President Bush's budget proposal unveiled this week does little to combine government agencies, and a Ridge plan to combine border control agencies was put on ice at the White House as department heads scurried to maintain their turf.
But in a speech at the National Press Club on Thursday, Ridge said the administration might do some reorganizing of the federal government that would require new laws.
"We may make some recommendations about the integration or consolidation of some of these departments that will certainly need congressional approval," Ridge said.
The ex-Marine and former Pennsylvania governor predicted, however, that he would not seek legal authority for his own office because the president's personal support is enough for Ridge to do his job coordinating homeland security operations.
"I've got all the authority I need," Ridge said. "I've gotten $38 billion in (budget) authority in four months," Ridge said, referring to funds in Bush's budget proposal. "That is not so bad."
Ridge said that instead, he would concentrate on coordinating federal, state and local efforts to improve homeland security. Ridge said his office would announce a new Homeland Security Advisory System in the next few weeks that would help local and state governments make better sense of sometimes-obtuse government warnings of possible attacks.
Ridge also predicted that Congress would approve of Bush's proposed $38 billion to improve homeland security -- a doubling in spending on such functions while most of the rest of government spending would be stuck with just 2 percent growth.
Ridge predicted that Americans would reap the ancillary benefits of enhanced police forces, fire departments, hospitals and research institutions even if terrorists never strike again. "Homeland security is not a zero-sum game," Ridge said. "It is a win-win."
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