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Inside Politics

Bush to tap Kerik for Homeland Security

Former New York police boss to replace Ridge

Bernard Kerik, former New York City police commissioner
more videoVIDEO
Kerik will likely replace Ridge.

Ridge's resignation announcement.
Department of Homeland Security
Tom Ridge
George W. Bush
Acts of terror

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will nominate former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik to take over as secretary of homeland security, two administration officials said Thursday.

Kerik, 49, led the New York City Police Department through the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and their aftermath.

He is currently a senior vice president of Giuliani Partners, the consulting firm founded by Rudy Giuliani, who as mayor of New York appointed him police commissioner in 2000. (Profile)

In 2003, Kerik went to Iraq at Bush's request to help train the new Iraqi police force, and he campaigned for Bush's re-election, making at speech at the Republican National Convention in August. (CNN Access: Working hard | Retraining)

An administration official told CNN that on at least two occasions Giuliani made a personal pitch to the White House that Kerik be named to succeed Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, 59, who announced his resignation Tuesday.

A senior administration official described Kerik as a "proven crisis manager" with "credibility and firsthand understanding of the war on terror."

"The country is well aware of his courageous service in responding to the World Trade Center attack, his efforts to coordinate rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero," the senior administration official said.

New York's two senators, both Democrats, expressed support for Kerik's nomination.

"If ever a state deserves to have a citizen appointed to [head the Department of] Homeland Security, it is New York," said Sen. Charles Schumer.

"Bernard Kerik knows firsthand the challenges and needs of New York and other high-threat areas," Sen. Hillary Clinton said in a statement. "As a member of the president's Cabinet, he can make that case every single day."

New York officials have long complained that they receive an inadequate share of federal homeland security money, given the fact that the nation's largest city faces a heightened threat from terrorists.

Schumer said late Thursday that he expects the department to raise the appropriation for New York by about $100 million in an announcement Friday, which he said is an improvement but still not enough to meet New York's needs.

Sources close to Asa Hutchinson, the department's undersecretary for border and transportation security, told CNN the former Republican representative would not serve through a second Bush term but would stay through the leadership transition.

Hutchinson had been mentioned as a possible successor to Ridge, but two sources said Hutchinson is interested in running for governor of his home state of Arkansas in 2006.

Reached Thursday evening, Hutchinson would say only about his future: "I have to wait and see. There are a number of options open to me now." He applauded Bush's apparent decision to tap Kerik, saying the president "has made a good selection."

Bush praises Ridge

Ridge said he would remain in the post until February 1 unless a successor is confirmed sooner.

"There will always be more to do, but today, America is significantly stronger and safer than ever before," Ridge said in his resignation letter. (Ridge's letter)

Bush hailed Ridge's efforts as the nation's first-ever secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, overseeing its 180,000 personnel.

The former governor of Pennsylvania said that after 22 years in public service he plans to get more involved in personal and family matters.

Ridge accepted the job of homeland security adviser to Bush just days after the 9/11 attacks. He stepped into the job of secretary in January 2003 as 22 government agencies were blended into the Department of Homeland Security.

The department is responsible for a wide variety of functions -- from overseeing border security and immigration to responding to natural disasters and screening airline passengers. It also includes the Secret Service and the Coast Guard.

The department was charged with developing and coordinating a national strategy to protect against terrorist threats. Perhaps Ridge's highest-profile move was to oversee the creation of the color-coded threat-warning system.

Ridge won praise for tackling what was widely regarded as an exceedingly difficult job. But many outside observers say the department falls short of delivering what it should.

"Tom Ridge is a decent man and a fine public servant, but unfortunately was not given the leeway or resources to tighten up homeland security in the way it should be done," Schumer said Tuesday.

"We hope that whoever the administration chooses to succeed him will be given the tools needed to really do the job."

California Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said Ridge "has made real progress under difficult circumstances."

Ridge served as Pennsylvania governor from 1995 to 2001 and was known for his aggressive technology strategy.

Kerik served three years as an Army MP before becoming warden of the Passaic County jail. He worked in the NYPD from 1986 to 1994 and before becoming police commissioner, headed the city's Department of Correction.

The Bush administration has been busy in the weeks since the election, which have also seen the resignations of Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, Education Secretary Rod Paige, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

So far, Bush has named five replacements. He nominated White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to succeed Ashcroft, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to take over at the State Department, domestic policy adviser Margaret Spellings to replace Paige and Carlos Gutierrez to be the next commerce secretary.

On Thursday, Bush nominated Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns as his new secretary of agriculture. (Full story)

All of the Cabinet nominees must be confirmed by the Senate.

CNN's Elaine Quijano and Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.

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