Homeland 'Super Bowl' starts up

Department of Homeland Security site

The Homeland Security Department was launched today with a citizen-friendly Web site designed to help ordinary people, not just bureaucrats, find information about national security.

Tom Ridge was sworn into office as the first secretary of the new agency that will oversee 22 federal departments in the fight against terrorism, the largest government reorganization since the Defense Department was created in the 1940s.

Ridge said e-mail is up and running, and those involved in planning the department are already working on ways to interconnect with agencies such as the CIA.

"One of our larger challenges...is to make sure that, as we set up 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," Ridge said at a press conference.

The department's Web site (www.dhs.gov) was designed, tested and deployed during the past 30 days with the help of citizen input and focus groups.

It includes links designed by theme, rather than government directories. Among the navigation links are Emergencies and Disasters, Travel and Transportation, Immigration and Borders, Research and Technology, and Threats and Protection.

The department will be under intense scrutiny from the public and Congress. "In terms of relevance to our nation's war on terror, today is the beginning of the homeland security Super Bowl, and we can't afford to lose the game," said Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of Partnership for Public Service, which is conducting an ongoing analysis of the department's organization.

The department will be in transitional mode for the next five weeks. Many of the agencies being folded into the Homeland Security Department won't actually fall under its authority until March 1.

"The Department of Homeland Security will lead a comprehensive and unified effort to defend this nation," President Bush said at Ridge's swearing-in ceremony. "The department will analyze threats, guard our borders and airports, safeguard critical infrastructure and coordinate the response of our nation to future emergencies."

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