The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
July 6, 2004

Secretary Ridge Announces Homeland Security National Center for Food Protection and Defense

(Minneapolis, MN) July 6, 2004 - Thank you, Secretary Veneman, for that introduction. Minnesota is very near the geographic center of the 50 states – squarely in the heartland of America. And I am pleased to be here to announce that this great University will now house an important Homeland Security Center for Excellence – and the heart and soul of our efforts to protect America's food supply.

A few months ago, the Department of Homeland Security announced that we would be partnering with the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University to research important areas of agricultural security - such as the food supply and animal diseases.

Now, we are making that partnership a reality...we brought our checkbook. Today, The University of Minnesota receives $15 million to establish the Homeland Security National Center for Food Protection and Defense.

Researchers here will partner with industry leaders to establish best practices to manage and respond to food contaminations - whether they are intentional or naturally occurring.

We have just had the opportunity to see some of the projects they are already working on; and which will be further expanded using this new money.

We saw demonstrations of two computer systems that allow experts to map out "what-if?" situations, incorporating real-time information gathered from labs and monitors around the country, and to test possible interventions for effectiveness.

And a portable detection device that government labs and first responders could one day use at the site of an emergency to better - and more quickly - detect harmful substances that might be used in an intentional attack.

This work at the University of Minnesota will be providing a North Star for the Department of Homeland Security - and the country - to follow toward a safe and secure food supply for all Americans.

In addition, Texas A&M will receive $18 million to stand up the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense.

The Aggies will work closely with others in academia, industry, and government to address potential health risks such as foot and mouth disease and Avian flu.

These two new centers join the Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events at the University of Southern California. They are part of the Department's effort to engage the best and brightest minds - along with the most advanced technologies - to secure our country and citizens.

And, today, we are putting out the call for a fourth center.

It is my pleasure to announce that the Department is accepting applications - from groups such as the one here in Minnesota - for our fourth Homeland Security Center of Excellence.

This Center will focus on the Behavioral and Social Aspects of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism. It will study both the behavior of terrorists, as well as the social effects of terrorist threats and attacks on our population.

The work of this new center will complement our current efforts to develop a sustained and innovative research and education effort for the security of our Nation.

In every area of human endeavor, research and development is the engine that drives our nation to a better and brighter future.

For instance, R&D at NASA brought us incredible pictures of the surface of Mars, and R&D at the Department of Energy is helping to bring hydrogen-powered cars to our roadways.

But government can't do it alone. In each of these cases, partnerships between the government and academics, businesses, and scientists produce together what would be impossible individually.

The Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, could not have landed without the Jet Propulsion Lab at California Institute of Technology. And hydrogen-powered cars will not clean our air without the participation - in fact, the leadership - of auto manufacturers and consumers.

The same is true at the Department of Homeland Security. We are relying on everyone in the entire academic community - and especially at our Centers for Excellence - to boost our efforts to develop an enduring national research capability in homeland protection.

Together with participation from local leaders and responsible corporate citizens, these Homeland Security Centers will bring the future to bear on the challenges facing our food supply today.

As Secretary Veneman noted, the task is a large one. Our efforts must be as widespread and comprehensive as a system that puts food on the tables of millions of Americans every day - three times a day!

We work with the Department of Agriculture to ensure that our entire food supply - as it traverses from farmers to food processors to your local supermarket - is both safe to eat and secure from terrorism.

It's a great example of the kind of interagency cooperation that we strive for across the federal government - and with our partners at the state, county, local and tribal levels.

It is also an example of the unified security we can provide the American people when we work together - as we are doing to protect the vital infrastructure of our food supply and agricultural sector.

When it comes to securing America's food supply - the safest and most plentiful in the world - information is the main course.

It begins here with the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M - and all of your partners in the Homeland Security Centers of Excellence - as you work to develop the next generation of ideas and technologies.

And it continues in the public and private sectors as we communicate those ideas to everyone charged with keeping our country secure.

It is the kind of cooperation and coordination that America expects. And it is providing the important security that all Americans deserve.

Thank you.


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