22 January 2003
U.S. Senate Confirms Ridge to be Secretary of Homeland Security
(Congressional Report, January 22: New agency to Combat Terrorism)
The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly confirmed President Bush's nomination
of Tom Ridge to be the first secretary of the new Department of
Homeland Security, which pulls together 22 federal agencies and
170,000 employees to bolster the nation's security against potential
terrorist attacks and other national emergencies.
By a vote of 94 to 0, the Senate confirmed the Ridge nomination
January 22. The action clears the way for Ridge to be sworn in and
ready to lead the cabinet-level department, which opens January 24 in
temporary transition headquarters in Washington.
Ridge, a decorated Vietnam Veteran, is the former governor of
Pennsylvania, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from
1983-95, and was an assistant district attorney. He was named by
President Bush on October 8, 2001 to be director of the White House's
Office of Homeland Security to help direct federal measures to protect
the United States from any further terrorist attacks, and to help the
country recover from the September 11th attacks on the World Trade
Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
Ridge, testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate
Governmental Affairs Committee January 17, said the United States is
undoubtedly safer now than before September 11th, but he added that
far more needs to be done to protect against "a hate-filled,
remorseless enemy that takes many forms and has many places to hide."
He testified that under the current organizational plan for the
department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service will be
separated into enforcement and services functions. "If we are to
remain the land of freedom and opportunity, we must retain complete
control over who enters our country and maintain the integrity of our
immigration system so that we always know who is in our country and
for what purpose," he said.
President Bush, in a prepared statement issued January 22, said: "I
applaud the Senate for acting quickly and in a strong, bipartisan
manner to confirm the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland
Security. With today's historic vote, the Senate has demonstrated our
shared commitment to doing everything we can to secure our homeland.
Secretary Ridge is an outstanding and dedicated public servant who
understands my administration's top priority always will be the
protection of the American people."
Senate Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins, a Maine
Republican, said Ridge is assuming "a cabinet post that may well be
the most challenging position created by Congress during the last 50
Veteran Senator Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, warned the
Senate that Ridge must "understand that he will be responsible not
only for defending the homeland, but also for defending against the
abuse of power within the new department."
In related action, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Committee held a confirmation hearing January 22 on the nomination of
Asa Hutchinson, the current director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration, to become under secretary of Homeland Security for
border and transportation security. On January 24, the Senate
Governmental Affairs Committee will hold hearings to examine the
nomination of Navy Secretary Gordon England to be the deputy secretary
of Homeland Security.
President Bush, on November 25, 2002, signed into law the "Homeland
Security Act of 2002," which created the Department of Homeland
Security. The act restructures and strengthens the executive branch of
the federal government to meet the threat posed by terrorism,
according to the White House.
Congress and the White House have already begun the process of writing
an organizational plan and a budget for the new department, and it is
expected to take most of 2003 to make the department operational. The
department will contain four primary divisions: border and
transportation security; emergency preparedness and response; science
and technology; and information analysis and infrastructure
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)