Sat, Dec 04, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Kerik tapped as new US homeland security czar

RESHUFFLE US President Bush's choice of the former New York police chief to replace Tom Ridge continued the rejiggering of his staff going into a second term


This file photo shows former New York City Police commissioner Bernard Kerik with US President George W. Bush addressing the media on the South Lawn of the White House on Oct. 3, 2002. Kerik has been nominated to be secretary of homeland security.


US President George W. Bush has chosen former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who helped direct the emergency response to the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes against the Twin Towers, to lead the Homeland Security Depart-ment, charged with safeguarding Americans from future attack, administration officials said.

Bush also announced his choice of Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns to be agriculture secretary, selecting a dairy farmer's son who has traveled widely to promote US farm sales abroad.

The flurry of moves came as Bush reshaped his team for his second term in office. Seven members of the 15-member Cabinet have submitted their resignations; Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson also appears to be preparing to leave.

Kerik inherits a sprawling bureaucracy from Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who resigned last month. The creation of the department last year combined 22 disparate federal agencies with more than 180,000 employees.

The organization is still learning to work together and faces criticism over aspects from the coordination of finances to computer systems. Bush initially opposed the creation of the department but changed his position as its support on Capitol Hill grew.

Kerik's first anti-terrorism work was as a paid private security worker in Saudi Arabia. He joined the New York Police Department in 1986, first walking a beat in Times Square.

He eventually was tapped to lead the Corrections Department for the city and was appointed commissioner in 2000.

It was in that position that the mustachioed law enforcement chief became known to the rest of the country, supervising the NYPD's response to the 2001 terror attacks, often at the side of then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Last year, he took on a temporary assignment in Iraq to help rebuild the country's police force. Most recently, he has been a consultant for Giuliani Partners, working to rebuild Baghdad's police force.

If confirmed by the Senate, Johanns, a two-term Republican governor in Nebraska, will replace Ann Veneman at the Agriculture Department. Johanns, 54, who has led delegations of Nebraska's farm and business leaders on trade missions to Japan, Taiwan, China, Singapore and a half-dozen other countries, has taken a leading role in drought relief in the Midwest and has supported ethanol, biodiesel and other alternative sources of energy, Bush said.

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