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Transcript: Tom Ridge Announces His Resignation
First of all, one of the things I've had the opportunity to do as secretary is see what America has done in response to 9/11 and particularly to see what my co-workers are doing.
And admittedly, one of the initial challenges when we inherited the legacy of Customs and INS was to merge these units. And by and large, while admittedly change is always difficult, there has been significant changes that have occurred that, frankly, have made us safer and more effective and give us a surge capacity at our ports of entry and the like.
And I don't think, in a department where we've had to move so quickly and change so rapidly, the notion that there might be some people out there that are still a little uncomfortable with it is not surprising to me.
But we continue to work our way through whatever these irritants are to give people the comfort level so they're more worried about securing the country rather than job security. I think we've done a pretty good job in that regard.
I haven't been disappointed a single day I've been secretary. However, there have been days -- let me put it a little more blunt. I like going to work everyday; there are days I've just enjoyed even more.
RIDGE: I guess there is a -- as I look back on nearly two-plus years, well, there are no disappointments. There are certain things I wish we could probably accomplish a little bit earlier.
I mean, there is enormous international dimension to securing the homeland. And we have been very aggressive over the past year, but there was a year there where I wish we would have initiated the discussions on a bilateral basis or worked with the European Union.
We're in the process of building our team; I understand that. But much of what we do as it affects our borders involves the engagement and the agreement of our allies around the world.
What I have discovered is that when we sit down, make our case, discuss, negotiate finding a common solution of mutual benefit, we've made a lot of progress. Part of me wishes we'd have started a little bit earlier, but there were other things that, it seemed at the time, were higher priorities.
Some days we've made -- felt a greater sense of achievement or progress than other days. But by and large, there have been no disappointments.
Probably a few things I would liked to have done differently within the organization, some of the things we're changing now, but all in a matter of merging 22 different units and departments, 180,000 people, you can't expect it to get it your way, the right way, the first time.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, one of the things you have done that the public is probably going to remember is the color-coded threat system that you initiated, and there continues to this day to be a lot of debate about whether that system actually does what it's supposed to do.
As you get ready to sort of step back now, do you feel that that is the right way to go about, you know, doing that, or do you think there might be a better way that your successor should think about?
RIDGE: First of all, that is a system that quite a few people worked on, labored over for months and months when I was in the White House.
And we took a look at the other systems that existed around the world. We took a look at what the Department of Defense does and the Department of State does. And we certainly took a look at the system or the nonsystem we used for the first couple times when the director of the FBI, the attorney general and I went out and basically said, America, we think the threat level is higher.
RIDGE: I mean, so you either have the system we will have, we took a look at some of the systems elsewhere around the world, or the nonsystem that nobody was happy with, including individuals, primarily me, was out there talking very appropriately with the public.
I think this Homeland Security Advisory System has been refined and matured to the point where it serves two purposes.
One, it is just a general signal to America generally that a majority -- there's a consensus within the president's Homeland Security Council that the threat tomorrow is greater than the threat today.
And secondly, it is a signal to the security and law enforcement professionals around the country they have to ramp up security.