President Bush launches the biggest government reorganization in more than 50 years, signing legislation that creates a new Department of Homeland Security, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Monday.
J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE / Associated Press
Below: Protesters wearing the color pink and trench coats play out a skit tearing up a copy of the Bill of Rights Monday in front of the White House in Washington. The protest was in part due to the signing of the new Homeland Security Department into law by President Bush on Monday at the White House.
LAWRENCE JACKSON / Associated Press
The reorganization can
neither prevent nor predict
an attack, Bush says.
WASHINGTON -- President Bush
on Monday named close friend Tom
Ridge to head the new Department
of Homeland Security, but said even
the biggest government shakeup in
more than a half century can "neither predict nor prevent every conceivable attack."
"We're doing everything we can to
protect America," Bush said as he
signed a bill creating the department. "In a free and open society,
no department of government can
completely guarantee our safety
against ruthless killers who move
and plot in shadows."
With that sobering assessment
from an East Room stage, Bush
asked the Senate to confirm his
nomination of Ridge and named two
high-powered deputies: Navy Secretary Gordon England and Drug Enforcement Administration Director
A large portion of the department
will take shape March 1, when the
Secret Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service and a few other
agencies transfer their employees
and budgets to the new entity, officials said. The final pieces will be
put in place Sept. 30, 2003 --
more than two years after the
attacks that prompted the overhaul.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
Ridge, 57, is a Vietnam hero,
a former congressman and longtime political ally of the Bush
family who nearly 14 months
ago left his position as Pennsylvania governor to serve in the
White House. No one else was
seriously considered for the job,
Bush aides said.
As the president's homeland
security adviser, Ridge has won
praise for improving communication between Washington and local governments. His most visible creation -- the color-coded
national warning system -- became an instant butt of jokes
but has helped Americans understand the ebbs and flows in
terrorism threats, even if they're
still unsure what, if anything, to
do about the dangers.
Bush initially opposed creation
of a homeland security department. But, facing criticism from
Democrats, he embraced the
concept in June and used it as a
political issue in the midterm
"The continuing threat of terrorism, the threat of mass murder on our own soil, will be met
with a unified, effective response," Bush told an overflowing White House crowd.
He has given Ridge a daunting assignment to combine nearly two dozen agencies, $40 billion in budgets and 170,000
employees spread across a
broad swath of federal bureaucracy and well-protected turf.
It is the biggest federal reorganization since the Defense Department's birth in 1947, and
critics warn that problems are
sure to crop up.
White House press secretary
Ari Fleischer said it will take
more than a year to get the
agency fully up and running.
But the administration's transition plan, devised in secret
meetings, sets a more ambitious
goal of Sept. 30, 2003, officials
Agencies can begin moving to
the new department 90 days after the plan is submitted to Congress. Bush plans to submit it
The first wave of agencies
folding into the department
March 1 include the Secret Service, Coast Guard, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Transportation
Safety Administration and the
General Service Administration's
federal protective services, officials said.
"I think it's doable, but I
wouldn't expect all the warts to
be worked out in the first year,"
said Dwight Ink, a former Office
of Management and Budget and
General Services official.
The department will soon
open temporary headquarters in
the Washington area. Its long-term housing will be determined
Ridge, who had close ties to
the first Bush White House, was
on the president's short list of
potential running mates in 2000,
but his abortion-rights views
made his nomination untenable
Another example of his centrist views -- a record of accommodating unions -- may help
Ridge heal a rift between the
White House and labor groups
representing federal employees.
They oppose a provision in the
bill that allows the waiving of
collective bargaining rules.
Bush has a history of hiring
people with compelling personal
histories, and Ridge fits the bill.
Raised in blue-collar Erie, Pa.,
he worked summers as a union
laborer and went to Harvard
Sent to Vietnam in the spring
of 1970, Ridge killed an enemy
sentry in a fire fight and called
in support fire. He won the
Bronze Star for valor.
He was elected to Congress in
1982 and served 12 years.
Here's the White House
transition timetable to
transfer agencies to the
new Department of Homeland Security, according to
officials speaking on condition of anonymity:
March 1: The Secret
Service, Coast Guard, Customs Service, Immigration
and Naturalization Service,
Transportation Safety Administration and the General Service Administration's federal protective
April 1: The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center.
May 1: The Pentagon's
June 1: The Agriculture
Department's Plum Island
Animal Disease Center.
Sept. 30: Final transfers