|Not Just Raise Questions, But Provide Solutions|
Not Just Raise Questions, But Provide Solutions
Source: Office of the Press Secretary: Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge Speaks to the Associated Press Annual Luncheon, at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel, New Orleans, Louisiana, April 29, 2002.
I've spoken a great deal recently about what the federal government has done since 9/11, what states have done. Today, I'd like to focus on the future. You are more than journalists and publishers -- you are community leaders. It's in that light that I'd like to discuss our emerging National Strategy, and what it will mean for the communities of this nation. As we become further removed from the horrific events of 9/11, and people move on with their everyday lives, the terrorist threat may grow dimmer in the eyes of many Americans.
But the world is just as dangerous today, if not more so. The threat is real - as real as it was seven months ago. In fact, it is a permanent condition to which we all must permanently adapt. But it's important to remember that we can adapt - we can do something about it.
We already know what the terrorists want to do to us. We have it in their own words. Osama bin Laden, from December videotape:
- "Our terrorism is against America. Our terrorism is a blessed terrorism..."
- "It is very important to hit the U.S. economy with every available means.... [It] is the base of its military power."
- "If their economy ends, they will busy themselves away from the enslavement of oppressed people.... It is important to concentrate on the destruction of the American economy."
- They want to kill innocent lives -- and destroy our way of life.
This is a war on two fronts - overseas and here at home. And our goal today remains the same: to track down and disrupt the terrorist networks wherever we find them -- and to build up our defenses at home. The very first "mission" in the President's Executive Order creating the Office of Homeland Security reads: "to develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks."
Now, I take every word of that Executive Order seriously:
"Develop and coordinate." We will help build the consensus - but the action will happen on the front lines, carried out by the people who have the experience and expertise to get the job done - and who prove it every single day.
"Comprehensive." We must wrap our arms around every aspect of homeland security. Our strategy must not just raise questions, but provide solutions.
"National strategy." That's national, not federal. That means the states and localities, the private sector and academia, and the American people will [help] make it happen.
"Secure the United States." Our physical, financial and electronic infrastructure; our people; our freedoms and our way of life. Securing them is the core responsibility of government.
"Threats or attacks." We must not only improve our preparedness. We must preempt and deter attacks at their source, whether in Afghanistan or our own backyard.
The National Strategy will prioritize our long-term needs. It will reveal what we need to protect. It will outline the resources available to us, and point the way for their best use. And it will institutionalize our response over the course of several years.
Put another way, it will answer two questions often asked by your reporters, and rightly so: "Whose job is it - and who pays for it?" Homeland security requires a new way of governing, a new way of looking at things. We have to think anew.
To respond to terrorists, we have to anticipate their moves. We cannot be everywhere at once. Our resources won't allow it. More importantly, our freedoms won't allow it. Our National Strategy will be guided by an overarching philosophy: risk management -- focusing our resources where they will do the most good, and achieve the maximum protection of lives and property. We will play both offense -- massing our resources to meet the most immediate threats - and defense - working to fill our most glaring gaps.
To that end, we have undertaken a large-scale review of our nation's critical infrastructure. We're working with the states and the private sector - which owns more than 80 percent of it - to map this infrastructure, examining risks, probabilities and consequences, so we can set priorities in protection.
The challenge is vast. It encompasses so much - oil and gas refineries, power plants and electrical substations, water treatment plants and reservoirs, dams and pipelines, to name just a fraction. Add to that our schools and hospitals, our banks and financial institutions, our airports and seaports, our bridges and highways.
But take a second look. We can turn these vulnerabilities into strengths.
- Our public health system can save lives in a bioterror attack, and issue early warnings to prevent an outbreak from spreading.
- Our banks and financial institutions can be used to help investigators stop money-laundering and take terrorists' dollars out of their pockets.
- Our roads and rail systems can be used to make potential targets more mobile and less visible.
- Our ports and harbors, airports and border entry points can be transformed from vulnerabilities into barriers against terrorism.
We've begun by refocusing the mission of the Coast Guard to homeland security. It's working to deter more than terrorism. One state official reports that some indicators show a significant reduction in crime as a result of the homeland security measures taken at his ports.
If we secure the hometowns, we will secure the homeland. And, ladies and gentlemen, it is happening.
I've been to well over a dozen cities in the last six months - Cincinnati, El Paso, Detroit, Winston-Salem, Los Alamos, Pittsburgh, Boston, the list goes on. I wish all Americans could see what I get to see: the great work
being done, much of it, by their neighbors, the firefighters and police officers, the doctors and EMTs, the border guards and businessmen. Work that began well before 9/11. These are the folks on the front lines. They're the ones who will respond to and recover from a crisis -- and who will influence key budget decisions in the city halls, county commissions and state legislatures.
We have created a two-way flow of ideas and information with them. I personally met with many key state and local officials last week. I can report strong support for the President's four budget initiatives -- first responders, biodefense, border security and information-sharing. The four were chosen because of risk management.
Our first responders initiative will help reduce the risk of injury and death in an attack.
Bioterror has one of the highest rates of consequence, and our preparedness has historically lagged behind the threat.
We're building "smart borders" of the future - focusing our technological and human resources on separating high-risk traffic from low-risk and no-risk traffic.
I've seen the beginnings of this amazing effort in El Paso and Detroit. I believe it will lead to increased trade and decreased terrorism and drug smuggling.
We're developing an entry-exit visa database to monitor short-term visitors to this country, especially those who overstay their welcome -- reducing the risk that we'll lose track of the few who seek us harm.
And the President's Budget increases cybersecurity funding by 64 percent. This will include a Cyberspace Warning Intelligence Network to link government and the private sector so we can reduce the risk of damage caused by cyber-terrorists or hackers. technology can help make us more secure - but security must extend to technology.
States and localities are eager to work with us on these issues. They want direction from us, not micromanagement.
So we have encouraged them to join regional mutual aid compacts and develop interoperable communications systems. We're asking them to hold regular drills and simulations; the more we practice, the more we reduce the risk.
And, above all, we've asked state and local officials to work together on a single, integrated, statewide anti-terrorism plan. I am encouraged by their response.
Some of you may have caught the phrase "our freedoms and our way of life" in the list of things we must protect. It's the truth - and a responsibility this Administration takes very seriously.
The answer to an attack on our freedom is more freedom, not less. Freedom's not a vulnerability, but a strength. In the 1940s, American businesses built an "arsenal of democracy" to win the war. Today they're building an "arsenal of security" - exciting, nimble, cutting-edge products that can cut our response time and save lives.
Homeland security needs this innovation and imagination. And businesses need the opportunity - the opportunity to do well by doing good. It can give us not just a safer, more secure America, but a more competitive and prosperous America. Many of these products are designed to improve communication and speed the flow of information. Attorney General Ashcroft has said that, "Information is the best friend of prevention."
We're going to knock down the information "stovepipes" throughout government and turn them into pipelines. That's one reason why we created the Homeland Security Advisory System. One lesson of 9/11 is that when information doesn't get to the right people in time, it can be just as dangerous as when it falls into the wrong hands.
In the end, I believe our best weapon against terrorism is an engaged citizenry. An unaware person is a vulnerability. An informed, aware, engaged person is a strength. The National Strategy is just the start. The American people must become active partners in their own protection. More than 30,000 have already signed up for the President's new Citizen Corps program. They'll contribute to homeland security at the grassroots, neighborhood level. I urge all Americans to serve. Perhaps some of them will also be inspired to attend a PTA meeting or mentor a young student or simply to go to the polls this November.
Ladies and gentlemen, America is doing something about homeland security. And evil will not triumph.