The following is a transcript of the statement given by Tom Ridge after being sworn in as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Today marks another step in this country's effort to secure the homeland. Since the president signed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 into law 60 days ago, the transition staff has worked around the clock to develop the organizational framework needed to refocus and reorganize the department's work force to accomplish the unified mission of protecting America.
Much of what has been accomplished can be best described as behind-the-scenes planning, probably things that you don't write about and a lot of people aren't interested in, but it's absolutely critical that these things be done and they be done well. And a lot of work in that regard has been concluded, even on preparation of this very first day.
It includes such things as developing the necessary information technology systems, human resource processes and the general management practices that will enable the men and women from 22 different agencies to perform their jobs when they move into the new department on March 1st.
So let me provide a few highlights on what takes effect today and our plans for next week.
First, effective today, I have resigned as the president's homeland security adviser. I did privately, and again publicly, express my gratitude to the president of the United States for the confidence and the opportunity he gave me to serve with him as a member of the staff, as assistant to the president for homeland security.
He's given me an opportunity to work with him and an extraordinary team that he's assembled during these critical times in America's history. And I'm very proud and grateful for that opportunity.
I also reiterated to the president my commitment to do everything I can to harness the energy and the creativity and the will and the commitment of 170,000-plus people to do everything they can every single day to accomplish the mission of homeland security, and that is to do everything we can to prevent a terrorist attack, to reduce our vulnerability, to prepare for an attack, to respond as quickly as possible, to do it to our very best ability every single day.
I will continue to meet with the president, as I've done as an assistant to the president. But I will now meet with him in the morning during the daily briefing sessions that we have that includes, obviously, the vice president, George Tenet of the CIA and Director Mueller, the attorney general and others.
Now, yesterday the president signed an executive order that includes amendments to -- this is some of the paperwork that you're probably not going to spend too much time writing about -- but the paperwork involving 16 existing executive orders that will give me, as the newly sworn-in secretary, specific authority so that I may more effectively undertake the responsibilities of leading this new department.
The executive order assigns to the secretary of homeland security the responsibility for coordinating any domestic response if an attack occurs between today and March 1st.
Remember, today is a milestone because it creates the Office of the Secretary of Homeland Security. The agencies and the departments begin moving in on March 1st, and most of them, legally, become part of that department.
But we have that intervening five weeks. We want to make sure that we all understand everybody's role and responsibility. It will continue to be my responsibility to coordinate any response in the event of a terrorist attack between now and March 1st. Thereafter it's obviously my responsibility by virtue of being the secretary of the new department.
The other authorities include provisions and amendments ranging from providing the secretary and his team with the ability to consult through the committees that have been established over at State and Treasury and the attorney general. Again just formalizing some of the day-to-day contacts that we have as individuals as well as respective members of our staff.
The executive order also officially identifies the department's information and analysis and infrastructure protection as the newest member in the U.S. intelligence community. You are well aware that there is a new unit within this department. It is the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection unit. And the executive order recognizes that this unit and this department is now a formal member of our national intelligence community.
As you already know, our initial headquarters will be located at Nebraska Avenue Center in northwestern Pennsylvania -- Northwestern Washington, sorry about that.
Tried to get it up to my home in northwestern Pennsylvania in Erie, PA, but since they have two or three feet of snow, they decided to keep it down here.
We are very pleased to move to this facility. We have had the opportunity to work with the Navy out there for some time. And we have a threat monitoring center out there. Our coordination center out there, incident management center is out there. So for the time being, we will be located and we are prepared to commence operations immediately.
This includes -- again, one of the reasons we are moving out there, they have got the computers and the secure communications and equipment that connect us with the rest of the federal agencies, that connect us with the governors, that connect us, in many instances, with the emergency management agencies of the respective states and territories.
This facility also meets the security requirements of the new department. And as I mentioned before, currently houses much of the infrastructure of the Office of Homeland Security that we've built up and work with on a day-to-day basis.
Our new web site, www.dhs.gov, went up last night at midnight. I hope you get a chance to take a look at it.
It will be an indispensable tool as we continue to build and then sustain the partnerships we need with the states and local governments, with the private sector, as well with citizens. And we expect that very constructive feedback over the weeks and months ahead, and it will be one of our primary information-sharing tools that we will employ on a day-to-day basis.
You will also note that we have an e-mail system ready to go to connect us. One of our larger challenges, obviously when you bring these 22 departments in, is to make sure that, as we setup a 21st- century department, that we equip it with the technology of the 21st century, so that we are better informed internally, and in turn are better equipped with that knowledge and information to work with our strategic partners in both the public and the private sector.
We realize that today marks one step in the process of building not only the new department but continuing on a daily basis to better protect our fellow citizens and our way of life. We also realize we have a long way to go. We look forward to building on the relationships we've developed over the past 14 months, on the work we've done since the Office of Homeland Security was set up on October 8th of 2001, and we certainly look forward to March 1st, when most of the 22 departments and units become a formal part, a legal part of the new Department of Homeland Security.
Seated to my left are some extraordinary men and women who've volunteered to be part of our team, our management team. We still clearly have positions to fill. We'll move as quickly as possible, but -- we want to move quickly, but the first priority is to move and do things right rather than do things quickly.
I signed an order this morning that will enable those who have not been confirmed by the United States Senate to move into the new department as effective today, and to serve as acting secretaries. Of course, Asa Hutchinson was confirmed last night as undersecretary for border and transportation security. But another example is Joan Hill (ph) will be undersecretary of management; held a Senate-confirmed position, but as of today she's in an acting position within -- acting undersecretary within our department.
Our good friend, the fabulous secretary of the Navy, who's now our deputy secretary, is now in an acting capacity. We hope shortly and unanimously confirmed by the men and women that respect the job he's done at Navy soon; tomorrow, I hope, today, Monday, I don't know.
But we're ready. We're not worried about the confirmation, we're ready to go to work and have been working. That's the way it is and that's the way it's going to be.