New Department Would Unite Homeland Security Efforts
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 10, 2002 The Homeland Security Department proposed by President Bush would have nearly 170,000 employees and a budget of more than $37 billion, double what the government spent in the previous fiscal year, Gov. Tom Ridge said today.
Speaking to about 3,000 federal employees at Constitution Hall here, the president's homeland security director said the new department would unite the efforts of 100 federal agencies and organizations that play a role in homeland security.
"The new department will not be driven by how many boxes on an organizational chart we can move around," Ridge assured the federal workers. "It will be driven by one thing and one thing only: how best we can work together to protect our fellow citizens and our way of life."
The nation is fighting a new type of enemy, Ridge stressed, "one that uses our 21st century technology, transportation and economy against us. Speed and surprise are the terrorists' most effective weapons."
The United States must be "just as nimble and even better prepared," he said. This requires attracting and retaining the best people and rewarding their best efforts. "To protect the homeland, it is critical that we get the right people in the right place in time to make a difference," he said.
Federal workers transferring to the new department would bring their current pay and benefits packages with them, and the department would be run under the merit system.
"President Bush is committed to a federal workplace united in spirit and effort and one that is free from discrimination and retaliation," Ridge said.
The new department would be built on four pillars: border and transportation security; emergency preparedness and response; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear countermeasures; and information analysis and infrastructure protection.
Ridge said the president's fiscal 2003 budget includes "a tenfold increase in spending for first responders, a 300 percent increase for biodefense, and a 60 percent increase for cyber security.
He said the new department would:
- Ensure that police, firefighters and hospitals have the equipment, training and communications they need.
- Help protect the nation's waters, airports and seaports.
- Monitor all visitors to this country.
- Set guidelines and conduct drills to help states and local communities prepare for possible attack.
- Lead a national scientific effort to develop diagnostics and vaccines against bioterrorism.
- Communicate serious and credible threats to public officials and the private sector.
- Fuse threat intelligence from the FBI, the CIA and other agencies and match it against vulnerabilities in the nation's critical infrastructure.
"If there's a critical threat that matches a vulnerability," he said, "then this new department can give instructions as to what protective measures we need to take as a country in anticipation of that potential threat," he said. This would make America "significantly safer and reduce our vulnerability."
Later in the afternoon, the House Armed Services Committee released a statement supporting the president's proposed new Cabinet-level department. The committee said that with only minor changes, the proposal would bring needed focus to the federal government's efforts to protect the American homeland.