Statement by Secretary Tom Ridge before the National Commission
on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
New York, N.Y.
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
May 19, 2004
(Remarks as Prepared)
Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice Chairman and members of the
Commission. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak with
you today and respond to your questions.
It is a solemn duty in which you are each currently engaged,
even more so as we meet so close to the site of the most devastating
terrorist tragedy in our nation's storied history. No one is
to the grief and sorrow of that September day nearly three years
ago –certainly not those with loved ones who passed away
at the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, or aboard Flight 93.
New Yorkers bore a disproportionate amount of our collective
we have heard this morning from Mayor Giuliani and others who
witnessed the destruction first hand. Like them, I witnessed
tragedy first hand, on my own turf. I held a public office when
the brave passengers of Flight 93 made their heroic goodbyes
in the skies above my home state, Pennsylvania, and then fell
our grateful embrace forever.
As I said to the families of Pennsylvanians then -- and repeated
many times since -- we are thankful for the strength and resolve
of the families of all 9/11 victims. You have been patient and
persistent; and the work of this commission will no doubt bring
further honor to your sacrifices and those of your loved ones,
too soon gone, but never forgotten.
In the days, weeks, and months following September 11th, 2001,
our country came together as one to honor the victims by waving
flags, donating blood, volunteering time, and publicly expressing
their patriotism like never before in our history. As time passed,
and the initial shock faded, the memories of that day continued
to heat the passion of our nation. 9/11 steeled our resolve to
protect this country, to bring terrorists to justice, to secure
our homeland, and take preventive measures so that a tragedy of
this magnitude will never happen again.
The thick emotions of September 11th were the vivid backdrop to
the conversation I had with President Bush about going to Washington
to help him secure the country. His bold leadership in the days
following the attack brought our country together like never before.
And with his arm around New York's finest, he used a bullhorn to
put terrorists on watch with his words -- never again. Never again.
His resolve is unwavering. I share his sense of duty to this country,
and to the families, friends, and fellow citizens of everyone we
lost. We know that we must make the full protection of our citizens,
the highest charge of our Nation.
So we went to work. We called on the best and brightest minds.
We sought out the most advanced technologies. We began to build
and bolster security throughout the country. We worked to reduce
the vulnerabilities that were exploited on September 11th, and
to think analytically about those that could be exploited in the
future. We examined our critical infrastructure, our transportation
systems, our borders, our ports, and, of course, the skies overhead.
Nothing was beyond our scope of analysis.
Securing our homeland and protecting our citizens is a monumental
task. We must guard thousands of miles of borders, shoreline, highways,
railways, and waterways. This monumental task required a monumental
Federal effort, which is why President Bush and the Congress showed
strong leadership -- the right leadership -- and worked together
to create the Department of Homeland Security. This Department,
the combined efforts of 180,000 people and 22 component agencies,
provides a central point of command for the protection of our country
and citizens and a common vision for preserving our freedoms and
securing the homeland.
The result? We are more secure today than yesterday, and we will
be more secure tomorrow than today. We took the challenge head-on.
And you can see and feel the difference in ways large and small.
Before September 11th, ticket agents asked who packed a traveler's
bags, but little else was done in the airport or the aircraft to
provide security. Today, we have deployed newly trained screeners
and thousands of Federal Air Marshals, hardened cockpit doors on
aircraft, and introduced state-of-the-art technologies, which,
from the curb to the cockpit, have made airline travel safer.
Before September 11th, visitors at our borders faced an inspection
process with distinct and disparate purposes. Today, we have
unified that process to present "one face" at the border and
have deployed advanced technologies like US-VISIT, student exchange
special lanes for pre-cleared travelers and cargo that all welcome
the free flow of trade and travelers, but keep terrorists out.
US-VISIT, in particular, is using the smart technology of biometrics
to speed the entry of foreign travelers -- 4 million passengers
have been processed to date -- and stop criminals, more than 400
have been apprehended or prevented from entering the country.
Before September 11th, we never looked in a container of cargo
until it reached our shores, though nearly 20,000 containers arrive
in our ports every single day. Now, as I speak, there are U.S.
inspectors in Rotterdam, in Singapore, in Hong Kong, and 14 other
international ports of trade, working alongside our allies to target
and screen cargo. They add another layer safety to protect world
Before September 11th, our national stockpile of medications to
protect Americans against a bioterrorist attack was drastically
undersupplied. Today, we have stockpiled a billion doses of antibiotics
and vaccines, including enough smallpox vaccine for every man,
woman, and child in America.
Before September 11th, as so many here today understand, our first
preventers and first responders lacked the financial resources
and equipment they needed to respond together to a crisis. And
yet, today, we have allocated or awarded more than $8 billion dollars
for our state and local partners across the country and have developed
new standards for interoperable communications equipment and protective
Right here in New York, nearly $430 million of that money has
been put to use for much-needed equipment and training, critical
assets that can help folks on the front lines perform their duties
quickly and safely, at any emergency scene.
Lastly, before September 11th, agencies in the Federal government
saw very little need to share information and intelligence between
themselves, let alone with state and local officials. And yet,
today secure communications technologies and expanded clearances,
along with the shared language of the Homeland Security Advisory
System, create a powerful and constant two-way flow of threat
information between the Federal government and our partners across
and around the world. There may be some who would be tempted
to minimize these security enhancements. They would be wrong.
wrong. In every imaginable way possible, we have made a
real difference in securing our people and our homeland, and
more changes ahead. The successful integration of people and
technology for a greater purpose has had a genuine result.
Thanks to new layered protections on air, land, and sea, our Nation
is better protected and more secure today than we've ever been.
But, of course, there is still plenty of work left to be done.
In particular, we are making great progress in two areas of concern
to this Commission, to all New Yorkers, and to citizens across
the country. Today, I would like to focus my remarks on these two
issues. First, building new intelligence and information sharing
capabilities; and, second, establishing true interoperability throughout
the emergency preparedness community.
In order to accomplish these goals, we had to build bridges to
one another, ones that interconnected capabilities and people,
ones that invited, rather than impeded, two-way channels of communication.
We knew from the outset that our vast scope of protective measures
had to build upon our existing strengths but, more importantly,
be reconstructed in a way that unified and facilitated accuracy,
speed, openness, and easy access for all those involved in the
hard work of securing this country every day. Sometimes, to move
forward, it requires a step back. And that's exactly what we did.
Through initiatives like the Terrorist Threat Integration Center
(TTIC) and the U.S. Patriot Act, we began tearing down the walls
that prevented our policy makers from having the benefit of intelligence
analyses that were based on all available information. Now,
we are building more integrated and coordinated homeland security,
intelligence, and law enforcement communities that keep people
informed with all the information they need to know.
We began dismantling roadblocks that once prevented communication
between the Federal government and our partners in states, cities,
counties and towns across America, not to mention our international
partners. Now, we are replacing them with an active, multi-layered
communication system between all levels of government, all around
the world. That enhances cooperation and the sharing of information
We began to eliminate old obstacles that divided the tremendous
capabilities of thousands of security professionals from police
officers to sheriffs and fire fighters to EMTs. Now, we are enhancing
the abilities of first responders with interoperable standards
for communications and equipment. So that those on the front lines
of homeland security can do their jobs to the best of their abilities
with the tools they need to succeed.
Knowledge is a fundamental principle of our effort to secure our
borders. The Department has made widespread coordination and information
sharing the hallmark of our new approach to homeland security.
And we have developed new tools for communication that reach horizontally
across Federal departments and agencies and vertically to our partners
at the state, local, territorial, and tribal levels.
First, we interface with all components of the Intelligence Community,
including the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (or TTIC), in
order to synthesize, analyze and apply information collected from
thousands of sources, ranging from electronic surveillance to human
Let me be clear, the Department of Homeland Security is not specifically
in the traditional intelligence collection business -- although
many of our components collect significant amounts of information
-- but we are definitely in the analysis and application business.
We turn this information into action and implementation, which
we then disseminate to those who can strengthen security.
That happens primarily under the umbrella of the Homeland Security
Advisory System. This communication tool includes the color-coded
Threat Condition, as well as several products such as Information
Bulletins and Threat Advisories that allow us to tailor specific
information for specific recipients, for instance a part of the
country or an individual sector of society.
This communications process represents the first ever centralized,
integrated effort of its kind in the Federal government and a vast
improvement from the fragmented system that existed before. It
not only outlines threats, but also recommends specific steps that
can be taken to heighten readiness or improve physical protections.
This is about more than the dissemination of information. This
is about achieving the right outcome.
We see communication as a two-way process. We collect information
from the field and listen to what our partners need from us in
order to do their jobs better. This means heightened awareness,
better intelligence, wiser decisions, and improved coordination
at every level.
We have created several new two-way channels of communication,
including the National Infrastructure Coordination Center (or
for the private sector, and the Homeland Security Information Network
(or HSIN) –created for use by government entities.
The NICC provides a centralized mechanism for the private sector,
industry representatives, individual companies and the Information
Sharing and Analysis Centers, or ISACs, to share and receive situational
information about a threat, event, or crisis. The Homeland Security
Information Network (HSIN) is a real-time collaboration system
that allows multiple jurisdictions, disciplines and emergency operation
centers to receive and share the same intelligence and tactical
information, so that those who need to act on information have
the same overall situational awareness.
This year, we are expanding this information network to include
senior decision makers such as Governors, Homeland Security Advisors
and Emergency Operations Centers in all 50 states, territories,
tribal governments and major urban areas. By the end of the summer,
we will achieve real-time nationwide connectivity. More information,
more integration, better coordination.
Both of these important communication networks support the Homeland
Security Operations Center, a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week nerve center
that enables the Department to monitor activity across the country.
It's important to note: these are tools of prevention, tools designed
to stop an attack before it ever takes place.
Achieving this same kind of coordination throughout the first
responder community is one of the greatest challenges facing
our country. So many people here today know that part of the
of September 11th was that equipment didn't work across jurisdictions
and disciplines. We have heard that fire department radios couldn't
transmit to police department radios. And brave firefighters
rushing in from other cities and even neighborhoods were, in
unable to assist because the couplings that attach "hoses to hydrants" simply
wouldn't fit; they weren't compatible.
This problem has to be fixed, and there is both an immediate and
longer term solution. There are immediate steps the Department
can take in the short term, while we focus everyone's attention
on a long-term, integrated solution to overall interoperability.
Already, the Department has identified technical specifications
for a baseline incident interoperable communication system that
will allow first responders to communicate with each other during
a crisis, regardless of frequency or mode of communication.
We also recently announced the first comprehensive Statement of
Requirements for communications throughout the first responder
community and the first set of standards regarding personal protective
equipment developed to protect first responders against chemical,
biological, radiological and nuclear incidents, helping them to
protect themselves, as they work to protect others.
I am pleased to report that all of the Department's efforts in
this area will be coordinated by a new Office of Interoperability
and Compatibility, which we will officially launch in the near
future. This office will focus not just on interoperable communications,
but also on the gear and equipment that will be used by multiple
jurisdictions, firefighters and police officers from different
neighborhoods, as they join together to respond to a major event.
In addition, this Office has initiated a program aimed at providing
communications interoperability at disaster sites in the near term.
And we expect multiple cities to achieve this goal sometime this
These immediate steps at the Federal level will begin to build
a foundation for longer-term efforts and a truly national solution.
This second track will require leadership at the state and local
level. In other words, a resolve not to let an incompatible radio
frequency or a too-small/too-large piece of safety equipment impede
the ability of brave men and women to save the lives of citizens,
as well as their own. A truly nationwide interoperable system demands
commitment from leaders at all levels, and we are already beginning
to see a commitment to this important principle.
It's an example of people coming together around a shared idea,
and the shared responsibility of protecting our homeland.
Homeland security is about the integration of a nation, everyone
pledged to freedom's cause, everyone its protector, and everyone
It's about the integration of people and technology to make us
smarter, safer, more sophisticated, and better protected.
It's about the integration of our national efforts, not one department
or one organization, but everyone tasked with our Nation's protection.
Every day, we work to make America more secure. Every day, the
memories of September 11th inspire us to live our vision of preserving
our freedoms, protecting America, enjoying our liberties, and secu