Ridge gains unanimous approval to head homeland agency

| 1/20/2003

A Senate panel Jan. 17 unanimously approved Tom Ridge’s nomination to head the new Homeland Security Department. Full Senate confirmation was expected to come quickly so Ridge would be in place when the department is officially established next week.

Ridge spoke of the “enormity of our task” of bringing together 22 federal agencies with 170,000 employees to lead the security campaign. The new department, he told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, “will not in and of itself be able to stop all attempts by those who wish to do us harm,” The Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, lawmakers said the fight to stem terrorism should not come at the expense of civil rights or the free flow of commerce.

Ridge is a former congressman and former governor of Pennsylvania who since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been President Bush's chief adviser on homeland security.

The new agency, to be created over this year, will combine the Secret Service, Coast Guard, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and other offices with security-related functions. It will mark the biggest government reorganization since the Defense Department was formed in 1947.