Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 02112645 (posted Nov. 26, 2002)"
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
President Bush Signs Homeland Security
Remarks by the President at the Signing of H.R. 5005
the Homeland Security Act of 2002
The East Room
1:30 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: 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 and united.
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
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
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 functions well.
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
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 well.
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.
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 Security. (Applause.)
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
When the Department of Homeland Security is fully operational, it will
enhance the safety of our people in very practical ways.
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 terror.
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 of life.
It's now my privilege to sign the Homeland Security Act of 2002. (Applause.)
(The bill is signed.)
END 1:46 P.M. EST