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Homeland Security Money Goes to State, Local Communities

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2003 – With the Department of Homeland Security now a reality, resources are being provided to the state and local partners that assist the organization in safeguarding America, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said here today.

More than 170,000 military and civilian government employees from 22 formerly separate agencies were officially merged March 1 to form the new agency, Ridge noted.

"We've got the right structure in place. Now, we must provide the resources and the right kind of leadership," he told members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Ladies Auxiliary at a downtown conference.

President Bush and Congress "have nearly doubled spending on homeland security in the past year," he said. "That's money that will go to states and cities and counties out in the field this year." Those governments are important partners in the mission of safeguarding the homeland, he said, because "you cannot secure the country from the nation's capital."

Ridge said the Homeland Security Department and its state and local partners work together to prevent terrorist attacks, to reduce U.S. vulnerability to attack, and to be prepared to respond as quickly and as effectively as possible in the event an attack should occur.

Preventing terror attacks on America begins at the country's borders, he said, noting that millions of people enter and leave the United States each year. Therefore, Ridge continued, money is earmarked to hire more than 1,700 new inspectors to work at the nation's air, land and sea ports-of-entry, and 600 more U.S. Border Patrol agents.

He said all border and immigration enforcement duties will be merged into two bureaus to enhance effectiveness. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection deals with people seeking to enter the United States, he explained, while the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement concentrates on people already in the United States.

"I think this change, in time, makes us much stronger across the board," he said. He noted that $400 million is earmarked to bolster border security and immigration.

It's important to be on the lookout for suspicious cargo, without negatively impacting on commerce, Ridge said.

"We must distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate people and goods at our borders," he said, noting that Canada and Mexico are good partners in border security operations. He added that about 2,000 private companies have agreed to Homeland Security Department checks and guidelines to facilitate the movement of goods across borders.

The Homeland Security Department's budget includes $50 million to be spent on nonintrusive inspection systems, like portable radiation detectors, he noted. Also, customs agents are being deployed to the 20 largest ports around the world -- 65 percent of water-borne cargo shipped to America embarks from these ports. The intent, Ridge explained, is to have cargo containers inspected before they even get on the ship.

The Coast Guard, he added, does "a darn good job" providing maritime security along the nation's 95,000 miles of coastline, and navigable rivers, lakes, ports, and waterways. The Coast Guard, he noted, will be funded to provide 2,200 more active duty members, 44 port security response boats, and six new maritime SWAT teams.

Ridge said the new department is being provided $200 million to analyze threats to America's infrastructure and to propose and implement safeguards. Some of his intelligence personnel would also work with the national Terrorist Threat Integration Center being set up, he added.

State and local governments will get nearly $1 billion for anti- terrorism equipment training and exercises, Ridge said. Tens of millions of dollars, he added, will be invested in urban search and rescue teams, interoperable communications equipment, and community emergency response teams.

More than $500 million is earmarked for research and development, Ridge said. "We built an arsenal of democracy to win World War II," he remarked, and America "will build a shield of science to deter and defeat terrorists today."

Terrorism gives Americans a choice to be afraid or ready, Ridge said. "We're not afraid of anybody, so we will be ready," he concluded.

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