Ridge Calls for New Thinking, not Just New Money
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2002 Just spending money is not enough to protect the homeland, said Tom Ridge. The United States also must have new ideas, new thinking and new structures to confront the terrorist challenge.
Ridge, speaking today at a meeting of the Homeland Security Council at the Old Executive Office Building, said federal, state and local governments must build closer ties to each other.
He said the new national homeland security strategy reflects Bush administration thinking: "Simply channeling new money into an old system will not maximize our ability to protect ourselves and our way of life."
Ridge said he hopes Congress will authorize a Department of Homeland Security that gives the president the freedom to manage the department effectively. The Bush administration proposes allowing the president to move funds and resources around within the department to better counteract terrorists.
The relationships among agencies will also have to change as their missions and functions change, Ridge said. He specifically noted that border security would change. He called for "smarter borders" with Canada and Mexico that take advantage of technological innovations to protect Americans while allowing the flow of goods and people.
"The mission of the Coast Guard has been changed," he said. "They've got their traditional mission, but obviously port security and border security along our coastline has been an enhanced responsibility."
He said cities, counties and states are going to have to change their thinking on homeland security. Many cities already are studying ways to reconfigure resources and increase cooperation across jurisdictions, he noted. Again, more resources may be needed, he said, but there will "never be enough to make every fire department look the same, every police department look the same, every public- health component identical."
Cooperation and the sharing of resources must take up the slack, Ridge said. The federal government must lead the change, he added.
"I just can only reiterate that if all we do as a country is change the optics on the organizational chart; if all we simply do is take this department and this agency and bring them all under one new agency, and we don't give (leaders) the freedom to lead, then we really wouldn't have effected change," Ridge said. "We may have bolted a couple of pieces together, but we will not have integrated personnel, integrated technology, integrated mission, and we will not have maximized this country's effort -- our responsibility to do everything we possibly can to protect our citizens and our way of life."
Ridge said it would be tough enough to merge the various cultures, technologies and resources of the 22 federal agencies that would become part of the new department.
"If you're not really going to change the status quo, then why create a department that you can't effect the change within?" he asked. "If all we do is simply bolt or staple together a bunch of disparate agencies, you won't be able to get the job done."