By Lauren Kielsmeier, Executive Director for Academic Engagement
The Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC) recently celebrated three years of service to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Formed in March 2012, the HSAAC is comprised of a diverse group of university presidents, academic leaders, and interagency partners who advise the Secretary and senior leadership on matters related to homeland security and the academic community. Across the Council, members provide guidance on student and recent graduate recruitment; international students; academic research and faculty exchange; campus resilience; homeland security academic programs; and cybersecurity.
The Council’s work has significantly improved the Department’s engagement with the academic community. Through its six subcommittees, the Council has provided more than 100 recommendations to DHS. Of these, 82 percent have been fully or partially implemented, resulting in key accomplishments for both the Department and the academic community.
One such accomplishment is improved campus resilience and emergency planning efforts. In October 2014, the Council, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) hosted the National Seminar and Tabletop Exercise for Institutions of Higher Education, the first in a series of tabletop exercises targeted to colleges and universities. The event brought together more than 100 participants from 21 colleges and universities, providing key insights surrounding common planning, preparedness, and resilience best practices and challenges. Also addressing a Council recommendation, FEMA launched the Academia and Resilience web portal, containing program guides, tools, outreach materials, and downloadable tabletop and emergency planning exercises targeted to the academic community.
Additionally, the Council’s work surrounding student and recent graduate recruitment has supported DHS’s efforts to strengthen the diversity of its workforce and develop strategic partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). In 2014, DHS signed Memoranda of Understanding with five higher education associations, collectively representing 1,531 institutions around the country. These agreements formalize and strengthen the relationship and communication between the Department and the national associations.
Council recommendations have supported increased transparency and engagement on international student issues. Based on Council advice, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began publishing draft policy guidance for public input on the Study in the States website, with 14 pieces of policy guidance published for public comment to date. To expand engagement with the academic community, OAE partnered with the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), ICE SEVP, and the U.S. Department of State’s EducationUSA network to host a webinar with HBCUs focused on recruiting and enrolling international students.
In support of the Department’s mission to enhance cybersecurity, the Council’s recommendations have also led to the promotion of key cybersecurity initiatives and resources, including the Secretary’s Honors Program Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative. Also noteworthy are the Council’s recommendations that resulted in the Department’s identification of 34 of its key research priorities as well as efforts to provide guidance on homeland security degree requirements and programs at U.S. colleges and universities.
The Council has been an invaluable asset to the Department and our efforts to engage with the academic community. I am proud of the Council’s accomplishments and grateful to its members for their service.
Learn more about the HSAAC here. For more information on DHS and academic engagement, visit http://www.dhs.gov/topic/academic-engagement, or sign up for email updates through DHS’s GovDelivery service.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Secretary of Homeland Security goes underway on the San Francisco Bay aboard a U.S. Coast Guard Response Boat Medium out of Station San Francisco, during a trip to the Bay Area this week. Secretary Johnson is joined by Vice Admiral Charles Ray (center), Commander of Coast Guard Pacific Area; Captain Mike Day, Deputy Sector Commander Sector San Francisco; and Master Chief Petty Officer Devin Spencer, Station San Francisco Officer in Charge.
Official DHS Photo by Jetta Disco | Download High-Resolution Image (3936 x 2624)
One year ago the Department of Homeland Security embarked on Secretary Jeh Johnson’s “Unity of Effort” initiative, to begin to set the conditions for the Department to act in a more unified fashion.
Today, on behalf of the Secretary, I am pleased to report that the Unity of Effort is exceeding expectations in its goal to build and sustain a culture that recognizes the strong need to unify our efforts to address the diverse and numerous challenges we face in securing this nation and the American people.
Good leadership starts with good people. The senior leadership of the Department have been personally involved in wrestling with the difficult issues of the Department—issues of strategy, resource allocation, capability requirements, operational planning, joint operations, and headquarters organizational design—an a more inclusive, transparent way.
The Department has also made great strides in mission execution over the past year. The new DHS Southern Border and Approaches Campaign has become operational with the standup of our three new DHS joint task forces. These task forces will be instrumental in changing the way we operate as a Department in those mission areas that touch upon multiple DHS Components.
Our new joint requirements council is taking a hard look at what tools and resources the Department needs in order to operate in the future across a wide variety of mission areas: our aviation fleet, information-based screening and vetting equipment, information sharing systems; chemical biological radiological, and nuclear detection, and cybersecurity.
We are continuing to review and refine the Department’s acquisition processes, to enhance the way DHS does business. Today, we are announcing the launch of the Acquisition Innovations in Motion (AIiM) program, that will create learning opportunities for DHS by listening to those who participate in our acquisition processes internally – like our own acquisition professionals – and externally – including enhanced engagement with the private sector.
As we move into its second year, the Unity of Effort initiative will continue to serve as a driving force for much of our day-to-day work to improve the Department. We will continue to make investments in our greatest resource – our workforce - through a number of human capital initiatives designed to weave unity of effort principles and practice into the fabric of the Department.
Our Department is diverse. Our duties are wide ranging. But our mission is clear: a safer, more secure nation for the American people. As the Department of Homeland Security continues to unify our efforts through leadership and management development, workforce engagement, successful operational execution, and refined acquisition processes, Secretary Johnson and I are confident that we will continue to deliver the best possible security of the homeland that the American people deserve.
Targets for cyberattacks are closer to home than most people think. The water we drink, the electricity that powers our homes, and the banks that store our money are all prime targets for hackers. Recognizing this ever-changing threat, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) leverages innovation in the cyber arena to keep pace with malicious actors who may seek to damage our critical infrastructure sectors.
The key to being able to defend against cyberattacks is getting the right technologies into the hands of industry, where most of our nation’s cyber infrastructure exists. One way S&T helps DHS facilitate this process is through our Transition to Practice (TTP) program, which identifies promising federally-funded technologies and introduces them to industry during the research and development process.
This week, at the RSA Conference 2015 in San Francisco, S&T’s Cyber Security Division (CSD) introduced 12 technologies– eight from the TTP program and four from other CSD programs. These technologies seek to advance the private sector’s capabilities on cybersecurity issues such as cloud security, behavioral classification, and threat landscape analysis. The conference is the industry’s largest global information security event where a broad audience—business, government and investors— comes together to discuss security.
Later this summer, on June 9, S&T will present all nine of its 2014 technologies at TTP Technology Demonstration Day for Investors, Integrators, and IT Companies (I3) – West, in Santa Clara, Calif. This technology demonstration will connect cybersecurity investors, integrators, and information technology professionals with the technology developers at the national laboratories with the goal of commercialization-- ultimately improving our nation’s overall cybersecurity posture.
TTP, now in its third year, has 24 technologies ready for transition to the marketplace. Of these, three technologies—Quantum Secured Communication, Hone and Hyperion—have successfully transitioned into the marketplace via open sourcing and commercial licenses. Additionally, within the next few months S&T hopes to add two more technologies into the commercial market. The TTP process normally takes about three years, so we are excited about the work and what we have accomplished in such a short amount of time. We look forward to sharing future innovations in cybersecurity.
To learn more about this year’s technologies, visit the 2015 TTP guide that gives a full listing and description.
Today, approximately 30,000 runners and 500,000 spectators gathered for the 119th Boston Marathon. Since the tragic events of April 15, 2013, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and local officials in the Boston area have strengthened partnerships and coordination to improve overall event security.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is supporting the Boston Marathon with approximately 1,200 federal officials, explosive ordinance detection teams, canine units, and behavioral detection field officers to assist the Federal Coordinator in helping the event planners enhance the overall event security. On the ground, participants and spectators may notice some of these revamped security measures, but many of these measures will be remain unseen. In fact, the lessons learned from the 2013 Boston tragedy have been incorporated at other special events across the nation to enhance overall security for the American public.
Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge Don McGrail, United States Secret Service, and Allison Thomson, Office of Operations Coordination, coordinate during the 118th Boston Marathon last April (photo by Massachusetts State Police).
Support for Boston Marathon security comes from all corners of DHS: the National Protection and Programs Directorate provides comprehensive infrastructure security assessments; the Office of Intelligence and Analysis provides intelligence information sharing; the Federal Emergency Management Agency supports emergency response, recovery, and communications; and the DHS Office of Operations Coordination and the National Operations Center handles federal support coordination. These efforts in Boston are overseen by Federal Coordinator U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Lisa Quinn, whom Secretary Johnson appointed to this role to participate in pre-event planning and coordinate the federal assets at the request of state and local event organizers.
“The federal agencies view their contributions to the overarching security plan for the 2015 Boston Marathon as an opportunity to ‘give back’ to our local and state partners who provide resources on a daily basis to our collective missions,” said Special Agent Quinn.
A Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod helicopter crew works with a Coast Guard Cutter Seneca crew to conduct hoists during Operation Orange Flag in Rhode Island Sound April 1, 2015. Crews from the Coast Guard, Air National Guard, and Canadian Forces worked together to better understand each other's capabilities for Operation Orange Flag.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jimmy Clay | Download High-Resolution Image (6000 x 4000)
Today, we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). DNDO was established through presidential directive on April 15, 2005 with the singular mission to prevent nuclear terrorism through nuclear detection. In 2006, DNDO was tasked with the technical nuclear forensics mission. To accomplish our mission, DNDO collaborates with a wide range of partners and promotes innovative approaches to protect the nation. In fact, the Partnership for Public Service recently ranked DNDO # 2 for Innovation among 314 agency subcomponents, based on results from the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
Since its establishment, DNDO has made considerable advancements in making our homeland safer from nuclear terrorism. Our research and development efforts have led to new technologies that address critical detection needs. For instance, through our Small Business Innovation Research efforts, one such material, stilbene, is now domestically produced by industry at lower costs and in greater quantities.
Our testing, acquisition, and deployment of detection equipment for DHS operational components, including the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Transportation Security Administration, has ensured frontline personnel have the right tools to protect the nation from nuclear terrorism. Working with our state and local partners, DNDO is engaged with 33 states and will expand basic preventive nuclear detection efforts to reach all 50 states by the end of fiscal year 2015. From aiding our state and local partners to developing international guidance, DNDO works across all boundaries in furtherance of the mission. To enhance the detection capabilities of these partners, we assist with training, exercises, and assessments.
Partnerships with academia and the National Laboratories have restored a healthy pipeline of next-generation scientists in nuclear forensics-related fields in response to a national security demand. We are on track to have 35 new PhDs in the workforce by 2018 in nuclear forensics- related fields.
Planning efforts with the U.S. Government interagency have culminated in strategies and reports that guide the development and implementation of nuclear detection and forensic activities and capabilities. In 2014, DNDO along with the interagency, updated the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture Strategic Plan with mission, goals, and objectives for U.S. Government efforts to detect, analyze, and report on nuclear or other radioactive materials that are out of regulatory control. DNDO established the Nuclear Forensics Requirements Center, co-chaired with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which for the first time identifies, develops, and documents strategic, operational, and technical requirements across the nuclear forensics mission space. Through a government-wide approach, DNDO is leveraging interagency efforts to better and more effectively protect the Nation.
In the past ten years, we have seen a remarkable increase in our nation’s capabilities to protect against nuclear terrorism. This is in large part, due to the great work of the men and women of DNDO, and we look forward to furthering this important mission in the decade to come.
To learn more about DNDO, visit http://www.dhs.gov/about-domestic-nuclear-detection-office.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is briefed while walking through Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. On his first trip to Asia, Sec. Johnson met with his counterparts to discuss a range of homeland security-related issues, including counterterrorism, cybersecurity, global supply chain security, combating transnational crime, and maritime law enforcement. Secretary Johnson also delivered remarks at the Chinese People’s Public Security University.
Official DHS Photo by Barry Bahler| Download High-Resolution Image (2560x1920)
-Greg Touhill, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Cybersecurity and Communications
With the April 15 deadline approaching, millions of Americans are finalizing the preparation and filing of their taxes. Unfortunately, tax season is a busy time for cyber criminals and scammers as well. Tax-refund fraud is a serious and fast-growing problem.
Tax-refund fraud happens when a cyber criminal steals someone’s personal information to file a fake tax return and to claim that individual’s the refund. To file a tax return online, they only need a name, date of birth, and a Social Security Number.
Cyber criminals are constantly searching for Social Security Numbers and other personal information that they can leverage for fraudulent purposes. Because identify theft and tax-refund fraud often starts long before tax season, it’s important to protect your personal and financial information year round.
Here are some tips to protect yourself and your loved ones from tax-refund fraud:
- Don’t give out your personal information, unless it is to a trusted entity. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media to request personal or financial information. If you receive an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, do not click on any links or reply. Instead, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org and delete it from your inbox.
- Look out for phony messages or websites claiming to be from the IRS or tax preparation services. Exercise caution when opening suspicious email attachments and do not click on web links in unsolicited email messages. Scammers who try to access your personal or financial information may use the IRS name or logo in email messages and on fake websites to lure potential victims.
- Beware of promises of “free money” from inflated refunds. Scammers frequently pose as tax preparers during tax season. If you are contacted by someone who promises a large tax refund or a refund you are not expecting, do not give out any personal or financial information. If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Back up your data and store your electronic tax files securely. Last year, most Americans opted to file their taxes online. When preparing your tax return for electronic filing, make sure to use a strong password. If you are working with an accountant, ask them what security measures they have in place to protect your personal information.
- Only share personal information over a secured network. Criminals increasingly are using free public Wi-Fi and poorly secured network access points to intercept and steal information. Even if you are at home and logging into to a wireless network, make sure you only join a properly secured password-protected network. For all my financial transactions I don’t connect if the network is publicly available and recommend you consider similar precautions. Remember: using free public Wi-Fi makes it easy for cyber criminals to intercept and steal your information. Never prepare your tax return or conduct other online activities such as banking and shopping when connected to an unsecured wireless network.
If you believe you have been the victim of tax-refund fraud, contact the IRS. If you have been a victim of identity theft in general, report such incidents to the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.gov/idtheft, or to the FTC Identity Theft hotline at 1-877-438-4338.
Everyone must play their part in order to stay safe online during tax season and all year round. To learn more about how to protect your information during tax season, visit: www.irs.gov/Individuals/Identity-Protection.
For additional general cyber tips and resources, visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.
April 15th rapidly is approaching. Best of luck as you safely and securely file your taxes this year!
PHOTO OF THE WEEK: At NYPD Headquarters in New York City, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced that more than $1.6 billion will be available to help communities and first responders prevent terrorism and secure our transportation systems, ports and borders through the nine FY 2015 DHS preparedness grant programs.
Official DHS Photo by Jetta Disco | Download High-Resolution Image (3200x4800)