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The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 8, 2003

Remarks of Secretary Tom Ridge to the American Enterprise Institute: "securing America in a Post 9/11 World"

[ ... ]

We're doing this through an initiative that will unify the border inspection process under one customs and border protection officer, an officer cross-trained to address all three inspection needs.

If you recall correctly, and many of you have done enough travel to know that when you come into this country in many places, first you'd see a legacy INS inspector, and then conceivably a customs inspector, and if you had some food or plants, you'd see a plant health inspection service inspector.

Today travelers first stop at a primary inspection booth, and they meet the immigration inspector, and then the second stop is with the customs inspector, and if you have foods and plants, you've got that third inspector.

The disadvantage there was that each inspector was trained for only one specific area. The other two issues were basically somebody else's problem.

The three separate faces of government and the many inefficiencies that go with it will soon be gone. We will have one face in one uniform, a single officer trained for primary inspection as well as how to determine who needs to go through secondary inspections.

And since we know that al Qaida is interested in entering our ports, this officer, now trained in all three areas of inspection and armed with the best intelligence we have, improves our ability to identify and stop these terrorists quickly and keep them out.

We've already recruited our first group of customs and border protection officers who will be trained throughout this fall. For the Department, this is another significant step toward our effort to retool, make sense, and create efficiencies and unity around a single mission.

[ ... ]