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Remarks by Secretary Ridge to the National Association of Counties

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Office of the Press Secretary
March 3, 2003
For Immediate Release

Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
2660 Woodley Road
Washington, D.C.

12:52 P.M. EST

[ ... ]

I'd like to take a moment to share with you what will be spent this year on homeland security.  We nearly doubled federal spending government wide for homeland security from the year before.  Remember, this is the 2003 budget.  But more important than what we're spending -- and inputs are important, dollars are important.  But equally as important is how we're spending those dollars.  This investment will create new capabilities to protect us against terrorism and it will integrate traditional security functions in a new and better way.  Much of it builds on and expands on the significant progress we've made over the past 18 months.  The bottom line, we believe this investment improves our ability to prevent a terrorist attack, not just prepare for one.  The strategy that Karen alluded to and the President's directive when I served him in the White House as an Assistant to the President for Homeland Security said, there are really three missions:  prevent a terrorist attack, reduce vulnerability, and then be prepared to respond as quickly and effectively as possible if one occurs.

So certainly, we want to prepare for an attack, but the front side, most importantly, we want to prevent an attack from occurring in the first place.  We think that's an important distinction to remember.  It's also important to remember that part of this function begins at our very borders.

The new investment in 2003 includes funding to hire more than 1,700 new inspectors at our ports of entry, land and sea and air.  We'll hire more than 600 additional men and women at our airports, nearly 700 along our northern border, 100 in the southwest, and nearly 300 additional personnel at our maritime ports of entry.  They will be joined by nearly 600 additional border patrol agents, and all of these will join the tens of thousands of inspectors and patrollers we've hired since September 11th, 2001.

Now, formerly split between several agencies, part of our reorganization of this department and part of the flexibility that the President desired and Congress provided was the ability to take multiple organizations and coalesce them and create stronger entities and more capacity at the borders.  So we're going to blend some of these agencies into two distinct bureaus.  One is the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the other is the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, organized to protect both the security of our borders and the integrity of our immigration laws.  We're certainly going to begin supporting them by an additional $36 million for border infrastructure upgrades to make it more difficult to cross illegally.  And we see down the road in the future a combination of not only additional people but more technology, as we seal our borders and at the same time facilitate the legitimate flow of people and legitimate goods across those very same borders.

Another $380 million will go toward continued development of an entry/exit visa system.  The President has talked about that over the past couple of years.  The Congress has funded it.  This is a system to track visitors, track them.  It's a privilege, we believe, to visit this country.  We want to remain open to visitors.  Our economy depends on it, our country depends on it.  After all, we are a nation of immigrants.  A lot of interaction, economic interaction because of visitors.  Same thing applies to temporary residents.

But once the time has expired, once their leave has expired, as it were, once the visa has expired, then we have to monitor and make sure, unless there's legitimate reasons for them to stay, that they leave as scheduled.  We haven't had that kind of system before.  (Applause.)

This is a huge undertaking, but we continue to develop it with an additional $400 million.  There's $10 million additional to be used to investigate and deport many of the thousands of alien fugitives who have just failed to leave the country, even though they're under orders to do so.  Again, we are an open, diverse, trusting country.  But the reality of the new world means that those who enter, when their time has expired, must leave.  And the entry/exit system is designed to do just that.

[ ... ]

1:20 P.M. EST