Tom Ridge Discusses DHS and Terrorism at Homeland Security Week
By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, In Homeland Security
Our nation’s first Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge, was the keynote speaker at the Homeland Security Week conference in Washington, D.C. Wednesday. Secretary Ridge, who is also the former governor of Pennsylvania, spoke to the need for continued vigilance when “dealing with uncertain threats in an uncertain time.”
Homeland Security Week is an annual get-together of some of the country’s top homeland security and national security officials, along with representatives from ICE, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, FEMA, and other government or private-sector agencies.
Tom Ridge on the Department of Homeland Security
“Did anybody think about homeland security on Sept. 10, 2001? We’ve come a long way,” said Secretary Ridge about the country’s newest cabinet department – putting a positive spin on DHS in an era which has seen a fair share of criticism pointed toward it. “I think the Department has made some great strides and this [Homeland Security Week] can accelerate the Department in a positive way.”
In the months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush’s administration formulated the Department of Homeland Security as the 15th Cabinet-level department and asked Secretary Ridge to be its first secretary. Secretary Ridge subsequently served from January 24, 2003 until February 1, 2005.
“I’m very proud of the work that my team did,” said Secretary Ridge of his time as first DHS Secretary. “Everyone was mission-focused.” However, upon shifting his remarks to the current atmosphere on Capitol Hill, Secretary Ridge likened the Department of Homeland Security to a “political piñata.”
“The Department operates under a different gaze from The Hill … they like to pick on DHS, and I find that somewhat troubling,” stated Secretary Ridge. “But, I think the mission is an important one … and I also think that homeland security – in many areas – is only as good as the information it receives … We don’t need more people in DHS; we need to equip the men and women who are there with more and better technology.”
Islamic State and the ‘Permanent’ Threat of Terrorism
Secretary Ridge pointed to the Islamic State group as a global threat that was going to stay with us for decades to come.
“It is a global scourge; it has metastasized,” he said of radical Islamic terrorism. “ISIS will take anybody who knocks on the door, they don’t care; so, that threat has become global, and I think it’s a permanent condition – Islamic fundamentalism is a permanent global condition.”
Secretary Ridge transitioned his speech into the serious psychological impact that international terrorism brings to everyday citizens – a subject we’ve broached many times here at In Homeland Security.
“If you accept that it [terrorism] is a reality and it’s a permanent reality, the psychological impact of a terrorist attack – be it a Fort Hood, San Bernardino, Orlando or a soccer stadium in Paris – it’s powerful. It has such a psychological impact,” stated Secretary Ridge. “However, we are a resilient society, and we’ve demonstrated that over the past 15 years.”
Secretary Ridge is the founder and current chairman of Ridge Global – a private company that helps organizations decrease security risks. The Homeland Security Week conference continues through Thursday in Washington, D.C.