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Michael Brown. Claude Allen. Dr. James Hughes. None are nearly as high-profile as terrorism czar Tom Ridge. But all are critical to Ridge’s quest for homeland security. Nearing the end of his second month as head of the Office of Homeland Security, Ridge is still getting his office off the ground — hiring staff, meeting with companies and other private interests, creating subcommittees and task forces, and handling the crises of the moment. Meanwhile, a vast network of government personnel and federal agencies has also begun developing — and in some cases, implementing — more long-term anti-terrorism measures. Ridge’s office relies on the agencies — from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Commerce Department and the Interior Department — to be a set of eyes and ears, taking suggestions for preventive measures, running their own task forces, and completing assessments of various industries’ preparedness for attacks. After all, Ridge was brought in to coordinate the government’s efforts on homeland security — not do it all himself. “I really see Gov. Ridge as being the conductor of the orchestra,” says Michael Brown, acting deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Each individual agency still has its particular niche where it needs to do its thing, so to speak.” At the Commerce Department, each of the four divisions involved in homeland defense issues — the Bureau of Export Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — has set up working groups. These report findings on preparedness or concerns about vulnerabilities to Deputy Secretary Samuel Bodman, who, in turn, is the department’s liaison with Ridge’s office. At the Interior Department, three high-level officials serve on committees of Homeland Security’s task force: John Keys III, commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation, sits on the facilities committee; Charles Grout, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, is on the science committee; and R. Thomas Weimer, deputy assistant secretary for water and science, represents Interior Secretary Gale Norton on the Homeland Security task force. But Interior has also found it useful to do some internal restructuring on its own to make the agency more prepared for terrorism. They have elevated the Office of Law Enforcement and Security, once just a part of another Interior division, and promoted its chief, Steven Calvery. Calvery oversees the 5,000 law enforcement personnel at four Interior divisions: the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. Since Sept. 11, Interior has also set up a command center, which is staffed 24 hours a day. The center stays in contact with the Office of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies. For some other arms of government, the terrorist attacks accelerated their pre-existing restructuring plans. “At the Department of Energy, when Secretary [Spencer] Abraham took over, he began looking at emergency response issues,” says a senior government official. “He began consolidating those assets and looking to create a new office to deal with the protection of the country’s energy infrastructure and response in the event of an emergency. That effort has been stepped up significantly in the last several months.” The Energy Department has also been hosting an interagency task force every week, where representatives of such agencies as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Interior Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Council and the Transportation Department meet to hash out issues concerning energy and terrorism — from protecting the plants to safeguarding oil and gas pipes and electrical wires. Many of the staff members at these agencies have a long history of working together — such as the Energy Department with agencies such as the National Regulatory Commission and the Office of Pipeline Safety in the Transportation Department. “These are people who are on more than just a first-name basis with each other — they are friends,” says the official. KEEPING TABS For many agencies, their role in homeland security is just to do what they do best — meeting with and evaluating their community. FEMA did an assessment of state preparedness, sending teams to find out the number of fire, rescue and police personnel that individual states had and what type of equipment and technology they owned to handle a traditional terrorist attack or biological strike. The results are going to Ridge’s office, and FEMA will use them to help determine who will receive future grants. In any disaster, FEMA typically sets up an emergency support team, which operates out of the agency and is staffed around the clock with representatives of any other involved agencies. FEMA has been running a support team whose job it is to provide information and resources for Ridge’s office — staffed with employees from the FBI, the Justice Department, HHS and the Army Corps of Engineers. The Transportation Department has set up a series of direct action groups that have met with truckers, hazardous material shippers, airlines, airline cargo companies, maritime shippers and port authorities. Most industry trade groups have set up security and terrorism task forces of their own, and the industry groups and the government committees are frequently meeting. The truckers have already been working with Transportation on their main concern — commercial drivers’ licenses. None of the trucking groups are happy with the type of background checks that the Congressional anti-terrorism legislation requires. But they have turned to Transportation and Congress to deal with the issue. Ridge and his office remain the pinnacle of the homeland security pyramid. For every group that doesn’t feel the need for a meeting, there are at least two more putting their name on the list. He and his staff have spent their first months in office meeting with private industry and trade groups about developing drugs and defenses and with mayors about providing resources or access to local governments, as well as running press conferences, giving speeches, and trying out new technologies. His office is filling up many of its roughly 100 positions, with military personnel, biological warfare experts and former firefighters. The agencies are turning over some of their best hands for his office to use. “Our challenge is more in sorting out from an overabundance of people that we would like to be involved rather than trying to find people who can do it,” says Mark Holman, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security. The rest of the federal government is still going to be pitching in. While the pharmaceutical companies have met with Ridge, they are also working with HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and his staff. With Ridge they have gone over the big-picture issues, but they go to HHS to work out contracts, determine how much of a particular drug to produce, and how to distribute it. “Working with both of them has been very constructive,” says Jeff Trewhitt, spokesman for the drug company trade association Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “It is clear we should be working with both of them.” PUTTING HIS STAMP ON THE JOB The case of the U.S. Postal Service shows both how Ridge’s office works and how government entities are operating on their own to handle homeland security. The Postal Service has been on the front lines because of the anthrax attacks and has also had a unique problem — its legal position as an “independent establishment of the executive branch.” In theory, Cabinet departments all cooperate, and meetings of the secretaries, and the more frequent meetings of the deputy secretaries, are meant to ensure open lines of communication. But the Postal Service is not a Cabinet department. That is where the Postal Service says Ridge was able to step in. “I think he did break down some barriers,” says Deborah Willhite, senior vice president for government affairs at the Postal Service. “Very quickly he has gotten us a seat at the table where they normally don’t have a chair there for us.” Willhite has been in on daily — sometimes twice-daily — conference calls run by the Office of Homeland Security. Along with Willhite are other agency personnel, such as Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Claude Allen and Dr. James Hughes, director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Members of agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department are also frequently on these calls. And Ridge’s office has also connected Postmaster General John Potter with Department of Defense biological weapons experts. But the Postal Service has also been running its own committees. Every morning at 10 a.m., Potter meets with his own upper-level staff and the seven unions representing postal workers. The CDC has attended almost every meeting, and the White House, the FBI and other government groups have also sent staff. The meetings are meant to funnel information up and down the chains of command. Potter, who frequently meets with Ridge, passes on Ridge’s suggestions or proposals. The unions bring up problems they need Potter or Ridge’s office to solve. In many cases, it’s a homeland security issue that doesn’t need Ridge’s immediate attention. “There was a situation involving two carriers, and they felt there was some difficulty in getting the proper medication,” says Ken Parmelee, vice president of government affairs for the National Rural Letter Carriers Association. “The Postal Service’s vice president of labor relations walked out of the meeting, called the district director, and ordered him to ensure those employees got taken care of in the next 30 minutes.” For now, the unions are satisfied enough that most don’t feel there is a need to see Ridge on their own. “If everyone at our table wanted a meeting with Tom Ridge, that would be taking up a lot of his time with duplicate questions, when we can take it through the postmaster general and he can handle that,” says Charles Moser, president of the National Association of Postmasters of the United States. “We are very confident that he is representing us well.”

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