- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

MIAMI Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge yesterday announced a massive restructuring of security along the nation's borders to prevent terrorists and weapons from slipping into the United States.

"The sheer depth and breadth of this nation, the magnitude of what occurs here from sea to shining to sea, means that one slip, one gap, one vengeful person can threaten the lives of our citizens at any time and any number of ways," Mr. Ridge said.

Under the restructuring, a new agency called the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection will be formed by merging the Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border Patrol and the Agricultural Plant Health and Inspection Service. Its 30,000 employees will oversee the movement of goods and people across U.S. borders.

It also creates the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to bring together the enforcement and investigative duties of the Customs Service, INS and Federal Protective Service. It will employ 14,000 people and share information with the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Offices.

A separate bureau created by the Homeland Security Act, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, will focus exclusively on services for immigrants.

These modifications to the Homeland Security Act were submitted by President Bush to Congress, as Mr. Ridge made his first policy speech to hundreds of federal employees at the Port of Miami. More than 4,000 in the Miami area will join the new department.

"The focus here is to help legitimate goods and people enter our country swiftly, and keep dangerous people and weapons out," Mr. Ridge said.

The challenges the employees will face to protect the country against future attacks will be "enormous," he said. There are more than 300 seaports and 429 commercial airports throughout the country.

America may be better prepared than it was September 11, 2001, to respond to a terrorist attack, but Mr. Ridge acknowledged "we're never going to be perfect every single day." He said the department is anticipating terrorist attacks if America attacks Iraq.

"These enemies are villainous, they are provoked by centuries of hatred, armed with ruthless tactics, absent of any respect for human life, all working in shadows preparing for the next catastrophic and murderous attack," Mr. Ridge said.

"They are killers, empowered by the zealotry of evil, the ignorance of radicalism, and the resources of tyrants we can not ignore. They are insidious, a vast paradox of personalities and groups some spontaneous, some methodical, yet all intent on doing us harm."

The restructuring is intended to bring together competing priorities and policies. Various leadership structures also led to inconsistent inspections and lapses of information.

"Whether it's a member of the Transportation Security Administration inspecting baggage at an airport or the Border Patrol officer examining trucks for explosives or the INS agents checking the authenticity of immigration papers, the good people of Homeland Security are not complacent. They are ready," Mr Ridge said.

Asa Hutchinson, the newly confirmed undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security, will oversee the restructuring. Mr. Hutchinson told reporters before the event that these changes will create a "clear chain of command that ultimately leads to greater efficiency."

The current structure of the four separate agencies merging into the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection "makes it very difficult to coordinate." Mr. Hutchinson said. "The obstacles are enormous,"

Mr. Ridge said the administration will ask for $36.2 billion for homeland security in the fiscal 2004 budget a 64 percent increase over 2002 funding levels the various homeland-security agencies received.

"Let me be clear. While their actions surely broke our hearts, they did not and will not break our spirit. Their threats may never end, but neither will America's resolve. To our enemies, we do not cower. We are coming after you," Mr. Ridge said.

Following the event, which featured a performance by a steel-drum soloist, Mr. Ridge toured the Port of Miami channel in a Customs Service patrol boat surrounded by more than a dozen law-enforcement boats.

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