Homeland Security Department officially begins

| 1/24/2003

After much debate and major reshuffling of the bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security started operating Jan. 24 as the government's 15th Cabinet department.

The department brings together 22 federal agencies with 170,000 employees in the largest reorganization of the federal government since the Defense Department was created in 1947.

It will be led by Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor who received Senate confirmation as the new department's secretary Jan. 22 and who was sworn in at the White House Jan. 24.

Hutchinson to oversee transportation security
Asa Hutchinson, currently head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, received unanimous approval Jan. 23 from the Senate Commerce Committee to become undersecretary of the department.

Hutchinson, 52, will be in charge of border and transportation security, overseeing such agencies as the Customs Service, the Transportation Security Administration and the federal law enforcement training center.

At confirmation hearings Jan. 22, members of the Senate Commerce Committee urged Hutchinson to quickly improve port and air cargo security, bolster border patrols and coordinate with state and local officials.

With a first-year budget expected to be around $33 billion, the department will combine the Secret Service, Coast Guard, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies with security-related functions.