For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 8, 2001
Gov. Ridge Sworn-In to Lead Homeland Security
The East Room
10:53 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. Thank
you all. Welcome to the White House. Today I signed
an executive order creating a new Homeland Security Office, charged with
strengthening America's protections against terrorism. And
I've picked a really good man to lead that office. (Applause.) In
case you hadn't figured it out, it's Tom Ridge. (Laughter.)
Together, we will confront the threat of terrorism. We
will take strong precautions aimed at preventing terrorist attacks and
prepare to respond effectively if they might come again. We
will defend our country; and while we do so, we will not sacrifice the
freedoms that make our land unique.
The best defense against terror is a global
offensive against terror, wherever it might be found. Yesterday,
we opened another front on the war on terrorism as we began conventional
military operations designed to destroy terrorist training camps and military
installations of the Taliban government.
Secretary Don Rumsfeld, who is leading a really
fine team, will brief the country this afternoon. But he informed
me this morning that the military mission of yesterday was executed as
planned. And at the same time, that our good nation dropped
over 37,000 kits of food and medicine. This is an important part of a
war already underway that is being conducted on many fronts.
The first shot of the war was fired
several weeks ago, as we began freezing bank accounts and cutting
off funding of known terrorist organizations and front groups
that support them. And I appreciate so very much the
Secretary of Treasury's work, Paul O'Neill.
We've worked aggressively on the diplomatic
front, developing a broad and strong coalition of countries who are united
with us and involved in our campaign. And Mr. Secretary Powell
and his team have done a remarkable job of rallying the lovers of freedom
to our side. Mr. Secretary, thank you. (Applause.)
Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies
are working around the clock and around the world. Attorney
General Ashcroft, and George Tenet and Bob Mueller are all doing a fantastic
job of making sure we've got the best intelligence and the best information,
not only to protect ourselves, but to bring the evildoers to justice.
On all efforts and all fronts, we're going
to be ongoing and relentless as we tighten the net of justice. This
will be a long war. It requires understanding and patience
from the American people. Members of my Cabinet understand
that, and I appreciate them all being here. These are fine
Americans, who understand the nature of the conflict, and are prepared
to join me in doing whatever it takes to win the war, not only for our
country today, but for generations to come tomorrow.
It's an honor for me to welcome the Ridge family
here to the White House; the former First Lady of Pennsylvania, Michele;
and of course, Lesley and Tommy, thank you all for being here and thank
you for your sacrifice. (Applause.)
I want to thank all of Tom's friends for coming
up from Pennsylvania. It looks like he's got a few who don't live in Pennsylvania
as well. Thank you all for being here. I'm so appreciative
that Clarence Thomas is here to swear-in Tom. I appreciate
the Mayor of Washington, D.C. being here.
Mr. Mayor, thank you for your cooperation. It's
just the beginning of what we need to do together to make sure our Nation's
Capital safe and secure. As we've learned, we face new threats;
and, therefore, we need new defenses for our country. And I've
found the right man to coordinate that effort.
Tom Ridge has been a chief executive. He
is a leader who has shown he can draw the best out of people and out of
organizations. He's a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam
War. He's a patriot who has heard the sound of battle.
He's seen the reach of terror in a field in
his own state. He's a man of compassion who has seen what evil
can do. I've given Tom and the Office of Homeland Security
a mission: to design a comprehensive, coordinated national
strategy to fight terror here at home.
We face a united, determined enemy. We
must have a united and determined response. The Homeland Security
Office has a series of specific goals and will have my authority to meet
them. One, take the strongest possible precautions against
terrorism by bringing together the best information and intelligence. In
the war on terror, knowledge is power.
Strengthen and help protect our transportation
systems, our food and water systems and our critical infrastructure by
making them less vulnerable to attack. Respond effectively
to terrorist actions if they come. The Office will coordinate
federal assistance with state and local efforts. America is
going to be prepared.
The Office will work in conjunction with the
new Homeland Security Council, chaired by me and made up of my Cabinet
and other senior officials; the Office mission will have the full attention
and complete support of the very highest levels of our government.
I know that many Americans at this time have
fears. We've learned that America is not immune from attack. We've
seen that evil is real. It's hard for us to comprehend the mentality of
people that will destroy innocent folks the way they have. Yet,
America is equal to this challenge, make no mistake about it. They've
roused a mighty giant. A compassionate land will rise united
to not only protect ourselves, not only make our homeland as secure as
possible -- but to bring the evildoers to justice so that our children
might live in freedom.
It's now my honor to call Clarence Thomas up
here to swear-in Tom Ridge.
(The oath is administered.) (Applause.)
DIRECTOR RIDGE: Thank you, Mr. President. I'm
honored to join the extraordinary team you have assembled to lead America. The
attack of September 11th changed our nation in so many ways, starting
with the lives of the thousands of victims and their families. It
changed the lives of our men and women in uniform, who are courageously
defending our nation today.
It changed the course of my own state, Pennsylvania,
which now has a new governor. And it changed the way we look
at homeland security, defending our borders from an attack and ensuring
our preparedness should one occur.
Americans should find comfort in knowing that
millions of their fellow citizens are working every day to ensure our
security at every level -- federal, state, county, municipal. These
are dedicated professionals who are good at what they do. I've
seen it up close, as Governor of Pennsylvania.
But there may be gaps in the system. The
job of the Office of Homeland Security will be to identify those gaps
and work to close them. The size and scope of this challenge are immense. The
President's executive order states that we must detect, prepare for, prevent,
protect against, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks, an extraordinary
mission. But we will carry it out.
I am optimistic because of your leadership,
Mr. President, because of the unprecedented support for you throughout
the country and among my old friends in Congress. Because we
will have the very best people working on it, and because our country's
shared sense of duty and mission is unprecedented.
And we will operate from a few basic principles. First,
candor. No one should be wary of coming forward when they see
a problem. It's the only way to define a solution. The
urgency of our task dictates candor about our challenges and confidence
in our ability to solve them.
The second, cooperation. We must
open lines of communication and support like never before, between agencies
and departments, between federal and state and local entities, and between
the public and private sectors. We must be task-oriented. The
only turf we should be worried about protecting is the turf we stand on.
Finally, as the President stated, we will continue
to secure liberty, as we secure this nation. Liberty is the
most precious gift we offer to our citizens. It's what the
terrorists fear most, what they tried to destroy on September 11th. We
will work to ensure that the essential liberty of the American people
is protected, that terrorists will not take away our way of life.
It's called Homeland Security. While
the effort will begin here, it will require the involvement of America
at every level. Everyone in the homeland must play a part. I
ask the American people for their patience, their awareness and their
resolve. This job calls for a national effort. We've seen it
before, whether it was building the Trans-Continental Railroad, fighting
World War II, or putting a man on the moon.
There are some things we can do immediately,
and we will. Others will take more time. But we
will find something for every American to do. My friends in
the Army Corps of Engineers remind me of their motto -- Secretary Powell's
familiar with it -- "The difficult, we do immediately. The impossible
takes a little longer."
That's the attitude we need. The
task before us is difficult, but not impossible. With your
leadership, Mr. President, and with everyone working as one, I have no
doubt we will be up to the task. (Applause.)