Ridge steps down from Homeland Security

Tom Ridge announced today he will step down by February as Homeland Security secretary.

Ridge, the Homeland Security Department's first chief, oversaw critical steps in the development of DHS' systems infrastructure, including the creation of its initial enterprise architecture and moves to consolidate the systems of its 22 component agencies.

DHS came under criticism repeatedly during Ridge's tenure. Various groups, ranging from the Government Accountability Office, independent homeland security analysts, privacy advocates and lawmakers found fault with the department and Ridges leadership of it. He has had to defend the department's work to integrate its own systems, merge terrorist watch lists, create an entry-exit system for the nation's borders, and craft systems for pinpointing risky passengers and cargo.

Ridge held a news conference this afternoon at the department's headquarters to formally announce his resignation. He will leave before February if the Senate confirms his replacement.

There has been speculation for months about whether the former Pennsylvania governor and Vietnam combat veteran would stay on for a second Bush term.

Ridge came to Washington to oversee homeland security matters before Congress mandated the creation of DHS. He formed a personal relationship with President George W. Bush when both men were governors. Bush later appointed Ridge to the secretary job.

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