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Homeland Security

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Statement of Secretary Tom Ridge Department of Homeland Security Before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security May 20, 2003

Good morning Chairman Cox, Congressman Turner, distinguished members of the Committee. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here today to discuss the progress, status and plans for the Department of Homeland Security.

Since this is my first opportunity to appear before you, let me begin by congratulating you on the creation of this new committee and thanking you for your willingness to serve on a body that shares both a common focus and a common purpose with the Department of Homeland Security. Your commitment to advancing the security of our American homeland and your interest in the success of DHS are critical to our ability to accomplish the mission for which the Department was created. Today's hearing marks a significant milestone in our combined effort to ensure the Department of Homeland Security fulfills its promise and potential.

It has been slightly less than four months since the Department of Homeland Security came into existence and less than three since we truly became an operational entity. Given that extremely short time-span, and with not all components even yet on board, I would be reluctant to call my testimony here this morning a "State of the Department" address, but to some extent, that's what I hope to provide. We recently completed our first 100 days as a Department. While somewhat arbitrary, this seems to be an increasingly popular point at which to assess whether an undertaking is getting off on the right foot. I'd like to share some of the Department's accomplishments since the 24th of January in the hope that you will share my assessment that we are indeed, off to good start.

Since its inception on January 24, 2003, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has:

  • Orchestrated and launched Operation Liberty Shield, the first comprehensive, national plan to increase protections of America's citizens and infrastructure;

  • Deployed new technologies and tools at land, air and sea borders;

  • Established the Homeland Security Command Center, a national 24-7 watch operation;

  • Launched the Ready campaign, a national multimedia public information program designed to build a citizen preparedness movement by giving Americans the basic tools they need to better prepare themselves and their families. Since its launch, has become one of the most visited Web sites in America.

  • Expedited distribution of millions of dollars in grant monies to states and cities, with more to come.

  • Initiated a comprehensive reorganization of the border agencies as well as other administrative measures to enhance departmental services and capabilities;

  • Completed transition of 21 out of 22 component agencies into the Department in the largest federal reorganization since World War II;

  • Conducted a series of listening sessions at strategic ports throughout the U.S. and began development of regulations that will require security assessments and plans for vessels, facilities and ports as required by the Maritime Security Act of 2002 and;

  • Completed TOPOFF II, the largest terrorist response exercise in history.

  • Began, in conjunction with the Office of Personnel Management, the development of a Human Resources Management System that both meets the critical needs of the Department and protects the civil service rights of its employees.

Other accomplishments to strengthen security and improve services include:

Border and Transportation Security

  • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) inaugurated the federal Flight Deck Officer Training Program. The first class concluded on April 19th, with 44 pilots certified to carry firearms in the cockpit as Federal Flight Deck Officers

  • All front-line Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) inspectors across the country have received personal radiation detectors that alert them to the presence of radioactive material.

  • The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) launched a special operation to identify and remove persons with unknown or questionable identities with access to restricted areas of military installations. The effort called Operation Joint Venture, resulted in 37 arrests, of which 28 were removed from the United States.

  • BICE acquired and deployed additional "A-STAR" and "HUEY" helicopters to bolster enforcement efforts along the U.S. Southern border.

  • Operation Green Quest (a multi-agency task force) continued its efforts to ensure the integrity and lawful operation of U.S. Financial systems.

  • Project Shield America, a BICE initiative, continued to prevent sensitive U.S. technology and munitions from falling into the hands of terrorists and other U.S. adversaries. Under this initiative, BICE agents partner with U.S. manufacturers and exporters to guard against illegal arms exports.
  • The BICE Office of Air and Marine Interdiction (OAMI) provided 24-7 airspace security coverage over Washington, D.C. During Operation Liberty Shield, OAMI expanded this mission to include airspace security coverage over New York City as well.

  • BTS created a 24 hour Radiation/WMD Hotline to assist BCBP and BICE officers with scientific and technical needs regarding Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) alerts along the border.

  • TSA screeners at Denver International Airport developed a pilot program, "Tots Friendly," designed to put children at ease as they go through security. The program is being evaluated for possible nationwide expansion.

  • Working with other federal agencies and private industry, TSA took steps to improve customer service by coordinating screening across different forms of transportation. For example, passengers who are disembarking from cruise ships in Miami can now have their baggage screened for their flight home right at the dock as they depart from their cruise.

  • We have held bilateral meetings with UK Home Secretary David Blunkett, Canada's Deputy Prime Minister, John Manley, and Mexico's Secretary of Interior, Santiago Creel, to continue progress on security initiatives of mutual interest.

  • DHS recently provided $65 million in grants to 20 transit agencies for security enhancements.

Coast Guard

  • Coast Guard forces served on the leading edge of maritime security for Operation Liberty Shield by providing maritime security off our shores and in our harbors. During this effort, Coast Guard units escorted 1,809 ferries and passenger ships, and conducted 1,597 air and 12,049 surface patrols, respectively. Coast Guard sea marshals and security teams boarded 1,059 merchant ships to assure their safe transit into and out of U.S. ports.

  • In April, the Coast Guard awarded a $140 million shore-based response boat contract, which will dramatically improve Coast Guard capabilities. This contract calls for the delivery of up to 700 new vessels that will be capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots (46 miles per hour), have an enclosed cabin for crew protection allowing for all-weather operations, weapons mounting capability for light machine guns and less than lethal technology, state of the art navigation systems and a communications system enabling Coast Guard personnel to communicate with other homeland security partners.

  • The Coast Guard's Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) was tasked to develop airborne use-of-force tactics to counter possible terrorist threats, and operating guidelines for the employment of HITRON assets for homeland security missions. HITRON was originally developed for counter-drug operations and is comprised of fully armed MH-68 helicopters capable of providing precision disabling fire, lethal fire, as well as close in suppression fire.

  • Coast Guard cutters and over 1,100 personnel deployed to the U. S. Central and European Commands continue to participate in coalition efforts to bring freedom to Iraq.

  • Since March 1st, the Coast Guard has:
  • Interdicted 193 Haitians, 335 Dominicans, 310 Cubans and two Ecuadorians who were trying to illegally enter the U.S.;

  • Seized 20,828 lbs. of cocaine and 1,870 lbs. pounds of marijuana destined for the U.S. and;

  • Uncovered five significant violations of domestic fishing vessel regulations and made three catch seizures as a result of illegal fishing activity.

  • In the wake of the most challenging ice season in 25 years, Coast Guard icebreaking cutters, in concert with their Canadian counterparts, worked to keep critical Great Lakes sea lanes open, permitting passage for 619 ore carriers and other vessels carrying cargo worth an estimated $620 million in this economically vital region.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

  • Since March 1st, the Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response (EP&R) processed fifteen major disaster declaration requests that were subsequently favorably acted upon by the President and 12 emergency declaration requests related to various events, including the President's Day snowstorm.

  • Following President Bush's emergency declarations for Texas and Louisiana after the Space Shuttle Columbia incident, I directed EP&R to lead the federal effort to help protect public health and safety, recover materials and reimburse the affected localities. With the help of federal, state and local partners, and more than 25,000 people, the effort produced 82,500 pieces of material totaling almost 84,800 pounds to assist NASA with its investigation.

  • EP&R accepted 19,949 applications requesting more than $2 billion from the Assistance to Firefighters Grants program (AFG). Grant announcements are expected to be made in late May after a peer review process. The AFG has approximately $750 million to distribute to an estimated 8500 fire departments over the next twelve months to help better train, equip and prepare our nation's firefighters.

  • The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) expanded its training partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to include integrated emergency management for bioterrorism, Incident Command System (ICS) training for federal, state and local public health agencies and health care-specific, exercise-based training for specific jurisdictions. A new facility EP&R acquired during the Homeland Security transition, the Noble Training Center in Anniston, Alabama, will host some of this training.

  • EP&R trained a record number of leaders from volunteer fire departments for its Volunteer Incentive Program. This reflects a 42% rise in admissions for the program.

  • EP&R's National Fire Academy trained 27 FBI agents and investigators at an Arson Training Course to help improve their investigatory skills. The training included use of site burn buildings, scenario simulation labs, classroom and NFA curriculum.

  • To improve on-site management of federal assets in the immediate aftermath of an incident, EP&R initiated plans for the rapid deployment of DHS Incident Management Teams.

  • To significantly strengthen DHS emergency response capabilities, EP&R began incorporating Domestic Emergency Support Teams, Nuclear Incident Response Teams, the National Disaster Medical System and the Strategic National Stockpile into its planning and response capabilities.

  • In support of Operation Liberty Shield, EP&R enhanced operational readiness of the National Interagency Emergency Operations Center (NIEOC), Regional Operations Centers, National Disaster Medical System, Domestic Emergency Support Teams and other specialized support teams.

  • Citizen Corps signed a partnership with the U.S. Junior Chamber (Jaycees) to raise public awareness about emergency preparedness, first aid, disaster response training and volunteer service.

  • Citizen Corps initiated a partnership with the National Volunteer Fire Council to work together to raise public awareness about emergency preparedness, fire hazards, volunteer service programs and the development of fire safety training.

  • Citizen Corps has added 15 additional states and territories and 266 local governments to the Citizen Corps Council roster. This brings the total of Citizen Corps Councils to 43 and 524 respectively.

  • For the first time in more than eight years, the National Flood Insurance Program is operating in the black and currently has surplus funds, which it has begun investing through the U.S. Treasury.

  • EP&R delivered the first set of digital flood map products to the Map Service Center. These new tools are integral to the emergency planning of local communities.

Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection

  • In March 2003, IA&IP began implementing its requirements under the Homeland Security Act, as well as, specific objectives identified by the President's National Strategies to Secure Physical Assets and Cyber Space.

  • DHS' Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate (IA&IP) provides infrastructure coordination for physical and cyber disruptions, maps threat against vulnerability information, and provides indications and warnings of potential attacks.

  • IA&IP is implementing a plan to conduct standardized vulnerability assessments for infrastructure sectors to be conducted with other federal agencies, states and industries in order to ensure interdependencies are understood and protective measures are prioritized for implementation.

  • DHS recognizes that partnering with the private sector is central to successfully securing the Homeland. Representatives from the private sector Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) participate in IA&IP analytical and protective efforts. In addition, a thorough review of the ISACs is being conducted to ensure that their requirements are being fulfilled by IA&IP structure.

  • Consistent with the President's direction, we are reducing America's vulnerability to terrorist attack by working closely with Congress and the White House to develop legislation that will secure commercial chemical and nuclear facilities.

  • DHS is also an active partner in establishing the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC).

  • We recognize that many of our nation's infrastructures and processes are highly reliant on cyberspace. DHS is committed to making the protection of our nation's cyber infrastructure and prevention of cyber attacks a strategic priority.

  • Consistent with the President's strategy, DHS is developing tools to model, simulate and game potential disruptions, natural or deliberate, on our national critical infrastructures. DHS is working with closely with the National laboratory complex on this important effort.

  • As directed by the Homeland Security Act, the Department is developing a Critical Infrastructure Information management system to guide DHS' handling of private sector information. The draft regulations establishing the process and procedures for managing this information were submitted for public comment and published in the Federal Register.

  • In support of Operation Liberty Shield, Secret Service personnel acted as local department liaisons to designated Homeland Security Advisors and provided these advisors with information on the locality's critical infrastructure sites.

  • Approximately, two and half months ago DHS, inherited disparate lists that represented the federal government's best guess as to why one facility or one component of a sector was more important than another. Efforts are currently underway with the help of the private sector to provide a rational analytical basis for determining criticality and importance under a various threat scenarios.

Science and Technology

  • DHS' Science & Technology division (S&T) established the Biowatch program in several metropolitan areas across the country. The Biowatch program employs devices to detect terrorist agents like anthrax in time to distribute life-saving pharmaceuticals to affected citizens.

  • S&T released the first Homeland Security Broad Agency Announcement through the Technical Support Working Group for rapid prototyping of off-the-shelf or nearly off-the-shelf technologies for use by DHS agents in the field.

  • S&T also developed draft guidelines for technical performance and testing of radiation detection equipment.

  • Pilot programs to test radiation detection equipment were launched at various sites in cooperation with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

  • S&T initiated the Homeland Security Fellowship Program, which provides scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in the physical, biological, and social and behavioral sciences and interested in careers aligned with the mission and objectives of the Department. We've established a website at for potential applicants.

  • S&T created the Homeland Security National Laboratory composed of all the incoming DHS labs across the country.

Citizenship and Immigration

  • The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) has now developed the technology to accept electronic filing as an option for two of the most commonly submitted immigration forms - the application for replacement "green card" (Form I-90) and the application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765). These forms were selected in part because filings of these applications represent over 30 percent of the total number of applications filed with BCIS annually. The system will go online shortly.

  • Approximately 165,000 new citizens have been processed in the months of January, February, March and April. In May alone, BCIS plans to conduct over 290 ceremonies and the naturalization of approximately 50,000 citizens.

  • BCIS also processed approximately 6,500 requests for expedited citizenship for military applicants since July 2002. In the last 30 days, eight requests have been processed for posthumous citizenship, which is granted to non-citizens whose death resulted from injury or disease incurred while on active duty with U.S. Armed Forces during specified periods of military hostilities.

  • BCIS launched a pilot project to standardize the English, government, and United States history tests administered to citizenship applicants. The first phase of the two-stage pilot focused on the English language test. Five cities participated in this first phase of the naturalization pilot: Newark, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Antonio and Atlanta.

Reorganization and Administration

  • DHS launched the effort to create a new human resources management system that merges the personnel and pay systems of all DHS component agencies into a single system. The target timetable for the new system is late 2003 or early 2004.

  • CBP consolidated incoming agencies into a single face of government at ports of entry by establishing a new organizational framework involving Interim Port Directors to integrate all of the incoming border agencies into one chain of command.

  • BICE combined all the investigative functions of Customs, Immigration and the Federal Protective Service into one bureau. ICE has taken steps to provide a single point of contact within DHS for U.S. Attorneys and other law enforcement agencies.

  • IAIP integrated the legacy operations of the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office (CIAO), the National Communications System (NCS), the Federal Computer Incident Response Center (FedCirc), the DOE's Energy Assurance Office, and developed the functional organizational components of its IA and IP divisions. The NCS, NIPC and FedCirc combined their watch and warning functions into a single, more effective "virtual" watch. In addition, IAIP has consolidated critical infrastructure outreach and awareness programs into a coordinated process, and has implemented partnership building support mechanisms with public sector, private sector, and international communities.

This list is far from complete, but I believe it shows that DHS is hard at the task before us. We are shaping a new department, improving the security of our country and still sustaining the centuries old traditions of operational excellence that our individual components have brought to DHS.

Fiscal Year 2004 Budget Request

To continue our progress we will need sufficient resources to ensure this critical work is done properly. I ask for your support of the President's Department of Homeland Security Budget request for Fiscal year 2004 which lays a critical and solid foundation block for the future of the DHS. It is a $36.2 billion commitment to advancing the safety and security of our American homeland and those whom we exist to serve. This request represents an 18.3% increase in funding for DHS programs over the 2003 baseline enacted level. It contains critical initiatives to advance the efficiency and effectiveness of our Department, supports ongoing efforts and programs, and sustains vital, non-security services and missions throughout the Department.

The President's budget contains $18.1 billion for Border and Transportation Security. It reflects organizational improvements, funds personnel enhancements and training, and improves the technologies needed to support the Department's two strategic goals to improve border and transportation security while at the same time, facilitating the unimpeded flow of legitimate commerce and people across our borders and through our seaports and airports.

The budget request also calls for $3.6 billion to strengthen the readiness capabilities of state and local governments that play a critical role in the Nation's ability to prepare for and respond to acts of terrorism and moves us toward a "one-stop" shop for state and local response funding and training needs within the Office for Domestic Preparedness.

Funding requested for Emergency Preparedness and Response totals $5.9 billion. These funds will be used to enhance nationwide readiness to manage and respond to disasters, whether caused by the forces of nature, or the forces of evil. In addition to fully funding traditional FEMA programs, the President's budget includes needed investment in America's pharmaceutical and vaccine stockpiles. It also includes nearly $900 million for Project BioShield, a critically needed incentive for the development and deployment of new and better drugs and vaccines to protect Americans from the threat of bioterrorism.

The request for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection is $829 million. The funds will support the directorate's efforts to analyze intelligence and other information to evaluate terrorist threats, assess the vulnerability of critical infrastructure, issue timely warnings to private sector industries, and work with federal, state, local and private stakeholders to take or effect appropriate protective action. The President's request provides the resources necessary for us to carry out this most important and unique DHS responsibility.

Roughly $803 million is requested for the directorate of Science and Technology. In the quest to secure our Homeland, we face fanatical and sinister enemies. Their willingness to contemplate the most evil of means, and the possibility that others might help them to acquire those means, create an absolute imperative that we sustain a scientific and technological edge to stay ahead of our enemy. The funds requested for Science and Technology will support the essential research, development, testing and evaluation needed to do just that, through existing programs and institutions as well as new entities like the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The President requests $6.8 billion for the United States Coast Guard, a 10 percent increase over the 2003 base enacted level for this vital component of the new Department of Homeland Security charged with pushing our maritime borders farther out to sea. This request will support continued and enhanced operations of the service across its broad portfolio of indispensable missions. It enables the Coast Guard to grow to meet its ever-increasing security responsibilities, while at the same time sustaining operational excellence in non-security functions. The request provides for vital recapitalization of the Coast Guard's offshore, near shore, and communications assets.

The proposed budget also contains $1.3 billion for the United States Secret Service so they may perform their unique mission of protection and criminal investigation. The funds will support the Secret Service's protection of the President, the Vice President and their families; heads of state; the security for designated National Special Security Events; and the investigation and enforcement of laws relating to counterfeiting, fraud and financial crimes.

$1.8 billion of the President's budget request will support the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, including $100 million to reduce the backlog of applications and begin ensuring a six-month process standard for all applications.

In summary, this budget request for the Department of Homeland Security supports the President's National Strategy for Homeland Security. This strategy provides the framework to mobilize and organize the nation - federal, state and local governments, the private sector, and the American people - in the complex mission to protect our homeland.

Liberty Shield and TOPOFF II

As you know we recently completed Operation Liberty Shield, a nationwide effort to enhance Homeland Security during the most active portion of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We also just concluded TOPOFF II; an exercise intended to test and refine our processes and protocols during response to a terrorist incident. While full analysis of these two major undertakings is still being conducted there is one immediate and immutable truth that they both reemphasized: as costly as adequate preparation and prevention may seem, it is a cheap by comparison with response and recovery from a successful terrorist attack. That is why DHS must and will vigorously pursue our detection and prevention missions while at the same time ensuring we are prepared to respond to, and recover from, acts of terrorism. We cannot choose. We must do both.


I hope my testimony here today has helped to answer the question posed in the title for this hearing, "How is America Safer?" I believe we are safer, and with the help of the American people, and our federal, state, local, private and international partners we are getting safer each day. We are safer because our armed forces, and those of our allies, are able to find and destroy the organizations and individuals that threaten our country. We are safer because all those who serve and protect here on our own shores are ever diligent and ever willing. We are safer because you, the Congress, recognize the threat and are taking bold steps like creating the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that our government is properly structured and properly resourced to counter it. We are safer because we are more aware, better organized, more focused and more committed to protecting America, Americans and American ideals.

Thomas Jefferson is credited to have said that, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." While attribution of the quotation seems somewhat uncertain, the truth it contains is not. The history of the Department of Homeland Security is short, but the future of this great republic and the challenge of safeguarding our homeland is long. We are at the beginning of a new chapter in American history. I believe it is a chapter of renewed vigilance and commitment to secure and preserve the things we hold sacred. I believe we must do this so that future generations of Americans can live in a nation that is free, is safe and is ever mindful that the blessings of liberty must not only be secured but they must also be kept secure.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, we arrive at this point in history together. The challenge is ours, the opportunity is ours and the responsibility is ours to lead this effort forward. I have no doubt that we will succeed and I have no doubt that we will do it by working together.

I thank you for the privilege of appearing before you here today, I look forward to your partnership and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have at this time.

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