for Homeland Security Department
District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Operations Center
November 12, 2002
10:24 A.M. EST
Thank you all. Please be seated. Thanks a lot. I want you to note, the Mayor
said I made him a senior advisor. (Laughter.) Mr. Mayor, you're doing a great
job for the city of Washington, D.C. I'm honored that I'm living in your neighborhood.
And as I told a lot of the folks who I had the honor of meeting just a while
ago at the Emergency Operations Center, I feel safe living here. And so does
my family. And so do a lot of families, thanks to the dedication and hard work
of people on the front line of making sure that this city is buttoned up, dealing
with the threats we face.
I'm here to thank you all for your hard work. I'm here, as well, to tell all
the first responders across the District, as well as around the country, how
much our country is grateful for your service, your dedication, and remind you
that we have not only a duty to prepare for emergencies, we have a duty in this
country to prevent them from happening in the first place.
It's a new charge. It's a new charge because we learned on that fateful day
that America is now a battlefield. It used to be that oceans would protect us.
We didn't have to take certain threats seriously. We could say, well, we can
deal if we want to deal with them. But we learned a tough lesson, that the old
ways are gone, that the enemy can strike us here at home, and we all have new
responsibilities. And I'm confident we can meet those responsibilities because
I understand the nature of the people who wear the uniform all across America
-- fine, dedicated, honorable public servants who are willing to serve something
greater than themselves. So, thank you for what you do.
And the federal government has got a job, as well. Our job -- our government's
greatest responsibility is to protect the American people. That's our most important
job. And this requires Congress to create a new department of homeland security
so we can better do our job. I think this work can be done soon. The Congress
is coming back for a brief period of time. And in that period of time, they
can get the job done. If they put their mind to it, they can get a job done
on behalf of the American people. And I urge them to do so.
I'm honored to be here with Eleanor Holmes Norton. Thank you for coming, Madam
Congresswoman. I appreciate your service.
I appreciate being up here with Tom Ridge, my buddy who was a governor. I said,
look, we've got a new issue we've got to deal with here in America. We've got
to do everything we can to protect the homeland, so you need to leave Pennsylvania
and come and join us. And, fortunately, he did, and he is doing a fabulous job
inside the White House of laying the groundwork for what I hope will soon be
a department of homeland security. And I appreciate you coming, Tom.
Mr. Mayor, thanks again. Margret Kellems, it's good to have met you. It's an
honor to be in the presence of the Deputy Mayor, as well.
I'm impressed with Chief Ramsey. I don't know if this helps you or hurts you,
Chief. (Laughter.) He does a fine job. I got to know him at the inauguration,
and I've been watching him ever since. This is a city with a lot of complex
issues. It's a city where a lot of people come to exercise their right as Americans,
and we appreciate that. And I'm proud that this city is able to allow people
to express themselves, and at the same time, maintain order. Mr. Chief, you
and your troops do a fabulous job here. (Applause.)
I want to thank Chief Adrian Thompson for coming, as well. I appreciate you
being here, Chief. This is -- the fire and emergency teams have got just as
an important role to play as our police officers do.
I want to thank Peter LaPorte, who is the Director of the Washington, D.C. Emergency
Management Agency, for coming. I appreciate Jim Buford, who is the Acting Director
of the Washington, D.C. Department of Health. I want to thank Linda Cropp for
coming, as well.
On September the 11th, 2001, our nation was confronted by a new kind of war.
See, we're at war. This is a war. This isn't a single isolated incident. We
are now in the first war of the 21st century. And it's a different kind of war
than we're used to. I explained part of the difference is the fact that the
battlefield is now here at home. It's also a war where the enemy doesn't show
up with airplanes that they own, or tanks or ships. These are suiciders. These
are cold-blooded killers. That's all they are. The new kind of war has now placed
our police and firefighters and rescue workers on the front lines. You're already
on the front lines. Now you got another line. There's another front to do our
duty to the American people.
For the courageous individuals on September the 11th, it was a day of great
loss. But it was also a grave -- day of great, great honor. It reminded the
American people of the sacrifices that the people who wear the uniform go through
on a daily basis, and the risks that you take every day.
We still weep and mourn for those who lost lives to save others. But we also
recognize there's a renewal in America of appreciation for what you do. The
entire nation appreciated the calm determination, the steady hand, the ability
to respond under severe circumstances. And like our military, which is also
on the front line of the war against terror, you deserve all the tools and resources
to do your work. This country is going to support you, because we now understand
Since September the 11th, every level of government has taken important steps
to better prepare against terrorism. We've now been notified. We understand
that history has called us into action. There should be no doubt in anybody's
mind the nature of the enemy. There should be no doubt in anybody's mind that
we must do everything we can to protect the homeland.
For the first time ever, Customs agents are now at overseas ports inspecting
containers before they come close to the United States. In other words, we're
adjusting to the new world we're in. We've put more marshals now on airplanes.
Everybody's aware of that. We've stepped up security at our power plants and
our ports, and, as importantly, at our border crossings. We need to know who's
coming into the country, what they're bringing into the country, and if they're
leaving when they say they're going to leave. We need to know that for the sake
of the homeland.
We've deployed detection equipment to look for weapons of mass destruction.
Whoever would have thought that this country needed to use technologies to prevent
people from smuggling in weapons of mass destruction? But we needed to have
that technology in place, so we can better protect the American people. There's
a real threat that somebody might smuggle in one of these weapons that would
create incredible havoc here at home. So we're on alert. We're stockpiling enough
small pox vaccine for every man, woman and child in America.
The U.S. Patriot Act has helped us detect and disrupt terrorist activity in
this country. What I'm telling you there is, any time we get a hint that somebody
is thinking about doing something to America, we're moving on it. Any time we
get an inkling that somebody is planning to hurt the American people, to take
innocent life, we're using every tool we can to disrupt and deny. And we're
doing that at the local level and at the state level and at the federal level.
That's what the American people expect, and that's what's going to happen.
We act decisively in the clearest areas of vulnerability. We're moving. And
this is only the beginning of our effort to protect our country from a global
threat. The threats to the homeland are growing threats. These people aren't
going away any time soon. And so the need for action is important.
And one of my jobs is to make sure nobody gets complacent. One of my jobs is
to remind people of the stark realities that we face. See, every morning I go
into that great Oval Office and read threats to our country -- every morning.
As a matter of fact, there hadn't a morning that hadn't gone by that I haven't
saw -- seen or read threats. Some of them are blowhards, but we take every one
of them seriously. It's the new reality.
The Congress is in session today, and the House and the Senate have pressing
responsibilities to work with us for our security. And I'm confident they'll
meet those responsibilities. And the single most important business before Congress
is the creation of a department of homeland security. Certain members of the
Senate and the House have got all kinds of agendas they'd like to discuss. The
single most important one is to get this bill done.
The importance of the homeland security means that we'll be able to better coordinate
and organize, and that there be clear lines of authority. One reason this department
works so well, and one reason the center we just saw works well is there's great
coordination with clear lines of authority. And that's important. That's what
you do here in Washington, and that's what we ought to do at the federal level,
as well, in this new department.
The responsibility for protecting the homeland here in Washington, at least
at the federal level, is spread out among more than 100 different organizations,
and not one organization has the primary responsibility. Each agency operates
separately, sometimes completely unaware of what others are doing. The result
is duplication that we cannot afford, and inefficiencies which create problems.
So I set out to do something about it, for the good of the country. And that
is to call for a single Cabinet-level department of government, staffed by dedicated
professionals who wake up every single day with one overriding duty, to protect
the American people. That's their duty. That's their most important responsibility.
The new department will work, of course, with our state and local authorities
to avert attacks, to plan for emergencies, and to respond. That's the functions
of the new department. We've got to make sure our first responders are well-equipped
and trained and organized for their duties. You do a fine job here in Washington;
there are some places that need help, and the new department will help first
The new department will control our borders. I mentioned the border -- we need
to know who's coming in, we need -- but there's three agencies on the border
right now, and they're all full of fine people. They wear different uniforms,
they have different strategies. Sometimes they talk, sometimes they don't. There
is a better way to enforce our border here in America.
It will bring together scientists who develop technologies that detect biological,
chemical, and nuclear weapons, and discover drugs and treatments to protect
our citizens. So there will be a scientific component in this new department.
For the first time in our history information on the threats to America will
be gathered and analyzed, together with information on our vulnerabilities in
one place. We've got a lot of good people working hard to collect intelligence.
This new agency will analyze the intelligence to address vulnerabilities here
Establishing the new department will require the latest reorganization of the
federal -- the largest reorganization of the federal government since 1940.
In other words, it's not going to be easy. But I think Congress understands
the need to do that. And I think Congress is willingness to take the task. I
want to thank very much the House of Representatives for passing a good bill,
one that gives me the authority and the flexibility to work hard to defend America.
The Senate -- it got stuck in the Senate. But it looks like it's going to come
out of the Senate, I hope. And we're working hard to bring it forth in a way
that will enable this President and future Presidents to meet the needs of the
United States. To meet the threats, I must be able -- and future Presidents
-- must be able to move people and resources where they're needed, and to do
it quickly, without being forced to comply with a thick book of rules.
The enemy moves quickly and America must move quickly. We cannot have bureaucratic
rules preventing this President and future Presidents from meeting the needs
of the American people. To meet the threats to our country, a President must
have the authority, as every President since John F. Kennedy has had, to waive
certain rights for national security purposes. It makes no sense in a time of
war to diminish the capacity of the President to be able to put the right people
at the right time at the right place.
This debate is often misunderstood. The rights of federal workers should be,
and will fully be, protected in the department of homeland security. Every employee
will be treated fairly and protected from discrimination. The men and women
who work in that department will need and want leadership that can act quickly
and decisively, without getting bogged down in endless disputes. When the department
is created, we've got to do it right. It is our chance to do it right. And I
will not give up national security authority at the price for creating a department
we badly need to secure America.
Fortunately, I'm encouraged by the ongoing discussions. I believe we can get
this done. I believe Congress can show the country that they can finish their
work on a high note of achievement. That's what the people want. The people
want us to come together and work together and do what's right. And I think
Congress can show that's possible to do.
Securing our homeland means not only a great -- a new department of homeland
security, it means hunting these killers down one at a time. It means staying
on task. It means holding -- make sure that the doctrines still exist. And there's
one out there that says, if you -- you're either with us or with the enemy.
That was true right after September the 11th, and it's very true today. We're
calling on all these nations that love freedom to join us in an international
manhunt. There's no cave deep enough for these people to hide in, as far as
I'm concerned. There's no shadow of the world dark enough for them to kind of
slither around in. We're after them, and it's going to take a while. It can
take a while. We're after them one person at a time. We owe that to the American
people. We owe that to our children.
I can't imagine what was going through their mind when they hit us. They must
have thought we'd just file a lawsuit. They just don't understand America, do
they? They don't understand our love for freedom. They don't understand that,
when it comes to our freedoms, it doesn't matter how long it takes, nor the
cost, we will do our duty.
The world's going to be more peaceful as a result of America being strong and
resolved. Peace is going to happen. You see, the enemy hit us and, out of the
evil done to this country, is going to come some incredible good -- a more secure
America, a more peaceful world.
People will look back -- your kids and your grandkids will look back and say,
you know, my dad or my mother was involved, actively involved in one of the
most dramatic periods in our country's history. And I'm confident they'll look
back and say, I'm proud of their service, because America became a better place
as a result of their sacrifices.
I'm honored you had me here. May God bless you and your families. May God bless
your work. And may God continue to bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)