US flag signifying that this is a United States Federal Government website   Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Homeland Security

U.S. Flag and Keyboard

Blog

April 9, 2013
9:24 am

This morning, I joined Senior Advisor to President Obama Valerie Jarrett and Attorney General Eric Holder at the White House Forum on Combating Human Trafficking where we announced the Administration’s latest effort to combat the hidden crime of human trafficking and help victims of human trafficking. During the Forum, we released a draft Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking, which will be open for public comment for 45 days.

Developed collaboratively with Federal partners including the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Labor, and with leadership and guidance from the White House, this plan will better coordinate efforts across the Federal government to identify, rescue, and support victims. You can view the Plan and provide your comments here. When final, the Plan will complement and advance anti-trafficking efforts already underway at DHS.

Nearly three years ago, we launched the DHS Blue Campaign to unite the Department’s effort to combat human trafficking and leverage our relationships with other federal agencies, state, local, tribal and territorial law enforcement, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and international partners. 

Last year alone, we received more tips through the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tip line than ever before, investigated a historic amount of cases and rescued more victims of human trafficking, and provided support to over 1,200 human trafficking victims. We have also expanded our victim assistance program, and will continue to make combating human trafficking a priority.

Working together, we can take comprehensive action to stop this terrible crime, rescue victims, and put perpetrators behind bars. We look forward to receiving your feedback. 

To learn more about human trafficking and what you can do, please visit www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign and the Blue Campaign Facebook page.

 

April 9, 2013
8:47 am

Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks on the Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking at the White House this morning. Watch live here:
 

 

April 5, 2013
5:21 pm

Originally posted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy

This afternoon, Director Kerlikowske joined Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in Tucson, Arizona. They inspected border security operations at the Southwest border, met with state and local stakeholders and highlighted the significant progress achieved at disrupting illegal drug trafficking and improving operations along the Southwest border.

As part of the visit, Director Kerlikowske released a progress update on Administration efforts to strengthen border security. Some of the highlights include:

  • Increased weapons and drugs seizures. During 2009-2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seized 39 percent more drugs, 71 percent more currency, and 189 percent more weapons along the Southwest border as compared to fiscal years (FY) 2005-2008.
  • More boots on the ground. DHS has increased the number of personnel on the ground from approximately 9,800 Border Patrol agents in 2001 to more than 21,000 today.
  • Technology and infrastructure. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has expanded the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems from California to Texas and has completed 651 miles of fencing along the key trafficking areas.
  • Reducing drug demand. As part of its commitment to reduce the demand for drugs in the U.S., ONDCP has funded 18 Drug-Free Communities within 100 miles of the border in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. These coalitions provide outreach services to young people to prevent drug use before it begins.
President Obama announced in January of this year that strengthening border security is one of the key principles for common sense immigration reform. These principles will continue to build upon this progress by investing in the ports of entry; helping our officers and agents focus on public safety threats; making it harder for transnational criminal organizations to operate; encouraging immigrants to pursue a pathway to earned citizenship; holding employers accountable; and strengthening the integrity of the immigration system.

The passage of the President’s proposal will help ensure that officers and agents along the border are better able to strengthen public safety and combat national security threats including drug trafficking.

For more information on Obama Administration efforts to bolster border security and create an immigration system for the 21st century, go here. To read a fact sheet on strengthening border security, go here.
April 4, 2013
11:46 am

Posted by Adm. Bob Papp, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard

Throughout 2013, we are commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security. In recognition of this important milestone, leaders from across the Department and its component agencies will be discussing their beginnings, their present operations, and what’s to come.

In recognition of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s tenth anniversary, I took the opportunity to answer questions about the past, present and future of the Coast Guard. The exceptional dedication of the men and women of this Department has greatly improved our Nation’s safety, security and resiliency, and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is proud to be part of the DHS team.

What is the Coast Guard’s mission, and how did the Coast Guard function prior to the creation of DHS?

The Coast Guard is responsible for the safety, security and stewardship of our Nation’s waters.  We protect those on the sea, protect the nation from threats delivered by sea, and protect the sea itself.  Coast Guardsmen conduct these duties along 95,000 miles of coastline, 4.5 million square miles of maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (the ocean area where a country has rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, typically extending 200 nautical miles offshore) , and on the high seas where we identify threats and prevent them from reaching our shores. 

We have been conducting these missions since 1790, serving under the Department of Treasury for most of our history, the Department of the Navy during both World Wars, and the Department of Transportation prior to the formation of DHS.

How does the Coast Guard operate today? Since the creation of DHS, what has changed for the Coast Guard?

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001 the Coast Guard received new authorities through the Maritime Transportation Security Act and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code to carry out its missions and strengthen our Nation’s security.  As a component of DHS, we also increased the capabilities of our forces to counter threats unique to the maritime environment through expansion of our cutters, boats, aircraft and Deployable Specialized Forces. The Coast Guard also became a member of the national intelligence community, able to leverage capabilities across government to identify threats and monitor the maritime domain.

Improvements to our Service since our inclusion in DHS, coupled with our long-standing unique capabilities, authorities and partnerships positioned us well to lead the response to disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and Hurricane Sandy. 

What does the future look like for the Coast Guard?

As I look toward the horizon I remain optimistic, despite the challenges we face as a Nation.  The Coast Guard is focused on continuing our recapitalization efforts and sustaining our front line operations, while also addressing emerging and dynamic challenges such as the new maritime frontier in the Arctic. The Coast Guard’s missions are expansive—as are waters for which we are responsible—and we remain Semper Paratus, Always Ready as part of DHS to ensure the Nation’s homeland security.

April 2, 2013
10:48 am

DHS is mindful that one of its missions is to ensure that privacy, confidentiality, civil rights and civil liberties are not diminished by the Department’s security initiatives.  Accordingly, the Department has implemented strong privacy and civil rights and civil liberties standards into all its cybersecurity programs and initiatives from the outset. In order to protect privacy while safeguarding and securing cyberspace, DHS institutes layered privacy responsibilities throughout the Department, embeds fair information practice principles into cybersecurity programs and privacy compliance efforts, and fosters collaboration with cybersecurity partners.

On February 12, 2013, President Obama signed an Executive Order on Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.  The Executive Order clears the way for more efficient sharing of cyber threat information between government and the private sector, while directing federal departments and agencies to incorporate robust privacy and civil liberty protections into all of their cybersecurity activities.    The Executive Order’s privacy protections are based upon the widely-accepted Fair Information Practice Principles, and other applicable privacy and civil liberties frameworks and polices. The Administration has a strong commitment to privacy in cyberspace, including last year unveiling a “Privacy Bill of Rights” based on the Fair Information Practice Principles to protect consumers online.

There are eight Fair Information Practice Principles that serve as the framework for integrating privacy protections into everything we do:

  • Transparency
  • Individual Participation
  • Purpose Specification
  • Data Minimization
  • Use Limitation
  • Data Quality and Integrity
  • Security
  • Accountability and Auditing

Using these principles, DHS ensures privacy is an integral part of its operations, starting from a program’s early development and continuing through its implementation.

DHS is committed to protecting privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. Successfully implementing the Executive Order and protecting the nation’s cyber and physical infrastructure will require the Department to be transparent.  As part of this commitment to transparency, DHS posts its privacy impact assessments and privacy compliance reviews online.  The Executive Order also requires regular assessments, and public reporting, of privacy and civil liberties impacts across the federal government.

The President’s actions mark an important milestone in the Department’s ongoing efforts to coordinate the national response to significant cyber incidents while enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of our work to strengthen the security and resilience of critical infrastructure.  In developing the Executive Order, the Administration sought input from stakeholders of all viewpoints in industry, government, and the advocacy community.  Their input has been vital in crafting an order that incorporates the best ideas and lessons learned from public and private sector efforts while ensuring that our information sharing incorporates rigorous protections for individual privacy, confidentiality, and civil liberties.  Indeed, as we perform all of our cyber-related work, we look forward to engaging all of our stakeholders to achieve cybersecurity together.

March 28, 2013
5:04 pm

Posted by David V. Aguilar, Deputy Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

During the month of March, and throughout 2013, we are commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security. In recognition of this important milestone, leaders from across the Department and its component agencies will be discussing their beginnings, their present operations, and what’s to come.

I recently sat down to answer a few questions on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), looking back at its history, and ahead to its future. CBP joins with our colleagues across the DHS enterprise in marking a decade of unprecedented achievement in serving our Nation and the American people.

How did CBP operate when it was created in 2003, and what were some of the challenges that the new agency faced?

Ten years ago, men and women from four different agencies, united by the threat of imminent terrorism, came together to create the world’s first comprehensive border enforcement and facilitation agency. CBP became responsible for protecting our country from all threats, with antiterrorism being our top priority. At the time, the stakes were high and roadmaps were nonexistent, but we came together as an agency built on pride, relentless effort and strength of character.

How does CBP operate today, and what have been some important milestones?

Today, the 60,000 men and women of CBP secure more than 8,000 miles of land and coastal borders as we supplement and strengthen DHS’ multilayered approach to security. Through the unprecedented deployments of personnel, technology, infrastructure, and other resources, DHS has strengthened security across all U.S. borders while facilitating international travel and trade. We screen cargo and passengers at more than 400 air, land and sea port locations. We protect U.S. agricultural resources by preventing the introduction of disease or pests from overseas.  We have established important partnerships with government, military, private industry and our citizens to enhance security and efficiency of processes. And we protect and insure our country’s economic prosperity and competitiveness.

On a typical day, CBP:

  • Processes nearly a million passengers entering the country;
  • Inspects 66,000 truck rail and sea containers;
  • Seizes nearly 6 tons of illicit drugs;
  • And apprehends more than a thousand individuals for violations or outstanding criminal warrants.

What do you see as the future of CBP, and of the larger DHS?

In the ten years since the creation of this agency, I am proud to say that the men and women of CBP have risen to every challenge and have built a strong foundation for administering the world’s most secure and efficient borders. Looking ahead, we will continue working to make our processes efficient and effective. Our guiding principle is that security and facilitation are interrelated, complementary responsibilities that must be mutually supportive.

Our borders are more secure today than ever before, and that is a testament to the diligence of the men and women of CBP who work on the front lines to keep us safe.., and the U.S. will continue to be true to its ideals by continuing to be a welcoming and safe nation.

March 27, 2013
9:43 am

Yesterday, DHS’ Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) and U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York coordinated with law enforcement and other first responders from New York and New Jersey, to deploy nuclear detection equipment and personnel on the local waterways in the New York City-Newark metropolitan area. The purpose of this deployment was to screen vessels for potential illicit radiological and nuclear materials, train detection boat crews, as well as to test equipment and detection capabilities, as part of DNDO’s Securing the Cities (STC) Program.

State, local and tribal law enforcement and first responders are important partners in strengthening the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture (GNDA). The STC program is designed to enhance the nation’s ability to detect and prevent a radiological or nuclear attack in cities facing the highest risk.

As part of the STC program, the New York City-Newark region conducts close to 50 such maritime deployments annually, which enables first responders to test and enhance their capabilities to detect and interdict radiological and nuclear material outside of regulatory control. 

This operation provided an opportunity for DNDO to observe and take away many best practices and lessons learned, to further develop and strengthen the GNDA. We are committed to working together with our regional partners to conduct training and exercises to further enhance law enforcement and first responder organizations’ efforts to identify, prevent and respond to potential nuclear or radiological threats.

March 26, 2013
12:07 pm

Posted by Bobbie Stempfley, Acting Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications

It’s that time of the year again when many Americans prepare to file their tax returns. With risk of tax-related identity theft, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is taking a wide variety of steps to combat identity theft and refund fraud, protect taxpayers and assist victims of identity theft. There are also steps taxpayers can take to protect themselves.

When it comes to your taxes, identity theft often starts outside of the tax administration system. Cyber criminals are constantly on the prowl for Social Security Numbers and other personal information they can exploit for fraudulent purposes. Identity thieves may use a taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund. The legitimate taxpayer may be unaware that anything has happened until they file their return later in the filing season, and it is discovered that two returns have been filed using the same Social Security Number.

When you file your taxes this year, follow these tips from the IRS and Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect. campaign to help safeguard your personal information:

  • Don’t give out your personal information unless it is a trusted entity. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media to request personal or financial information. 

 

  • Look out for phony messages purporting to be from the IRS and don’t fall victim to tax scams. Exercise caution when opening suspicious email attachments and do not click on unsolicited Web links in email messages. Pay special attention to offers that sound too good to be true such as “guaranteed refunds.” Scammers who are trying to gain access to financial information may use the IRS name or logo in email messages and sites in order to steal identities and assets. Ensure you have typed www.IRS.gov into your Web browser to be certain you have the authentic IRS site.

 

 

  • Back up your data and store your electronic tax files securely. Last year, nearly 100 million taxpayers opted for the safest, fastest and easiest way to submit their individual tax returns — IRS e-file. While preparing your tax return for electronic filing, make sure to use a strong password to protect the data file. Once your return has been e-filed, burn the file to a CD, DVD or flash drive and remove the personal information from your hard drive. Store the portable device in a secure place, such as a lock box or safe. If you are working with an accountant, ask them what measures they take to protect your information.

 

  • Check privacy policies. Be careful with the information you share online. To learn how to identify a secure website, visit the Federal Trade Commission.

To ensure cybersecurity for our entire society, each of us must play our part.  It only takes a single infected computer to potentially infect thousands and perhaps millions of others.  Everyone should make basic cybersecurity practices as reflexive as putting on a seatbelt. These basic measures can improve both our individual and our collective safety online.

To learn more about how to protect your information during tax season, visit www.irs.gov/identitytheft. For more cyber resources and tips, please visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.

March 25, 2013
2:45 pm

As part of the effort to recognize the DHS ten year anniversary, I recently sat down with my colleagues to discuss some of the recent milestones at FEMA and the agency’s priorities moving forward. Some of the examples we talk about are from recent events, including Hurricane Sandy. This is the second in a two-part series, and you can read more questions and answers in Part One.

The team at FEMA has taken some big, forward steps in the last few years that have changed outcomes for those impacted by disasters, but we must continue to improve if FEMA and DHS are going to meet future threats.  With that, here are some of the questions and my responses:

Q: How does building capacity on a national level translate to the planning that happens in emergency management or to the response efforts after a disaster?

Shifting the mindset towards scenarios of national consequence goes hand-in-hand with our focus on planning for those threats that are bigger than what we can already do. 

You can’t change the disaster based on what your capabilities to respond are, so we’ve put an emphasis on threats of national significance.  These are events (like a terrorist attack with an improvised nuclear device, earthquakes, or multiple hurricanes) that would not only overwhelm the resources of a state, but multiple states.  Planning and executing at this level requires creative problem solving – it doesn’t allow you to simply scale up your programs and assistance effectively based on how you used to do it. 

The response to Hurricane Sandy was one example.  Before Sandy struck, FEMA had existing plans for how to set up disaster recovery centers (DRCs), places where those impacted by the storm can register for assistance and discuss assistance options with staff from FEMA and the state.  We found that our current way of getting out assistance was not scalable for a population-dense area like New York and New Jersey – so now we’re redesigning that process (and our disaster recovery centers) from the ground up.  We’re looking at how we can get assistance to a large number of people with sparse communication as quickly as possible, while minimizing the number of times those individuals need to contact FEMA.

We sent FEMA staff with internet-capable tablets out into the hardest hit areas.  We brought the registration process and “the DRC” to disaster survivors – registering them for assistance at FEMA’s mobile webpage on tablets while talking through various assistance options at the federal, state, and local levels.

Those kinds of changes show the progress FEMA has made over the last several years.  It’s getting away from the trap of designing small systems that work in environments we’re comfortable with and shifting the focus towards preparing for national threats and building capabilities that can respond to events that have a national consequence.

And speaking of Hurricane Sandy, it’s worth noting the role the DHS Surge Capacity Workforce played in FEMA’s response.  By calling on several thousand employees from other DHS components, we were able to fill out our response effort at the federal level.  It’s about more than just the sheer number of staff that came with the surge.  When I say “fill out”, the DHS surge allowed FEMA to add capabilities, which is always more important than just adding numbers to the role.  FEMA will definitely utilize the DHS surge in future large-scale disasters because of the benefits we saw after Hurricane Sandy.

Q: What are a few of your priorities moving forward?

Moving ahead, we need to do more to reduce the nation’s overall cost and vulnerability to disasters.  Just preparing, responding, and rebuilding isn’t going to do it, there needs to be a focus on resiliency.  We can’t continue to afford the losses of disasters and go through the painful rebuilding and recovery process. 

Part of the solution is effectively transferring risk. The federal government, and thus, taxpayers nationwide, shouldn’t be taking on financial risk at a greater rate for those communities that face the consistent threat of a disaster or emergency of national consequence.  The benefits that taxpayers receive (through taxes, jobs, economic stimulus, etc.) should be directly proportional to the risk they are bearing. 

Better management of how and where we build, smarter building codes, and land use management are a few things that can reduce the risk of disasters having a high impact, which is a start.  But we may need to look at mitigation differently.

As an example, one term that’s frequently used in risk management is the “100-year event”, or an event that has a one percent chance of occurring in any given year.   These are supposed to be rare occurrences, but how many of these “100 year events” have we had in the last few years alone?  Does that term still accurately capture what the vulnerabilities are, or should a new standard be used? 

We should be planning and looking at risk not just for the 100-year events, but also adapting to the changing circumstances around that risk.  There’s a lot of debate about climate change, but I’m more concerned with climate adaptation and ensuring we are adapting at a greater rate than our exposure to risk is increasing.

And there are certainly improvements that FEMA can make as an organization. Continuing to focus on affecting change at the national level, while still keeping a focus on positive outcomes for individuals and families impacted by disasters – that’s what I’m going to keep pushing for.

March 25, 2013
2:07 pm

As part of the effort to recognize the DHS ten year anniversary, I recently sat down with my colleagues to discuss some of the recent milestones at FEMA and the agency’s priorities moving forward. Some of the examples we talk about are from recent events, including Hurricane Sandy. 

The team at FEMA has taken some big, forward steps in the last few years that have changed outcomes for those impacted by disasters, but we must continue to improve if FEMA and DHS are going to meet future threats.  With that, here are some of the questions and my responses:

Q: How has FEMA changed in the last few years?  What are a few of the milestones that mark those changes?

The biggest change is shifting focus first and foremost on the threats we face as a nation, not on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis.

The national Urban Search and Rescue teams are one example.  These are the best of the best. They are the most capable and best equipped search and rescue units in the country – some of these teams went to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.  But these teams can be expensive.  Traditionally, they were seen as a resource for their local jurisdiction.  Yet, very few communities were able to afford these teams and at the end of the day, the country wasn’t going to have enough teams to significantly raise its ability to respond to large-scale events.  We were piecing together resources and capabilities to prepare community-by-community and hoping that it all added up to a more prepared nation.

Think about it.  Lots of grant money has been given to state and local governments to build capabilities, but what did they get for it?  In the case of Urban Search and Rescue, there were some jurisdictions that had fully equipped teams, but other communities that weren’t as capable to respond. 

That's  because we were providing funding through grants aimed at a community-by-community approach, so some ended up being left out. Now, DHS and FEMA have shifted the focus of the search and rescue teams to act as a national resource that can be used in any emergency in any jurisdiction where local and state resources are overwhelmed. We’ve also funded more teams to create a second tier of search and rescue capabilities.  This creates more shared resources at the national level while maintaining the capability at the local community level.

Q: Are there other examples that show this shift?

Under the direction of Secretary Napolitano, our grant programs have changed in the last few years to reflect this national approach as well.   Now grant programs recognize things like Emergency Management Assistance Compacts that allow states to share capabilities and resources in the event of an emergency.  No community can prepare independently for all catastrophic risks, so emphasizing shared resources is critical to building capacity on a national scale.

So it’s starting with questions like: What threats do we face as a nation?  What are the scenarios that require additional federal resources, and how can we build our capabilities there?  By answering these questions, we can prioritize what we’re going to fund at the federal level and drive unity of effort towards a nation that’s better prepared.  We’re looking at scenarios of national consequence, not just the jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction approach we tended to follow in the past.

Pages

Back to Top