Homeland Security Act
November 25, 2002
Thanks for coming. Thanks
for the warm welcome, and welcome to the White House.
Today, we are taking historic action to defend the United
States and protect our citizens against the dangers of
a new era. With my signature, this act of Congress will
create a new Department of Homeland Security, ensuring
that our efforts to defend this country are comprehensive
The new department will analyze threats, will guard our
borders and airports, protect our critical infrastructure,
and coordinate the response of our nation for future emergencies.
The Department of Homeland Security will focus the full
resources of the American government on the safety of the
American people. This essential reform was carefully considered
by Congress and enacted with strong bipartisan majorities.
I want to thank Tom Ridge, the Homeland Security Advisor,
for his hard work on this initiative. I want to thank all
the members of my Cabinet who are here for their work.
I want to thank the members of Congress who are with us
today, particularly those members of Congress who were
essential to the passage, many of whom stand up here on
the stage with me. One member not with us is our mutual
friend from Texas, Phil Gramm. I appreciate his hard work.
I thank the work of Senator Fred Thompson and Senator Joe
Lieberman. I appreciate Zell Miller and Don Nickles' hard
work as well. We've got a lot of members from the House
here and I want to thank you all for coming. I particularly
want to pay homage to Dick Armey, who shepherded the bill
to the floor of the House of Representatives. I'll miss
him -- I'm not so sure everybody will. (Laughter and applause.)
I thank Tom DeLay for making sure the bill got passed.
I thank Rob Portman for his hard work. And I want to thank
Ellen Tauscher as well for her leadership on this issue.
I appreciate Kay James of the Office of Personnel Management
who worked so hard to make sure this effort was understood
by everybody in our government, and I want to thank the
other administration officials who are here, many of whom
are going to be responsible for seeing to it this new department
I want to thank all the local and state officials who
are here with us today. I see governors and county judges,
mayors for coming. My own mayor -- the Mayor of Washington,
D.C., I appreciate you coming, Mr. Mayor.
I want to thank the local and state law enforcement officials
who are here, the chiefs of police and fire chiefs who
are with us today. I see the chief of my city now is here
as well. Thank you, Mr. Chief, for coming.
I want to thank the union representatives who are here.
We look forward to working with you to make sure that your
people are treated fairly in this new department. I want
to thank the federal workers who are here. You're charged
with being on the front line of protecting America. I understand
your job, we look forward to working with you to make sure
you get your job done. I want to thank the President's
Homeland Security Advisory Council as well. And thank you
all for coming.
From the morning of September the 11th, 2001, to this
hour, America has been engaged in an unprecedented effort
to defend our freedom and our security. We're fighting
a war against terror with all our resources, and we're
determined to win.
With the help of many nations, with the help of 90 nations,
we're tracking terrorist activity, we're freezing terrorist
finances, we're disrupting terrorist plots, we're shutting
down terrorist camps, we're on the hunt one person at a
time. Many terrorists are now being interrogated. Many
terrorists have been killed. We've liberated a country.
We recognize our greatest security is found in the relentless
pursuit of these cold-blooded killers. Yet, because terrorists
are targeting America, the front of the new war is here
in America. Our life changed and changed in dramatic fashion
on September the 11th, 2001.
In the last 14 months, every level of our government has
taken steps to be better prepared against a terrorist attack.
We understand the nature of the enemy. We understand they
hate us because of what we love. We're doing everything
we can to enhance security at our airports and power plants
and border crossings. We've deployed detection equipment
to look for weapons of mass destruction. We've given law
enforcement better tools to detect and disrupt terrorist
cells which might be hiding in our own country.
And through separate legislation I signed earlier today,
we will strengthen security at our nation's 361 seaports,
adding port security agents, requiring ships to provide
more information about the cargo, crew and passengers they
carry. And I want to thank the members of Congress for
working hard on this important piece of legislation as
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 takes the next critical
steps in defending our country. The continuing threat of
terrorism, the threat of mass murder on our own soil will
be met with a unified, effective response.
Dozens of agencies charged with homeland security will
now be located within one Cabinet department with the mandate
and legal authority to protect our people. America will
be better able to respond to any future attacks, to reduce
our vulnerability and, most important, prevent the terrorists
from taking innocent American lives.
The Department of Homeland Security will have nearly 170,000
employees, dedicated professionals who will wake up each
morning with the overriding duty of protecting their fellow
citizens. As federal workers, they have rights, and those
rights will be fully protected. And I'm grateful that the
Congress listened to my concerns and retained the authority
of the President to put the right people in the right place
at the right time in the defense of our country.
I've great confidence in the men and women who will serve
in this department and in the man I've asked to lead it.
As I prepare to sign this bill into law, I am pleased to
announce that I will nominate Governor Tom Ridge as our
nation's first Secretary of Homeland Security. (Applause.)
Americans know Tom as an experienced public servant and
as the leader of our homeland security efforts since last
year. Tom accepted that assignment in urgent circumstances,
resigning as the governor of Pennsylvania to organize the
White House Office of Homeland Security and to develop
a comprehensive strategy to protect the American people.
He's done a superb job. He's the right man for this new
and great responsibility. (Applause.)
We're going to put together a fine team to work with Tom.
The Secretary of the Navy, Gordon England, will be nominated
for the post of Deputy Secretary. (Applause.)
And Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, now the Administrator
of the Drug Enforcement Administration, will be nominated
to serve as Under Secretary for Border and Transportation
The Secretary-designate and his team have an immense task
ahead of them. Setting up the Department of Homeland Security
will involve the most extensive reorganization of the federal
government since Harry Truman signed the National Security
Act. To succeed in their mission, leaders of the new department
must change the culture of many diverse agencies -- directing
all of them toward the principal objective of protecting
the American people. The effort will take time, and focus,
and steady resolve. It will also require full support from
both the administration and the Congress. Adjustments will
be needed along the way. Yet this is pressing business,
and the hard work of building a new department begins today.
When the Department of Homeland Security is fully operational,
it will enhance the safety of our people in very practical
First, this new department will analyze intelligence information
on terror threats collected by the CIA, the FBI, the National
Security Agency and others. The department will match this
intelligence against the nation's vulnerabilities -- and
work with other agencies, and the private sector, and state
and local governments to harden America's defenses against
Second, the department will gather and focus all our efforts
to face the challenge of cyberterrorism, and the even worse
danger of nuclear, chemical, and biological terrorism.
This department will be charged with encouraging research
on new technologies that can detect these threats in time
to prevent an attack.
Third, state and local governments will be able to turn
for help and information to one federal domestic security
agency, instead of more than 20 agencies that currently
divide these responsibilities. This will help our local
governments work in concert with the federal government
for the sake of all the people of America.
Fourth, the new department will bring together the agencies
responsible for border, coastline, and transportation security.
There will be a coordinated effort to safeguard our transportation
systems and to secure the border so that we're better able
to protect our citizens and welcome our friends.
Fifth, the department will work with state and local officials
to prepare our response to any future terrorist attack
that may come. We have found that the first hours and even
the first minutes after the attack can be crucial in saving
lives, and our first responders need the carefully planned
and drilled strategies that will make their work effective.
The Department of Homeland Security will also end a great
deal of duplication and overlapping responsibilities. Our
objective is to spend less on administrators in offices
and more on working agents in the field -- less on overhead
and more on protecting our neighborhoods and borders and
waters and skies from terrorists.
With a vast nation to defend, we can neither predict nor
prevent every conceivable attack. And in a free and open
society, no department of government can completely guarantee
our safety against ruthless killers, who move and plot
in shadows. Yet our government will take every possible
measure to safeguard our country and our people.
We're fighting a new kind of war against determined enemies.
And public servants long into the future will bear the
responsibility to defend Americans against terror. This
administration and this Congress have the duty of putting
that system into place. We will fulfill that duty. With
the Homeland Security Act, we're doing everything we can
to protect America. We're showing the resolve of this great
nation to defend our freedom, our security and our way
It's now my privilege to sign the Homeland Security Act
of 2002. (Applause.)
(The bill is signed.)
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