Tom Ridge, the first secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security, announced Nov. 30 that he would be resigning his position effective Feb. 1, or sooner if a successor is confirmed. Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania, has led the department, since Jan. 24, 2003, about a month before all of the agencies that comprise the organization formally were transferred to it.
The 180,000-person department is the result of the biggest federal reorganization in decades, encompassing the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration and 20 other formerly separate agencies.
Ridge, 59, told reporters that after more than 20 years in government, he wanted to put a higher priority on "some personal and family matters." He also indicated that he would stay in the Washington area for a time, but didn't say what his next job would be. He told reporters, "I'm going to sit back a little bit and breathe deeply and then decide."
Ridge said he had thought about leaving his position "a little bit before" the election, but then after the election "started thinking much more seriously about it."
Ridge served five terms as a congressman from the district that includes his home town of Erie, Pa., and then was the Keystone State's governor from 1995 to 2001. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he agreed to Bush's request to be the White House's initial Director of the Office of Homeland Security.
The department's construction-related programs include funding to help airports reconfigure terminals to accommodate new baggage-screening equipment. It also provides grants to seaports and transit agencies to upgrade security, including infrastructure improvements. But the funds DHS has provided so far fall short of the amounts industry officials say are needed.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) praised Ridge, saying, "Under his stewardship, we have made our homeland secure on virtually every front. While more remains to be done, the job of securing the American homeland is certainly well begun."