Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff at a Joint Press Conference with Deputy Prime Minister of Canada Anne McLellan

OTTAWA — Thank you for those kind remarks Deputy Prime Minister McLellan. It’s wonderful to be with you here in Ottawa, and I look forward to extending the strong bonds of partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and Canada established by Secretary Ridge. Also on the behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, the entire U.S. government and the American people, our hearts go out to the family and colleagues on the recent loss of four Royal Mounted Police Officers.

Through our collaboration with Canada, we are making significant progress toward a more secure North America. We have strengthened our shared border security through the Smart Border Action Plan – keeping terrorists out while facilitating the free flow of legitimate commerce and people.

The United States learned on September 11th, 2001 that neither oceans, nor the innocence of men, women and children simply going about their daily lives, prevented terrorists from attacking our country and killing almost 3,000 people. And just last week, March 11th, Spain observed a national day of mourning to mark the one year anniversary of the Madrid train bombings where 191 people riding the subway were slaughtered. We mourn with them. And we all vow that we will do whatever it takes to prevent another 9-11 or 3-11 – from ever occurring again. These attacks remind us that all our countries are at risk, that terrorism is a global and far-reaching enemy. And to eradicate this threat will take the strong bonds of partnership as we continue our work together to confront this, the great challenge of our time.

So I am extremely pleased that both Canada and Great Britain are participating in the upcoming international full-scale exercise we are announcing today. In the United States we call it Top Officials 3, or TOPOFF 3. Here you call it TRIPLE PLAY, and in the United Kingdom they call it ATLANTIC BLUE. Whatever we call it, it highlights how our countries are working together to prevent, prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks. In addition, we have 13 other countries, including Mexico, participating as observers, making this exercise truly a learning opportunity for many friends and allies. I am also looking forward to the exercise as a great learning experience for me.

TOPOFF 3, taking place from April 4th through April 8th, puts plans and policy to the test. It simulates what might happen in a real-world situation so we can improve and refine our emergency plans and procedures. It stresses our preparedness systems so we can determine our weaknesses now and correct them for the future. We will intentionally push our programs to the point of failure, so we can bring to the surface difficult policy and operational issues. We do this to prepare for events we hope never come – for threats that are real and deadly serious. There’s no question that our coordination, precision and practice today will save lives tomorrow, perhaps thousands of lives, if our nations are ever again attacked by terrorists.

The TOPOFF 3 exercise is the third of its kind we have held in the United States. We learned a great deal about all aspects of our readiness during the first two TOPOFF drills. And we will surely learn many things during the upcoming staged events – mainly, how to test plans, skills, and coordination in a real-time, realistic environment and gain the perspective that only experience can provide. We must continue to learn from each other and cooperate and collaborate – to meet the daunting challenges before us.

Thank you.