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Friday, 24 January, 2003, 20:58 GMT
US launches anti-terror body
Tom Ridge
Ridge is a Vietnam war veteran and former lawyer
The United States Government gained a new ministry on Friday with the launch of the Department of Homeland Security.

Tom Ridge was sworn in at the White House as secretary of the department set up directly as a result of the 11 September terror attacks.

We're asking our embassies to remind Americans... to take normal preparations, routine preparations, to leave if for some reason, whatever it might be, they might have to

US State Department official
The new department is charged with coordinating the work of America's security and intelligence agencies and will eventually bring together 22 federal agencies.

Separately, the US State Department has advised expatriates around the world to be prepared for emergency evacuations from their country of residence in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

It was unclear whether the advice was related to concerns over a possible war with Iraq.

Introducing Mr Ridge, President George W Bush said that America had terror groups on the run and would keep them on the run.

The former US Naval Security Station in Washington
The new department is to be housed in a former naval facility
Days before his inauguration, Mr Ridge told the US Senate that America was an "undoubtedly safer" place than before 11 September but continued to face "a hate-filled, remorseless enemy".

A decorated Vietnam combat veteran, Mr Ridge is the former governor of Pennsylvania and becomes 18th in line to succeed President Bush - a close friend - after his new appointment.

Mr Ridge's department is set to grow to giant proportions in the biggest reorganisation of America's federal government since 1947 in a phased development:

  • It is now believed to be a relatively humble body, employing between 100 to 200 people and based in a secure Washington naval facility

  • By 1 March it should have incorporated agencies such as the Secret Service, Coast Guard, Border Patrol and the Transportation Security Agency

  • By 30 September, the department is set to be fully operational with 170,000 employees and an annual budget of $40bn.

The CIA and the FBI, charged respectively with collecting intelligence overseas and enforcing the law at home, will continue to operate outside the new department, but it will be charged with analysing information provided by them.

It will also coordinate the anti-terrorist work of some two million police officers, firefighters, medical personnel and others.

Vaccinations

As the new department was being launched, a federal anti-terror programme to vaccinate against smallpox was getting under way.

Health workers in the state of Connecticut - who would be called upon in the event of a smallpox bio-terrorism attack - were the first to be inoculated.

Friday was the first day such vaccinations could be carried out under the Homeland Security Act.

In time, nearly half a million doctors, hospital specialists and first-aiders are expected to volunteer for it.

The US military has already begun inoculations of its own.

Smallpox was wiped out in 1979, but experts fear that the virus could be used as a weapon by militant groups or "rogue states" such as Iraq.

It is highly contagious and has a 33% mortality rate once contracted.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Bob Berry
"The Department of Homeland Security started work on Friday"

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18 Jan 03 | Americas
07 Jun 02 | Americas
16 Jul 02 | Americas
25 Nov 02 | Americas
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