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Ridge: Homeland Security Agency Faces Daunting Challenges - 2003-01-30

U.S. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge says federal authorities must work together, and embrace new challenges to safeguard domestic security in an era of global terrorism.

Homeland Security Director Ridge says he has no illusions about the monumental challenge his agency faces in protecting a nation as large as the United States from terrorism and other threats.

Mr. Ridge addressed federal employees, ranging from immigration agents to Coast Guard officers, at the Port of Miami. He stressed that, when it comes to keeping a watchful eye on the people and products entering the United States, there is no room for error.

"Today, more than one million people will cross our borders, some by car, some by sea, some by plane. Today, 95,000 miles of coastline will need our agencies' watchful eyes. Today, thousands and thousands of visas and green cards will reach the desks of INS offices," said Mr. Ridge. "The sheer depth and breadth of this nation means simply that one slip, one gap, one vengeful person can threaten the lives of our citizens at any time, in any number of ways."

Mr. Ridge said some federal agencies, such as the U.S. Border Patrol, will be restructured to improve operations and boost vigilance.

The Senate recently confirmed Tom Ridge as the United States' first Homeland Security director. His agency, created in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, is charged with coordinating and refocusing the efforts of diverse federal organizations and responding to domestic security threats as they arise.