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Governor Ridge: Well, thank you very much for that very kind introduction. I'm grateful for the opportunity to spend some time with you. I do have a few thoughts I would like to share with you, but two people who have been very close to me that -- one you recognized but I want to recognize him again, my friend, Sergeant Schaff (phonetic) from the Washington Times. John Fields and I have been friends for 20 years -- (applause). He'll be the first one to tell you, bet on a vet, right, John. Bet on a vet.
And the other Marine -- I do have a couple Marines that are friends. (Laughter.) Everybody ought to have a couple Marines as friends. Then your homeland would definitely be secure -- is Carlton Sherwood (phonetic), who headed up my commonwealth media services when I was privileged to serve the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A decorated Vietnam veteran, a prizewinning journalist himself. So, Carlton, I would like you to stand up and be recognized. (Applause.)
President Abuchon (phonetic), thank you for those very, very kind introductory remarks. I just want to put something on the table, the shelf -- that you think the border realignment is real close at hand. We still haven't resolved that yet and it may take some time. But we've only been in town only about 120 days and at least some of the folks know I'm around.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today. The National Press Club is recognized as a very, very prestigious forum for speakers, and I will tell you that a mere four or five months ago, I might have been hoping for an invitation so I could review for you the tremendous progress and plans for the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. But the events of September 11 changed things for all of us. And so I'm privileged and grateful to have the opportunity to spend some time with you today talking about my new role to review our progress and plans for the security of our homeland.
As the President has said, we have one war with two fronts. We fight a common enemy. Our goal is to win. But we must fight differently on the homeland front.
You have been covering the war on terror since September 11th. I imagine that you, too, have concluded that the journalists must cover the two fronts, Afghanistan and the homeland, differently. The enemy manifests itself differently in each theater of war. The offensive and defensive weapons deployed by the combatants are different. The command structures differ as well as the terrain we fight upon. Coverage of one front lends itself to daily press briefings, the other does not. And I might add it may be harder to find final victory on the home front.
Terrorists will not give up simply because we've tightened our borders, disrupted their finances, or put more air marshals on planes. There will be no surrender ceremony or VT Day, Victory over Terrorism Day. What we do have, however, is a very clear mission to develop a national strategy, a national strategy led by the federal government, led by the Office of Homeland Security, to engage every level of government, every enterprise and every citizen to help this nation prevent, prepare for and defend against terrorist attacks and threats. And we will accomplish that mission as a country.
The threat of terrorism, regrettably, is an inescapable, immutable fact of life for the 21st century. It will not change. It is a permanent condition to which America and the entire world is adjusting. In fact, the very hallmarks of modern American society that we most cherish, our freedoms and our openness, our economy, our information systems, our great cities and towering skyscrapers, our transportation system, a reliable energy system, and the list goes on and on, these very things are what makes us vulnerable. They're potentially targets.
And the ability to launch attacks will be within reach of more and more people as they exploit these resources for their own evil purposes. Our success as a nation, our freedom and our prosperity does not deter terrorists. Some might say it even emboldens them. But make no mistake, our vulnerability will persist long after we bring justice to those responsible for September 11th. We must have no illusions about being invulnerable ever again.
But I will tell you there is no doubt -- there is no doubt in my mind that we are a safer nation today than we were on September 11th. We have made a great deal of progress in a very short period of time. Aviation security is far better today, not where we need to be or where we want to be, but we are much further ahead today than September 11th.
We've got more men and women in the INS and Customs, border patrol, Coast Guard, securing our borders, working with local and state government authorities to reduce the vulnerability, to reduce the threat. We have smart border reforms that we are working on with our friends in Canada and soon to engage in those discussions in Mexico, where we can make more secure borders but at the same time facilitate commerce that's so critical to the three countries, particularly the communities that are along those borders that are really interdependent economically.
We've got more vaccines have been stockpiled. We have homeland security directors in every state and territory, assigned by their governors and working with their local governments and their police and fire and emergency medical personnel and hospitals, developing response plans in the event that the unthinkable would happen.
The private sector and the government are working together like never before to set security standards, share best practices, making sure that they too are involved in this national homeland security effort, reducing threat, reducing vulnerabilities.
We have a re-energized technology community that looks at our needs from information sharing to bio-detection to being able to respond to a terrorist attack. The technology community looks at this as an opportunity not only to defend and protect and enhance the security of America but, quite frankly, it looks as an opportunity for new markets and new products that will benefit by the ingenuity and the creativity and the technological drive that has driven this economy for the past decade.
And I will tell you that the list goes on and on. I truly wish that all of America could walk with me or to sit in the office with me or to meet the people and the organizations and visit with the companies that either visit our office or my staff and I spend time with. I think you'd be very reassured. You'd be very reassured that not only is there an Office of Homeland Security that's engaged in providing for a more secure America, but Americans are engaged, companies are engaged, research institutions, the academic community, the private sector. Ever since September 11th, this notion of security, what do we need to do to make ourselves more secure, our schools more secure, our businesses more secure our businesses more secure, our home towns more secure.
Everybody is working very hard. There are some very creative solutions out there. There's a tremendous amount of energy out there. And one of my jobs, and the job of the Office of Homeland Security is to make sure that this energy is well directed, that it's coordinated.
But make no mistake about it, America is up to the task and America is engaged. Remember I said it was a national effort led by the federal government. But we cannot be secure unless we are all involved in that process.
Homeland security begins at home, even though the office is in Washington. Our fight against terrorism will be won one home, one block, one business, one neighborhood at a time. Our homeland will be secure when our home towns are secure, when everybody in every town across America, either as a citizen, as an employee, as an entrepreneur, as a business leader, as an academic leader is really working hard. That's everyone's goal, that's everyone's responsibility. That's why I'm confident that we will prevail.
Now, anyone looking for this preparation and action should -- could look to the model in Salt Lake City. You've got a Democrat mayor, a Republican governor and the federal government coordinating the work of about 60 different agencies over the past two years, working together to provide the highest level of security the Games have ever seen. We may not eliminate risk entirely, because there is no such thing as an absolute fail-safe, total guarantee in Salt Lake City or anywhere else. But we can push ourselves to bring every possible human and technological resource to the task.
That's what the President promised to do in his State of the Union Address and his budget gives us the tools we need to take four giant steps -- four giant steps forward as we develop our national strategy. And I believe my former colleagues in Congress will support these initiatives.
First, the budget offers unprecedented support for our first line of defense against terrorism, our first-responders. Those are your policemen and your firemen and your emergency medical personnel. We never viewed them as the first line of defense until September 11th. And now I think, every single day, when we drive by that local police station or that firehouse or see those emergency medical personnel responding to an accident, we know how lucky we are we have men and women among us who chose to serve either in a volunteer capacity or otherwise and provide that kind of passion and that kind of care and that kind of service to our neighborhoods and our families.
The $3.5 billion is nearly a 1,000 percent increase that will go toward new equipment, the latest communications, proper training, overtime costs. And it will be based on what states and localities decide they need, not on what Washington wants. In emergencies, minutes count. This investment will help our first-responders save time and, in doing so, save lives.
Second, our borders. There has been quite a bit of discussion about borders. I think it's very important that we understand as America that we are open and we are welcoming and we are trusting. We invite -- we are a nation of immigrants. Somewhere along the line in your history and certainly in mine, people have come across the borders. We want to retain that. We have to do a better job at the borders for security, for commerce, for drug interdiction, and the list goes on and on.
So I think we need to take a look at the borders in a 21st century way. What are our goals? Do we need to consolidate agencies? Do we need to consolidate technologies? And so there is a -- the public notion that I'm interested in doing something on the borders is a very accurate one. We've got everybody talking about it, we've got everybody thinking about it. And it's something to be resolved over a period of time.
But before we even resolved that, we had to build more capacity at the borders. We needed more INS agents and more Customs agents. So the second initiative in the President's budget provides for 800 new inspections agents for the Customs Service, a doubling of INS agents and inspectors on the Canadian border. There's additional money, substantially more money, for our friends in the Coast Guard. I think the President has made a record investment in the Coast Guard. No one else has ever invested on an annual basis more than President Bush, because so many of these men and women -- they've called up over 2,000 Reservists in response to September 11th. So we've got to worry about our borders, and we make that first installment in securing those borders by putting more talented professionals at the borders and in the Coast Guard.
Third, building up our response to bioterrorism. This year the budget request is for nearly $6 billion to boost hospitals' capacity, spur research and development of new vaccines and therapeutics and diagnostics and medicines, build up our critical national pharmaceutical stockpile, and reinvigorate the national public health system.
See, the President views the challenge that we have and has given our office the opportunity to look all across America. And whenever we have an opportunity not only to make us more secure, but make us a better country, we need to seize that opportunity. That's the mission the President has given this office and the country.
We want to be more secure, certainly. But if we can be better in the process, let's do it. So the record investment in first-responders is no surprise because, if the policemen are better trained and the emergency medical personnel are better trained and the firemen are better trained, well, they'll be better trained to respond to a terrorist attack, but they'll be able to offer their communities and their citizens more and better services.
We want to build up the public health system. Certainly we want to build it up to respond to a potential bio-terrorist event. But whether the terrorist drops the microbes in an envelope or whether Mother Nature brings infectious disease to a community or a region, we'll be better equipped to respond to it, so we'll be more secure in our ability to respond to a terrorist attack, and we'll be better equipped to respond to Mother Nature.
And the fourth initiative in the budget is improved information technology throughout the entire government. This is just a slice of what we're going to need to do, but it was important to highlight it as an initiative because much more work needs to be done. Included in this year's budget is substantial dollars for a new entry-exit visa database and tracking system. Over 300 million non-citizens move in and out of our borders every year. We've got dozens and dozens of different kinds of visas. We welcome guests. But we think in the 21st century, we need not only to welcome them, but once the time has expired, we think it's very appropriate, unless they've made application to extend their stay, that as guests they leave as they said they were going to leave. I think that's very appropriate.
The INS has estimated that about 40 percent of the illegal aliens we have in this country are those who came in as guests and just have chosen on their own not to return. That's not saying anything negative about these men and women and families. But it would be like you inviting me over to your home for a weekend and I'd say, boy, I really like this place; I want to hang around here for a lot longer. (Laughter.)
We want to remain open, we want to remain as welcoming as we've been in the past. But we need a better tracking system for our guests. So we need an entry-exit visa database and tracking system, and I will tell you, yes, we also need a more detailed uniform homeland security advisory system. We're working on that and hopefully we'll be able to announce that in a couple weeks as well.
We will seek to tear down the information stovepipes that stand in the way of information sharing and cooperation within government. I said at my swearing-in, the only turf we should be worried about protecting is the turf we stand on in this country. And I said it, and I meant it.
This year's budget is a good start, but it's just a start. The United States has never had a national blueprint for securing itself from terrorism. This year, it will. These initiatives are the first installments in our comprehensive national strategy. It will be a long-term strategy. It will be national in scope. And it will be based on the principles of cooperation and partnership. It will utilize all policy weapons at our disposal.
We may even rearrange some of the lines and boxes on the chart to which you refer to. It will be accountable, with very clear objectives. It will be supported by a multi-year federal budget plan, as well. And this year's budget, while significant, is only a first payment. And as the President committed in the State of the Union address, we will sustain this effort. No, it's true that in this town, power is often defined by how much you've been given to spend.
But the Office of Homeland Security cannot and should not measure success solely by this measure, solely by the standard of the amount of money we've directed. Ultimately, how wisely we spend it, I think, is a better indicator of success. We will measure on whether our nation is getting stronger each and every day, whether we have replaced confrontation with cooperation within government, within departments, within agencies, within the federal government and the state government and the local government. We'll measure it as to whether or not we change an information guarding culture into an information sharing one, whether we're effectively utilizing the years and years of professional no-how, gained by police officers and federal agents, whether we're tapping into the knowledge and spirit of our citizens.
The President asked me to look at America through this lens of security, that I believe and he believes we can make this not just a safer and stronger America, but a better America. Homeland security is not a zero-sum game, ladies and gentlemen. It's not robbing from Peter to secure Paul. It's a win-win. Firefighters better equipped to fight fires, police officers better armed to fight crime, the Coast Guard and Customs better able to intercept drug traffickers, commerce better able to cross our borders, small businesses protected against hackers, scientists with better tools to fight Mother Nature's deadliest diseases. And the list goes on.
And we will not achieve our goals overnight, but we will achieve them. This is a war without end, against an enemy that does not respect borders, institutions, or civilized behavior, an enemy that doesn't hide in caves, but in sleeper cells, blending into American society even in broad daylight; an enemy that uses commercial airplanes as missiles and turns unarmed passengers into combatants in their war; an enemy that shows no hesitation about using biological weapons; an enemy that I believe would not hesitate to use any weapon of mass destruction.
This enemy is smart and is resolute. We must be smarter and more resolute. I'm confident that we are. We must transcend borders, we must work with other freedom loving nations and share ideas. We must find and degrade every asset the terrorist has, financial, transportation, weapons, home and safe havens. Every day we must make real progress toward these goals.
The defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan came about only because our military forces work together. The CIA and special forces and the entire DOD apparatus, many of them on the ground with the knowledge of where the enemy lived, aided by pilots in the air, with the firepower to help to defeat them. An unprecedented collaborative cooperative effort. There was a lesson there in Afghanistan that must be applied to the homeland. We will learn from it, and we will prevail.
Question: Thank you, Governor Ridge. Yes, we do have a few questions. I'll try to group them and categorize them, in so far as possible. A number of them deal with a threat that was in the news just this past week, a story that terrorists were targeting nuclear power plant facilities in the United States.
With regard to nuclear plant security, what's the appropriate boundary between private and federal responsibility? Some have suggested, for example, that federal troops or guards be stationed in power plants. Others have suggested even that you might want to put anti-missile defenses, or anti-aircraft missiles next to a nuclear power plant.
Governor Ridge: Well, like most of what we need to do in Homeland Security, I think there's a joint responsibility with regard to the protection of those facilities. They are vulnerable. You should know that obviously prior to the deployment of a commercial airliner as a weapon on September 11th, the notion that an airliner conceivably would be used as a missile against a nuclear power plant was not part of the threat matrix that they looked at when they designed the facilities.
And so clearly, the threat design of nuclear facilities has to be reconsidered and there may ultimately be some actually bricks and mortar adjustments that are made to some of these facilities. Right now, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, working with the private sector, is looking at standards based on the new possible threat, what can they do together?
At such time as they reach an agreement, and decide on a direction, we have and will continue to use things like restriction on airspace, air assets, depending on the location and the nature of a threat, patrolling above nuclear facilities, locating air assets on the ground but within striking range if someone enters the airspace that's unauthorized.
So again, this is -- we know that it's a different world since September 11th. We know that our nuclear facilities were designed to combat the structure, and the security was designed to deal with land-based threats, primarily, explosions. We know we need to come up with a different response to a different kind of threat. And here the private sector and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy and everybody in the DOD have been working on how we enhance the security now, and looking for a permanent change down the road.
Question: And the other threat that has most recently been in the news is potential bioterrorism attacks. Because of last year's anthrax attacks, you believe the U.S. is today better prepared?
Governor Ridge: Well, every day we get -- we are more secure and better prepared. But clearly, one of the biggest challenges we have, I think in the area of bioterrorism -- well, actually there are several challenges, and let me speak to them.
One of the reasons, and I've thanked Congress not only in the 2002 budget, but in the supplemental budget, they infused the public health system with a lot more money then they've received in the past. And it seems to me that if we are to detect, one of the ways we detect that there has been a bioterrorism event is we have to have better monitoring capability around the nation. Remember, this is a comprehensive national strategy. The public health system has to be part of that strategy. The public health system has to be reinvigorated, and given some more assets than they have in the past.
And so the Congress has been very helpful. And I'm confident that they'll be helpful again in the 2003 budget. We need more epidemiologists. Again, that move with the support of the Congress in last year's budget, and additional money here. We built up stockpiles for dealing with antibiotics to deal with anthrax. We've enhanced the push-packs that we have around the country, put more vaccines and antidotes in the push-packs. We're going to expand that in this year's budget. There's a research -- a very, very large research component in the 2003 budget, so that the National Institute of Health can work in partnership with the research community and the private sector to work on vaccines and therapeutics for infectious diseases.
So again, we're a different place -- in a better place since the anthrax. One of the things I think we learned during the anthrax crisis, and I think it's a valuable lesson, is that we made some decisions predicated upon limited information we had about anthrax. And we found out that we didn't know as much about it as we thought we did. And so we commenced research in some other potential bioterrorism weapons, like small pox and others, that have been identified by the intelligence community, so in the event it happens, hopefully we'll have a better scientific basis upon which we make decisions.
One of the lessons I think we learned in the anthrax crisis is we'll tell people, this -- and America, based on what we know, this is what we recommend, this is what we should do. And we found out during those three or four weeks that every day we were learning more and more. So there are some lessons to be learned. But sure, we're much stronger now. And with work -- with the budgets of 2002 and the supplemental, with increasing epidemiologists -- I will tell you, this is a long-winded answer, but it's a very important question.
I was at -- the President and I visited the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh. They have designed a information gathering system that would assist a county health department or a state or the federal government in identifying rapidly a bioterrorism event, or just the spread of infectious disease in the region, by pulling in information, by connecting emergency rooms, primary care physicians, drug stores and other critical partners, critical sources of information, so that you see patterns developing.
And based on the knowledge that our professionals have, it doesn't take them long to see a spike in activity of a particular kind of ailment or a particular kind of problem. And then everybody can rush in and deal with it immediately. That's the kind of system we need around this country, and that's the kind of system we will have in this country, when it's all said and done.
Question: Before we get too far away from that area, Governor, any word on the anthrax investigation? Anything you can share with us that's come to your attention on the source of the attacks?
Governor Ridge: Well, unfortunately nothing more than you've read or written about. I mean, I think the -- obviously most of the attention of the investigating agents, the FBI and local and state police have turned inward, rather than external. We've learned -- as we learn more and more about the kind of anthrax, we learn the level of scientific sophistication that the perpetrator or perpetrators had to have in order to alter the anthrax. But we've also obviously identified potential sources of the strain where we're doing academic research and military research.
And so we've narrowed the universe a little bit, but we still have more work to go. I asked FBI Director Bob Mueller on the busiest day you were dealing with anthrax, how many agents did you have out there dealing with the whole anthrax -- he said, sometimes it was as many as 1,000. So obviously they've got people working on the anthrax challenges. And we've got a lot of support from the state and local police. But I remind you that during this period of time, we also had over 15,000 hoaxes. And that obviously complicated the mission as well.
Question: Governor, a lot of people think your office should be a federal department, with statutory authority. I know the President has so far rejected that option. But we would like to know if it is still being discussed at any level within the administration, and whether you have any views on it that you'd like to share?
Governor Ridge: Yes, yes, yes. (Laughter.) Actually, I should say, no, it's not being discussed in the administration, because we don't -- I've got all the authority that I need, and I'll get to that. Yes, it is being discussed. I mean, there are some -- some of my friends in Congress think it's very important for this office to be a legislated office. And I have some strong views on it.
And the answer is that the President has made it a priority. I've been in town -- people are worried about authority. I've been in town four months now, and I at least had $38 billion of budget authority in four months. That's not so bad.
And at some point in time, and I say this to the -- to those who think about the statutory authority -- as we take a look at the maze that you talked about, and that's out there, the number of agencies that we have to deal with, whether it's on the borders or elsewhere, one of the -- we may actually make some recommendations with regard to the integration or the consolidation of some of these agencies or some of these departments, which will certainly need legislative approval.
One of the interesting notions of the debate as to whether or not the office has statutory authority or budgetary authority, no matter what we would recommend, even if you are a member of the Cabinet and you are given statutory authority and budgetary authority, Congress still has to agree with you in order for you to get things done. So you may have a statutory authority to make the recommendation to consolidate departments. You may have the statutory authority to make recommendations that set sums and this should be spent here, here and here, but at the end of the day, unless you have the imprimatur of the Congress of the United States, it doesn't get done. That's the incredible beauty of the system. There's separation of powers. You build that consensus.
So one, I happen to believe that this President has set the model for future Presidents. At all times, I think the President should be served by an assistant dealing with homeland security. It's not exactly like the function that Dr. Rice performs in the area of national security, but there is a coordinating role. There is a strategic role. There is a change agent role. And you can effectively do those things without having statutory authority.
Question: Let me try another -- a much smaller slice of that pie. Could you do your job more effectively if you had several agencies or operating agencies and personnel under your direct authority?
Governor Ridge: Well, my job is not to operate. There is not a single word in the executive order creating the job that says you have operational responsibility. The job is to establish a strategy. The job is to, as I said before, try to look at everything through the security lens, and hopefully make things not only more secure and better, but -- there is a coordination responsibility here that someone would have to have, someone should have, regardless of whether or not down the road we, by statute or other device, consolidate some of these agencies.
So the job description as provided in the executive order says, create the -- develop the strategy, implement the strategy, coordinate -- I mean, this whole budget process, I think, spoke very well to the notion that the President's idea worked. I will tell you that the $38 billion wasn't just a -- an in-house, in-homeland security budget. We talked with the -- and had discussions, and coordinated activity between the relevant agencies that are affected by it. We talked to the governors, we involved the police, we involved the mayors, we involved -- remember it said it was a national strategy. It's not just a federal strategy. So we involved state government and local government. And we involved and coordinated and basically reached a consensus on this.
One of the interesting things in this budget is, we would make -- the Federal Emergency Management Agency would become the agency that basically deals with responding to the incidents, the consequence of a terrorist attack. And we take some of that responsibility. There's an Office of Domestic Preparedness that's over in Justice, and we take that, and put it over into FEMA. Now we agreed on that. And it's just not my idea, the mayors liked the idea, the governors liked the idea, local government organizations seemed to like the idea.
Now, here's -- I've made that recommendation. It's based on coordination and discussion with mayors and county executives, county officials and governors. So even if I had an agency, I've made that recommendation to move it from here to here. You still need congressional approval.
So again, I've got all the power and authority I need. The President has made it a priority. And since I speak for the President, with his support -- I don't ever speak for the President, I speak with the President's support -- I'm very comfortable with the role he's given me is to establish the strategy and coordinate, and that's exactly what I'm doing.
Question: The Secretary of Defense has before him a proposal to create a homeland CINC a commander-in-chief. If created, how would you interact with that individual, and what would it do for homeland security, in your view.
Governor Ridge: I appreciate very much. Secretary Rumsfeld had this discussion with me probably the first couple of weeks I was on the job. And because he was able to foresee the time, and it really evolved rather quickly, that we would be using many of the different assets that are available and the personnel available in the Department of Defense. We've got some people flying planes, you've got the Coast Guard that's changed its responsibilities, moved some of its people into homeland security, you've got National Guard. And we deal with it almost on an ad hoc basis. And he foresaw the need, I think, to have a unified command, if and when we would use men and women and equipment from the Department of Defense.
So I think it's a very significant move, a very appropriate move, just to have a unified command structure that we can deal with. There's a lot of other policy questions that have to be worked out in the meantime. But I'm very encouraged and grateful that the Secretary of Defense saw a need, moved quickly to address that need. And hopefully in the months ahead we -- whatever decision is reached, then we have some policy issues that we have to undertake, but I'm glad he was a visionary way back then. He knew that we would be calling on him to deploy some of these men and women and these assets. And a unified command structure is recognition of that need to have one spokesperson, one point of contact for the Office of Homeland Security.
Question: Secretary Rumsfeld says there are more military personnel this week at the Winter Olympics then there are in Afghanistan. Is this appropriate? And what role should the military be playing domestically? There are even people who say we need to go back and look at this many decades old law, posse comitatus which prevents direct use of military operational personnel in the States.
Governor Ridge: Well, I think we'll always be fairly protective of that principle. That is one of those policy discussions we'll have to engage with down the road with the Secretary of Defense. But the reason that we've got personnel from the Department of Defense at Salt Lake City, because we wanted to provide the most secure venues that the Olympics have ever seen for the participants and the spectators and for the families that live in Utah.
And the Secret Service took that upon themselves. The previous administration, President Clinton, had set up by executive order the notion that you've got a -- could have designated as an event a national special security event. It has to meet certain criteria. Our President Bush said, look, we need to keep being America and we had extended an invitation to the world years and years ago, come to America, come to Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah, have your Olympics here. Bring the world's best winter Olympians and athletes to America.
The planning process started well over two years ago. The Secret Service takes the lead when an event is designated as such. But they're working with the FBI, they're working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There are about 50 or 60 other agencies, some state, some federal, some local. It will be as secure as human beings and technology can make it.
And I will tell you that -- you know the Secretary of Defense, he's got soldiers -- this is not the traditional role that his men and women in the DOD play. So he's very protective of that prerogative and very cooperative in understanding and assigning some of these men and women who help make that a secure environment.
Question: Governor, as you might imagine, we have a whole series of questions dealing with aviation security. And even though that's John Magaw's bailiwick now --
Governor Ridge: Is John here to answer any of these questions? All right, I'll --
Question: Thank you. I knew you would. And I'm going to read this question verbatim. Do you think a -- because I suspect it's the individual involved who asked the question -- do you think a 67-year-old grandmother should have the Barney Books, polo shirts from the Bahamas and Swedish meatballs inspected at National Reagan, also forced to take off her shoes and have the plane delayed 15 minutes? And the questioner says, most security at the airports are idiots. (Laughter.)
Governor Ridge: Well, although I've only been on this job for 120 days -- (laughter) -- that individual does not fit the profile of somebody that I'd necessarily be looking at closely. I've got to tell you, I don't know who it was, thank you very much. (Applause.) I mean, that just doesn't fit. That just doesn't fit.
And I think it points very specifically to the notion that the President had and Congress embraced that we need to standardize the training of the individuals at these airports. I mean, part of the business of security, whether it's at an airport, at a border, or elsewhere, is trying to identify probabilities and "most likelies" and greatest potential for risk. And I just don't think that a 67-year-old grandmother with her Barney tee-shirts -- I hope they didn't eat the meatballs. (Laughter.) And that speaks to what the President and the Congress did when they passed the Federal Transportation Act, and that's -- there's no better example than that.
One of the challenges we have -- and I do want to say this because they work very, very hard -- we've hardened the cockpits. We do have baggage match. We do have more dogs deployed. We are deploying some technology. Right now, every able-bodied man and woman on an airplane considers themselves an air marshal, even though we're going to have more air marshals.
I don't know if you heard about it, but there was an incident today where there was a flight from Miami to South America, and for some unknown reason, somebody tried to break into the cockpit door. And as soon as he gets out of the hospital, they'll probably extradite him back to the States. (Laughter.)
But, you know, it's interesting, when the President called on -- and people say, what can we do, and we say, be vigilant. I mean, there are certain routines and patterns and rhythms of life that we all engage in. And when you see something that's a little out of sort, I mean, if you see somebody lighting their shoes -- (laughter) -- the report was that that individual had to -- I guess there was some doctors and they sedated him. I suspect after that incident, the next time they'd have the doctors to revive him, because I just don't think that people -- I mean, they're just that much more observant these days. And when the President calls on people to be vigilant, it's precisely the way.
But I'm sorry you were inconvenienced, but those things are going to change when we federalize the standards. And that's happening within the next week to 10 days.
Question: On that United flight this morning, was the cockpit breached? Was the cockpit actually entered?
Governor Ridge: They tried to gain entry through the bottom of the cockpit door, but it had been a hardened cockpit and they did not.
Question: Do you support a national ID card for air travelers that would enable air crew and frequent flyers to fly through security?
Governor Ridge: I've had the discussion, Secretary Mineta has, and others have had, with the airline industry of the possibility of using a biometric card, basically to establish an "easy pass" within the system. And I don't know how many of you travel so often that you've purchased Club access through a travel card. I mean, you pay x number of dollars and you can go in and have a cup of coffee as you wait your plane.
I think people would pay for the convenience of easier and quicker access. So we are discussing that. And it makes some sense to me. I think Americans would participate in some kind of identification system as a convenience. And we've begun those discussions with the aviation industry. I think it would be better for it to be voluntary. And we'll continue those discussions when I meet with them next week.
Question: Governor, we have a number of veterans here and military retirees who would like to know what role you see for them and for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for veterans organizations in homeland defense and in homeland defense policy considerations.
Governor Ridge: Well, first of all, I think the President has given every American an opportunity to serve this country through the USA Freedom Corps. One component of the USA Freedom Corps is a Citizens Corps, and there are several aspects of that. One of the elements of the Citizens Corps, we're going to try to get medical professionals, either retired -- basically who have retired, who still have maintained their skills to be part of a regional surge or emergency response team.
We have expanded Neighborhood Watch. We want to triple the number of local emergency response teams and rescue teams. So if you've been in the military, I think your experiences may lend itself to a couple of those. Depending on your age and your health -- I say this to retired military, I say this to retired state police and law enforcement community -- as we ramp up either the federal air marshal program or the security enhancements at our airports, I'd hope that you'd consider that. I think there might be ways that you could be helpful in that regard, as well.
And then, clearly, just as leaders in your community. I mean, one of the things that I feel very, very strongly about that we need to make the national homeland security strategy work is we need leadership at all levels of government and in all elements of society. We need leadership at the local level. We need leadership at the private sector. So I would say to my veteran friends, if you're involved in a community activity, if you're involved in a hospital, if you're involved with the local police and fire department -- we're asking communities to develop emergency plans and response plans and collaborate and cooperate like they've never done before. And I think that's going to happen.
But if you have an opportunity to step up and lead, just like you did when you were in the service, step up and lead. Because, having been trained by the Department of Defense, I know that men and women who have worn the uniform of this country, they've proven themselves time and time and time again on the battlefield. Whether they're individual soldiers, sailors, or airmen, Marines, men or women, collectively, they've proved themselves. But they can prove themselves as civilians by stepping up and taking charge. And that's what I'd encourage them to do.
Question: Governor, I want to go back and pick up one more late arriving nuclear power question. Provisions for protecting spent fuel storage areas associated with nuclear power plants, while you might not want to be specific, have extra steps been taken? Is there a need for more?
Governor Ridge: That is a very appropriate question. It's something that the Secretary of Energy, Spence Abraham, has been working on, the NRC. Additional steps have been taken. And, candidly, there are more to be taken. So it's a very appropriate question.
I think what it speaks to is the notion that I've tried to relay to you that since September 11th, as we've taken a look at this entire country and seen certain areas of risk and vulnerability, we've taken immediate steps, short-term action, so today these and other potential problems are better secured, but people are thinking longer-term about how to permanently reduce the risks associated with them.
Question: Governor, thank you very much for being with us. We do have time for one more question. But first I'd like to, on behalf of the National Press Club, give you this certificate of appreciation for joining us today. Thank you very much.
Governor Ridge: Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Question: And the coveted National Press Club mug.
Governor Ridge: I made it. (Laughter.)
Question: Which we trust will be secure on your desk.
Governor Ridge: It will be secure there. (Laughter.) And filled.
Question: And this, Governor, is a copy of this poster of front pages from newspapers across the United States and around the world late on the day of September 11th and on the morning of September 12th.
Governor Ridge: Thank you very much. Thank you.
Question: Final question.
Governor Ridge: Is this the one for the million dollars?
Question: This is the one for the million dollars. (Laughter.)
Governor Ridge: I'm not sitting in any of those crazy chairs to get it, am I? (Laughter.)
Question: Have you given any thought, Governor, with the crush of immediate operational questions that you want agencies to take and long-term strategy, to the underlying causes of terrorism? Have you pondered that? Do you have thoughts on that issue and what we might do in that area?
Governor Ridge: Well, whenever you've read Machiavelli or you read about people who were involved in wars over the centuries, and it's a philosophy that everybody in the command structure of the Department of Defense says, you need to know your enemy in order to defeat your enemy. And we've learned quite a bit about our enemy. But I will tell you that I think we have to prepare a system not based on a particular enemy or a particular kind of threat or particular organization.
I think we have a pretty good idea why Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda have chosen America as a target, and why they've used our own country against us, and what motivates them -- I think can in some instances be separable from McVeigh in Oklahoma City. So I think when we try to prepare and defend ourselves, we know that the enemies out there may be motivated by they're resolute, they're persistent. I think our freedoms, our system of government, our diversity, our tolerance -- I wouldn't be here talking about the Taliban in Afghanistan if Mullah Omar had a national press club in Kabul where, in a free and open society, men and women journalists could question and probe and analyze and challenge what they were doing to women, what they were doing to repress their society.
So I think part of what motivates them is there's obviously a hatred there built upon many foundations. But I think in large measure, part of that hatred is in response to the freedoms that we have, the prosperity we've enjoyed, the values we cherish.
Having said that, I think -- and I want to conclude with this -- we still, in this country, with regard to the Islamic world, we still need, as the President said in the State of the Union, we need to take the initiative to see to it that those men and women and those leaders and those countries better understand who we are, what we are about. But it's reciprocal. We need to better understand who they are, what motivates them.
And I think -- and again, the President making that overture in his State of the Union address, harbingers good things for us. But I think we're dealing with these enemies now, we know a lot about them. But I don't think we should be in the mind-set that if we deal with bin Laden and we deal with al Qaeda, that the threat is over. Unfortunately, I think it's a permanent condition, because there will be follow-on of hatred and a follow-on of evil and a follow-on of dangerous people around the world who want to undermine our government.
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