Skip to main content
On the Record

Guests Debate Effectiveness of Homeland Security Office

ROBERT NOVAK, HOST: Paul Light, you had a column in
today’s “USA Today” in which you took issue with the
Homeland Security Office created by the president. You are
a former Senate staffer. And to all due respect, I perceive the
not-invented-here syndrome there. What you are saying is
that the president, who has the power, has made Governor
Ridge a cabinet member but you are saying that if he were to
be made a cabinet member by the Senate, that would
magically confer on him power to do this job.

Paul Light: I’m basically saying the president could make each one of us at
table a cabinet member for all that’s worth. Basically what I’m saying is that
Governor Ridge doesn’t have authorities that would come from statute in order
to force agencies to talk to him.

He has no authority to command budget. He has no authority to command
personnel. He doesn’t have the stature that comes with Senate confirmation.
We have all the symbols of power, including access to the president, but we
have none of the reality of the power there. I think that comes from statute, not
from executive order.

Novak: Mr. Light, I smell a fish. The fish is the bureaucratic fish of people not
liking a newcomer coming in. I would like you to listen to something that
Governor Ridge said on his swearing in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THOMAS RIDGE, DIRECTOR OF HOMELAND
DEFENSE: We must be task oriented. The only turf we should be worried
about protecting is the turf we stand on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Isn’t that the real problem? It’s not a problem of whether he’s
confirmed by the Senate, whether he has statutory authority. It’s that a lot of
people—and I hope you don’t represent them—in the bureaucracy don’t like
somebody intruding on their little domains.

Light: I would like to see him in a much stronger position. In fact, I don’t
understand why the White House doesn’t want to give him even the powers
associated with the drug czar. We talk about the drug czar here, but Tom
Ridge doesn’t even have the minimal authorities the drug czar has.

read entire interview (complete Interview includes comments from Bill Press as
Co-host, and Congresswoman Jane Harman and Senator Richard Shelby as
guests)

More

Get daily updates from Brookings