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Bush will choose Kerik to head Homeland Security
Former New York police boss to replace Ridge
Thursday, December 2, 2004 Posted: 6:36 PM EST (2336 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will nominate former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik to take over as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, two administration officials said Thursday.
Kerik led the New York City Police Department through the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and their aftermath. He is currently a senior vice president of Giuliani Partners, the consulting firm founded by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who appointed him as commissioner of the NYPD in 2000.
In 2003, Kerik went to Iraq at Bush's request to help train the new Iraqi police force, and he campaigned for Bush's re-election, making at speech at the Republican National Convention in August. (CNN Access: Working hard | Retraining)
An administration official told CNN that on at least two occasions, Giuliani made a personal pitch to the White House that Kerik be named to succeed outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who announced his resignation Tuesday.
Ridge said he will remain in the post until February 1 unless a successor is confirmed sooner.
"There will always be more to do, but today, America is significantly stronger and safer than ever before," he said in his resignation letter. (Ridge's letter)
President Bush hailed Ridge's efforts as the nation's first-ever secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, overseeing its 180,000 personnel.
The former two-term governor of Pennsylvania said that, after 22 years in public service, he plans to get more involved in personal and family matters.
Ridge accepted the job of homeland security adviser to Bush just days after the September 11 attacks, and stepped into the job of secretary in January 2003 as 22 government agencies were blended into the Department of Homeland Security. The department was charged with developing and coordinating a national strategy to protect against terrorist threats in the United States.
Perhaps his highest-profile move was to oversee the creation of the color-coded threat-warning system. During his time as adviser and secretary, the national threat level was raised from yellow (elevated) to orange (high) and back six times. It is currently at yellow.
Ridge has won praise for tackling what was widely regarded as an exceedingly difficult job. But many outside observers say the department is falling short of delivering what it should and could.
Some outside analysts also felt that Ridge lost a number of important battles and said they were hoping his replacement would be able to get more money and therefore more clout for the department.
"Tom Ridge is a decent man and a fine public servant but unfortunately was not given the leeway or resources to tighten up homeland security in the way it should be done," said Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat. "We hope that whoever the administration chooses to succeed him will be given the tools needed to really do the job."
Sen. John Cornyn -- a member of the immigration, border security and citizenship subcommittee -- praised Ridge's performance.
"Tom Ridge has provided strong and resolute leadership in the fight against terror during his service as America's first secretary of homeland security," the Texas Republican said.
And California Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Ridge "has made real progress under difficult circumstances."
Ridge served as Pennsylvania governor from 1995 to 2001. He was known for his aggressive technology strategy that helped fuel the state's advances in economic development, education, health and the environment.
Kerik served three years as an Army MP before becoming warden of the Passaic County jail. He worked in the NYPD from 1986 to 1994 and, before becoming police commissioner, headed the city's Department of Correction.
The Bush administration has been busy in the weeks since the election, which have also seen the resignations of Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, Education Secretary Rod Paige, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.
So far, Bush has named five replacements. He nominated White House counsel Alberto Gonzales
to succeed Ashcroft, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to take over at the State Department, domestic policy adviser Margaret Spellings to replace Paige and Carlos Gutierrez to be the next commerce secretary.
On Thursday, Bush nominated Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns as his new secretary of agriculture. (Full story)
All of the Cabinet nominees must be confirmed by the Senate