- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

The nomination of Tom Ridge to head the new Homeland Security Department hit the fast track yesterday and his confirmation was recommended by a Senate panel just hours after his hearing.
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved the former Pennsylvania governor to the post after a four-hour hearing. The full Senate is expected to vote on the nomination Tuesday.
Mr. Ridge's easy passage through the panel was foreshadowed by overwhelming Democratic support expressed in his hearing.
"I am pleased the president has asked you to serve our nation as the first director of Homeland Security," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. "I am one of your greatest fans. I will enthusiastically and overwhelmingly support your quick confirmation."
Added Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat: "You are the right man for the job."
Mr. Ridge was appointed by President Bush to be his White House adviser on homeland security after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
The new department will merge 22 agencies for a total of 170,000 employees and is set to open Jan. 24. It is the largest federal government reorganization in a half-century.
"We face a hate-filled, remorseless enemy that takes many forms, has many places to hide, is often invisible, and does not distinguish between innocent civilians and military combatants," Mr. Ridge said.
"Terrorism directly threatens the foundations of our nation, our people, our freedom and our economic prosperity," Mr. Ridge said.
Both sides registered concerns that turf battles among agencies will create future problems.
"Bureaucratic turf needs to be ripped up," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and ranking committee member.
Sen. Susan Collins, committee chairman and Maine Republican, agreed turf battles will be a challenge under the new structure.
"Currently, as many as 100 federal agencies are responsible for homeland security, but not one has homeland security as its primary mission. When that many entities are responsible, none is really accountable and turf battles and bureaucratic disputes are inevitable," Miss Collins said.
Mr. Ridge said he is not "naive" to the challenge of merging the agencies and work cultures.
"At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the individual missions of each of the agencies. But we must create a mind-set in which everyone is thinking about how each of their missions fit into the larger mission of protecting our homeland. From Day One, we will not allow for invisible barriers to lead to the breakdown of information," Mr. Ridge said.
Democrats also expressed concerns that new employees would not be allowed to participate in collective bargaining and there are inadequate protections for whistleblowers.
Mr. Lieberman said the war against terrorism cannot be won with "a magic wand or wishful thinking," and criticized the Bush administration for lax port security, inadequate coordination with local officials and unprepared first responders.
"Let me talk about the administration's record on homeland defense, which I believe has been too weak; its vision, which I believe has been too blurry; and its willingness to confront the status quo, which I believe has been too cautious," Mr. Lieberman said.
The senator also said the Bush administration has failed to change the status quo in the intelligence community, which failed to identify the terrorist attack.


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