Mayors hear homeland pledge
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Jan 23, 2002
Two Bush administration officials at the forefront of homeland security
matters emphasized to about 300 mayors Jan. 23 that the fight against terrorism
cannot be won without addressing the needs of local governments, and they
pledged to create a "21st century partnership among state, local and federal
"You are the domestic troops. You are the front line," said former Pennsylvania
Gov. Tom Ridge, the nation's homeland security chief, at the U.S. Conference
of Mayors' 70th Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Ridge followed U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who spoke
at length about aviation security and protections for the nation's roads
President Bush is expected to meet today with mayors, presumably to
discuss funding issues. The association released a survey Jan. 23 that estimated
cities are expected to spend a combined additional $2.6 billion on security
through 2002 ["Security costs soar, survey shows"].
Ridge, who touched on several issues during his 15-minute talk, said
his job is to create a national homeland security strategy that addresses
first-response capability. He said the federal government would no longer
dictate to state and local governments what they should do or what they
need. The threat of terrorism has given the country an opportunity to restructure
that relationship, Ridge said, adding that his office is listening to the
needs of cities.
He mentioned next month's Super Bowl in New Orleans and Winter Olympics
in Salt Lake City as examples of where state, local and federal officials
have been working for more than a year to ensure the best possible security.
Ridge said the country also has an opportunity to address quality-of-life
issues as it tackles homeland security matters. For example, beefing up
the pubic health system infrastructure not only will address bioterrorism
threats, but also will bolster other public health matters, he said. He
also pledged that the federal government would share information in a timely
Mineta introduced John Magaw, who heads the newly formed Transportation
Security Administration. TSA eventually will have 30,000 employees, more
than the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Border Patrol
combined, said Mineta, adding that it will be fully operational by Nov.
Among other things, the agency will be responsible for deploying new
baggage-screening technologies, expanding the air marshal program and looking
at new research. The agency also will work to develop heightened security
procedures for railways, highways, transit systems, maritime operations
Mineta added that the U.S. Coast Guard has increased patrols and created
a sea marshal program similar to the air marshal program. Sea marshals would
be placed in strategic areas on large commercial vessels as protection.
He said $93 million in grants are available to enhance security and operations
"[Security] will be better today than yesterday and it will be better
tomorrow," Mineta said.