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Bush Signs Homeland Act, Nominates England as Deputy

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2002 – When President Bush signed the Homeland Security Bill into law today, he established a new cabinet-level department to ensure the safety of the American people.

Before Bush signed the bill in a White House ceremony, he announced he will nominate former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge to be the first secretary of Homeland Security. He also said he will nominate Navy Secretary Gordon England to be deputy at the 170,000-worker agency.

The new department will analyze threats, guard borders, coordinate national responses and focus the "full resources of the American government on the safety of its people," Bush said.

The measure passed Congress with bipartisan support. It had been held up because of concerns about a provision that would allow the president to shift workers to areas where they were needed. Critics said the new rules would erode federal civil-service protections. Administration officials said managers needed more flexibility to protect America.

Bush thanked union leaders present at the signing ceremony. "We look forward to working with you to make sure that your people are treated fairly in this new department," he said.

The bill is a response to the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. The idea was to place all federal agencies involved with homeland security under one umbrella. The few exceptions are the military, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Bush said the government is doing everything it can to enhance security at airports, power plants and border crossings. "We've deployed detection equipment to look for weapons of mass destruction," he said. "We've given law enforcement better tools to detect and disrupt terrorist cells which might be hiding in our own own country."

He said the Homeland Security Act is the "next logical step" in defending America. The act amalgamates 22 agencies into one department. "To succeed in their mission, leaders of the new department must change the culture of many diverse agencies, directing all of them toward the principal objective of protecting the American people," Bush said. "The effort will take time and focus and steady resolve."

He said adjustments in the department will be needed as this is the largest reorganization of the U.S. government since the 1947 act that established the Defense Department.

He said the new department would analyze information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies and match that against American vulnerabilities. The new agency will work with other agencies, the private sector, and state and local governments to harden America's defenses against terror, Bush stated.

The agency will focus on safeguarding the U.S. computer network, and defend against the growing threat of chemical, biological or nuclear assaults.

The Department of Homeland Security will be one point of contact for state and local officials and place security for all U.S. transportation systems under one roof.

Bush noted the Department of Homeland Security will end duplication and overlapping responsibilities. "Our objective is to spend less on administrators and offices and more on working agents in the field; less on overhead and more on protecting our neighborhoods and borders and waters and skies from terrorists," he said.

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