RIDGE ENCOURAGES PRIVATE SECTOR ASSISTANCE IN HOMELAND SECURITY
Homeland Security Advisor Tom Ridge said Wednesday that if the president’s proposal for a homeland security agency goes through, it would probably employ programs similar to the U.S. Customs Service’s recent public-private initiatives for supply chain security.
Ridge told attendees at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Washington that government and industry collaboration in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism and the Container Security Initiative would be emulated in the new Homeland Security Department. Ridge encouraged the private sector to pass on vital information to the government, adding that 85 percent of the nation’s infrastructure — including factories and utilities — are controlled by the private sector.
“We need to build relationships that we think are significant,” Ridge said, adding that such partnerships in this department would offer a “different kind of strategic product for America.”
Ridge said that the Bush’s proposed legislation, introduced to Congress this June, has budgeted around $37 million for homeland security activities for fiscal year 2003. In the previous fiscal year, homeland security called for $29 billion, and $17 billion in fiscal 2001. Ridge attributed a portion of the budgetary increases to stepped-up demands on the U.S. Coast Guard, which is responsible for maritime safety and vessel inspections. “We need to give more money to them because they have got an enhanced mission,” he said.
Ridge said it was unlikely that legislation could be passed in time to meet the one-year anniversary date of Sept.11 for the agency, which would call for bringing 22 federal agencies all under one roof. He tried to assure a questioner in the audience that increased supply chain security would not compromise the flow of legitimate goods and services. “We don’t believe in our offices that they are mutually exclusive,” he said.
Thomas Donohue, U.S. Chamber president and chief executive officer Thomas Donohue said his organization wanted trade to not be stifled by the new department. “The free flow of goods, services and people is the very heritage we are working to protect,” he said.