H1N1 now exists in over 100 countries around the world, and experts say that the virus may worsen this fall when the traditional flu season starts in the Northern Hemisphere.
Continued cooperation among all federal departments, as well as with state, local, and tribal governments and medical, academic, and business sectors (yes, all of the above) will be vital as we continue to tackle this national public health issue.
The Flu Preparedness Summit will bring government officials and health professionals, emergency managers and educators, non-profit organizations and business executives, together in one room. They'll have a forum to talk about their lessons learned from H1N1 thus far, and importantly, discuss the next steps in assessing and building on current pandemic plans.
The initial news blitz has largely subsided, but the simple fact remains that H1N1 flu is still with us. We'll keep you up-to-date on the summit, and on the department's continuing role in dealing with H1N1.
From the Latin American Herald Tribune, on the Secretary's visit to Spain:
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano started her official visit to Spain on Wednesday by honoring the victims of the March 11, 2004, terrorist attacks in Madrid.
Napolitano placed a wreath bearing the colors of the U.S. flag at the monument to the victims of the commuter-train bombings at Madrid's Atocha station that left 191 people dead.
The U.S. official observed a minute of silence at the monument along with Spain's secretary of state for security, Antonio Camacho, and Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz
Napolitano met with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, as well as with Spain's interior and justice ministers, to discuss cooperation in fighting illegal immigration and terrorism.
From the New York Times, on immigration enforcement:
The Obama administration began investigations of hundreds of businesses on Wednesday as part of its strategy to focus immigration enforcement on the employers who hire illegal workers.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency told Congress in an e-mail message that it had begun notifying businesses of plans to audit the documents known as I-9 forms, which employers fill out for every worker. The Department of Homeland Security said 625 businesses had been told they would be audited, compared with 503 for last year.
12 PM EDT
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate will participate in a media availability with Delaware Governor Jack Markell, U.S. Senator Tom Carper, U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman, and U.S. Representative Mike Castle about the importance of emergency preparedness
Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company
219 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, Del.
10 AM PDT
ICE Seattle Special Agent in Charge Leigh Winchell will participate in a joint ICE-DEA media availability to discuss arrests made in a drug trafficking operation
400 2nd Ave W
Seattle, WA 98119
Sean Smith is the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security
In the 16 months since the pilot began, the IAP has identified hundreds of people with improper documentation, intercepted 23 persons with fraudulent documents, and importantly, stopped 10 terrorism-related suspects from heading to our shores.
The preliminary success of the IAP encourages further cooperation between the U.S. and Spain on this issue.
“Protecting our nation from terrorism requires close coordination with our international allies,” said Secretary Napolitano. "This agreement enhances the capabilities of the United States and Spain to facilitate legal travel and deter dangerous people attempting to enter our country.”
From the AFP, on the agreement signed yesterday between the U.S. and Portugal:
The United States and Portugal signed Tuesday a bilateral agreement to cooperate in the battle against terrorism and organised crime during a visit by Washington's homeland security chief.
"We have signed an important agreement on the prevention and fight against terrorism and organised crime," Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado said in a news conference alongside US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Napolitano said the agreement allows the two countries to share information to stop serious crimes."The agreement we signed today will help us to achieve this goal," she said.
From CNN, on increased cooperation between ICE and ATF:
The two federal agencies most responsible for stemming the flow of firearms to Mexico agreed Tuesday to improve cooperation after they were sharply criticized by a congressional report for lack of coordination.
The agreement between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will result in a more effective fight against the flood of U.S. weapons that provide Mexican drug cartels with more than 90 percent of their firearms. Top federal law enforcement officials were in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to sign documents pledging to work together.
The agreement is expected to result in increased seizures of trafficked weapons and more prosecutions and convictions, said David Ogden, the deputy attorney general.
But "it's hard to say when we'll see results," he added.
Ogden, along with ATF Director Ken Melson and John Morton, assistant secretary for ICE, expressed confidence the duplication and confusion between the agencies would end.
11 AM Local
Secretary Napolitano will tour Atocha Train Station, site of the 2004 train bombing
Atocha Train Station
1 PM Local
Secretary Napolitano and Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez
Rubalcaba will sign of Declaration of Principles formalizing the Immigration Advisory Program (IAP) and participate in a media availability
Ministry of Interior
Paseo de la Castellana 5
8 AM EDT
Director of the Control Systems Security Program (CSSP) in the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications Sean McGurk will deliver remarks at the 2009 Chemical Sector Security Summit on the topic, “Roadmap to Secure Control Systems in the Chemical Sector.”
The Baltimore Marriott Waterfront
700 Aliceanna Street
10 AM EDT
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Public Affairs Manager Dwayne Baird will participate in a media event about the inline baggage system
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
19631 International Blvd.
1:30 PM EDT
Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) Deputy Director Taylor Heard will deliver remarks at the New York State Public Safety Interoperability Symposium: Focus of Governance
The Desmond Hotel and Conference Center
660 Albany Shaker Road
4 PM EDT
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will participate in a media availability about the importance of preparedness.
New York City Hall
City Hall Park – Opposite 250 Broadway
New York, N.Y.
This morning, Secretary Napolitano visited the site of the 2004 train bombing in Madrid. She laid a wreath at the memorial to honor the victims of that attack.
The last few days have been productive...and exhausting. We left the hotel in Shannon yesterday at 7:30 AM for a flight to Dublin, where the Secretary had back-to-back meetings. She met with Irish Transport Minister Noel Dempsey to talk about implementation of our aviation preclearance agreement. I think it was clear in the meeting that both sides want this agreement in place. It will improve security for international flights coming to the U.S., and it will do so while making connecting in the U.S. easier. Just imagine: you land in the U.S. after a long flight from Europe, and instead of making stops at baggage claim, customs, baggage checking, and security, you can simply walk from one gate to the next. Before leaving Ireland, the Secretary also met with the Minister of Justice, Equality, and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, to talk about a possible agreement to share information on transnational law enforcement, similar to the one she signed today with Portugal.
Then it was off to London. We landed at Stansted Airport just before 2 PM and headed to the office of the new Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, and then the office of the Transport Minister, Lord Adonis. These meetings covered a range of topics, including cybersecurity, air travel security, and combating violent extremism. These are all issues that are salient to both countries, and our close relationship is invaluable as we address these global threats. As we walked around the block from one minister's office to the next, I thought about the fact that each of these ministers has only been in office for a few weeks. Secretary Napolitano wanted to meet with her counterparts early in their tenure, to continue the US/UK discussion on these issues with the new team. Then there was the reception at the ambassador's residence, a home in a style befitting the emissary to "Her Majesty's Government."
Today, the Secretary had a series of media interviews in the morning before leaving London and flying to Portugal. There, the Secretary met with the Ministers of Justice, Foreign Affairs, and the Interior. They all made a point of mentioning that Secretary Napolitano was the first member of President Obama's cabinet to visit Lisbon. The Portuguese and U.S. negotiators, lawyers, and translators were putting the finishing touches on the agreement only an hour before it was signed.
I noticed the folks back home already posted on the information sharing agreement. I'll give it one more plug. We look forward to cooperating with as many nations as possible in combating transnational criminals and terrorists. The Secretary has repeatedly said that these threats don’t respect borders, and that we have to work with our international partners to ensure safety for all our citizens. Check out the earlier post for more on this.
After the signing, it was another media availability and then straight to the airport for a 6PM flight to Spain.
It's settling on 12 AM here in beautiful Madrid. We have another full day tomorrow. The good news is that the agreement that the Secretary is to sign, on cooperating with securing aviation, is already agreed to - 12 hours before she signs it.
I'll try to send in a post on the day's activities tomorrow. Thanks for tuning in.
Mark Koumans is the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of International Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security