to target the correct containers which pose a danger and to inspect 100 percent of those. We have a national targeting center that uses sophisticated information technology to identify containers that should be physically searched.

Joshua, from New Hampshire writes:
Since it has proven very easy for anyone to enter the United States illegally, and bring with them enriched uranium as ABC News did last month, how are you actually makin our country safer?

Asa Hutchinson
Please note it is "depleted" which means it emits about the same amount of radiation of bananas. Our equipment is set to detect the real thing "enriched uranium" -- not harmless products. We did target this shipment for x-ray inspection and radiation analysis determined it posed no danger. But it still became a story.

John, from Bayport, NY writes:
When the Coast Guard function was transfered to DHS, why was it not converted to Civilian Service from Uniformed Service? It seems that their function has changed to a more Law EnforcementSecurity branch of DHS very similar to INS Boarder Patrol.

Asa Hutchinson
The Coast Guard retains its role in defense of our country as well. Some of our Coast Guard assets help provide force protection in the recent Iraq war. But they also have the principle function of protecting our harbors , our ports, and our waterways. Their function is the same as it was before the creation of the department, but their work is coordinated to a much greater degree with the other border agencies.

Donna, from Burgaw,NC writes:
After September 11,2003 we as Americans are finding ourselves afraid to travle abroad or even in our own back yard. I can remember the joy of traveling out of the country with no worries except to make the flight on time. Since then I have seen more and more people afraid due to terrorist attack in the middle east, and all over the world. How can we know we are safe again?

Asa Hutchinson
In a free country we will always have some vulnerabilities, but the increased security in aviation and transportation should make you feel confident going about your normal activities without fear.

Dale, from Beale AFB, CA writes:
Sir, why do you call those people working on the border, Border Patrol, when they let everyone across? That's like calling a Veterinarian a brain surgeon, 'well he can kind of do it'.

Asa Hutchinson
The border patrol apprehends thousands of illegal entrants every year, they do very dangerous work and they should be applauded for their courage. This year alone, scores of border patrol agents injured in the line of duty and they are working every day to protect our border. One border patrol agent emphasized how important the citizens are providing information to the border patrol. We all have a responsibility and we are all a part of the team -- our country.

Daniel, from Rochester,New York writes:
Dear Asa, Since this new Homeland Security take place what measures are we taken against visitors,tourist coming to see our country? How do we make sure that they go back to there home country ? Also I hope we keep a strict policy on all visitors, toursit and students entering our country. Hope you will answer my question regards Daniel

Asa Hutchinson
The U.S. Visit program will help us to know who does not leave our country on time. Our responsibility then is to use the information to investigate the cases -- our ICE agents are responsible for investigating those violations.

DonnieIris, from Ah Leah, Pennsylvania writes:
Asa What was your reaction to the guy who mailed himself across the country last week in a cargo-box? If anything, he should be congratulated, I think, for calling attention to a real hole in our security system. What measures can be taken so this doesn't happen again?

Asa Hutchinson
It is important to understand that this was a cargo airplane -- not a passenger plane. So no passengers aboard an aircraft were in danger but we can learn from this. WE are looking at ways to improve cargo carriers security as well and this involves a partnership between government and the private sector.

Asa Hutchinson
These have been terrific questions. I've enjoyed the opportunity to talk about the good work of the 180,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security. We're not perfect but we are doing the best we can to protect America. Thanks.

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