“Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offered key insights regarding the current threat environment, key challenges, and the way ahead during a discussion today at The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) moderated by Frank Cilluffo, Director of HSPI.
“Secretary Ridge drew upon his experience at DHS to provide the audience with useful context. He noted that the forces of globalization-vital to American economic prosperity-can also become conduits for terrorism.
“Secretary Ridge commented on the recent terrorist attempt to ship explosives from Yemen to the United States, as well as the plot by Farooque Ahmed to bomb DC Metro stations. In regards to the Yemeni plot, Ridge noted that ‘this is an instance where actionable intelligence probably saved lives… Good intelligence promotes aggressive action which prevents attacks.’
“Throughout the discussion, both Secretary Ridge and Mr. Cilluffo cited the importance of sharing information and intelligence domestically between and among federal, state, and local authorities and with security allies around the world. Secretary Ridge said he was encouraged that even in instances where allies had been critical of US policy, partners in the intelligence and law enforcement communities had been able to work together effectively.
“Regarding first responder preparedness, Secretary Ridge observed that although the 9/11 Commission was favorably received, one of its recommendations-the need for first responders to have interoperable communications-had yet to come to fruition.
“Mr. Cilluffo asked Secretary Ridge for his thoughts on the narco-insurgency in Mexico. The Secretary characterized it as, ‘an extreme situation which requires our attention. The cartels may not want to overthrow the government, but they are certainly seeking to undermine it.’ Secretary Ridge said it was critical that more be done, but cited serious hurdles to success: pervasive problems with corruption and bribery among Mexican authorities; bureaucratic infighting between and among US agencies; and underdeveloped relationships between American and Mexican intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”
“Secretary Ridge closed by reiterating his points on the new security environment and the need for American engagement with the global community. The diverse and complex threat environment, he said, “is the new reality, the new norm. Our security and economic prosperity depend on greater global engagement.”