(CNN) — Citing upcoming gatherings that may be attractive to terrorism targets, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced Monday the government is creating a new task force to help coordinate antiterrorism efforts.
“With so many symbolic gatherings in the next few months, we must be aggressive,” Ridge said in remarks prepared for delivery before a meeting of the Radio and Television News Directors Association in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“These targets of opportunity for the terrorists, are opportunities that can’t be missed to tighten our security.
“We will increase our vigilance, accelerate the reduction of our vulnerabilities, and enhance our response capabilities so that they are poised and ready. There’s a lot going on around the country already. And wherever possible, we will ratchet it up.”
Ridge appealed to national, state, local and private authorities to be “better prepared” with an eye toward these events:
Dedication of the World War II Memorial on the Washington Mall, May 29.
Group of Eight economic summit on Sea Island, Georgia, June 8-10.
Independence Day, July 4.
Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, July 26-29.
Republican National Convention in New York, August 30-September 2.
Labor Day weekend, September 4-6.
Each of these events will have a site-specific security plan, but the task force — which includes Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and the Department of Justice — is being formed to address the larger picture, including the time between events.
The national preparedness plan and critical infrastructure will get particular attention at the federal level, but Ridge called on state and local agencies to complete their response plans as well.
“The bottom line is that homeland security is not about one department, one level of government or one organization,” Ridge said. “It is a national call to action, a philosophy of shared responsibility, shared accountability, and shared leadership.”
A Homeland Security official said the preparedness push is not in response to threat information, but to analysis. Ridge did not mention any plans to raise the color-coded threat level, which is set at yellow, or elevated.
The nation has been at yellow alert since early January, when the threat risk was lowered from orange, or high, where it was set during the heavy December and New Year travel period. The alert lasted 20 days, from December 21-January 9.
The highest level is red, or severe. It has not been employed since the color-code system was introduced in March 2002.