- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

The Homeland Security Department officially started operations yesterday to protect the nation against the 21st-century threat of terrorism and began the task of bringing together 170,000 federal workers in one agency.
President Bush swore in White House homeland security adviser Tom Ridge, now a familiar face to the public, as the director of the new Cabinet department.
"The American people can be certain that the mission of homeland security will be carried out with focus and resolve, with the resources the task requires," Mr. Bush said. "And the American people can know as well that the department is under the command of a superb leader who has my confidence."
The giant Homeland Security Department, part of the administration's reponse to the September 11 attacks, represents the largest government reorganization in half a century. The Senate unanimously confirmed the nomination of Mr. Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor, on Wednesday.
"He's a decisive, clear-thinking executive who knows how to solve problems," the president said of Mr. Ridge. "He's a person of integrity and a person of good judgment. At the White House, he's done an outstanding job, and he's earned the gratitude of the American people."
Officials will spend the weekend moving into the department's initial headquarters at the Naval District of Washington's Nebraska Avenue Complex near American University.
About 100 employees will report to work there Monday. The department has until March 1 to assimilate 95 percent of its work force.
More than 170,000 employees will come together from 22 federal agencies to create the federal government's 15th Cabinet department the largest since the Defense Department was established in 1947.
Mr. Ridge held his first media briefing as secretary shortly after the swearing-in ceremony at the White House, telling reporters his transition staff has been working around the clock to develop a framework to reorganize the new work force.
"We realize that today marks one step in the process of building not only the new department, but continuing on a daily basis to better protect our fellow citizens and our way of life," Mr. Ridge said. "We also realize we have a long way to go."
Mr. Ridge said his department's responsibilities include protecting the homeland if the United States invades Iraq.
"Regardless of whether the president makes a decision to use the military against Iraq or not, we have to be prepared for any and all contingencies, whether it is sponsored or directed by a state, like Iraq, or a terrorist organization," Mr. Ridge said.
"If and when that decision is made, I assure you we will be prepared to respond to whatever additional contingencies might arise," he said.
Drug Enforcement Administration chief Asa Hutchinson was unanimously approved Thursday by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to become the new agency's undersecretary for border and transportation security.
Other undersecretaries awaiting Senate confirmation will begin work as "acting undersecretaries," and Mr. Ridge said he is confident all will be confirmed quickly.
The first-year budget for the Homeland Security Department is expected to be around $33 billion and will fund operations by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Coast Guard, Border Patrol and Secret Service.
The department intends to coordinate activities with millions of firefighters, police and medical personnel around the country to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks.
The president said the department is an integral part of the administration's war on global terrorism.
"We've learned that vast oceans no longer protect us from the dangers of a new era," Mr. Bush said.
"This government has a responsibility to confront the threat of terror, wherever it is found, and that is why we're taking the battle to America's enemies. We're disrupting their networks. We're destroying their camps. We got 'em on the run, and we're going to keep 'em on the run," he said.
"And at home, we're taking every measure to protect the American people against a serious and ongoing threat."

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