- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

From combined dispatches
With an anxious nation on high alert for terrorist reprisals, President Bush yesterday installed former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge as head of a new Office of Homeland Security. "America is going to be prepared," Mr. Bush pledged.
Mr. Ridge said his new task is one to "detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks an extraordinary mission, but we will carry it out."
"The terrorists will not take away our way of life," said Mr. Ridge at the East Room ceremony.
Mr. Ridge, who had already taken a West Wing office and a seat in Mr. Bush's Monday morning FBI briefing, was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Mr. Ridge bent to kiss his daughter, Lesley, and whispered, "I love you."
"The size and scope of this challenge are immense," said Mr. Ridge moments after he was sworn in. His job, he added, is to close the gaps in the nation's current anti-terrorism efforts gaps that permitted small cells of terrorists to kill thousands in the Sept. 11 attacks.
As if to underscore the real threat of additional attacks, original plans for Vice President Richard B. Cheney to give Mr. Ridge the oath of office were scrapped so that Mr. Cheney could remain at an undisclosed location.
Mr. Bush promised that civil liberties would not fall victim to new security. "We will defend our country and, while we do so, we will not sacrifice the freedoms that make our land unique," Mr. Bush said.
The installation of Mr. Ridge, who will report directly to the president, came a day after the United States and Britain launched the first attacks against military targets and bin Laden's terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. The FBI is urging law enforcement agencies nationwide to "be at the highest level of vigilance and be prepared to respond to any act of terrorism or violence."
The Cabinet-level position encompasses an enormous area, from protecting energy production, information and transport systems to reviewing the effectiveness of all federal emergency response plans. The number of possible targets is endless, from nuclear power plants to crowded subway trains.
Mr. Ridge, 56, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran and former congressman, will have an office just paces from the Oval Office. He will get a staff of nearly 100, most of whom are currently working for the White House or other agencies, and a dozen of whom are his own.
Critics have questioned how much clout Mr. Ridge will have. Although Mr. Bush named him to his Cabinet, Mr. Ridge is not one of the 14 Cabinet members installed under federal law, each with his own budget and authority. Each president may designate any number of other top advisers as "Cabinet-level," and that is what Mr. Bush did with Mr. Ridge.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Mr. Ridge will have "significant input" into the budgets of 40 agencies involved in homeland security, though his budget will be part of the White House's.
A Homeland Security Council consisting of Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Ridge and various agency heads will tackle domestic terrorism much as the National Security Council advises the president on international affairs.
As the nation went to battle, the administration sought to heighten Americans' awareness of possible terrorist retaliation without alarming them. "The American people need to be alert threats do remain," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said. "This is a war."

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide