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 Home > News & Policies > April 2002

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 23, 2002

Remarks by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge to the Electronics Industries Alliance
Grand Hyatt Hotel
Washington, D.C.

GOVERNOR RIDGE: Thank you, David, I appreciate that warm introduction, I appreciate your offer of assistance -- and we accept. (Laughter.) We will work out the details later.

I couldn't help but thinking tonight at this elegant dinner, one of the first dinners I had after I accepted the opportunity to serve the President and the country in this capacity, I happened to take my children, Tommy and Lesley, out for dinner. And it's the night that that young, very troubled young man flew his airplane into the side of the building down in Florida.

So we sat down for dinner and I got up, I got a phone call and went into the car and got the phone to call him back -- the dinner was in Harrisburg, the state capital, so I was fairly well recognized by everybody. Then and with the additional responsibilities of the new office, the first time I went out I noticed a couple eyes watching me as I walked out the door.

Then I went to the rest room, and more eyes watched me as I went out the door. (Laughter.) And then I got another phone call. And then everybody watched me as I walked out the door. I don't know whether people were -- what they thought, whether or not it gave them cause for indigestion that night, but coupled with the fact we were in a Mexican restaurant, it was pretty uncomfortable for a lot of people that night. (Laughter.)

So, again, people view you differently now with the change in job title and job responsibilities. But as the Director of Homeland Security and Advisor to the President, I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to spend some time with your organization, with my friend David, and do look forward to working with you in the months and the years ahead.

David said it correctly: there is no blueprint for this office. There is a specific directive from the President of the United States to design and then coordinate a comprehensive national strategy for homeland security. I, myself, didn't do all that well in science courses, but remembering the challenge that Copernicus had convincing people that the sun did not revolve around the earth.

One of my tasks is to make everybody understand, in both the public and the private sector, that homeland security doesn't just revolve around Washington, D.C. -- that literally we have to engage the federal agencies, clearly; the governors and mayors and county commissioners.

We need to engage -- remember, the President said national, not federal -- we need to engage all levels of government. Simultaneously we need to engage the private sector and the academic community, the nonprofits and other organizations in your hometowns, as well. We will secure the homeland when your hometown is secure. When every hometown is secure, when we've identified risk and secured ourselves as best we possibly can, the homeland will be secure.

We've made a lot of progress. We've got a lot of work to do, and tonight I appreciate the opportunity to share with you a couple of thoughts about the work we've done and the path ahead.

I don't know if any of you have seen this week's Newsweek. The cover story is on companies of the future -- companies that are "using technology to push ahead in business, transform their industries and change our lives." The article featured, among others, a mechanical wine press maker; a lobster trap maker; a car seat maker; a clothing store; a record company; and a company making paperless coupons. Interesting ideas and worthy companies, no doubt. But nothing about homeland security.

I am hopeful -- actually, I am quite confident -- that future lists will include companies interested in homeland security technology. What could be more relevant to our future than deciding if we will have a future? Why stop at changing lives when you could be in the business of saving lives?

You know, if I were writing that story I might include a few other products: biometric systems that help keep the Winter Olympics terror free and can do the same for airports and subway systems -- and not only public, but private places, as well; next-generation detection, which can sniff out chemical and biological weapons from the air; dashboard electronics that can help trucks and their cargo reduce their border crossing from two or three hours to matters of seconds; simulation software that enables cities to test their responses to any attack scenario one can imagine; an advanced encryption standard codes that have as many possible keys as there are atoms in the universe.

Exciting, cutting-edge products and more proof that the market doesn't need government's permission to meet the needs of America. When it comes to homeland security, you and your industry are not waiting to act.

Homeland security gives you the opportunity to be aggressive, the protect Americans and develop new markets and products in the process. It gives you the opportunity to do well by doing good. This entrepreneurial spirit is a potent weapon against terrorism. And it is, in my judgment, what gives America one of our greatest competitive advantages. I've often said that homeland security can give us not just a safer and more secure America, but a better America, as well -- one that's ready to compete with any nation in the world. And I think your Alliance is Exhibit A.

Our homeland security effort must tap into this energy. Government needs to partner with the private sector to share resources and expertise. Our goals are the same: increase security, improve preparedness. Now, let's discuss and share the means to get there. It's more important today than ever before that we find ways to work together. For while the terrorists may not share our entrepreneurial approach or spirit, they do have access to our technology, the globalization of technology.

We all know technology is a tool, it can be used for good, it can be used for evil. And as it spreads across the globe benefitting more and more people, it also falls into the wrong hands.

Zacarias Moussaoui, The alleged 20th hijacker, used his laptop computer to research crop dusters. Ramzi Yousef, one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, used his microelectronics training to build miniature bombs. It's also the globalization of education. And the kidnappers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl used a Hotmail account to publicize that crime, and probably communicate to their colleagues in one form or another.

So how do we use technology to combat the terrorists who are bent on using our technology against us? Well, obviously, we use our technology both at home and abroad to confront terrorism. And one of the things I recall from my days as a soldier is one of the best things you do for yourself and your soldiers is you push your perimeter out as far as you possibly can. One of these days, I'd like to push it to the arctic and the Antarctica so the next cave they live in is made of ice. (Applause.)

Now, don't you go figuring out a way to heat that igloo without melting the ice. (Laughter.)

The fact of the matter is, is that we need to, and have used our technology to go after the global reach of the terrorist network that certainly, was under the leadership of our President, an extraordinary effort of our military -- we've made enormous progress in dismantling and disrupting the terrorist cells around the world.

One of our chief allies in that ongoing reach to push our perimeter out further has been technology -- smart weapons, new communications tools, surveillance tools, technology to turn night into day, that painted targets onto caves and allowed our planes to find those targets with minimal loss of life. Technology that perhaps your companies may have had a hand in developing.

But you know and I know that these terrorists and their supporters are determined to strike back. And their number one target, their primary target, their ultimate target is still the United States of America. So homeland security starts with all Americans recognizing this threat. It's a permanent condition. It is an enduring vulnerability that individuals, families, communities, businesses, governments just have to accept. It's difficult to digest, because we're an open and welcoming country. And the thought of welcoming people, giving them visas, letting them into our front door -- and then determining that they did not come in to live the American Dream or to pursue it, but they came in to undermine everything that we stand for. It's difficult sometimes for us to accept, but it is a fact that we need to accept.

And I assure you that we will combat that threat without eliminating the openness and the freedoms that helped create not only this country and make us unique among countries in the world, but also helped create the leading technology industry on earth. And we can prepare for the threat and even reduce the threat over time, but I think it's also going to take a new way of governing for this new world we live in.

Now, after 9/11, with tremendous support from the Congress of the United States -- bipartisan support, I might add -- we took immediate actions to close the gaps in our defenses. Through the support, the leadership of the President, the support of the United States Congress, we put hundreds of air marshals on planes and trained -- are in the process of training new screeners for our airports.

We've deployed thousands of Guardsmen to our borders and ports of entry. We've refocused the mission of the Coast Guard toward homeland security and port security. Nearly 50 percent of Admial Loy's resources are now focused on homeland security and the security of our ports.

We've stepped our security at national monuments and nuclear power plants. We've conducted a top-to-bottom security review of our entire energy infrastructure that's ongoing. We brought, through the U.S.A Patriotic Act, the federal law into the information age. The President's critical infrastructure cyberboard is coordinating model government industry partnerships not only to alert the private sector and government to potential cyber threats, but to harness the intellect of both government and the private sector to combat those threats. So responding immediately to those challenges was our first priority.

Our second was to establish several national goals for homeland security and fund them through the President's 2003 budget. The budget nearly doubles spending on homeland security to $38 billion. The Congress had stepped-up even before 9/11. We're prepared to spend considerable amount of tax dollars on homeland security, but we nearly doubled that in the 2003 budget.

It funds four major initiatives that I believe, the President believes will not only improve our preparedness but also reduce the risk. One of the -- the task is determining at every level of society, everywhere in the economy -- whether at a border, whether you're in an airport, whether you're at a private sector building, wherever you are -- sophisticated risk management, because we can never, ever make ourselves totally immune to a future terrorist attack. We cannot be a hundred percent of the time against a hundred percent of all conceivable attacks. It's just not something we can do if we are to remain a free and open country. But there's a lot of things we can do to substantially reduce that risk consistent with who we are and what we want to be.

And in this budget, a thousand percent increase to equip and train first responders -- paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, police. Second was building up our public health systems defenses against bioterrorism. The President has said to me, we have an opportunity to make a strategic investment in America that not only enhances security, but also makes us a better country at the same time in one way or another -- let's make those investments.

Well, you ought to invest in first responders, it will enhance security, but they'll be better prepared to deal with the hazardous spill, the natural disaster and anything else. So a thousand percent increase; good insurance against a terrorist event. But as a safer community.

Sure we want to beef-up the public health system to deal with potential microbes from a terrorists. But we ought to build up the public health system just to make it a better system to deal with infectious disease generally, whether the agent that delivers it is a terrorist or Mother Nature.

Third, strengthening security at borders, coastal ports and airports. And, fourth, information technology and information sharing. We've got to do a better job across the federal government, across our agencies, sharing and infusing, and then a heck of a lot better job disseminating, when it's appropriate, down to the state and local communities and law enforcement.

Now, the key to all four of these initiatives, in my judgment, is information and technology. That's the common denominator, that's the driving force behind the initiatives. Think about the first responders. They cannot communicate over their radio systems during a crisis. If they can't do that -- that was one of the challenges that some of these fire engine companies had and these emergency responders had at the World Trade Center -- then they're not going to be able to use whatever other new equipment we give them or training that we provide for them.

So our first responders initiative allows cities and counties to purchase state of the art communications systems. They have to be interoperable. One of the reasons we're asking to make sure that the money is distributed according to a plan -- because we have 18,000 municipalities, and if everybody goes out and buys their own thing, they might have all bright, new, shiny communications equipment -- but we need to know that it works, it's interoperable, that it fits and it can be relied upon for a crisis.

That's why the initiative encourages mutual aid compacts and interoperability, so that first responders from different agencies, municipalities and even states, from one state to another, can communicate during a terrorist attack. And as we've seen, terrorist attacks have no boundaries.

One answer might be the type of satellite cell phone technology that was used during the Olympics. I know your members are working very hard to deploy broad band technology to as many Americans as possible. There's a possible application here, as well, for notification and sharing of information.

On biodefense, the second initiative -- if we don't have an effective national disease surveillance system, then we will not be able to spot the signs of an outbreak, whether it's through an envelope or through Mother Nature. We've begun to distribute more than a billion dollars to build up a state's public health response to bioterror. We've acquired more than a billion doses of antibiotics.

Our single most valuable commodity at the time of crisis is time -- getting the resources to where they're needed, when they're needed. So the President's budget includes funding to modernize our epidemiological intelligence service at the Centers for Disease Control, to develop a nationwide -- a nationwide -- early warning system against microbes spread by a terrorist or by Mother Nature.

Again, when we take a look at these applications of technology, we look to your industry and those related to it to help us come up with solutions. We look to your enlightened self-interest. That's good. That's good self-interest. We want you to do well by doing good. We think there's a market for these products that are either on research board or on the back of your mind or down the road, across the board -- biotech, infotech, you name it. We're going to look to the technology sector.

Third, the border security. One out of every three U.S. jobs in the electronics industry depends on exports. We can't seal our borders and our ports so tightly that we shut down our just-in-time economies, particularly the economies on the other side of the border. So we must have information systems to identify and monitor the high-risk people and commerce and separate high-risk people and high-risk cargo from no-risk or low-risk people and cargo.

And work to develop and entry/exit visa system to track the guests of our country, including those who would do harm. We've signed declarations with Mexico and Canada to build commerce-friendly, smart borders -- smart borders of the future. And I've seen some of the applications in El Paso and Detroit -- not only will you be able to contribute to these smart borders through products such as biometrics and x-ray scanners and the list goes on and on, you'll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor through increased trade and productivity.

Finally, the President's budget proposes nearly $15 billion for information technology across the entire federal government; $4 billion for IT security, a dramatic increase from the year before. We worry about physical security, but we better worry about cyber security. This effort, this investment, we need a strategy, and it will be led by an e-government strategy to ensure that the money is spent on worthy goals such as eliminating redundant systems, maximizing productivity and improving the speed and quality of government services.

We need to build the technology to meet the mission, not the other way around. The tech sector will play a critical role in homeland security strategy in two ways: by creating new technologies to enhance it; and, frankly, just as important, by improving their own companies of security as well. One security analyst noted that many Silicon Valley firms he audited have great firewalls and no security downstairs. Anybody can walk in and sit at a computer. It's a gap they might want to consider filling. (Laughter.)

Terrorists can sit at one computer connected to one network and can create worldwide havoc -- don't necessarily need bomb or explosives to cripple a sector of the economy, or shutdown a power grid. All a terrorist needs is a weapons of mass destruction.

And self-policing, as well as new technology, is critical to closing those gaps. The administration is working with an 80-company partnership called The National Cyber Security Alliance. We want to educate small business people, homeowners, home users and children on basic steps they can use to secure their computers, as well.

I want to thank you for forming the Internet Security Alliance to share best practices throughout your industry and around the globe.

Ladies and gentlemen, homeland security is about turning vulnerabilities into strengths, securing our critical infrastructure against a threat, then using that infrastructure to meet the threat. And you are perfectly poised to lead a significant part of that effort.

Homeland security is a national effort, not just a federal one. And a national effort means we need to engage the private sector, as well. You have been and will be a vital partner with us to work as we develop our third priority, our emerging national strategy, due this summer. We'll need people in organizations such as yours at our side, companies that have proven themselves capable of adapting to any situation. That's why our office has met, I think, to date with well over 200 companies and a hundred different association consortiums. Sure, we're working the agencies and we're working the state and federal government; we're working the private sector real hard, as well. It needs to be an integrated, comprehensive approach. That's where you come in.

That's one of the reasons I visited the Department of Commerce's Technology Expo earlier this year. There are some extraordinary, absolutely amazing new products on the market, and even more on the shelf. And they're going research and development. That's why I visited cities all around the country, to see technology in action, in the defense of the homeland.

Yes, it is a new world. But it is a world for which technology is particularly well-suited to play a very critical role. The information revolution predicted many of the qualities that are necessary to effective homeland security. It must be decentralized, not Washington-based. It must be information driven. It must focus on return on investment. It must constantly innovate and adapt to change. It must make speed a top priority. It must be customer-driven. In this case, the customers are the citizens of this country.

And above all, all those pieces -- all of those pieces -- must connect, they all must fit together. Even if you have a killer ap -- (laughter) -- and I'm sure you all do -- if it's not user-friendly, it's not going to be very helpful.

Human behavior is the X factor. People operate on instinct and training in an emergency; there's only time to do in a crisis, there's not time to experiment. There's only time to do. And there's no time to fix a flawed or broken system, that's why we need you at the front end, to make sure that we've got the basic capacity in place to do when the crisis occurs. We must do the planning and developing and the fixing now.

And if we do, the results will not be just a safer America, but a better America; a more productive, healthier, technologically savvy society; a nation where economic security and national security and homeland security go hand in hand. That's the best return on investment I can imagine. It's absolutely the best return.

Finally, I would share with you the thought that I expressed to some of the friends at the dinner table this evening. One of the unfortunate -- one of the unfortunate characteristics associated with my office -- I've got this small office in the White House and I can't put 285 million Americans in the office with me, it'd be a pretty tight squeeze. And I don't have enough time tonight to tell you everything that I've seen and learned and observed.

But I just want to reassure you that not only is the federal government doing everything they can -- and the executive branch and the department and the agency heads, and the Secretaries of the President's Cabinet -- they're working the issues across the board, Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate, everybody is engaged in the federal government. You've got 50 homeland security directors in the states and the District of Columbia and the Territories have them. You've got mayors taking a leadership role at the local level. You've got the private sector engaged. You've got technology companies engaged. You've got the national laboratories out there working. And the list goes on and on and on. If you could see America from 40,000 feet, like I see it, or see on a day to day basis some of the applications -- particularly the technology that people are considering -- you would feel confident that in time we will have not only a more secure and safer country, but we clearly will have a better and stronger America in other ways, as well.

So I just wanted to share that with you tonight because this industry group, your sector of our economy is critical to our success. We need to make sure that your institutions, your companies are secure, so that when you're done with your work and applied the technology to the different needs we have across the board in homeland security, America can be secure. We're counting on you to do it, and I'm absolutely convinced that it's going to happen.

So I want to thank you for your invitation to spend a little time with you this evening. I hope you have a wonderful dinner; I know you've got a great program. And, again, thank you for all your help. We look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead. Thank you. (Applause.)