- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 16, 2002

With the Senate expected to act next week on legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security, the leadership of the new department is already taking shape.

Homeland security adviser Tom Ridge is expected to be named the department's secretary, and Secretary of the Navy Gordon England is expected to be named as his deputy. Administration sources further say that, among the larger portfolios, former CIA Deputy Director John Gannon will head up the new agency's intelligence branch, and DEA Director Asa Hutchinson will handle border security.

The announcement will be the second public introduction of Mr. Ridge, who stepped down last year as governor of Pennsylvania to take the post. When hastily trotted out during the post-September 11 anthrax scare, the White House had hoped to brand Mr. Ridge as the face of safety. But he was ill-prepared and only contributed to public unease and confusion.

That was then. Mr. Ridge has since spent his time deeply involved in the formation of the new department, and despite his apprehensions about accepting the post and all the congressional oversight that comes with it, the same administrative capabilities that made his two terms as governor of Pennsylvania a success make him well-qualified to lead homeland security.

For a brief time, Mr. England was considered as possible secretary, but White House aides voiced concern over his ability to navigate the often-turbulent political waters. Indeed, as the Navy's top man, Mr. England has had his dust-ups with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld but few Pentagon players haven't. Overall, Mr. England is given strong marks for his no-nonsense approach to management.

Mr. Hutchinson, meanwhile, has a strong record during his short tenure at the DEA, scoring significant hits against Colombia's drug-trafficking rebels and Mexico's bloody Tijuana cartel. Perhaps more important than his administrative skills are Mr. Hutchinson's strong connections on Capitol Hill. During his three terms as an Arkansas representative, Mr. Hutchinson earned a reputation as as a workhorse and rarer still as someone who exudes confidence without excessive egotism.

All of these leadership appointments, of course, depend upon Senate passage of the homeland security bill. After months of squabbling over such issues as presidential authority in hiring and firing an election-year sop by Senate Democrats to organized labor senators finally got around this week to reading the legislation. Now, however, Senate Democrats have raised new concerns, ranging from special-interest favors to trial lawyers to civil-liberties intrusions. Some of these are worrisome; most are merely partisan jabs. Meanwhile, deadline after deadline for final voting by the Senate has slipped.

The homeland security bill is far from a perfect creature. It's virtually impossible to perfectly redesign so much government in so short a time, and Senate passage will be only one step in what will doubtless be a continual process of congressional modifications. But Senate Democrats should end their obstructionism and pass the bill and let Secretary Ridge get on with the job.


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