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Ridge Sworn in as Director of Homeland Security Office

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2001 – Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge today became the nation's first director of the newly created Homeland Security Office.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas swore Ridge into office at a White House ceremony attended by President Bush and other cabinet members. Bush signed an executive order creating the cabinet-level organization in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Bush remarked that Ridge and his office are "charged with strengthening America's protections" and developing a national strategy against terrorism. The Homeland Security Office will "take strong precautions aimed at preventing terrorist attacks, and prepare to respond effectively, if they might come again," the president said.

Bush said the HSO will:

  • Obtain and use the best intelligence information available to fight terrorism.

  • Strengthen and protect U.S. transportation, food and water, and critical infrastructure systems to make them less vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

  • Respond effectively to terrorist actions if they come.

  • Coordinate federal assistance with state and local efforts.

  • Work in conjunction with new Homeland Security Council, chaired by Bush and made up of cabinet members and other senior government officials.
However, while taking efforts to prevent terrorism on American soil, Bush emphasized: "We will not sacrifice the freedoms that make our land unique."

After his swearing in, Ridge thanked the president and noted that the Sept. 11 attacks "changed our nation in so many ways," from the thousands of victims killed to the U.S. military's men and women deployed in the fight against terrorism.

"Americans should find comfort in knowing that millions of their fellow citizens are working every day to ensure our security at every level -- federal, state, county, municipal," Ridge said.

The job of his office, Ridge said, will be to "identify gaps" in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts "and work to close them."

Referring to yesterday's start of U.S and anti-terrorist coalition military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Bush remarked: "The best defense against terror is a global offensive against terror, wherever it might be found."

The United States and its allies will maintain "all efforts on all fronts to bring evildoers to justice," as part of a long war against global terrorism, Bush emphasized.

The president said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had told him earlier in the day that the military mission has gone as planned. U.S. and British forces have used aerial bombs and cruise missiles to strike 30 or so Taliban- terrorist controlled targets in Afghanistan such as airfields, training camps, air defense nodes, and command- and-control centers.

At the same time, American fliers have airdropped "over 37,000 kits of food and medicine" to needy Afghan refugees, Bush noted.

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