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REMARKS BY SECRETARY RIDGE TO MEDIA SECURITY AND RELIABILITY COUNCIL

05-27-2003

SECRETARY RIDGE:  Dennis, thank you very much.  Chairman Powell, and members of the Council, I want to express my appreciation for your work.

And Susan Neely is with me.  She's Assistant Secretary for Communications.  She is responsible for the public affairs portion of homeland security.  We view it as a - one of the most critical components of the new department, and one of the most important pieces of critical infrastructure.

We need to protect those means by which we communicate timely and accurate information to the public during periods of crisis, and so we're going to stick around a little bit longer and benefit from your discussion of best practices.  I mean, we think the work you've done, we suspect has immediate application to that point.

You should know that, during the top-off exercise that you-all covered and commented upon last week, where we had the radiological device detonated in Seattle and the biological challenge in, the plague, in Chicago, that for the purposes of the exercise, we engaged Frank Sesno to set up a VNN network so that we could work through the entire five days through the media, because we understand that communication during times of crisis is a critical part of what we do, so literally, every day.

And it was a means by which we could have emergency management officials and public officials and others view our emergency communication, and we had that as an integral part of the exercise, and we're going to go back and review what we said, how it was projected, how people who viewed it responded to it.  We're going to be very analytical and very, I think, very constructive as we take a look at our emergency communication plan during those two crises, and I suspect that had we had the benefit, perhaps, of your work and the reports of your best practices, we might have actually changed how we responded.

But we did have, as part of that program, a virtual news network.  They ran it constantly.  And engaging you today and engaging you for all time in the future, as we deal with the challenge confronting this nation in the post-9/11 environment is something that we have to sustain this conversation, because the public information component is one of the most critical pieces of the national response to crisis.

And so I'm grateful for the invitation to be with you today and anxious to spend some time with you discussing the work product of your working groups.

If I might, just by way of introduction, share with you a couple thoughts, because I think, not only as leaders of the media, but as spouses and parents and neighbors and citizens, your concerns about the post-9/11 environment covers many different parts of who you are and what you do.

 As a citizen, you're concerned for your country, as a spouse and father, about your family, and as leaders of your profession, concerned about how you can help us help your country during times of crisis.

I want to assure you that every day the Department of Homeland Security, and the country, for that matter, I believe at the end of every day gets to a new and better level of readiness.  We're never going to design a fail-safe system.  We will never eliminate the threat.

We will never be in a position where we can virtually guarantee that nothing will happen.  It's impossible.  We need to understand that.  We're an open country, a diverse country, a welcoming country.  We're going to have to maintain those qualities.

We're obviously going to have to do things differently.  The sights and sounds of 9/11 are with us forever.  And because of that, we know that there are different kinds of actions that we have to take on a day-to-day basis, but I want to assure you, today, we are at a higher level of preparation and readiness than we were yesterday and by the end of the day today, we'll be at a higher level than we were this morning.

Every day, we reach a new level of readiness, and it's not just because of what the Federal Government is doing.  I mean, I think that's very important to note.

The entire country has been engaged, sometimes with the support of the Federal Government, the encouragement of the Federal Government, and financial leverage or financial support by the Federal Government, but the states and localities and the private sector have been doing a lot of things on their own initiative.

That's why, when the President designed a national strategy for homeland security, and when he asked the Office of Homeland Security that I first served in the White House to design a strategy, it wasn't a Federal strategy for homeland security, it was a national strategy.

I see my friend, Governor Gilmore here.  We've had many conversations about that.  Governors understand, as the President understands, that we can't secure America from Washington, D.C.

We can provide, hopefully, leadership and set technological standards and share best practices and do a lot of things here in Washington, but the homeland is only secure when the hometown is secure.

So you really build your capacity to prevent - and there are three primary missions -  you build your capacity to prevent a terrorist, reduce vulnerability to a terrorist attack, and enhance your capacity to respond to an attack, if one occurs, at the grassroots level up.

So the President's vision that we need a national strategy, not a Federal strategy is really at the heart of our effort and very much where the Department of Homeland Security in its reorganizational efforts is headed, to start from the ground up.  If you secure the hometown, the homeland will be secure.

To that end, our three primary missions - the preventive side, obviously, the most dramatic means of prevention is the work that our military and the CIA have done in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere around the world to prevent the terrorists from even getting here.

Treasury has helped.  They've frozen, and our allies have helped freeze funds, so we've disrupted their training cells, disrupted their organization, frozen some assets.

A lot of things that are going on outside the Department in the area of prevention, but we have a preventive role, as well, and that's at our ports and our borders, preventing terrorists from getting in, preventing weapons from getting in.

To that end, when you've got 7,500 miles of land border with Mexico and Canada, and you've got 95,000 miles of navigable waterways and coastlines, you know you've got quite a task.

And so what we've done in the area of prevention, in addition to reorganizing at the border so there's one face at the border - as you know, some of the organizations that we inherited included Customs and INS and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the like.

If you were traveling into this country, depending on what you had in your luggage, you might have seen three or four different people, three or four different uniforms when you came into this country from overseas.

We needed one face at the border, one chain of command, one person that we could hold accountable.

And so we are in the process of creating a bureau that deals with border issues, and merging some of these groups into that Bureau of Customs and Border Patrol, and then we are creating out of these disparate organizations another bureau to deal with immigration and Customs enforcement issues, so that at the border, you see one face.

And to that end, working with this new organization, we called upon the private sector to help us.  We have a Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, as we try to - as the President has directed us, with our land borders, and sea borders for that matter, but basically with our land borders to Canada and Mexico.

The implications of 9/11, for several days after that horrible, horrible day for the economies of the communities and states at the border, were severe, it was dramatic, and it was very painful.

So the President said a long time ago we need a 21st century border agreement and approach where we enhance security, but we can facilitate commerce.

To that end, we've got a trade partnership that we're working with the private sector, so that we actually work with them on the supply chain, so that the goods would be coming in from Canada, the goods would be coming in from Mexico, working with the private sector, we'll begin securing those shipments before they get to the border, as long as they agree to the protocols, the security protocols that we insist upon, and agree to random checks.

Again, we need private sector partners, just like we need private sector partners to get the message out to people such as yourselves.

We have a cargo security initiative.  You know, you've heard this, and I'm sure many of you have reported it.  It may not have been exactly the way we had hoped you'd report it, but you reported that 2 or 3 percent of the ships coming into this country are searched, and people say, "What happened to the other 97 or 98 percent?"

Those are not random searches.  They are boarded for very specific reasons, and the reason have to do with information we're able to secure from a variety of sources with regard to the crew, where the ship has been, and the contents, and who's shipping the contents.

So we believe we board 100 percent of the high-interest vessels.  There's a fairly sophisticated algorithm.  We plug the information in and we've got several intelligence-gathering agencies.

So when you report they're boarding 2 or 3 percent of the ships, you're right, but they're not random.  They do board some random, but the 2 or 3 percent are targeted.

And to take the border even beyond that, we've got something now that we've been working on for several months called the cargo security initiative, where we're going to put our Customs and Border Patrol folks in the megaports around the country.

There are 20 ports that generate 65 percent of the container traffic to this country.  We want to inspect the cargo before it gets on board the ship, before it's delivered to the United States, again, trying to push our perimeter out as far as we possibly can.

When we've reached agreements with the 20 that generate the 65 percent, then we're going to start working with the other ports as well, but you should know that we'll have Americans stationed in these ports who have non-intrusive technology that kind of lets us shine a light into some of the dark corners and take a look at the contents of these containers.

And again, you've got people, non-intrusive technology.  You're gathering information.  And we've required that they send in a manifest 24 hours before they load the container.  Again, a fairly sophisticated approach.  Using intelligence from a variety of different places and information from places, we can then run questionable containers through these machines.

So again, we have a preventive role that's at our borders and our ports.  We're doing assessments, obviously, in our ports here, and you know the ramped-up security through the Transportation Security Administration at the airports.

We still have work to do, clearly, but a new level of readiness every day.  We believe - we insist on it and we believe that we've accomplished that goal.

Secondly, protecting infrastructure.  You all own or control critical pieces of infrastructure - communication.  We need you during times of crisis, and I suspect that some of your best practices will involve how you can actually protect your assets, your physical and your cyber assets.

But the President's vision to involve - to build a national strategy, which then was the precursor to the Department of Homeland Security, recognizes that reducing our vulnerabilities as a country is a critical role for this new department.

How are we going to do that?  Well, you need information, intelligence, and so within the new department, we have an information analysis unit.

And we are - and we tie that in and get us access to all the information that's out there generated by all other intelligence-gathering agencies, but we take and identify that threat, map it, and match it against the vulnerability, and we're in a position then to go out and say, "These are the protective measures you and this industry need to take.  We will share best practices.  These are the things you need to do to harden these targets."

So substantially, it's a brand new strategic product for the Federal Government.  We never did this before.  And we tie our information analytical group into the Threat Integration Center.

As you know, the President created a venue, a single locus where all the information from all the agencies is available for analysts from the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and DOD.

The Threat Integration Center is not a collection agency, but it has access to all the raw data and everything that's being collected by everybody else, and they are positioned to give the President a comprehensive threat picture based on their access to all the information that's out there.

And that's only been up and running since the first part - since May 1, but I've seen some of the initial products, and it's an entirely different mindset and an entirely different approach than we've had before as a country.

We now have a group of people who don't worry about collecting, they worry about analyzing.

We have access to that information, as well, because we have some of our analysts, and we'll have more in the months ahead, so that if we see something in the report that relates to a target in the United States and we understand where this information came from, we have the ability to set intelligence requirements to go back to this Threat Integration Center and say, "We need answers to the following questions.  See if you can give us" - through whatever probative means they have, whatever their sources - "see if you can find answers to these questions, because we need these answers in order to give specific direction to a particular sector in the economy, so we can harden America."

It's a real value-added product, and again, it's a new strategic product.  We've never had this before.

Third is the response and recovery.  You know, we've had a Federal Emergency Management Agency that always responded to natural disasters.  That's now an all hazards response agency, and we drilled that in the top-off exercise, and we've been very critical.  We're taking a look at ourselves.

There were 20-some agencies involved in the exercise.  Everybody's got an opinion.  Everybody's got a point of view.

But we had the state and locales involved.  We had observers from around the country, other emergency management officials involved.

So we have a good self-assessment of the operation that we conducted at these two venues, and we will look at it critically, because at the end of the day, that's the only way you can look at an exercise like that.

I think we did some things very well, but already I would share with you just my brief encounter, my own personal observations, there were a couple things I think we could have done better.  $60 million well spent.

You know, one of the reasons we've had so much success in Afghanistan and Iraq is that the military spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year on training and practice and practice and exercise and training and practice and practice and exercise, over and over and over again, and they learn from every exercise.

Unfortunately, the reality of the 21st century world is that DHS, from time to time, will do national exercises, and on a more frequent basis, we're going to be doing them with the states, and then scrub it up, hot wash it, and say what we did right we want to build on and what we did wrong we want to correct, and if there were gaps, we have to fill them.  That's just the way we got to operate. That's exactly how we will operate.

Funding is an issue you've been reading about, reporting on.  If the President gets his 2004 budget passed this year, available to states and localities between now and the end of the year will be nearly $8 billion.

And one of the challenges we have in this country is to make sure that we're getting security for every dollar.  In Washington, and I was in the Congress for 12 years, and the political world is more often about inputs rather than outcomes.

I think we need to be more concerned about both.  Not only, is it enough, but does it take us to where we need to get to?  Are these dollars well spent?  Are they spent building capacity, national capacity, to prevent attack, reduce vulnerability, or respond to an attack?

Again, we have the responsibility within the Department to work with the states and locales in order to ensure that that happens.

Our Homeland Security Advisory Council, we have one, and we work with state and local leaders.  We basically sent out a template for a state plan so that in future years, we can match their requests for money against their state plan, so we can see on an annual basis how we are building up capacity - communications equipment, emergency response equipment, training and exercises.

The paradigm pre-9/11, and I did it as a Congressman, you come to town, and wherever you get a chance to access money, you access it.  Now, at least for homeland security purposes, having thousands and thousands of municipalities and cities just coming down and doing their own thing is not the most effective use of security dollars.  

It's one of the challenges we have in a federal system.  We can't mandate a lot of these things.  We can leverage a little bit, we can advocate, we can proselytize, we can promote, but developing a national strategy over a federal system is one of our biggest challenges.  And to that end the Homeland Security Advisory System -- you know, the color coded system you heard so much about?  Well, it's beginning to work.  When we raise or lower the level, every department of the federal government does more or less in terms of prevention.  Now to get 50 states plus the territories and major cities to adopt it is something we are working in the Department of Homeland Security.

L.A. has adopted it.  New York has a system. The State of New Jersey and some other states have a system.  So again we make progress every day. We like to think that at some point in time in the near future the federal government, the states and the locals as well as the private sector will say and will have available to them certain preventive measures that they take that they raise or lower depending on the threat.  

The color code is really similar, and this may or may not be the best comparison, but it's similar to the light that you see at the intersection where, depending on the color, you know you ought to do certain things.  

I'm not going to ask you whether you always do what you're supposed to do.  But the fact of the matter is this is really not a signal -- it's a signal to America generally, the public generally, this is our assessment of the threat level now, but it's really a signal to law enforcement security personnel.  At a certain level of threat, we expect certain levels of prevention and protection and security to be overt and to be out there.  We don't have that system nationwide yet, but I am confident there that we will.

Of course I mentioned the organization -- and finally I want to get to the public information campaign.  We're all working together.  The Homeland Security Advisory System is very much a part of that.  You've been very helpful.  It is now on many networks and newspapers.  It's just a matter of it's an inclusion daily.  It's just a reminder.  We're grateful for that reminder.  It's very important and, unfortunately, it's the reality that we're dealing with.  I thank you for that.

We have a public affairs campaign.  You know, I have heard all the duct tape jokes I can stand.  I do have some favorites, however, and I have a pretty good collection of the political cartoonists, those of you -- some of us are really talented cartoonists out there I might add.

But here is a good way, an effective way of discussing a very serious subject.  In preparing for the possibility of an attack I think is everyone's responsibility.  And I think that humor, prior to our announcement of the Ready Campaign, was one of the reasons that our website generated over 100 million hits the first two weeks we were up because people want to know what should I do as an individual citizen to fight against terrorists.  The military, the CIA, the FBI the employees of the Department of Homeland Security, state and local police and firemen -- we have a lot of professionals out there doing it, but what we want citizens to do is just to be prepared.  Be prepared with information, because on our website we will be giving people more and more information.  Be prepared with two or three days' worth of supplies.

You may not be the direct target of attack, but for a variety of reasons you may be virtually immobile or isolated in the community for a couple of days.  All we want you to do is be prepared to stay in place if the circumstances warrant.

There are a lot more people taking it seriously.  Certainly the evidence of the 100 million hits suggests that people are curious enough to look and see what we're talking about.  Of course in our house we are prepared.  We are prepared to stay for a lot longer and I keep asking Michelle "all that water?"  She reminds me it's not for me.  We have three dogs, so we've got to take care of the animals as well.  We do want people to take care of their pets.

So this ready campaign is very much a part of the national strategy to engage citizens in the unlikely but possible event you will be instructed by your local officials to stay in place and it depends on the nature of the attack.

We've done a lot of work together in the first four months.  This department hasn't been up for more than four months.  We are fast approaching 100 days, a little bit over 100 days, and we appreciate your support.

I think we've got a couple of the Ready Campaign commercials to just show you.  And then I am anxious to see where our conversation takes us.  

I just want to assure you that every single day, not just 180,000 men and women in the Department of Homeland Security but the Homeland Security advisors in every state and territory has one.  I talk to them, we talk to them a couple times a month.  

Most of the major cities have their own operation centers, some have their own intelligence units.  The joint terrorism task force the FBI is running in cooperation with local and state police.  Every single day we are looking for ways to enhance our security and improve our readiness.

We appreciate the role that we have to communicate that message and appreciate the support you have given the Homeland Security advisory system and Ready Campaign today.  Thank you.

MR. FITZIMMONS:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Now do you have something that you want to roll right now?

(Video was played.)

MR. FITZSIMMONS:  Mr. Secretary, thank you.