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28 February 2003

Bush Welcomes Official Launching of Homeland Security Department

(Says new agency will defend nation against cyber-terrorism, WMD)
(2520)

On the day before the official beginning of the Department of Homeland
Security, President Bush noted that the new Cabinet department was
"created ... in a time of war."

The president offered no gilt-edged guarantees against the work of
terrorists. But, he said, "we're determined to do everything in our
power to defeat this enemy and to defend our people, while upholding
the great Constitution of the United States of America."

Bush noted that the new agency is "charged with strengthening our
defenses against cyber-terrorism and the even-greater dangers of
biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. We've established a science
and technology directorate within the department so we can apply some
of our nation's best minds to the task of protecting our people." One
project would be "to develop and deploy the technologies for detecting
weapons of mass destruction. As these technologies are deployed,
border inspectors will have better tools to intercept dangerous
materials before they enter our country," the president said.

The president noted that this week he sent Congress a proposal to
spend nearly $6 billion on Project BioShield, a research and
production effort to guard against bioterrorism, which will make
available vaccines and other treatments against biological agents such
as anthrax, botulism, plague and ebola.

Bush said the department of Homeland Security is "also providing more
information about suspected terrorists to state and local law
enforcement agencies. And with this new department, state and local
officials will now have a single point of contact to help them address
the needs of the local area."

The president also noted that the new agency is "charged with
safeguarding our border and transportation system. ... [W]e need to
know who's coming in and going out of our country. We're working with
our good friends, Canada and Mexico, to strengthen our law enforcement
at the borders."

Bush said that on March 1, "four different organizations that patrol
and enforce laws at our borders will be integrated into a new Bureau
of Customs and Border Protection." The purpose, he said, is to unify
inspection and enforcement functions at the border so legitimate
visitors and goods may enter while giving us better tools to stop
terrorists, narcotraffickers and dangerous materials.

Also, inspectors will be posted at more than 20 ports around the world
to inspect U.S.-bound high-risk cargo before it embarks for U.S.
ports, the president said.

The White House transcript of the president's remarks follows. (Note:
in the transcript, billion equals 1,000 million.)

(begin transcript)

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
February 28, 2003

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE NEW EMPLOYEES OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT
OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Washington, D.C.

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for the warm welcome. It is a -- it's an honor
for me to speak to the men and women who go to work every day and
every night to protect our great country. Since the day this nation
was attacked, you have been on the front lines on the war against
terror. You've worked hard under urgent and sometimes incredibly
difficult circumstances. America is really grateful.

Tomorrow marks a historic day for our government and for our country.
Around 170,000 people from more than 20 federal agencies will
officially join the new Department of Homeland Security, creating a
more effective, organized and united defense of our homeland. Every
member of this new department accepts an essential mission to prevent
another terrorist attack. Yours is a vital and important step in
reorganizing our government to meet the threats of a new era as we
continue the work of securing this country.

I picked a good man to be the first Cabinet Secretary of this new
department, a man who's got courage to lead, a man who speaks clearly
about our goals, a man who understands accountability, and I
appreciate my friend Tom Ridge for serving in this capacity.
(Applause.)

I want to thank other members of my Cabinet who are here for this
historic announcement. Attorney General John Ashcroft. Mr. General,
thank you for coming. Ann Veneman, of the Department of Agriculture is
with us today. Norm Mineta. Norm just got out of the hospital.
(Applause.) Norm did an incredible job on the Transportation Security
Agency. He was given a task that a lot of people thought would -- the
Department of Transportation could never accomplish. And thanks to his
leadership and his team, he did a fabulous job. You're looking pretty
darn good to me, by the way. (Applause.)

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, honored she is with us today. I
appreciate so very much Sam Bodman, the Deputy Secretary of Commerce
being with us. Admiral James Loy, who is the Under Secretary of the
Department of Transportation, is with us. Thank you for coming. Janet
Hale, the Under Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; Mike
Brown, the Under Secretary-designee at the Department of Homeland
Security; Dr. Charles McQueary, the Under Secretary-designee,
Department of Homeland Security, who I'll talk about a little bit
later.

Commandant Tom Collins of the Coast Guard is with us today. I
appreciate so very much Robert Mueller, who is the head of the FBI, as
well. Robert Bonner, runs the Customs Service. Ralph Basham, head of
the Secret Service. I really like the head of the Secret Service.
(Laughter.) If you know what I mean. (Laughter.)

Michael Garcia, INS; Chief Gus de la Vina, who is the Border Patrol.
The men and women on the stage who represent thousands of our fellow
citizens who care a lot about our country, the people in the audience,
thank you for giving me a chance to come.

The world changed on September the 11th, 2001. We learned that a
threat that gathers on the other side of the earth can strike our own
cities and kill our own citizens. It's an important lesson; one we
must never forget. Oceans no longer protect America from the dangers
of this world. We're protected by daily vigilance at home. And we will
be protected by resolute and decisive action against threats abroad.

We're tracking down terrorists who hate America, one by one. We're on
the hunt. We got them on the run. And it's a matter of time before
they learn the meaning of American justice. We're opposing terror
regimes that are arming with weapons of mass destruction to threaten
the peace and freedom of this world. And we're taking unprecedented
measures to defend the homeland with the largest reorganization of our
government in more than a half a century.

The agencies that join the Department of Homeland Security tomorrow
will retain their longstanding responsibilities. And, of course, the
individuals who join the department will retain their rights as
federal workers. Each agency, with its own proud and honored
tradition, will also gain a new mandate and must adopt a new mindset.
We created this Cabinet department in a time of war. And every
professional in the Department of Homeland Security plays a valuable
role in winning the first war of the 21st century. For a vast and free
nation, there is no such thing as perfect security. No such thing as a
100-percent guarantee that we're protected against the hidden network
of cold-blooded killers. Yet, we're determined to do everything in our
power to defeat this enemy and to defend our people, while upholding
the great Constitution of the United States of America.

We've taken some critical steps to increase homeland security, and
there's more work for this department to do. The Department of
Homeland Security is charged with analyzing the vulnerabilities of our
nation's critical infrastructure, from dams to banks to seaports. And
when our intelligence agencies learn of new threats, the department
will move quickly to take protective action.

In meeting this responsibility, the department will be a full partner
in the new Terrorism Threat Integration Center which will integrate
and analyze all threat information collected domestically and abroad
in a single location. When the Center is fully operational, it will
fully house a database of known and suspected terrorists that
officials across this country will be able to access and to act upon.

In these and other efforts, the FBI, and the CIA, are communicating
and cooperating as never before. The FBI has made preventing terrorism
its top priority, and increased agents assigned to counter-terror
efforts by nearly 40 percent. I want to thank the leadership of Bob
Mueller. He and the agents who work for the FBI are doing a fantastic
job on behalf of the American people. (Applause.)

The Department of Homeland Security is also charged with strengthening
our defenses against cyber-terrorism and the even greater dangers of
biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. We've established a science
and technology directorate within the department so we can apply some
of our nation's best minds to the task of protecting our people.

I've nominated a good man, Dr. Charles McQueary, to head up this
effort. His team is engaged in a major effort to develop and deploy
the technologies for detecting weapons of mass destruction. As these
technologies are deployed, border inspectors will have better tools to
intercept dangerous materials before they enter our country. Emergency
services personnel will be able to identify biological or chemical
weapons and agents so they can use the most effective decontamination
methods available. And as part of the BioWatch Initiative, we are
deploying early warning sensors around the country to help detect
potential biological attacks.

This week, I sent to Congress my proposal for Project BioShield, a
major research and production effort to guard our people against
bioterrorism. I've requested nearly $6 billion for this project, to
quickly make available effective vaccines and treatments against
agents like anthrax, botulinum toxin, ebola, and plague. We must
assume that our enemies would use these diseases as weapons. And we
must act before the dangers are upon us. I urge the Congress to pass
this legislation as soon as possible.

The Department of Homeland Security is charged with promoting
cooperation between Washington and state and local governments. Our
enemies can strike anywhere in America, and we must be ready to
respond in a coordinated way. Through the Homeland Security Advisory
System, we have created a unified process for alerting government
officials and the public of current threats. We're also providing more
information about suspected terrorists to state and local law
enforcement agencies. And with this new department, state and local
officials will now have a single point of contact to help them address
the needs of the local area.

The Department of Homeland Security is charged with safeguarding our
border and transportation systems. September the 11th taught us that
terrorists will try to use the openness of our country against us. We
must understand and correct our vulnerabilities. And we need to know
who's coming in and who's going out of our country. We're working with
our good friends, Canada and Mexico, to strengthen our law enforcement
at the borders.

The Transportation Security Administration has assigned thousands of
air marshals to commercial flights and deployed more than 50,000 newly
trained airport screeners. TSA is also screening all checked luggage
at our airports -- up from 5 percent before September the 11th, 2001.
Starting tomorrow, four different organizations that patrol and
enforce laws at our borders will be integrated into a new Bureau of
Customs and Border Protection. This bureau will unify border
inspection and enforcement functions, so that legitimate visitors and
goods can enter the United States, while giving us better tools to
help deny entry to terrorists, drug traffickers and dangerous
materials.

Inspectors will be posted at more than 20 ports around the world to
examine high-risk cargo before it sets sail to our country. The new
department is charged with responding to any terror attack that may
come. We are moving forward on essential preparations here in America.

Over the past 18 months, we have significantly enhanced our national
stockpile of critical drugs, vaccines and other medical supplies.
Supplies from this stockpile can be delivered wherever they are
needed, anywhere in this country, within 12 hours. We've provided more
than $900 million in support to help state and local responders and
emergency managers prepare for terrorist attacks. And we've supported
the training of more than 100,000 first responders since September the
11th, 2001.

I proposed record funding for the first responders, $3.5 billion in
the current budget. I've also requested another $3.5 billion in the
2004 budget. Unfortunately, the Congress was late in passing the
appropriation bill of 2003. They reduced my total request for state
and local enforcement and emergency personnel by $1 billion, and
designated part of the funding to go to other priorities. I signed the
appropriations bill to make sure that we can finally begin to
distribute funding to the states. The leaders in the House and Senate
are aware of my concerns, and they share them. These leaders know that
I will continue to do everything in my power to direct as much of this
funding as possible toward training and equipping police, fire
fighters, and EMTs [emergency medical technicians] to prepare and
respond to potential terrorist attacks.

Beginning tomorrow, the Department of Homeland Security will be
responsible for coordinating our national response to terrorist
attacks. Secretary Ridge has already created a 24/7 Homeland Security
Center, ready to act at the first sign of any emergency. And I'll be
issuing a directive ordering the establishment of a unified national
incident management system. The system will provide government
agencies with common procedures and standards for preparing and
responding to emergencies.

Our nation has great challenges in securing our homeland, but we've
got even greater advantages. We've got people like you all who serve
with skill and, frankly, don't get enough credit for the work you do.
Of course, you're not here to get the credit, you're here to do your
job. We've got brave and honorable men and women serving in our
military, including the Coast Guard, ready to accomplish any mission
they are given. And they will do so with courage and skill and honor.

Above all, we have the courage and character of the American people
who are resolved to prevent further attacks on our homeland. March 1st
marks an important day for our government and for our country. The
work ahead won't always be easy. You've accepted a difficult mission.
But I'm confident in the success of our efforts, because I'm confident
in you.

I want to thank each of you for your service in freedom's cause. There
is no doubt in my mind that this nation will prevail in this war
against terror, because we're the greatest nation, full of the finest
people, on the face of this earth.

May God bless your work, and may God continue to bless America.
(Applause.)

(end transcript)

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Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)