Ridge pledges help to 'partners'
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Dec 06, 2001
Tom Ridge, director of the White House's Office of Homeland Security, pledged
that the federal government would provide greater financial resources and
support to its state and local counterparts.
"We, the federal government and state governments, must work as partners
to accomplish this goal," Ridge said Dec. 6 at the National Conference of
State Legislatures in Washington, D.C. "Unfortunately, nothing compels us
to focus quite like a tragedy."
He said his office is designing a long-term, comprehensive national
strategy that will involve state and local governmental participation as
well as help from the private sector. The office will look at merging federal
agencies or agency functions and will implement a multiyear budget across
agencies, much like the Defense Department.
"We're creating a blueprint to win the wars of the future," he said
during a 17-minute speech, adding that while no system will be perfect,
they would work toward a "perfect fail-safe system."
Ridge told the more than 600 state lawmakers in attendance that most,
if not all, states have moved to "repair cracks" in their emergency response
plans. But he said lawmakers should question their states' capabilities
in areas including:
* Tools and training of their state and local fire, police, rescue and
public health agencies.
* Effectiveness of their communication systems and whether they're interoperable.
* Identifying critical infrastructures and assessing vulnerabilities.
* Making sure their data systems are secure.
* Running "realistic exercises" to test their plans and personnel.
* Mutual aid pacts to keep resources flowing across municipal lines.
He said if the United States provides its military soldiers with the
proper training and equipment, then "we owe the same commitment" to those
considered the first line of defense in homeland security.
A Minnesota state representative, who also identified himself as a police
officer, said his state has been working toward an integrated criminal justice
system, called CrimNet, where justice agencies would be able to share information
statewide. He asked Ridge what role his office would play in promoting such
a system nationwide.
Ridge, who was Pennsylvania governor for seven years before assuming
the homeland security role, said a similar system exists in his state. He
said the federal government would provide federal funds for such efforts,
adding that the Justice Department has programs for that purpose.
But he also said that not all decisions can be made at the federal level.
For example, he said some Pennsylvania counties have dozens of police forces
within their jurisdictions. He said local officials may have to decide whether
to maintain that infrastructure or create an integrated force to save money
and become more efficient.