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March 27, 2009
3:23 pm

Today the Department took a major step forward to advance one of President Obama's most important goals – improving efficiency and transparency across the Federal government.

Efficiency is essential to effective governance. It helps reduce costs and ensure taxpayer money isn’t wasted. It improves performance and customer satisfaction. And it strengthens employee morale.

Over the next 120 days, we will begin implementing nearly two dozen initiatives to trim costs, streamline operations, eliminate duplication, and better manage resources across the Department.

This effort is the result of a comprehensive assessment by our Efficiency Review team, which worked with DHS components, offices, and employees to identify more than 700 initiatives – some immediate, some long-term – to improve efficiency and transparency.

Among the immediate changes we will make over the next 30 days:
  • Eliminating all non-mission critical travel for employees and maximizing our use of conference calls and web-based training and meetings;
  • Reducing subscriptions to professional publications and newspapers to lower costs and avoid duplication;
  • Eliminating printing and distribution of all reports and documents that can be sent electronically or posted on-line.
Over the next 30 days, we will also begin using purchasing agreements to substantially save on office supplies. This may sound like a small matter, but by leveraging the Department's collective buying power, we can save up to $52 million on office supplies over the next five years.

We're also going to take action to improve how we track and monitor fuel usage for our vehicles. Over the next 60 days, we will begin implementing a new electronic tracking system that will help increase alternative fuel usage; guard against waste, fraud, and abuse; and optimize how we manage our fleet.

In addition, we will begin acquiring hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles over the next 120 days. We expect a 30 percent increase in fuel efficiency in large vehicles, and even greater efficiency in smaller vehicles as a result of this change.

To become more energy efficient, we will also begin implementing energy efficiencies at DHS offices across the country. Over the next 120 days, we will initiate a process to identify and move toward renewable energy technology and greater energy conservation, with a goal of saving $3 million per year.

Over the next 60 days, we will also implement a process to purchase computer software licenses as a single Department – as opposed to individual agencies. As a result, we expect to save over $47 million per year and $283 million over the next six years.

Finally, we’re going to take steps to streamline employee training and orientations, and reduce costs and backlogs associated with background checks for new employees.

This is just the beginning. In the coming months, we’ll announce even more initiatives to improve efficiency. I look forward to keeping you updated as we make these changes, which will result in a stronger, more effective DHS.

Janet Napolitano
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
March 23, 2009
4:05 pm
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Charles Bowen, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, former Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen at the Coast Guard Service Secretary Transfer of Authority Ceremony in Washington, D.C., March 23, 2009.
Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen speaks at the Coast Guard Service Secretary Transfer of Authority in Washington, D.C., March 23, 2009, flanked by Secretary Napolitano and former Secretary ChertoffMarch 23, 2009 - The Coast Guard Service Secretary Transfer of Authority officially recognized the transfer of authority as service secretary of the Coast Guard from former Secretary Michael Chertoff to Secretary Janet Napolitano. Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen spoke at the ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
March 20, 2009
9:56 am
We’ve met another benchmark in our efforts to eliminate the FBI Name Check backlog.

As of mid-February, USCIS and the FBI had completed all name checks that were pending for more than six months. In doing so, we beat our publicly stated goal by almost two full weeks. With the milestone’s completion, the FBI and USCIS have met or exceeded the first six milestones outlined last summer.

And that might not be the most exciting news. We’re on track to meet our May 31 milestone of completing name check requests pending longer than 90 days. By the end of June, the FBI will complete 98-percent of USCIS name check requests within 30 days and process the remaining two percent within 90 days.

Let me put that into perspective. At the beginning of November 2007, there were nearly 350,000 pending name check requests. Of that total, more than 54,000 had been pending for more than two years. Another 55,000 had been pending for at least a year. Today, there’s a grand total of 6,756 pending name check requests. And of that number, not one has been pending for more than six months. In fact as of that February 17 snapshot, the FBI was completing 99.2 percent of all requests in less than 30 days.

The results speak for themselves. The effective elimination of the name check backlog means that USCIS can make more timely decisions about immigration applications and petitions. That includes cases with derogatory information and those that are otherwise approvable. In both the present and the future, USCIS and the FBI will continue to focus on sustaining the rigorous and efficient screening of each name check request. Our joint attention to eliminating the name check backlog will ensure we reward deserving, eligible applicants with benefits like U.S. citizenship and permanent residency in a more timely manner.

Mike Aytes Acting Deputy Director
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
March 19, 2009
10:39 am
Signing ceremony with Secretary Napolitano and Annette Schavan, the German Minister of Science and Education
On Monday, I returned from a trip to Germany in which I met with my homeland security counterparts from six European Union countries. This regular meeting – called the “G6 plus 1” (I’m the “plus 1”) – is an important part of our security cooperation. Threats like terrorism, the spread of infectious diseases, and natural disasters know no borders, which makes global partnership an integral part of American security.

We focused on many different elements of this partnership – including information-sharing about terror suspects, bolstering the security of international cyber networks and combating the smuggling of drugs, money, and people.

One outcome from the trip is a new science and technology agreement with the government of Germany. The photo here shows me at the signing ceremony with the German Minister of Science and Education, Annette Schavan.

This partnership will identify science and technology projects where the U.S. and Germany can collaborate on innovations that improve our security. One effort will kick off in just a few months: developing “visual analytics” technologies that can organize and cluster millions of pieces of intelligence data and arrange them visually, allowing intelligence analysts to understand more quickly the patterns contained in enormous amounts of diffuse information.

I’m excited about the doors this will open to scientific understandings not only of threats, but also solutions. Wherever we can partner with our allies to make both our nations safer, we should – and this will be an important priority moving forward, starting with my visits to Mexico and Canada over the next few weeks.

Janet Napolitano
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
March 16, 2009
7:22 am

March 14, 2009 - For her first trip abroad, Secretary Janet Napolitano traveled to Germany to participate in the G6 Summit. She met with German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. (Photo /© Federal Ministry of the Interior/Hans-Joachim M. Rickel)
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
March 10, 2009
12:08 pm
As you may know, the President recently launched a new website – Recovery.gov – that allows the public to track how our taxpayer dollars are being spent under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (also known as the stimulus).

Image of www.dhs.gov/recovery web page. Recovery.gov reflects the President’s commitment to bring a new level of transparency and openness to government as we work to strengthen our economy. That is a commitment I share for our Department – and the reason we’ve created www.dhs.gov/recovery.

The stimulus provides more than $3 billion in new homeland security funding. This funding will be used to improve security at our borders, rebuild our Coast Guard fleet, expand technology, strengthen rail and transit security, and enhance emergency preparedness and response. It will also create thousands of new jobs.

Let me give you a concrete example:

On Thursday, the Transportation Security Administration announced that it will be using $1 billion in stimulus funds to deploy checked baggage and checkpoint explosive detection systems at airports across the country.

This technology will enhance our ability to screen passengers and their bags for bombs and IEDs – including liquid explosives – while improving security and convenience. At the same time, it will create more than 3,000 new jobs associated with the construction and deployment of these systems.

This is precisely the purpose of the stimulus – to protect the country, stimulate the economy, and keep people working.

More projects are in the pipeline and will be coming soon. I invite you to keep track of our progress at www.dhs.gov/recovery.

Janet Napolitano
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
March 9, 2009
1:03 pm
Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (from left), talks with Gov. Bobby Jindal, from the State of Louisiana, and Victor Ukpolo, vice-chancellor from Southern University in New Orleans. Photo USCG
Last week, I joined Secretary Donovan of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Craig Fugate, the President’s new nominee to be FEMA Administrator, on a two-day trip to the Gulf Coast. Our goal was to get a firsthand look at the recovery efforts underway since Katrina and Rita, meet with state and local leaders, and identify outstanding issues.

What we saw on our trip were very clear signs of progress and a clear determination by the people of the Gulf Coast to rebuild and recover from these terrible storms. But we also saw too many communities still in disrepair, too many construction projects either incomplete or not yet started, and too many people still struggling to reclaim their lives.

We spoke with community leaders, first responders, school teachers, and ordinary citizens to get their perspective. We also took a bus and helicopter tour of New Orleans and a helicopter tour of the Mississippi coast to get a better sense of the remaining challenges.

While in New Orleans, I made several announcements that are designed to cut through some of the red tape that for too long has stalled the completion of a number of important projects, including the reconstruction of two police stations and a fire station.

FEMA will provide replacement funding to rebuild these facilities, as well as an additional $12 million to repair a water treatment plant in St. Bernard parish. It will also provide significant funding to Benjamin Franklin High School, one of our nation’s best high schools that suffered significant damage from Katrina.

To ensure that future public assistance requests aren’t bogged down in endless disputes and paperwork, I also announced the creation of two new teams consisting of FEMA and state representatives that will work together to expedite these requests and make decisions.

Finally, FEMA will be extending relocation assistance for people displaced by Katrina and Rita to help them find permanent housing solutions. And it has extended the deadline for hazard mitigation funding for Mississippi, which will give people more time to file their applications and ultimately build more resilient homes and communities.

All of these actions will help the people of the Gulf Coast continue their recovery. We stand with them, and we will continue to support them.

Janet Napolitano
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
March 6, 2009
3:01 pm
Marine Lance Corporal Jose Gasca, his wife Angelina and son.
On Friday, February 27, I had the distinct privilege of participating in a Naturalization Ceremony at the Washington District Office in Fairfax, Va. Among the ceremony's 30 candidates was a young man with an inspiring story that reminds us of the importance of our work at USCIS and the priceless value of the life and liberties we cherish as Americans.

Marine Lance Corporal Jose Gasca, a native of Mexico, served in Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines. Lance Corporal Gasca lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device during combat operations last September. He's currently undergoing rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he is learning to walk once again.

When Lance Corporal Gasca, with his wife and young son by his side, raised his right hand to take the Oath of Allegiance, he joined a long line of naturalized American heroes who served and sacrificed on behalf of our nation before becoming American citizens. There are few words I can use to describe the overwhelming sense of appreciation and admiration I have for men and women like Lance Corporal Gasca. As an agency, we best express that gratitude by completing military naturalization cases as quickly as possible.

USCIS employees who work with immigrant service members consider this responsibility both a privilege and an honor. In partnership with the Department of Defense, we do all we can to ensure that as many military applications as possible are processed and completed before these brave men and women are deployed to combat zones overseas.

In total, USCIS naturalized more than one million citizens during fiscal year 2008 and we've naturalized more than 45,000 U.S. service members since September 2001. Each new American has made a personal sacrifice to become part of our American fabric. None, however, have made more striking sacrifices than Jose Gasca and his fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who voluntarily took up arms to defend rights and liberties they had yet to secure for themselves or their families.

Mike Aytes, Acting Deputy Director
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
March 6, 2009
12:23 pm
Cover image of the National Infrastructure Protection Plan
The homeland security risks facing our nation are a complex mix of manmade and naturally occurring hazards, including terrorist attacks, accidents, natural disasters, and other emergencies. National priorities for critical infrastructure and key resources protection include both preventing catastrophic loss of life associated with these risks and minimizing their cascading, disruptive impacts on the U.S. and global economy. Achieving these priorities requires a strategy that appropriately balances building resiliency capabilities with risk-informed prevention and protection activities.

The National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) describes the nation’s approach to establishing goals, requirements, and performance measures for infrastructure protection and resiliency efforts. The NIPP also sets forth a comprehensive risk management framework. It clearly defines the roles and responsibilities for the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Sector Specific Agencies, and other federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners within the critical infrastructure and key resources mission area.

The just-released 2009 version of the NIPP captures the evolution and maturation of the processes and programs first outlined in 2006. It was developed collaboratively with critical infrastructure and key resources partners at all levels of government and the private sector. The revised NIPP integrates the concepts of resiliency and protection and broadens the focus of NIPP-related programs and activities to an all-hazards environment.

A major accomplishment of the NIPP is the role it has played in building public-private partnerships. It has facilitated closer cooperation between government and industry across the 18 critical infrastructure and key resources sectors. For example, as the Chemical Sector Specific Agency, the Department partnered with the Chemical Sector Coordinating Council to develop the voluntary Web-based Chemical Security Awareness Training Program based on a need identified within the sector.

Several companies beta tested the training program, and the feedback was incorporated into the final product, which was designed not only for those directly involved in security, but for all facility employees. This partnership effort resulted in a free interactive tool available to chemical facilities nationwide to increase security awareness. The training was launched in July 2008 and as of Feb 24, 2009, 929 people had completed it at 277 companies. This pattern of collaboration is essential to strengthening our critical infrastructure and key resources protection and resiliency efforts.

The 2009 revision of the NIPP is available for download from www.dhs.gov/NIPP.

James Snyder
Acting Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
March 4, 2009
1:32 pm

Risk management and stakeholder engagement are key elements of TSA's surface transportation initiatives. Unlike in aviation, where TSA has employees performing security functions, we utilize stakeholder partnerships, grant funding and rulemaking to enhance security in surface modes.

Let's look at freight rail. There are 140,000 miles of freight-rail track and 560 railroads in the United States. Common items transported by rail are grains, cars, appliances and food, but a small number of rail cars – less than one percent - carry essential but potentially hazardous chemicals, such as chlorine and anhydrous ammonia, which are called toxic inhalation hazard (TIH) materials. Toxic emissions that may result from an attack against a rail car carrying these chemicals presents a potentially serious risk in America's densely populated urban areas.

Instead of pursuing a lengthy rulemaking process, TSA worked in partnership with the rail industry to reduce toxic chemical risk. Beginning in 2007, the rail industry began sharing data on rail car movements to establish a baseline and a risk scoring system from which we could begin to measure risk reduction. Carriers retained local operating flexibility to reduce risk and worked with TSA to develop a risk reduction formula to that included unattended TIH car hours, population proximity, and the high threat urban area population.

As part of the collaboration, the freight rail industry implemented several key security measures including tracking and substantially reducing the standstill time for unattended freight cars transporting TIH materials in high threat urban areas, developing site-specific security plans, and providing security training for front line employees.

DHS's goal for rail TIH risk reduction was 50 percent by the end of 2008. This collaborative approach has been successful: as of this month, rail TIH risk has been reduced by more than 70 percent.

To complement and formalize the initiatives already underway, in November 2008, a Rail Security Final Rule (PDF, 180 pages - 801 KB) was published that covers the transport of TIH materials by rail, from start to finish, including predictable standstill points and unpredictable stops during shipment. The rule includes provisions that require freight rail carriers to ensure 100 percent positive hand-off of TIH materials, establish security protocols for custody transfers of TIH rail cars in the high threat urban areas, appoint a rail security coordinator to share information with the federal government, and formalize the TSA freight and passenger rail inspection authority. Under the Final Rule, TSA will require establishment of a tracking system that will enable the federal government to determine the location of rail cars carrying TIH materials within 30 minutes.

TSA appreciates the support of the rail industry and is using this collaborative approach to reduce risk in other transportation modes whenever possible.

Gale Rossides
Acting Administrator, TSA
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.

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