A U.S. Senate panel has approved President Bush's nominee to head the new Homeland Security Agency, Tom Ridge. He is now expected to receive easy confirmation in the full Senate.
Mr. Ridge told the Senate Government Affairs Committee that the United States is safer today than when it was attacked on September 11, 2001. But he says more needs to be done.
"Things are considerably different. They are better. We are safer. But having said all that, do we need to do more at the borders? You bet we do. Do we need to do more [to secure] other modes of transportation other than airplanes? Yes, we do." he said.
Mr. Ridge, the director of the White House Office of Homeland Security, was nominated by Mr. Bush in November to be secretary of the new agency.
Government Affairs Committee chairwoman, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, praised Mr. Ridge's background and experience, saying he is an ideal candidate for the job.
Several senators called on Mr. Ridge to focus on intelligence-sharing among federal agencies, to help prevent other terrorist attacks like those in New York and Washington in 2001.
"You can put together a fusion center, where all intelligence comes in, where your people can analyze and disseminate intelligence," said Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. "You can have all the people in the world, you can have all the resources in the world, but, I believe, if you do not do this, your mission will fail."
Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, called on the Bush administration to do more to accelerate development of vaccines and to adequately fund homeland security.
The creation of the new department will require the largest government reorganization in a half century, bringing together all or parts of nearly two dozen federal agencies to better coordinate anti-terrorism efforts at home.