Ridge: Simpler background checks needed

Congress should rethink its piecemeal approach to homeland security mandates and try to ease the financial burden on the private sector, former Homeland Security Tom Ridge said.

Speaking at the American Trucking Associations annual meeting in Boston on Sunday, Oct. 16, Ridge singled out mandates for background checks. “Congress has said on three different occasions that you need three separate background checks,” Ridge told trucking executives. “You don’t need three separate pieces of legislation to make you do essentially the same thing.”

Ridge dismissed the notion that tailoring regulation and enforcement with an eye to the cost on industry is an inappropriate nod to special interests. “The only people I know who don’t have special interests are deceased,” Ridge quipped.

A focus on protecting both physical and economic security was one of four principals that guided Ridge’s leadership of the Department of Homeland Security. Ridge emphasized integration of both people and technology. Another principle is that you manage risk, not eliminate it, Ridge said, adding that “in a political world, it’s difficult to say that.”

Finally, homeland security demands integration of the entire nation, including “great partners” like the trucking industry. “You can’t secure the country from Washington, D.C. It can’t be done.”

Ridge doesn’t minimize the threat of terrorism, but he isn’t worried.

“I’m so confident we will prevail because we Americans don’t live in fear.”