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U.S. Department of Homeland Security  
  

04 March 2004

Ridge Discusses Security Accomplishments and Remaining Goals

Homeland Security secretary testifies on fiscal 2005 budget

"Americans are indeed safer today" than they were a year ago when the Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security first began operations, according to Secretary Tom Ridge.

"In a short time, we've strengthened airline security, increased vigilance at our borders and ports, forged unprecedented partnerships across the private sector and state and local governments, improved information sharing, launched robust efforts to engage citizens in preparedness efforts, and distributed funds and resources for our dedicated first responders," Ridge said in prepared remarks to the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on March 4.

"Of course," Ridge continued, "there is still more we can and must do." That's the reason the Homeland Security budget requests a 10-percent increase -- to $40.2 billion -- for fiscal year 2005, he said.

Ridge said the budget increases are targeted and include the following specific areas:

-- BORDER AND PORT SECURITY: A $411-million increase is requested for Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Coast Guard. These funds will support initiatives such as the US-VISIT program now operational at 115 airports and 14 seaports.

Also requested is more than $64 million to enhance monitoring efforts along the border and between ports, as well as an additional $186 million to better enforce U.S. immigration policies. Furthermore, the budget request includes $25 million in extra funding for the Container Security Initiative to enhance security at existing ports and to expand the program to 10 additional high-volume ports.

-- AVIATION SECURITY: The Transportation Security Administration requests an additional $892 million to continue to improve the quality and efficiency of passenger screening. Additional funds will be requested to continue the research and deployment of air cargo screening technology, as well as to accelerate the development of technologies to counter the threat of portable anti-aircraft missiles.

-- BIO-WEAPONS PROTECTION: DHS is also involved in a joint, $274-million Bio-Surveillance Program Initiative with the Department of Health and Human Services, designed to enhance ongoing surveillance programs for human health, hospitals, vaccines, food supply, state and local preparedness, and environmental monitoring, and to integrate them.

-- FUNDING EMERGENCY PERSONNEL: The total funding request for emergency personnel -- "first responders" -- includes a $3.5-billion increase to the more than $8 billion allocated since March 1, 2003. One problem on September 11th was that equipment didn't work across jurisdictions and disciplines, Ridge noted. "First on the scene and often the last to leave," first responders must be able to communicate and work together in a crisis, he said. That means they need "interoperable, innovative, and integrated equipment and systems," Ridge said.

Following is the text of Ridge's prepared statement:

(begin text)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Press Release
March 4, 2004

(PREPARED FOR DELIVERY)

REMARKS BY SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY TOM RIDGE BEFORE THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HOMELAND SECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE

(Washington, D.C.)
Mar. 4, 2004

SECRETARY RIDGE: Mr. Chairman, Representative Sabo, and Members of the Subcommittee, I'm grateful for the opportunity to appear before you today and present the President's budget and priorities for the Department of Homeland Security in the coming year.

Before the tragic events of 9/11, no single government entity had homeland security as its primary charge.

With the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, that charge is now ours: 22 agencies, 180,000 employees brought together to pursue a single mission. That mission -- to secure our nation and citizens from the threats of terrorism and natural disaster -- is one that does not change or lessen in importance with the passing of time.

As we celebrate our one-year anniversary as a department this week, it is the steadfast support of this Congress and the resources you have provided that have made it possible for us to not only carry out a vigorous and ambitious slate of security initiatives, but also to say with confidence that Americans are indeed safer today.

In a short time, we've strengthened airline security, increased vigilance at our borders and ports, forged unprecedented partnerships across the private sector and state and local governments, improved information sharing, launched robust efforts to engage citizens in preparedness efforts, and distributed funds and resources for our dedicated first responders.

Of course, there is still more we can and must do. The President's budget request for the Department in fiscal year 2005 includes $40.2 billion in new resources -- a 10 percent increase above the current year's level. This increase in funding will provide the resources we need to expand and improve existing projects and programs as well as build new barriers to terrorists who wish us harm.

Let me touch briefly on a couple of areas where specific increases in our resources will help us continue to make progress at our borders, in our skies, on our waterways, and throughout the nation.

To further strengthen our border and port security, this budget includes a $411 million increase for our Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Coast Guard. This funding will support such innovative initiatives as the recently launched US-VISIT program, which is now operational at 115 airports and 14 seaports across the country to help ensure that our borders remain open to legitimate travelers but closed to terrorists.

That program has been very successful, utilizing biometric technology to process more than 1.7 million legitimate passengers since the beginning of the year and since the program began we have matched more than 150 potential entrants against criminal watch lists.

With additional funding of $340 million we will continue to expand US-VISIT to include 50 of our busiest land ports and additional seaports as well.

However, we realize that potential enemies will not always arrive at a customs checkpoint.

That is why we have more than $64 million to enhance monitoring efforts along the border and between ports. And we have also requested an increase of $186 million to better enforce our immigration policies.

We are also pushing our perimeter of security outward, making sure that our borders are the last line of defense, not the first.

The Container Security Initiative [CSI], for example, focuses on pre-screening cargo before it even reaches our ports, and this budget includes $25 million in additional funding to enhance our presence at existing ports and to begin the final phase of CSI -- especially in high-risk areas around the world. We will expand CSI to 10 additional high-volume ports, as well as work with the private sector to facilitate compliance with new maritime security regulations.

Also, the Coast Guard's budget will increase by nine percent, which includes funding for the continuation of their Integrated Deepwater System, and important new resources of more than $100 million to implement the Maritime Transportation Security Act.

One of the areas of greatest concern since September 11th, of course, has been aviation security. And, thus, it continues to be an area of high priority for our budget -- with an increase of 20 percent this year. The Transportation Security Administration will receive an additional $892 million to continue to improve the quality and efficiency of the screening process. Also, considerable funds will be available to continue the research and deployment of air cargo screening technology, as well as accelerate the development of technologies that can counter the threat of portable anti-aircraft missiles.

While we have seen the havoc possible when aircraft are used as weapons, we have yet to experience the full impact of a bio-terror attack -- and may we never have to do so.

But we must be prepared. In that spirit, [Department of Health and Human Services] Secretary Tommy Thompson and I announced a $274 million Bio-Surveillance Program Initiative designed to protect the nation against bioterrorism and to strengthen the public health infrastructure. The initiative will enhance ongoing surveillance programs for human health, hospitals, vaccines, food supply, state and local preparedness, and environmental monitoring -- and integrate them into one comprehensive system.

In addition, one of our prime responsibilities is to gather intelligence and share information with the private sector and state and local officials as we work to secure the vast critical infrastructure upon which our economy and way of life depends. That is why Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection will receive $864.6 million -- an increase in funding that will enable us to carry out this important task.

Finally, as I have said many times in the past, for the homeland to be secure, the hometown must be secure. That is why we continue to funnel resources to our state and local partners, as well as ensure that those who serve on the frontlines of this new war -- our firefighters, police, and medical personnel -- have the tools they need.

With that in mind, the total first responder funding in this budget adds another $3.5 billion to the more than $8 billion we have made available since March 1st of last year. As we know part of the tragedy of September 11th was that equipment didn't work across jurisdictions and disciplines.

Our first responders are first on the scene and often the last to leave; their ability to communicate and work together in the event of a crisis is paramount. So let me emphasize: We want to ensure that when federal money is spent, it fosters interoperability. The focus must be on the outcomes of our inputs. And so, as we work with our partners to give our first responders the tools they need -- we will do so in a way that encourages the end result we all want and need: interoperable, innovative, and integrated equipment and systems.

These are just some of our budget priorities over the coming year, priorities that reflect the vast nature of our mission. Whether safeguarding America from terrorist attack or providing aid in the face of natural disaster, our charge never changes, our course never alters.

To protect the people we serve is the greatest call of any government. Through the work of many -- from those in Congress who allocate resources to a mayor who works to fill gaps in his city's security to a citizen who makes a preparedness kit -- that call is being answered and embraced by an entire nation.

And it is that singleness and dedication of purpose that fuels our work at Homeland Security and ultimately will help us defeat the terrorist enemies we face.

Thank you.

(end text)