U.S. Mayors' Homeland Security Role Highlighted at Conference

Homeland Security Tom Ridge highlighted the important role that U.S. mayors play in homeland security at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, saying, "It is very clear to me – we said this from the day we opened the doors at Homeland Security – that protecting the homeland must be a national effort."

He emphasized that the country cannot be secured "from inside the Beltway."

"We certainly have a lot more work to do," Ridge told the mayors, "but I think the foundation is strong and I will assure you that I will remind my successor of one of my favorite slogans that we used internally, one of my favorite mottos, that 'the homeland is secure when the hometowns are secure.'"

The country cannot be secure unless the federal government continues to work with the mayors and first responders, acknowledged Ridge. "Our collective responsibility is to prevent, prepare for and respond to a terrorist attack or any other emergency that may come our way. Our job is to be as prepared, as ready as possible."

Since 9/11, he noted, mayors are the most reassuring voice for citizens across the country when it comes to steps taken to combat international terrorism. He said mayors are at the front lines, working to carry out the mission of homeland security.

"Mayors have always held the responsibility to protect their cities as their number-one priority and after 9/11, there was an added dimension to the safety and security of that responsibility, an added dimension of a different kind of threat that you had to help combat."

He said his goal at the Department of Homeland Security was to forge partnerships with the mayors, but, he added, "the partnerships are based not always on agreement. We come from different perspectives, different jurisdictions. It's not important that we always agree. It's important that we always get down to see if we can – sit down to see if we can resolve those agreements."

He noted that there was a great example of federal/city collaboration with Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and his team did an "extraordinary job" helping the federal government, as well as the other agencies and political jurisdictions within the national capital region, prepare for the events surrounding the inaugural.

At the joint field office that was set up to oversee the inaugural security program, there were over 100 agencies from the federal, state and local government working together.

Ridge called Williams' homeland security efforts during the inauguration "a terrific model where everyone is involved, working together, coordinating, sharing information, sharing equipment and sharing people."

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