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Ridge Describes Homeland Security Strategy

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2001 – The United States must devise a homeland security strategy that looks beyond recovery efforts and aims at preventing attacks, said Tom Ridge, director of the nation's new Homeland Security Office.

Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania, spoke Nov. 15 to the Fletcher Conference here. He said the plan will include a comprehensive statement of all activities to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks.

The Fletcher Conference is jointly sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and the Army. The theme this year is "National Security for a New Era."

He distinguished between a "national" plan and a "federal" plan. The national plan will include all levels of government and the private sector. "The principal challenge of homeland security is to focus all of the resources at our disposal -- federal, state, local and private -- to safeguard our country from those who try to do us harm," Ridge said.

He said that since Sept. 11, all agencies of the government have worked together to secure vulnerabilities and begin rebuilding. The country must do more, however, Ridge noted.

"We need to be able to detect and deter terrorist threats before they happen -- and, if America is attacked again, to be able to trigger a seamless system of rapid response and recovery," he said.

President Bush tasked Ridge to develop the national plan, but the country has not waited for the result. He said all aspects of government from the FBI to the Environmental Protection Agency and from the Coast Guard to the Treasury Department have started working on aspects of homeland security. His job, he said, is to take these many aspects of government and focus them on the terrorist threat.

He said national homeland security strategy will identify objectives in precise and measurable terms. "It means performance, not process," he said. "We're going to know exactly what needs to be done and when we've got it right."

He said the plan will identify the needs and then fill them. Ridge said this means "finding the gap between where we are today and where we want to be tomorrow."

He said no system is ever 100 percent effective but vowed, "we'll try to get as close to perfect as possible."

He said the plan will be forward-looking and require "innovation, discipline, patience and resolve and a willingness to rethink traditional mission and traditional relationship."

The DoD homeland security mission will be examined. "I think as we look at the role that the Department of Defense plays in homeland security the most obvious component of the DoD force structure to have a role with domestic security is the National Guard," Ridge said.

"We will have to work within DoD and with the governors to identify what that role would be," he said. "If it requires changing the configuration of some units or redeploying some of the assets in a different way, certainly that's got to be something we should consider -- and we will consider."

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