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Security Chief Ridge: 'The Task is Enormous'

listenRidge Assumes Security Office Post
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge takes on the “immense” task of coordinating U.S. security efforts. NPR Correspondents Steve Inskeep and Tom Gjelten discuss Ridge’s appointment with Morning Edition host Bob Edwards. Oct. 8, 2001.

Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge

Tom Ridge (m), director of new Office of Homeland Security. Oct. 8, 2001.
Photo: White House

Oct. 8, 2001 -- Three days ago, Tom Ridge was governor of Pennsylvania. Today, he's the newly-sworn head of a Homeland Security Office which, he admits, has a big job ahead of it.

"Americans should find comfort in knowing that millions of their fellow citizens are working every day to ensure our security at every level," said Ridge at his White House swearing-in. Nonetheless, he said, "There may be gaps in the system. The job of the office of homeland security will be to identify those gaps and work to close them. The size and scope of this challenge are immense."

That may be why President Bush tapped Ridge -- a combat veteran of Vietnam, a Harvard graduate, a former member of Congress and his close personal friend -- to take the post.

For All Things Considered, NPR's Mara Liasson profiled Ridge.
listenListen to the report. Sept 21, 2001.

"Like everything else in the brand-new war against terrorism, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge's appointment happened fast," Liasson says. In a two-day span, he was approached by the White House chief of staff Andrew Card, discussed the post with Bush and with Vice President Dick Cheney, then held a midnight press conference to announce he'd resign the governship Oct. 5 and assume the White House post.

A leading GOP moderate and a abortion-rights Catholic in an important swing state, Ridge was on the short list of Mr. Bush's running mates last year. Though Ridge has been a very popular governor of Pennsylvania, term limits precluded him running again.

Before Bush summoned Ridge to this post, Liasson says, his friends expected him "to finish his term and then in 2003 go make some money in the private sector." Now, Ridge takes the Homeland Security post while admitting "that I'm saddened that this job is even necessary. But it is necessary,and so I will give it everything I have. The task is enormous" -- essentially, to coordinate government efforts to prevent terrorism before it happens, and respond to it if it does.

listen Listen to President Bush and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge as Ridge is sworn-in as head of the new Office of Homeland Security.

• Read about the executive order establishing the Office of Homeland Security and the Homeland Security Council.