For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 12, 2002
Remarks by Governor Ridge Announcing Homeland Security Advisory System
Thank you very much for that kind introduction. And, Mayor Williams,
I know you had to accommodate a change in your schedule to be with us
today. It's very important to have you join us, and I'm thankful for your
participation, but your leadership -- the challenges that confront this
magnificent city are those that accompany metropolitan America generally.
Your work is complicated by the fact that it's also the seat of national
government. So having you here is very important to us, and we thank you
Madam Secretary, I know you're going to speak in a few moments, but
I'd be remiss if I didn't say that we devised the system we're going to
announce today with the input of the Homeland Security Committee, and
one of the most energetic -- in giving us some very specific direction
during the meetings that we had happen to come from you and your department.
So we thank you very much for that.
Dale Watson, our friend from the FBI, we're glad to have you participate
because your team has been so involved, so very much involved in this.
And, Mayor McCrory from Charlotte, a good friend, it's great to see
you here, again along with your colleagues representing America's cities.
First of all, I want to publicly express my appreciation to Attorney
General Ashcroft and his extraordinary team at the Department of Justice,
as well as Bob Mueller and his team at the FBI, as well as my own Office
of Homeland Security. The staffs of these respective agencies and organizations
have been working for months, put long, long hours in to create this system.
And their extraordinary effort should be acknowledged in a public way.
If you want an example of why collaboration and cooperation and partnerships
are so important in our collective effort against terrorists and terrorism,
look no further. This is a perfect example of what happens when we cooperate
and collaborate and work together toward a common solution, once we've
identified the problem. So I say to all of you, well done.
Sixty years ago, this building, Constitution Hall, was used by the American
Red Cross to help the war effort. It was a time when the civilized world
fought enemies bent on our destruction, when civilization itself hung
in the balance, when Americans united to support the war effort and took
new measures to guard ourselves from attack here at home. In short, a
time very much like our own.
We, too, must take new measures to protect our cities, our resources
and people from the threat we face today, the threat of terrorism. That
is why today we announce the Homeland Security Advisory System. The Homeland
Security Advisory System is designed to measure and evaluate terrorist
threats and communicate them to the public in a timely manner. It is a
national framework; yet it is flexible to apply to threats made against
a city, a state, a sector, or an industry. It provides a common vocabulary,
so officials from all levels of government can communicate easily with
one another and to the public. It provides clear, easy to understand factors
which help measure threat.
And most importantly, it empowers government and citizens to take actions
to address the threat. For every level of threat, there will be a level
of preparedness. It is a system that is equal to the threat.
Here's how it works. The advisory system is based on five threat conditions
or five different alerts: low, guarded, elevated, high and severe. They're
going to be represented by five colors: green, blue, yellow, orange and
red -- as you can see by the screen and the graphic to my right and to
Now, the decision to name a threat condition will rest with the Attorney
General, after consulting with members of the Homeland Security Council,
after consulting with me. He will be responsible for communicating the
threat to law enforcement, state and local officials, and the public.
Now, a number of factors will be used to analyze the threat information:
Is it credible? Is it a credible source? Have we been able to corroborate
this threat? Is it specific as to time or place or method of attack? What
are the consequences if the attack is carried out? Can the attack be deterred?
Many factors go into the value judgment; many factors go into the assessment
of the intelligence.
Now, the American people want to know what is behind these alerts and,
to them, perhaps even more importantly, what shall we do in response to
them. I believe this system, when in full force and effect, will provide
those answers. For the first time, threat conditions will be coupled with
Now, for the moment, for the time being, as we are developing this system
with our state and local partners, these protective measures will apply
solely to the federal government. In time, they will apply to all levels
of government, every community, and hopefully, with buy-in from the private
sector, the companies in the private sector, as well.
Now, for example, under a guarded or blue condition -- that's a general
risk of terrorist attack -- federal agencies may review and update their
emergency response procedures. We want them to test their emergency communication
systems. They may also share with the public any information that would
strengthen our response.
The next threat condition is yellow or elevated, a significant risk
of terrorist attacks. Agencies under yellow condition may increase their
surveillance of critical locations, and implement contingency plans where
appropriate. Again, we have a level of threat, a level of preparedness,
and the recommendation that we give with regard to preparedness is a floor,
it's not the ceiling. And this is the same procedure and the same process
and engagement that we want the state and local communities to deal with.
Take a look at a level of threat, and then assess where your level of
preparedness should be. Now, obviously, we're going to be working with
the state and local communities in that assessment and in that effort,
Now, presently, the nation currently stands in the yellow condition,
in elevated risk. Chances are we will not be able to lower the condition
to green until, as the President said yesterday, the terror networks of
global reach have been defeated and dismantled. And we are far from being
able to predict that day.
And again, this is an information-based system. Based on the information
we know -- there may be some information and some things going on in the
world or in this country that we will know about. But when we get information,
and it is credible information, and corroborated, this system will kick
The fourth is the orange condition, which indicates a very high, high
risk of attack. And finally, the red condition, the highest or most severe
risk of attack. Under red you might see actions similar to the ones taken
on 9/11, when we basically grounded most or all of air traffic for an
extended period of time.
We anticipate and hope that businesses and hospitals and schools, even
individuals working with their community leaders to develop the local
plan, will develop their own protective measures for each threat condition.
This system is designed to encourage them to do just that.
The Homeland Security Advisory System also allows us to designate a
threat condition for the entire nation or a portion of this country. If
we received a credible threat at one of our national monuments, obviously,
the Secretary would be very interested in that -- it could be designated
orange, while the rest of the country remained at yellow. But that would
simply mean that the Department of Interior, based on that assessment
and the elevation of the risk, would have to elevate or extend the conditions
that she had prepared in advance, in response to the higher risk. Again,
level of risk, level of preparedness.
Because the threat varies, our system must be versatile and flexible
enough to meet it. Now, many states have told us that they are eager to
go ahead with their own threat advisory system. States encouraged us to
act. And now they have a template to guide their actions. Now, we will
not mandate -- the federal government cannot mandate the use of this system.
As the name implies, it is advisory.
If, for example, governors or mayors choose not to take extra protective
measures in face of a credible and specific threat -- or conversely, take
added measures for a threat that has passed -- that is their right. But
we are hopeful that with a 45-day review period, when they can take a
look at this advisory system and apply it to their communities and to
their states, and begin working on the measures that they'll take to protect
their communities and states, we will have a national system.
Finally, I think it is very important to underscore -- I think the Mayor
did it and Jay Stevens did it, and others will -- the system will not
eliminate risk; no system can. We face an enemy as ruthless and as cunning
and as unpredictable as any we have ever faced. Our intelligence may not
pick up every threat. And unlike natural disasters, as hurricanes, terrorists
can change their patterns and their plans based on our response, based
on what they see that we're doing. But the President has certainly pledged
to bring every possible human and technological resource to the task of
implementing this advisory system.
The Homeland Security Advisory System is designed to encourage partnerships.
And this can't be emphasized and reiterated enough. The system is designed
to encourage partnerships between the public and the private sectors,
between all levels of law enforcement and public safety officials, and
between -- and among all levels of government.
Our emerging national homeland security strategy will rely on the anti-terrorism
plans of all 50 states and the territories. But there are 3,300 counties
and parishes, and there are about 18,000 cities. So we all need to work
together to coordinate and collaborate our effort to be prepared. Working
together is the only way this system will work. It's the only way we can
have a national system.
The system is the end result of countless conversations with first responders,
local and state officials, business leaders and concerned citizens. And
I certainly express our appreciation for their input and their participation.
And for the next 45 days, we're going to ask all Americans to comment
on this system.
With a Homeland Security Advisory System, we hope to make America safer
and more aware. But we also hope to make America better and stronger.
Attorney General Ashcroft has said that information is the best friend
of protection. But not just prevention of terrorism, information is also
the best friend of crime prevention, fire prevention and disease prevention.
It often starts with one doctor, one police officer, one eyewitness. They
are America's eyes and ears. And we must work to get that information
from the grass roots to government in as quick a time as possible.
Six months after September 11th, our resolve is stronger than ever.
Our fight against terrorism is making real progress on both fronts, thanks
to the leadership of our President, the strong bipartisan support of these
initiatives in Congress, and the extraordinary work that our military
has done overseas.
However, we should not expect a V-T day, a victory over terrorism day
anytime soon. But that does not mean Americans are powerless against the
threat. On the contrary, ladies and gentlemen, we are more powerful than
the terrorists. We can fight them not just with conventional arms, but
with information and expertise and common sense; with freedom and openness
and truth; with partnerships born from our cooperation. If we do, then
like the men and women who fought Nazism and Fascism 60 years ago, our
outcome will be equally certain: victory for America, and safety for Americans.
But, as I said before, we're asking all federal departments and agencies
make this system work immediately, integrate their plans into this advisory
system, and work with us over the next 135 days to a final system.
It's certainly now my pleasure to introduce one of those members of
our Homeland Security Council who had so much input in the advisory system,
and who will help us make it happen, both nationally and within the federal
agencies, Secretary Gayle Norton. Madam Secretary. (Applause.)