For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 20, 2002
Gov Ridge Remarks Before Senate Gov Affairs Committee
Chairman Lieberman, Senator Thompson, Committee Members, thank you very much for the opportunity to testify today in support of the President's historic proposal to create a new Department of Homeland Security. I am here in keeping with the President's directive to me to appear before you to present and explain this bold new legislative proposal. I want to convey personally the President's desire to work with Congress and to thank you for both the bipartisan support that you have expressed and the commitment to act on this proposal by the end of this session.
Lengthier testimony has been submitted for the record, so let me take just a moment to outline a few key points in support of the President's proposed legislation. Then I look forward to responding to your questions.
The Most Significant Reorganization of Government since 1947:
This proposal was the result of a deliberative planning process that really began with an effort led by Vice President Cheney a year ago in May 2001, and continued as part of the mission of the Office of Homeland Security when it was created on October 8, 2001.
My staff and I have met with thousands of government officials at the federal, state and local levels, with hundreds of experts and with many, many private citizens. Throughout these discussions, we have constantly examined ways to organize the government better.
The President's proposal also draws from the conclusions of many recent reports on terrorism -- reports by blue ribbon commissions such as the Hart-Rudman, Bremer, and Gilmore commissions as well as reports from think tanks.
It also draws from the legislative proposal of Senators Joe Lieberman, Arlen Specter, and Bob Graham and Representatives Mac Thornberry, Jane Harman, Ellen Tauscher, James Gibbons, Saxby Chambliss and others.
This historic proposal would be the most significant transformation of the U.S. government since 1947. The creation of this department would transform the current confusing patchwork of government activities related to homeland security into a single department whose primary mission is to protect our homeland.
Responsibility for homeland security is currently dispersed among more than one hundred different government organizations. We need a single department whose primary mission is to protect our homeland.
A single department to secure our borders, synthesize and analyze intelligence, combat bioterrorism and direct federal emergency response activities. With the creation of this department, we will put more security officers in the field working to stop terrorists and fewer resources in Washington managing duplicative and redundant activities that drain critical homeland security resources.
The proposal to create a Department of Homeland Security is one more key step in the President's national strategy for homeland security. Like the National Security Strategy, the National Strategy for Homeland Security will form the intellectual underpinning to guide the decision making of planners, budgeters and policymakers for years to come.
There are really no surprises in the remainder of the national strategy to be released later this summer. From securing our borders, to combating bioterrorism, to protecting the food supply, the majority of the initiatives the federal government is pursuing as part of our strategy to secure the homeland have already been discussed publicly.
The strategy will pull together all of the major ongoing activities and new initiatives that the President believes are essential to our long-term effort to secure the homeland.
Let me now turn to the details of the President's plan.
Border and Transportation Security:
Preventing future terrorist attacks is our number one priority. Because terrorism is a global threat, we must have complete control over who and what enters the U.S. We must prevent foreign terrorists from entering and bringing in instruments of terror, while at the same time facilitate the legal flow of people and goods on which our economy depends.
Protecting our borders and controlling entry to the United States has always been the responsibility of the Federal government, yet this responsibility is currently dispersed among more than five major government organizations in five different departments.
Currently, when a ship enters a U.S. port, Customs, INS, the Coast Guard, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and others have overlapping jurisdictions over pieces of the arriving ship. (cont'd) Customs has jurisdiction over the goods aboard the ship. INS has jurisdiction over the people on the ship. The Coast Guard has jurisdiction over the ship while it is at sea. Even the Department of Agriculture has jurisdiction over certain cargoes. Although the Coast Guard does have the authority to act as an agent for these other organizations and assert jurisdiction over the entire vessel, in practice the system has not worked as well as it could to prevent the illegal entry of potential terrorists and instruments of terror.
The new department would unify authority over the Coast Guard, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service and Border Patrol, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture, and the recently created Transportation Security Administration.
All aspects of border control, including the issuing of visas, would be informed by a central information-sharing clearinghouse and compatible databases.
Preventing terrorists from using our transportation systems to deliver their attacks is closely related to border control.
At our international airports and seaports, borders and transportation are inseparable. The new department would unify government's efforts to secure our borders and the transportation systems that move people from our borders to anywhere in the country within hours.
Emergency Preparedness and Response:
Although our top priority is preventing future attacks, we cannot assume that we will always succeed. Therefore, we must also prepare to recover as quickly as possible from attacks that do occur.
Consider that if you live within a ten-mile radius of a nuclear power facility, the distribution of Potassium Iodide is regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC is responsible for getting people this crucial drug, even though the NRC's actual mission is to license nuclear facilities, not provide emergency supplies to the greater population.
Outside the ten-mile radius of the nuclear facility, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for regulating the distribution of Potassium Iodide.
In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services controls the national pharmaceutical stockpiles that are to be sent rapidly into emergencies. And other government agencies would control evacuation of the emergency zone. To make matters even more confusing, if you happen to live within a ten-mile radius of a nuclear weapons facility, the Department of Energy regulates the distribution of the Potassium Iodide.
The Department of Homeland Security would build upon the Federal Emergency Management Agency as one of its key components. The new department would assume authority over federal grant programs for local and state first responders such as firefighters, police, and emergency medical personnel. And manage such critical response assets as the Nuclear Emergency Search Team (Department of Energy) and the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile (Health and Human Services).
It would build a comprehensive national incident management system that would consolidate existing federal government emergency response plans into one genuinely all-hazard plan.
The department would ensure that response personnel have and use equipment and systems that allow them to communicate with one another.
Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Countermeasures:
As the President made clear in his State of the Union Address, the war against terrorism is also a war against the most deadly weapons known to mankind -- chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.
If our enemies acquire these weapons, they will use them, with the consequences far more devastating than those we suffered on September 11th.
Currently, efforts to counter the threat of these weapons are too few and too fragmented. We must launch a systematic national effort against these weapons that is equal in size to the threat they pose. The President's proposal does just that.
The new department would implement a national strategy to prepare for and respond to the full range of terrorist threats involving weapons of mass destruction.
The Department of Homeland Security would set national policy and establish guidelines for state and local governments to plan for the unthinkable and direct exercises and drills for federal, state, and local weapons of mass destruction response teams.
The Department of Homeland Security would provide direction and establish priorities for national research and development, for related tests and evaluations, and for the development and procurement of new technology and equipment.
Additionally, the new department would incorporate and focus the intellectual power of several important scientific institutions, including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Department of Energy).
Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection:
Preventing future terrorist attacks requires good information in advance.
The President's proposal recognizes this and would develop a new organization with the authority and capacity to generate and provide that critical information.
The new department would fuse intelligence and other information pertaining to threats to the homeland from multiple sources, including CIA and FBI, as well as NSA, INS, Customs and others.
It would also comprehensively evaluate the vulnerabilities of America's critical infrastructure and map pertinent intelligence against those vulnerabilities for the purpose of identifying protective priorities and supporting protective steps being taken by the Department, other federal departments and agencies, state and local agencies, and the private sector.
The individuals that work for the organizations tapped by President Bush for the Department of Homeland Security are among our most capable patriots in our government. We are proud of what they are doing to secure our homeland and call upon them to continue their crucial work while the new Department is created.
This consolidation of the government's homeland security efforts can achieve great efficiencies and free up additional resources for the fight against terrorism. They should rest assured that their efforts will only be improved by the government reorganization proposed by President Bush.
To achieve these efficiencies, the new Secretary will require considerable flexibility in procurement, integration of IT systems, and personnel issues.
Homeland Security Council and Office of Homeland Security:
Even with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, there will remain a strong need for a White House Office of Homeland Security.
Homeland security will remain a multi-departmental issue and will require interagency coordination. Additionally, the President will continue to require the confidential advice of a close assistant.
Therefore, the President's proposal intends for the Office of Homeland Security to maintain a strong role. This will be critical for the future success of this office.
Working Together to Create the Department of Homeland Security:
During this transition period, the Office of Homeland Security will maintain vigilance and continue to coordinate the other federal agencies involved in homeland security.
The President appreciates the enthusiastic response from Congress and is gratified by the expressions of optimism about how quickly this bill might be passed.
He's ready to work together with you in partnership. In fact, earlier today he signed a new executive order to help match your accelerated pace by creating a transition planning office. Led by me and lodged within OMB to tap its special expertise, one of its principle missions will be to ensure that we get you the information you need as you consider the President's proposals.
Until the Department of Homeland Security becomes fully operational, the proposed Department's designated components will continue their mandate to help ensure the security of the United States.
During his June 6th address to the nation, the President asked Congress to join him in establishing a single, permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the homeland of America, and protecting the American people. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. We know the threats are real. The need is urgent. And we must succeed in this endeavor.
President Truman did not live to see the end of the Cold War. But the war did end. And historians agree that the consolidation of federal resources was critical to our ultimate success.
Ladies and gentlemen, we too have that opportunity for leadership and legacy.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to answering any questions you may have.