24 January 2003
Ridge Becomes First U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
(New department begins task of protecting U.S. from terrorists) (500)
Washington -- Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge became the
nation's first secretary of Homeland Security as the new cabinet-level
department -- comprising 22 federal agencies and 170,000 employees --
launched operations January 24 to bolster efforts to protect the
United States from terrorist attack.
"It begins a vital mission in the defense of our country," Bush said
after Ridge was sworn in during a brief White House ceremony. Vice
President Cheney administered the oath of office to Ridge, whom Bush
described as "a superb leader who has my confidence."
Ridge took the oath of office two days after the U.S. Senate confirmed
his nomination unanimously.
"We've learned that vast oceans no longer protect us from the dangers
of a new era," Bush said. "This government has a responsibility to
confront the threat of terror wherever it is found. And that is why
we're taking the battle to America's enemies, disrupting their
networks, we're destroying their camps, we've got them on the run and
we're going to keep them on the run."
Ridge, a decorated Vietnam veteran, becomes the 15th member of the
president's Cabinet, joining the secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce,
Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and
Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation,
Treasury and Veterans Affairs, Bush said. Ridge was elected to the
U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 and served there for 12 years
before being elected governor of Pennsylvania in 1994 and being
re-elected in 1998.
Ridge resigned from the governorship in October 2001 shortly after the
terrorist attacks on the United States when President Bush asked him
to become director of the White House's Office of Homeland Security.
Former U.S. Representative Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, the current
director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, was confirmed by
the Senate January 23 as under secretary for Border and Transportation
Security in Homeland Security without dissent. And, the Senate
Governmental Affairs Committee conducted a confirmation hearing
January 24 for Navy Secretary Gordon England, who is the president's
nominee to become Ridge's deputy secretary of Homeland Security.
Bush sought to create a new federal agency that was designed to keep
Americans safer from terrorist attack. The U.S. Congress passed
legislation in November to create the department with a first-year
budget of approximately $37,450 million, which comes largely from the
existing federal agencies that will comprise the department. Creation
of the department is the largest reorganization of government since
1947, when the current national security apparatus was created at the
outset of the Cold War.
"The Department of Homeland Security will lead a comprehensive and
unified effort to defend this nation," Bush said. "The Department will
analyze threats; guard our borders and airports; safeguard critical
infrastructure and coordinate the response of our nation to future
Ridge was scheduled to conduct a news conference later January 24.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)