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December 12, 2013
1:49 pm

Posted by Rafael Borras, Acting Deputy Secretary

This year, the Department of Homeland Security reached a major goal by achieving a clean audit opinion of the Department’s financial statements by an independent auditor.  Simply put, the clean audit is in line with our ultimate goal to increase transparency and accountability for the taxpayer resources entrusted to the Department.                                   

This benchmark comes just ten years after DHS was established.  Financial managers worked together to integrate the policies and practices of 22 separate agencies into one department. Our talented and dedicated workforce came together as “One DHS,” implementing strong policies and business practices, and resolving complicated financial management issues leading to the achievement of a clean audit opinion.  The effort has significantly improved the overall health of DHS financial management capabilities, driven by strong leadership commitment and partnerships within the Department.

In order to achieve a clean audit opinion, DHS worked across the entire Department to complete a comprehensive inventory process of its property for the financial statements, with many components cataloguing material that existed long before we were one Department. For example, the U.S. Coast Guard, supported by teams from other DHS Components, dedicated resources and progressively improved reporting for its broad portfolio of assets.  This enterprise-wide approach made it possible for the Department to account for an additional $8 billion in property, which was the last factor we needed to earn a clean audit.                                                                                              

Thanks to the dedicated expertise of our department-wide financial management team and the commitment of the department’s leaders, DHS has built a sturdy foundation of sustainable practices that will support our operations for years to come. As we work every day to meet our Homeland Security mission, we will continue the work of improving financial management across the Department, while remaining responsible stewards of every homeland security dollar.

November 29, 2013
1:18 pm

Posted by NPPD Acting Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Roberta Stempfley

On Monday, millions of Americans will log on to their computers, tablets or smartphones in search of discounts and deals as part of Cyber Monday. Online retailers from across the country now participate in Cyber Monday.  Unfortunately, so do cyber criminals and hackers, who are seeking to exploit unwary shoppers for their credit card and financial information.

With the increasing threat of cyber scams and other online shopping fraud, it is important for everyone to practice safe online behavior on Cyber Monday, throughout the holidays, and every day.

Here are some simple cybersecurity tips can help protect your personal information and transactions on Cyber Monday and throughout the holiday season:

  • Connect with care. Avoid doing any online shopping on unsecure wireless networks, such as places with public and free Wi-Fi. Do your online shopping at home, and make sure your home wireless network is password protected.
  • Be cautious online. Do not click on suspicious links or download items from unknown sources.
  • Pay attention to website URLs. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (for example, the malicious site may use .net instead of .com). Also, look in the address box for https:// before entering any personal or credit card information. The “s” means secure. Unlike http:// URLs, https:// tells you that the site uses encryption to transmit your information over the Internet. 
  • Set strong passwords. Make sure your passwords are complex and unique to each account. Change your passwords often, and don’t set passwords that will be easy for cyber criminals to guess, such as “password.” A good rule of thumb is to create passwords with eight characters or more that use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Don’t believe everything you see. While many retailers are offering great deals on Cyber Monday, there will also be deals that are just too good to be true. Before you buy that new tablet for only $50, be sure to shop only on the websites of trusted retailers, and avoid shopping through pop-up ads or unfamiliar websites.
  • Use a credit card. There are laws that limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges. You may not have the same level of protection when using a debit card.
  • Keep a record of your order. Retain all documentation from the order in case your purchase doesn’t ship or you come across unauthorized charges on your bill.
  • Check your statements. Check your purchase records against your credit card and bank statements. If there are differences, report them immediately.
November 27, 2013
3:49 pm

Posted by John Cohen, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis and Counterterrorism Coordinator

Every day, malls around the country work closely with DHS, FBI and state and local law enforcement to keep shoppers safe. This year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is partnering with a number of communities across the state of New Hampshire as part of our If You See Something, Say Something™ campaign and displaying materials encouraging shoppers to report suspicious activity to local authorities.

At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), homeland security begins with hometown security. We’re all safer when everyone is alert and engaged, and that’s what the Department’s nationwide If You See Something, Say Something™ public awareness campaign is all about.  Currently, DHS partners with a number of shopping centers, including the Mall of America, Walmart, Simon Property Group, and the Building Owners and Managers Association, to raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, and to emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper local law enforcement authorities.

DHS, in partnership with the FBI, regularly communicates with our partners in federal, state, and local government, as well as in the private sector, about the threats facing our Nation. As part of this ongoing engagement, DHS works with the retail and shopping center industries to enhance security and increase preparedness. DHS also participates in training exercises with our retail industry partners to establish readiness while providing support and resources to their ongoing security operations. 

Along with our partnership with the retail industry, DHS and the FBI continue to work together with the commercial facilities sector to increase the preparedness and resilience of public spaces.  DHS offers a broad set of tools to help our law enforcement and private sector partners prepare for and mitigate potential threats, from our online active shooter portal to a recently announced pilot program that will provide local law enforcement with a platform for active shooter training.

We have seen the value of public vigilance in thwarting terrorism and crime time and again, so remember: if you see something that doesn’t look right, report it to local authorities. When we each do our part, we are working together to keep our nation safe, one hometown at a time.

For more information about the If You See Something, Say Something™ campaign, visit here.

November 26, 2013
4:24 pm

Posted by Lt. Stephanie Young, U.S. Coast Guard

Editor's Note: This blog was originally posted on Compass, the official blog of the U.S. Coast Guard, on November 26, 2013.

 

Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Pearl puts the finishing touches on the pumpkin and pecan pie. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Coast Guard food service specialists serve in approximately 370 units worldwide. The keep the Coast Guard fleet ready and able to perform the service’s missions.

As many Americans gather together with family and loved ones on Thanksgiving, we thought there was no one better to turn to for advice on preparing the perfect meal than our own food service specialists. Yesterday we shared the recipe for some Thanksgiving Day sides. Today, we’re sharing the recipe for a delicious pumpkin and pecan pie topped with maple-bourbon Chantilly cream.

 

Pumpkin Puree

2 “pie” pumpkins

Remove stem and cut in half. Remove the seeds and stringy innards. Place open side down on a sheet tray and loosely cover with foil, roast at 375 degrees for about an hour or until you can easily pierce with a fork. Scrape the inside of the cooked pumpkin and discard the skin. Puree in a food processor and cool.

 

Pumpkin and pecan pie

½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

2 cups fresh cooked, pureed pumpkin

¼ cup roasted and chopped pecans

¼ cup light corn syrup

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons melted butter

½ cup evaporated milk

½ cup milk, scalded

egg white

1 unbaked pie shell, 9-inch

Mix sugar, salt and spices. Add pumpkin, pecans, then corn syrup, eggs, butter, evaporated milk and the hot milk. Brush bottom of the pie crust with egg white. Pour pumpkin filling mixture into the shell and bake at 375 deg. for 25 to 35 minutes. A knife should come out clean when inserted in center.

 

Bourbon maple Chantilly cream

1 Half pint heavy whipping cream

2 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 Tbsp. bourbon

1/8 cup of powdered sugar

Whip cream at high speed until soft peaks form. Add bourbon, maple and powdered sugar and whip until medium peaks form.

November 25, 2013
1:15 pm

Posted by Lt. Stephanie Young, U.S. Coast Guard

Editor's Note: This blog was originally posted on Compass, the official blog of the U.S. Coast Guard, on November 25, 2013.

Your Thanksgiving Day recipe chefs with their supporters. Front row: Rear Adm. June Ryan, Chief Petty Officer Tameka Avans, Petty Officer 1st Class Katie Underwood, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers, Petty Officer 2nd Class David Vega, Petty Officer 2nd Class Laron Jones, Lt. Kim McLear and Cmdr. Jim Estramonte. Back row: Lt. Jon Ladyga, Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Pearl, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Rohrs, Petty Officer 3rd Class Shunita Craig and Lt. Cmdr. Brian Hopkins. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Coast Guard food service specialists serve in approximately 370 units worldwide. They keep the Coast Guard fleet ready and able to perform the service’s missions. As many Americans gather together with family and loved ones on Thanksgiving, we thought there was no one better to turn to for advice on preparing the perfect meal than our own food service specialists. You’ve already got your turkey, but here, the chefs offer some Thanksgiving Day sides. Check back with us tomorrow for the recipe of a classic – pumpkin pie.

 Preparation

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Rohrs prepares the Thanksgiving Day sides. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Warm apple, bacon and brussel sprout salad

1 large apple cut into bite-sized pieces soaked in water with the juice of 1 lemon

4 strips of thick cut bacon cut into 1/8 inch strips

½ red onion medium dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp of maple syrup

1/3 cup pine nuts chopped and toasted

12 ounces Brussels sprouts /washed, blanched and quartered

Cook bacon until crisp remove from pan reserving fat. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add sprouts and apple and caramelize. Quickly toss in garlic, pine nuts, crisp bacon, and maple syrup warm and serve.

 

Cranberry, pear and pomegranate relish

2 cups fresh cranberries

1 large seedless orange peeled and quartered

Zest of 1 lemon

1 Bartlett pear, cored

1 cup sugar

1 seeded pomegranate

In a food processor, combine cranberries and pear with orange and lemon then sprinkle with sugar. Pulse until mixture is coarsely ground. Bring to a simmer in a sauce pan, cool. Transfer to a serving bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. stir and garnish with pomegranate seeds.

November 22, 2013
4:47 pm

Posted by DHS Study in the States

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) joined our many partners across government, academia, and the private sector in observing the 14th annual International Education Week to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.

DHS plays an important role in welcoming international students to the United States, and remains committed to ensuring America remains a destination of choice for students from around the world.  Multiple components within the Department are involved in various aspects of the process, and DHS has worked to enhance their coordination and improve the experiences of international students and host schools.  Through DHS’ Office of Academic Engagement, DHS facilitates regular meetings with representatives from across the Department to coordinate international student issues and initiatives. 

We continue to work closely with the academic community to examine our international student policies and processes.  One part of that effort is the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC), a federal advisory committee comprised of prominent university presidents and academic leaders.  The HSAAC advises the Secretary and senior leadership at DHS on matters related to homeland security and the academic community, and has a subcommittee dedicated to international student issues. 

Based on HSAAC recommendations, DHS has taken steps to increase engagement with the academic community and seek input on draft policies.  In 2013, representatives from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) participated in over 100 outreach events, as well as served on interagency panels that addressed key issues affecting international students, schools, and school officials.  To increase public engagement in policy development, ICE SEVP began publishing draft guidance for public comment on the Study in the States website.

This week U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) proposed changes to the requirements governing its Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to allow dependents and spouses of international students with F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant status to study at a SEVP-certified school as long as it is less than full-time.  Additionally, the change would provide school officials more flexibility in determining the number of designated school officials to nominate for oversight of campuses.

DHS remains committed to working with our partners across government and in the academic community to continue these initiatives in the coming year, and welcome international students who wish to study here.

For more information on the Study in the States initiative, visit here. You can also visit their Facebook and Twitter accounts.  To learn more about the HSAAC, visit here.

November 20, 2013
5:34 pm

Posted by John Cohen, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis and Counterterrorism Coordinator

Today, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) joined the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento first responder community for a demonstration of the pilot Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) virtual training platform—a system designed to train first responders across multiple agencies, disciplines, and jurisdictions in real time on complex emergency response scenarios.  EDGE allows multiple individuals across the first responder community to to train on a simulated virtual emergency by simply by logging into the secure EDGE system from a personal computer. Today’s demonstration involved an active shooter scenario, and participants from Sacramento law enforcement, emergency medical services, fire, unified command and dispatch  joined in today’s training and demonstration.

The EDGE virtual training platform is a new technology representing one of countless partnership and training efforts between DHS our Federal, State, local and private sector partners—enhancing preparedness efforts for our first responders and ensuring that our nation is more safe and secure.  DHS offers a broad set of tools to help law enforcement and private sector partners prepare for active shooter scenarios. The DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate Office of Infrastructure Protection and FEMA provide active shooter trainings across the nation .  Additionally, the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice have expanded access to federal training on active shooter situations for law enforcement and first responders with additional outreach, new online resources, improved training curricula, and exercises with law enforcement at all FBI field offices.

As a part of the Administration’s comprehensive efforts to prevent gun violence, DHS in partnership with the FBI and the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services, has already taken significant steps to improve preparedness.  In January, DHS officials joined FBI and state and local law enforcement officials from around the nation to solicit input regarding prevention and response efforts. This input informed the Administration’s work to create model emergency planning guidance for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education, which were released in June.  The White House progress report and emergency management planning guides are available here. Our efforts are ongoing and we are always working to incorporate new information and mitigate potential threats.

November 18, 2013
1:37 pm

Posted by Mike Kangior, Director of Resilience Policy & Matt Fuchs, Deputy Director of Resilience Policy

A key priority of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is to work with our state, local, and private sector partners as we all strive to make our communities more resilient in the face of disasters.

As part of that effort, DHS is undertaking a pilot project designed to promote building design that recognizes best practices that help make buildings more resilient. The initiative, the DHS Resilience STARTM Home Pilot Project, will be a government-led, public-private initiative. Through the pilot project, DHS will work together with the private sector to engage homeowners, builders and contractors in communities at high risk for certain natural disasters to identify proactive steps to enhance the resilience of the homes.

The project will allow the private sector to identify and designate residential homes that are voluntarily built or remodeled that could employ design features that are both affordable and proven to enhance resilience to disasters.

The Resilience STARTM designation, which is modeled after the Environmental Protection Agency’s successful ENERGY STAR campaign, will be given to structures that are built to withstand damage from certain disasters, utilizing the standards and third-party verification process in the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s (IBHS) FORTIFIED programs. The FORTIFIED standards are designed to improve the quality of residential construction and feature practical, meaningful solutions for new and existing homes throughout the United States.

The first pilot project will take place in the next few months along the hurricane-prone Gulf Coast.  DHS is currently soliciting applications from builders, contractors, and homeowners who would like to participate in this project.

Through initiatives like the Resilience STARTM Home Pilot Project, we can continue to increase the readiness and resilience of our communities.

For more information on the Resilience STAR™ Home Pilot Project, and to apply to participate, visit here.

 

November 15, 2013
1:55 pm

Imagine a power outage that knocks out the electric grid in eight states, affecting 55 million people. Residential areas lose water pressure and sewage pumps stop working. Failures in electronic ticketing and traffic control systems cripple land and air transportation. Fuel is scarce because gas stations lack electricity for their pumps. Cellular communications are disrupted, and telephone lines are overwhelmed with emergency calls. And this happens during a heat wave when the demand and usage of electricity is high.

This is not fiction. This is a brief synopsis of the August 2003 blackout that affected regions from New York City to Ontario. The blackout was caused by an unfortunate convergence of events. While it was an accident, it served as a reminder of our nation’s dependence on critical infrastructure.

In an effort to build awareness and appreciation of the importance of critical infrastructure in our daily lives, President Obama has designated November as Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month.

Critical infrastructure provides the essential services that sustain our way of life, such as the power we use in our homes, the water we drink, the transportation that moves us, the bridges that connect us, and the communication systems we rely on to stay in touch with friends and family.

Every day the Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with our partners across the government, works closely with stakeholders in the private sector as well as state and local partners to help mitigate threats against that infrastructure and build capacities.

As we acknowledge the role of critical infrastructure in our everyday lives, we must also work to protect the services and functions that Americans depend upon.  But we cannot do it alone. Promoting security and resilience is a collaborative endeavor requiring effort and investment from government, the private sector, and the public. To get involved in this effort to promote the security and resilience of our nation, visit www.dhs.gov/critical-infrastructure.

November 14, 2013
4:51 pm

Acting Secretary Beers congratulates Dr. Rahul Jindal, recipient of the Outstanding American By Choice award.

Yesterday, Acting Secretary Rand Beers participated in a special naturalization ceremony commemorating Veterans Day. The ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery’s Women in Military Service for America Memorial Auditorium in Virginia.

Acting Secretary Beers administered the Oath of Allegiance to 40 U.S. citizenship candidates, including active duty members of the United States Armed Forces. Since September 2002, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has naturalized more than 92,000 members of the military, including nearly 11,000 who received their citizenship overseas.

 

USCIS Deputy Director Lori Scialabba congratulates a newly naturalized U.S. citizen.

During the ceremony, USCIS Deputy Director Lori Scialabba recognized Dr. Rahul Jindal, a transplant surgeon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., as an Outstanding American by Choice. The Outstanding American by Choice initiative recognizes the outstanding achievements of naturalized U.S. citizens, who through civic participation, professional achievement, and responsible citizenship, have demonstrated their commitment to this country and to the common civic values that unite us as Americans.

From Nov. 7-13, USCIS welcomed approximately 8,000 new U.S. citizens during 120 naturalization ceremonies throughout the nation and overseas.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit their website and the USCIS blog The Beacon

Photos courtesy of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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