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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 8, 2003
Homeland Security Announces New Initiatives
WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Tuesday, Sept. 2, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge announced plans to "reorganize to better mobilize" the people and resources of the Department of Homeland Security to make this country more secure. In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Secretary Ridge discussed the Department's plans to make available more than 5,000 additional armed federal law enforcement agents to the skies, consolidate three different border inspection functions into 'one face at the border,' and consolidate terrorism grant and training programs within one office at the Department. The Secretary also announced the implementation of the Strategic Communications Resources Effort (SECURE) to provide security clearances and secure video and telephone communications to all the states and territories.
SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE THE NUMBER OF FEDERAL OFFICERS FOR AIR SECURITY:
Federal Air Marshals and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have previously operated independently of one another to disrupt threats to civil aviation - often with separate intelligence and regardless of the level of threats to specific targets. To increase coordination and information sharing between the two and allow for a "surge capacity" to effectively respond to specific threats, Secretary Ridge announced that the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) and Explosives Unit from the Transportation Security Administration will transfer to ICE.
The move will enhance the security of the traveling public by:
The movement of Federal Air Marshals to Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will significantly increase the number of federal law enforcement agents available to deploy during times of increased threats to aircraft ultimately providing a surge capacity during increased threat periods or in the event of a terrorist attack.
ONE FACE AT THE BORDER:
Historically, travelers entering the United States make three stops - an Immigration inspector, a Customs inspector and an Agriculture inspector, if they are carrying food or plants - with three separate Homeland Security employees. Today, the Department's U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is following through on a commitment to unify this system to process travelers more rapidly and conveniently while simultaneously identifying and addressing potential risks.
The "One Face at the Border" initiative unifies the inspection process by cross-training CBP inspectors to perform all three inspection functions.
Unifying three dedicated but separate workforces into one U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer, cross-trained to address all three inspection needs, is another significant step toward Homeland Security's effort to make the most effective use of the Department's assets and thus better secure our homeland.
Strong, effective partnerships with state governments often means sharing with state leaders specific, classified information about terrorist threats to supplement federal efforts to prepare for, disrupt and respond to these threats. Previously, this was not effectively possible because of a lack of secure telephone and videoconference equipment at the state level and too few state officials with the appropriate security clearances. Secretary Ridge has ordered the implementation of the Strategic Communications Resources (SECURE) Initiative:
ONE ACCESS POINT FOR STATE AND LOCAL GRANTS:
In order for state and local governments to be effective partners with the federal government in securing the homeland, they need quick and easy access to terrorism and emergency preparedness grant programs designed to support their work. Prior to the formation of the department, information about terrorism and emergency preparedness grant programs were scattered throughout the federal government. Many are now centered within Homeland Security, though still divided among our various components. To make them even more accessible, Secretary Ridge announced today that he will be sending a plan to Congress shortly detailing the Department's plan to centralize these programs within a single office. This transfer will put all of the federal government's major terrorism preparedness grants in one location for state and local partners.
State and Local authorities will now have a single point of contact for terrorism and emergency preparedness efforts - one access point to obtain critical grant funding. It ensures that nationwide, state and local officials have one place in the Department where they can tap into the resources and information they need, from applying for funds to protect critical infrastructure to receiving guidance and expertise for first responders. Such a reorganization will allow DHS to provide more consistent grant guidance, coordination, and oversight.
As part of this package DHS will also launch a new web portal that will utilize technology to make these grants more accessible by listing all available DHS funding resources for state and local applications in one place and streamlining the application process.