On Sunday, I joined Homeland Secretary Johnson in New York City with Mayor de Blasio, Police Commissioner Bratton, Fire Commissioner Nigro, and Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito to observe the New York Police Department’s active shooter training exercise. I am pleased that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) had the opportunity to help support this important exercise.
Through the outstanding work of the DHS S&T Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Explosives Division team and the NYPD Counter Terrorism Division, we helped to fund and develop the concept for the exercise, provide training, and identify new technologies that could be used in future emergencies.
S&T’s mission is to deliver cutting-edge research to produce new technologies, capabilities and threat and risk assessments to meet the critical needs of our homeland security partners. DHS S&T, through an agreement with U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), co-created the Counter Terrorism Technology Evaluation Center to assist first responders with evaluating tactics, techniques, and procedures, identifying and resourcing training opportunities and researching technologies for response to an active shooter incident. This is the fifth exercise DHS has helped to plan and coordinate to support technology demonstrations and training evaluations.
This exercise allowed S&T to observe first responders using several tools that can be translated for use by DHS and other first responders. These technologies included an indoor shot detection capability, a geo-referenced graph for better situational awareness, and an interoperable communications capability developed and currently used by the U.S. Army.
The exercise included S&T, the National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Secret Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the U.S. Army’s Armament Research Development and Engineering Center; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and numerous state and local entities.
I congratulate NYC on the success of the exercise and on the impressive coordination and cooperation between the NYPD, FDNY, NYOEM, and other state and federal agencies. S&T is proud to continue to support these active shooter exercises to ensure the safety and security of our communities.
On Nov. 22, DHS officials visited New York City to observe a New York Police Department active shooter exercise. The exercise was supported by the Department of Homeland Security. (Photo credit: Barry Bahler/DHS)
Summary: Watch this video to see exactly what a potential refugee goes through to resettle in the U.S.:
Watch this video to see exactly what a potential refugee goes through to resettle in the U.S.:
Since the attacks in Paris, many have asked about our process for admitting Syrian refugees into this country.
I understand the anxiety that many Americans are feeling right now. And as Secretary of Homeland Security, I share with President Obama the top priority of keeping the American people safe. So let me be clear about what this process of vetting and resettling refugees looks like.
It’s important to remember, we’re focused on admitting the most vulnerable Syrians -- this means mostly women, children and families. Second, anyone who applies for and is approved for refugee status in the United States, including Syrians, must first go through a rigorous security screening process.
Taking in refugees at times of crisis is simply the right thing to do. It’s who we are as a Nation.
And we can continue to ensure our own security, while doing our share to welcome refugees fleeing violence, looking to America as their beacon of hope and freedom.
This is the United States of America. We can, we must, and we will do both these things.
Jeh Johnson is the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
Earlier this month, the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman hosted its fifth annual conference at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Our conference is a unique open forum where government and stakeholders engage in robust dialogue about current immigration benefits issues. We welcomed more than 300 attendees from across the country to share their experiences and gather insights from government representatives, while hundreds more joined the conference via livestream.
This year, we continued to focus on an important theme – Government and Stakeholders Working Together to Improve Immigration Services. In our fifth year hosting this conference I believe that now, more than ever, it is critical to bring together immigration professionals from all sectors to discuss policy and quality of adjudications issues impacting USCIS’ customers.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson delivered keynote remarks, encouraging stakeholders to remain involved, adding: “For those of you … who want to build a better system and will build a better life here for immigrants, I say keep at it, don’t give up and don’t lose hope.” Secretary Johnson was followed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Rodriguez, who presented timely remarks and engaged with stakeholders during an extensive question and answer session. He noted the vital role of the Ombudsman’s Office and announced that USCIS has adopted the Ombudsman’s recommendations to centralize adjudications of special immigration juvenile petitions into one USCIS service center. The subsequent morning plenary offered a rare opportunity to hear directly from government decision-makers regarding planning and implementation of President Obama’s 2014 directive to take common sense steps to fix our broken immigration system through executive actions.
Stakeholders received substantive information on immigration law and policy through the various panel topics including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), humanitarian parole, employment authorization documents, I-601A provisional Waivers, and employment-based and humanitarian hot topics. Throughout the day, participating government representatives were forthcoming with information and explanations, helping the public better understand government policy and decision-making all around.
The Ombudsman’s Office relies on its stakeholders to keep us informed of current or emerging immigration benefits issues. During an “Ask the Experts” brown bag session, participants met members of the Ombudsman staff - including those directly handling requests for assistance and drafting policy recommendations on immigration benefits issues - and were able engage in constructive dialogue and have their questions answered.
Each year the Ombudsman’s conference emphasizes the need for good governance, which is grounded in a steadfast commitment to efficiency, transparency, and accountability. As an office of last resort, we continue to ensure customers experience government at its best.
If you were unable to join us in person, you can watch the conference’s morning session, Employment Hot Topics- Year in Review panel, and other selected panels here.
Are you interested in learning more about the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman? Visit our website and follow us on Facebook to get educated, and find additional opportunities to get involved.
By Greg Touhill, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Cybersecurity & Communications
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Our networks continually face threats from hackers, criminal organizations, and nation state actors. To combat this constant threat, the federal government has worked to build a strong workforce of cybersecurity professionals to secure and protect our networks.
At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), we are committed to recruiting, training, and employing eligible veterans to meet the ever-growing cybersecurity mission. DHS has teamed up with the non-profit organization Hire Our Heroes to provide U.S. veterans with access to the Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE). FedVTE is an online, on-demand training system that provides employees at all levels of government with access to courses on cybersecurity. Through FedVTE, veterans receive access to free cybersecurity training and certification prep courses that build the skills needed to be competitive for cybersecurity jobs across the country.
FedVTE offers more than 800 hours of training on topics such as ethical hacking and surveillance, risk management, and malware analysis. Course proficiency ranges from beginner to advanced levels. Several of the available courses align with a variety of Information Technology certifications such as Network +, Security +, and Certified Information Systems Security Professional.
FedVTE is already available to federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government employees, so veterans with an email address ending in “.gov” can register and begin taking courses simply by visiting https://niccs.us-cert.gov/training/fedvte. Veterans who are not government employees must verify their veteran status prior to receiving FedVTE registration information through https://hireourheroes.org/veterans-training/.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter BERTHOLF lived up to its mission of keeping our homeland and maritime borders safe. Returning to port this week, the crew offloaded more than 25 tons of cocaine worth more than $765 million seized in the Eastern Pacific Ocean drug transit zone off the coast of Central and South America.
This year is the Coast Guard’s 225th birthday. Secretary Johnson said the Coast Guard can look forward to a future 225 years even brighter than the last 225, and said the BERTHOLF’s captain, officers and crew have “started us down the right path.”
Official photo by U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer 1st Class Rob Simpson
One year ago today, President Obama announced a series of actions consistent with current laws to reform as much of our broken immigration system as possible. These actions are improving accountability in our immigration system, strengthening our national security and our economy, and building on our past efforts to enforce immigration laws with common sense and compassion. In an address to the nation, the President reminded us that:
Our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities.President Obama
The President’s immigration executive actions lives up to this tradition. And according to the Council of Economic Advisors, the President’s executive actions, if fully implemented, would boost our economic output by up to $250 billion and raise average annual wages for U.S.-born workers by 0.4 percent, or $220 in today’s dollars, over the next ten years.
Administrations of both parties have taken executive action on immigration issues for the past half century. Last November, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued new guidelines for allowing immigrants who are longstanding members of our communities -- including immigrants who were brought here as children and the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents -- to request deferred action on a case-by-case basis.
Deferred action is a well-established feature of the immigration system that has been recognized by the Supreme Court and Congress. It is a form of temporary relief that helps DHS focus its limited enforcement resources on the highest priorities for removal, like convicted criminals and recent border crossers. Though the new deferred action policies announced last year have been put on hold in the courts, we will continue to fight to implement them. That is why the Department of Justice has filed a petition seeking review from the Supreme Court of the United States to allow these policies to move forward.
In the meantime, we are moving forward on the other components of our executive actions:
- We have implemented new enforcement priorities and have strengthened our engagement with local law enforcement so that we can better focus our limited resources on those who are threats to our national security, public safety, and border security. Today, over 99% percent of individuals removed by ICE falls into DHS’s new top enforcement priorities, which are focused on those that pose the greatest danger to our safety and security.
- DHS also ended the Secure Communities Program and replaced it with the Priority Enforcement Program, or PEP. PEP is a common sense, more effective program that works with local law enforcement and communities to tailor the program to local jurisdictions needs in order to keep communities safe, while preserving community trust. Today, the vast majority of local law enforcement agencies are now working with DHS to keep criminals off the streets and keep our communities safe.
- We have also taken steps to modernize and streamline our legal immigration system. Thus far, DHS has moved forward on three rules and three policy guidance memoranda – two of these have already been finalized and applications are being received.
- Additionally, the newly established White House Task Force on New Americans, has released their strategic plan with 48 recommendations. This Task Force is taking tangible steps to help build welcoming communities to better integration immigrants and refugees and is raising awareness about the rights and responsibility of U.S. citizenship and new government tools and resources through the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Campaign.
The results of these actions are real and impact members of our communities every day. Today, a high school student is less afraid of coming out of the shadows to apply for and attend college. A father is less afraid that a minor traffic stop could result in his deportation. And, a worker is less afraid she will be targeted by indiscriminate raids. Over 30,000 spouses of high-skilled workers on their path to green cards are able to work -- contributing to their families, local communities, and our nation at large.
We have and will continue to reform our immigration system, to make our communities stronger and more secure. But ultimately, it is up to Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform to fix the system once and for all. We are not only a nation of laws; we are also a nation of immigrants. We must continue to live up to this tradition and the President has reiterated this throughout the past year.
To learn more about our progress over the last year, take a look here.
The Department of Homeland Security depends on its strongest asset – its people – to fulfill its diverse and important missions. Every day, the men and women of this Department work together to ensure that our programs, operations, and other activities are running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. We’ve made great strides to improve what we do, be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and uphold the public trust. One measure of our success in this regard is our significant reduction in the number of open recommendations from the Office of Inspector General (OIG). By implementing better practices and resolving the OIG’s recommendations, DHS has become a more responsive and effective agency.
As recognized in the OIG’s annual report summarizing some of our biggest challenges, we have made major progress in fulfilling these recommendations – and I’m proud of our dedicated employees who are on the front lines of addressing these recommendations.
Over the past few years, we have steadily reduced the number of open OIG recommendations by 65%, from a high of 1,663 in Fiscal Year 2011 to just 583 at the end of FY 2015.
Even better, DHS has reduced the number of our most complicated recommendations which are more than 6 months old by 97%, from a high of 691 in FY 2011 to only 21 at the end of FY 2015.
These accomplishments are possible in part thanks to our Unity of Effort initiative, which Secretary Johnson established in April 2014 to create a centralized process for making Department-wide decisions. Under this initiative, we have reshaped our acquisition programs, budget requests, and strategic priorities in a cohesive and unified way. Unity of Effort has become a driving force behind many of the Department’s daily operations and has made DHS greater than the sum of its parts. I believe this approach contributed to DHS earning a clean audit opinion for the third consecutive year, and has positioned DHS leaders to make more efficient and effective decisions in support of homeland security missions.
I commend the hard work and dedication of our employees across the entire Department who collaborate with our auditors to make the Department more integrated and effective. I am confident that these trends will continue and lead to even greater future success.
By Dr. Andy Ozment, Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications
and Jamie Danker, National Protection and Programs Directorate Privacy Officer
Many cyber attacks can be identified—and prevented—by sharing information about unique attack attributes, also known as indicators. A cyber threat indicator might include unique attributes of a spearphishing e-mail, such as the subject line or sending computer; or it might be a specific piece of software known to contain malicious code.
As part of our efforts to further enhance information sharing, the Department of Homeland Security’s Automated Indicator Sharing (AIS) initiative connects participating organizations to a DHS-managed system that allows two-way sharing of cyber threat indicators—from the information sharing partner to DHS, and vice versa. AIS leverages DHS-led standards for machine-to-machine communication, providing a mechanism for DHS to rapidly share cyber threat indicators with other federal agencies and the private sector.
The results of this effort will allow participating organizations to submit and receive actionable cyber threat indicators in near-real-time for network defense. This information sharing initiative will also help DHS build a common, shared knowledge of current threats to better protect federal networks and help the private sector protect itself.
DHS recognizes that cybersecurity information sharing among diverse sources requires a preeminent focus on ensuring appropriate protection for individual privacy and civil liberties, so implementing necessary safeguards was a foremost consideration in designing and implementing the AIS initiative.
The Department has published its Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for AIS, detailing all identified privacy risks as well as the protections implemented to mitigate them. For example, the PIA notes a potential risk that Personal Identifiable Information (PII) or other sensitive information could be forwarded to DHS as part of a cyber threat indicator. To address this risk, the Department implemented robust protections to minimize the risk that PII is collected, as well as steps to ensure that, when present, PII that is not necessary to understanding the cyber threat is quickly identified, deleted, and never shared.
To read more about how the Department will mitigate privacy risks for AIS, visit www.dhs.gov/privacy. For more information on AIS, visit www.us-cert.gov/ais. For more on cybersecurity at DHS, visit www.dhs.gov/cyber.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK: U.S. Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector Honor Guard proudly represents the agency and participates in a Veterans Day parade in Del Rio, Texas. On Veterans Day, we pause to honor the men and women of our nation’s armed forces who courageously defend our freedoms. This includes the more than 53,000 veterans – 17,000 at U.S. Customs and Border Protection alone – who continue to serve as employees of the Department of Homeland Security.
Official U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo | Download High-Resolution Photo (1493 x 961)
Today is Veterans Day. Please pause to thank a very special group of Americans—the brave men and women of our armed forces who have made the selfless and courageous decision to stand up to protect our country, our families, our rights, and freedoms. We owe each veteran a debt of gratitude and everlasting recognition for their sacrifice.
At the Department of Homeland Security, we are fortunate to have nearly 53,000 veterans, comprising 28 percent of our workforce. I am proud that so many veterans have chosen to continue to serve our Nation as members of the DHS family.
On behalf of all the rest of us, I thank the veterans within DHS for your military service to our country and for your continued dedication to help the homeland.