Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge resigned Tuesday after two years of leading the quest to protect the country from terrorism since the 9/11 attacks.
The department, which became connected with colored coded levels of security warnings, combined 22 preexisting agencies and is considered the most ambitious U.S. government reorganization since the 1940s. Ridge said he will hold the position until Feb. 1 or until the Senate confirms his successor. According to the Washington Post, Bush administration officials said President Bush is looking to replace Ridge with a tough manager who can establish unmistakable lines of authority and redefine the overlapping responsibilities in the department.
“I think we’ve accomplished a great deal in a short period of time,” Ridge told reporters Tuesday at the department’s headquarters in Northwest Washington, D.C. “As I’ve said to the president, there will always be more work for us to do in Homeland Security.”
According to the Washington Post, administration officials allude that a possible successor could be: Frances Fragos Townsend; White House homeland security adviser Joseph Hagin, White House deputy chief of staff for operations; and Bernard Kerik, former New York Police commissioner.
Ridge spent three years in charge of homeland security in the White House and then for the entire department. Previously, he served as governor of Pennsylvania for seven years and spent 14 years in the House of Representatives.
Most homeland security specialists praise the department for improving security for commercial aircrafts against a terrorist attack. Airport screeners have increased by the thousands, checking bags and passenger identification. Black leaders have criticized the department, which has received billions of dollars from the federal government, for its primary role in racial profiling at the nation’s borders and at airports, train and bus stations.
“We’re more secure and we’re safer because of the work of this department,” Ridge said in a Tuesday interview with the Washington Post. “This is an enemy that thinks long term, and I mean centuries. It’s an enduring threat to us, for decades to come.”