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Bush Welcomes Creation of Department of Homeland Security - 2003-01-24

President Bush has welcomed the creation of the new Department of Homeland Security. Mr. Bush called for creation of the new agency following the September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

President Bush says the new cabinet-level agency will face many challenges in the year to come as it begins what he calls "a vital mission to defend the nation." "We've learned that vast oceans no longer protect us from the dangers of a new era," said President Bush. "This government has a responsibility to confront the threat of terror wherever it is found."

President Bush says that includes tracking-down terrorists overseas as well as improving security at home with this new department, which will bring together more than 170,000 federal employees.

The Department of Homeland Security brings together elements from 22 current agencies, including the Coast Guard, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Customs, the Border Patrol and the Secret Service.

The department will be charged with analyzing information on terrorist threats, protecting air and sea ports and coordinating a response to future emergencies, including research into improving survival following chemical or biological attack.

Vice President Dick Cheney swore-in former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge as the new department's first chief. Mr. Ridge is now the 15th member of the Bush cabinet and will oversee the largest reorganization of the U.S. government in more than 50 years.