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Ridge Vows to Make America Safer - 2002-06-12

President Bush and members of Congress continue to discuss Mr. Bush's plan to form a new government homeland security agency. Tom Ridge, the president's director for homeland security, met with about 200 members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Emerging from his meeting in the House of Representatives, Mr. Ridge said he had one purpose - to bring President Bush's leadership and Congress together to make America safer.

Mr. Ridge said questions centered on how to enhance security, while making sure U.S. economic interaction, especially with neighboring Mexico and Canada is not harmed.

However, amid a continuing congressional investigation into how the CIA and FBI handled information prior to September 11, lawmakers want to know what the administration has in mind for those two agencies.

Mr. Ridge acknowledged this concern in his comments to reporters. He said, "[There] continues to be a concern about the gap of a single point within the federal government where all the information gathered by the intelligence community is analyzed. There seemed to be fairly broad support for the president's notion there ought to be one place."

Democratic Congressman David Obey emerged from the meeting with Mr. Ridge expressing concern about the size of the reorganization. He said the president's plan could be hobbled by a lack of money. "You can have all the reorganization in the world," he said, "but if you don't back that up with added resources, you're still going to have empty boxes on the chart."

Earlier, the chairmen of key congressional committees with jurisdiction over homeland security issues met with President Bush at the White House.

Mr. Ridge returns to Capitol Hill Thursday to meet with lawmakers in the Senate.