By Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency
There are a lot of opinions floating around Washington these days about what’s at stake in the battle over funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). From my perspective as Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), I can say with certainty that the current standoff has a real impact on our ability to ensure that a wide range of emergency personnel across the country have the resources they need to do their jobs and keep our communities safer and more secure.
DHS grants help train first responders. Here, FEMA Federal Urban Search and Rescue teams from Nebraska Task Force 1 continue search operations with local first responders in a ravine. A tornado destroyed many parts of the community on May 20, 2013.
Photo: Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA
One of my toughest days on the job at FEMA was October 1st, 2013 – the first day of the government shutdown. That day, I stood in FEMA’s lobby shaking the hands of dedicated staff who had been furloughed.
It’s time to get the regular budget process back on track. When you have a budget, you can really get to work. You know what Congress expects you to accomplish, and you can empower your team to get it done. At FEMA, one of our critical missions is reviewing applications and awarding grants to communities across the country, which can help firefighters, police officers, hospital workers, and emergency managers get the staff, training and equipment they need to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate a wide array of hazards.
However, our current operating situation is less than ideal. Today, we find ourselves in the midst of yet another continuing resolution, which only provides short-term, temporary funding to our agency. This isn’t just a slight technical difference – it has a major impact on our ability to assist state, local, and tribal public safety agencies. Congress has the job of legislating, and they have the job of appropriating. But as the executive branch, it is our job to execute. And our ability to execute the mission is being compromised as we continue to go through the fiscal year under a continuing resolution and the potential for another shutdown. In the long run, this uncertainty wastes taxpayer dollars. Making matters worse, the current situation is a showstopper for our grant program. Our application process for grants should have started in October; it is now February and we still haven’t been able to issue new grants. Moreover, during these ongoing continuing resolutions, local first responders from across the U.S. have made plans to attend training classes at one of our three national training centers, where they will learn valuable skills they can bring back to their communities – only to have a wrench thrown in the works caused by uncertainty in the budget. Our state, local, and tribal partners are facing increasingly urgent choices about how they will make ends meet without matching FEMA grants. As a result these agencies may have to curtail their activities or even employ furloughs of their own as their budgets are stretched even thinner.
I’ve heard some claim that DHS operations wouldn’t suffer too much during a shutdown. I can tell you this is categorically false. In October 2013, 86% of our permanent workforce (close to 4,000 people) was furloughed, which brought the funding of ongoing recovery activities and grant-making to a halt. As luck would have it, once our lights were turned off, Tropical Storm Karen formed in the Gulf of Mexico, and we had to recall 240 members of our staff to prepare for lifesaving operations only. Even then, we couldn’t support them administratively or prepare for any potential recovery efforts – a major detriment to our mission to support survivors.
Lurching along with temporary funding, or no funding, prevents us from doing our part to keep the American people safe. The best way to operate the federal government is through the normal process, in which Congress appropriates the funds, the President signs a bill, and we have a real budget to operate under for the fiscal year. In so doing, the public is best served, taxpayers get the best value, and those on the front lines have the resources they need to do their jobs. That’s what the American people expect, and that’s what we need now.
By DHS Public Affairs
On Monday, February 2, President Obama visited the Department of Homeland Security’s headquarters in Washington, DC, where he spoke about the importance of fully funding the agency for the year ahead. Without an appropriations bill, the Department would be unable to undertake many activities vital to homeland security and public safety. Read the full transcript.
President Obama delivers remarks on the FY2016 Budget at DHS Headquarters in Washington, DC
President Obama and Secretary Jeh Johnson look on as Richard Chavez, Director, Operations Coordination and Planning gives a tour of the National Operations Center at DHS Headquarters
President Obama greets employees of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center.
President Obama greets Vice Admiral Peter V. Neffenger, Vice Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard after delivering remarks at DHS Headquarters
President Obama addresses employees from DHS Headquarters
As Chair of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign—the unified voice for DHS’ efforts to combat human trafficking— I have seen first-hand the value of working together to fight this heinous form of modern-day slavery, and prevent future victims from falling into harm’s way. DHS components work every day to end human trafficking, but we cannot do this alone. Close collaboration with other federal, state, local, private sector and community partners across the United States are key to our fight against human trafficking as they better widen our network to identify and rescue victims of this crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Ahead of Super Bowl XLIX this weekend, the DHS Blue Campaign is partnering with the Arizona Human Trafficking Council of the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families, and the City of Phoenix to provide training and awareness materials throughout the state to raise awareness of human trafficking. In recent years, high-profile special events like the Super Bowl have become a lucrative opportunity for criminals who engage in trafficking.
The DHS Blue Campaign’s public awareness materials help individuals and communities identify and recognize indicators of human trafficking, and provide information on how to report suspected cases of human trafficking.
In addition to our partners in Arizona, the DHS Blue Campaign also works with state and local law enforcement, and the education, transportation, and private sectors, as well as neighborhood and community groups and faith-based organizations from across the country. The DHS Blue Campaign is committing to continuing these efforts to help save more lives, protect more innocent individuals, and eradicate this form of modern-day slavery.
While National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month ends tomorrow, our fight endures. Organizations can help us spread awareness about this terrible crime by becoming a partner.
I also encourage everyone to educate themselves on human trafficking by visiting our website. You can use our resources, including our public awareness posters, indicator cards, and law enforcement tools. You can also help us spread the word by sharing our public service announcement and Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ video message on social media. By identifying victims and reporting tips, you are doing your part to help law enforcement rescue victims, and you might save a life.
To learn more about the Blue Campaign and our partners, visit dhs.gov/bluecampaign or email BlueCampaign@hq.dhs.gov.
by Matt Allen, Federal Coordinator (Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/ Homeland Security Investigations, Phoenix
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proud to support the State of Arizona, the National Football League (NFL), the cities of Glendale and Phoenix, and our federal, state and local partners as they work to keep Super Bowl XLIX fans, players and employees safe before, during and after this weekend’s big game.
Earlier this week, Secretary Johnson visited Phoenix, where he met with state and local law enforcement officials and was briefed on security operations at and around the Stadium, including the assets deployed by DHS to support state and local law enforcement security efforts.
Secretary Johnson tours the Multi-Agency Coordination Center (MACC) with state and local law enforcement to discuss the security efforts ahead of Super Bowl XLIX
As the Federal Coordinating Officer for this year’s event, I have had the privilege of closely coordinating with our federal, state and local partners over the past year in the planning and preparation for the Super Bowl. Together with U.S. Secret Service Special Agent In Charge Christina Beloud our Deputy Federal Coordinator, we are working to ensure the security of fans, players, and workers so that the game runs smoothly and everyone – including those watching at home – can enjoy.
DHS is providing support in the following ways:
- DHS is providing security assessments and training to state and local law enforcement, local hotels, and others to help them identify potential risks and take steps needed to address them
- DHS is continuing our partnership with the NFL with a newly revamped “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign. Fans and visitors in the area will see the “If You See Something, Say Something™” message at hotels, and on buses, billboards and for the first-time ever mobile applications. The message will also appear in the game day program, the official fan guide, and on the video board during the game.
- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is sending additional officers and increasing the number of checkpoint lanes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport for the influx of fans traveling for the game. TSA will deploy nearly 90 additional Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) and supervisors as well as four Passenger Screening Canine teams.
- TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams, comprised of Federal Air Marshals, surface/aviation transportation security inspectors, Behavioral Detection Officers, TSOs, and canine teams are helping secure mass transit locations in and around the Phoenix area.
- The U.S. Secret Service will support open-source social media monitoring for situational awareness and has been assisting with cyber security vulnerability assessments and mitigation. The Secret Service also conducted magnetometer training for University of Phoenix Stadium security personnel.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will conduct operations specifically targeting counterfeit vendors and local merchants of game-related sportswear. This is part of a crackdown on intellectual property rights (IPR) violations and to ensure fans are getting official Super Bowl related memorabilia.
- Special Agents from ICE Homeland Security Investigations helped with the arrest of five individuals for the distribution of counterfeit items. They seized over 4,000 items; counterfeit tickets to events including 34 NFL Super Bowl XLIX Tickets, eight Super Bowl XLIX parking passes, designer clothing, videos, smartphones and even electronic audio products. The estimated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of the seized items is approximately valued at over $800,000.
- CBP officers and non-intrusive inspection equipment will scan the cargo entering the stadium for contraband such as narcotics, weapons, and explosives.
- CBP Office of Air and Marine will provide surveillance and assist the Department of Defense in providing airspace security around the venue.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trained 85 Arizona responders through the Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents and the Hospital Emergency Response Training for Mass Casualty Incidents courses. All of the responders participated in a hands-on mass casualty exercise, where the trainees responded to a simulated mass casualty event in which “injured” role players were triaged, transported and treated in the midst of a chaotic situation that was still unfolding.
- FEMA is also providing Mobile Emergency Response Support units to ensure that, in the event of an emergency, state and local security personnel could quickly link and coordinate with federal partners. MERS provides mobile telecommunications, operational support, life support, and power generation assets for the on-site management of a disaster.
- DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is deploying Mobile Detection Deployment Units (MDDUs), radiological and nuclear detection “surge” assets designed to supplement first responders’ existing radiological and nuclear detection and reporting capabilities.
- DHS Office of Health Affairs (OHA) will deploy a network of BioWatch detectors to provide public health officials with a warning in the event of a biological agent release. OHA’s National Biosurveillance Integration Center is providing state and local officials with information on potential health threats and their indicators, increasing situational awareness and decision support for public health partners prior to the event.
- DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD):
- Cybersecurity: NPPD’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center’s Training and Exercise Team led a training exercise to enhance the cyber preparedness and resilience of public and private partners and venues involved in Super Bowl XLIX. Since then, DHS cybersecurity experts have been conducting weekly vulnerability scanning on internet accessible devices associated with facilities being used by NFL teams.
- Bombing Prevention Training: Since 2012, the DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection (IP) Office for Bombing Prevention has conducted 14 Counter-Improvised Explosive Device and Risk Mitigation Training events for more than 650 public and private sector security partners in Maricopa County.
- Active Shooter Preparedness: NPPD IP conducted an active shooter preparedness workshop, training 150 participants, including members of the Super Bowl Planning Committee.
- Securing Federal Facilities: The Federal Protective Service will provide protection to Federal facilities in the Phoenix metropolitan area and ensure the continuance of government business and services to the public.
- DHS Blue Campaign— the unified voice for efforts to combat human trafficking— partnered with the City of Phoenix and the Arizona Human Trafficking Council of the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families to provide training and awareness materials to help individuals and communities identify and recognize indicators of human trafficking. High-profile special events, such as the Super Bowl, draw large crowds and have become lucrative opportunities for criminals engaged in human trafficking.
Secretary Johnson tours the University of Phoenix Stadium ahead of Super Bowl XLIX
Secretary Johnson announces the re-launch of the “If You See Something, Say Something ™” public awareness campaign and continued partnership with the National Football League (NFL) to help ensure the safety and security of employees, players and fans during Super Bowl XLIX.
To help keep fans safe, DHS is continuing our partnership with the NFL through the “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign. Earlier this week, Secretary Johnson announced the re-launch of the national campaign with updated graphics and materials, which emphasize the Department’s message that homeland security begins with hometown security – and that everyday citizens are empowered to protect their neighbors and the communities they call home by recognizing and reporting suspicious activity.
I thank the hundreds of DHS employees from across the Department, as well as our state and local partners, for their efforts to make this event a success. Together, we can keep Super Bowl XLIX safe, secure, and enjoyable for all.
Data Privacy Day, recognized each year on January 28, is an international effort focused on protecting privacy, safeguarding data, and enabling trust. Since 2008, Data Privacy Day has encouraged everyone to weigh the benefits and risks of sharing information, understand what their information can be used for, and take steps to protect themselves and their identities.
Ensuring the privacy of your data can be complicated. Today, you don’t even have to be at a computer to be sharing your personal information online. While convenient, mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones provide more opportunity for your personal information to be at risk. Additionally, information sharing is built into many applications and devices. Fitness trackers can broadcast your latest workout (or even your weight!) to all of your Facebook friends; apps can use your smartphone’s GPS feature to tell friends when you are on the road; and photo sharing sites can share your location as well. This type of information sharing can foster communities and connectivity, but can also potentially put your personal data, privacy, and identity at risk.
I encourage everyone to think about the information they share online and to take steps to protect their personal information. Start with these tips from Stop.Think.Connect.™ cybersecurity awareness campaign:
- Secure your devices. Take advantage of lock screens, passwords, and fingerprint capabilities to secure your smartphones, tablets, and computers.
- Set strong passwords. Make your passwords hard to guess, and change them regularly.
- Think before you app. Many apps request access to personal information, including your contact lists, phone books, pictures, or friend lists. On some mobile devices, you have the option of denying an app access to that information.
- Own your digital life. Think carefully about what you post online. Everything you put on the internet – photos, tweets, and blogs – will be out there people to see forever. Take ownership of your digital life by making sure that only what you want to be seen is posted.
- Customize the settings on your accounts. Many accounts include default settings that promote more information sharing. Check your account settings to ensure only the information you want to share is visible to those people you want to share it with.
Protecting data privacy is not only a personal matter, but a national priority. The safer we are with our own data and our actions online, the safer we are as a nation. President Obama recently announced renewed efforts to protect the privacy and identity of Americans, including new legislation protecting consumers, standardized privacy laws, and safeguards for the identity and personal information of children.
At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), we take data privacy very seriously. The Department handles the personal data of millions of Americans. To protect this information, DHS developed privacy policies and procedures based on the Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs), a set of eight foundational principles that are derived from the Privacy Act of 1974. Using these principles as the foundation for privacy activity helps DHS programs and technology analyze their use of personal information and ensure information is collected in a transparent and protected way and only collected to support the DHS mission.
For more information on how to stay safe online, visit Stop.Think.Connect.™ to learn more.
by Sharon Peyus
Unit Chief, Investigative Support Unit, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations
A 15 year-old, branded with her pimp’s street name tattooed across her chest, was ordered to engage in sex acts for money with dozens of male clients. Each day, the teenager and three other adult women had to meet a quota set by their trafficker. The teenager was required to work more than 12 hours a day with only one daily meal, and if she resisted, she was beaten.
Regrettably, this real-life story is not uncommon scenario U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has witnessed. ICE HSI is a critical investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security that combats criminal organizations and criminal exploitation, including domestic and international cases of human trafficking.
ICE utilizes a victim-centered approach to combating human trafficking, which places equal value on the identification and stabilization of victims, and the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. Victims are key to the successful investigation and prosecution of traffickers. Because victims may be fearful of law enforcement or reprisal from their traffickers, it is paramount to ensure that victims feel safe and secure, and are able to access the social services they require for stability, safety, and recovery.
ICE’s Victim Assistance Program is supported by Victim Assistance Specialists across the country who provide victims with a wide range of local resources from early in the investigative stage through prosecution. Working together with hundreds of collateral duty Victim Assistance Coordinators, the Victim Assistance Program connects victims of human trafficking and other crimes with non-governmental organizations in order to meet the victims’ basic humanitarian needs. Providing a channel for victims to fully disclose their stories in a non-threatening environment is vital to our victim-centered process.
Everyone has a role to play in combating human trafficking. DHS and ICE rely on individuals, families, and communities to learn the indicators of human trafficking and how to report human trafficking once suspected or identified. Knowing the red flags is a key step in identifying more victims, so they can be rescued and have their traffickers brought to justice.
The ICE HSI Task Force, which includes local law enforcement, identified this teenager as a victim of human trafficking. ICE HSI’s Victim Assistance Specialist then assessed her needs, and the needs of the additional victims who were subsequently identified. Victim assistance efforts were provided throughout the criminal investigation – including referring this teenager to a tattoo artist and arranging an appointment to remove her tattoo. The teenager was kept apprised of the judicial process, and provided ongoing care and case management without interruption.
Last month, her trafficker was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison followed by 20 years of supervised release. Upon release, the trafficker is also required to register as a sex offender. This teenager is now reunited with her family and enrolled in school – offering hope that she will not turn back, but become a survivor instead.
If you suspect something, do not at any time attempt to confront a trafficker directly or alert a victim to your suspicions. Instead, contact local law enforcement directly or call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) to report suspicious criminal activity. This Tip Line is also accessible outside of the United States by calling 802-872-6199. To get help from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).
While we would like to think of slavery as a relic of the past, we know that it is not. Today, millions of women, men, and children around the world are subjected to forced labor, domestic servitude, or the sex trade at the hands of human traffickers. What many do not know is that this crime occurs right here in the United States, in our own cities and towns.
By Presidential proclamation, January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Sunday, January 11 was Human Trafficking Awareness Day. These powerful reminders that slavery endures in the United States compel us to work together to end human trafficking.
We as a Department do so much in the fight against human trafficking. We fight through law enforcement investigations, collaborations, and training; through public outreach and awareness; and through assistance for victims. We coordinate these efforts through the Blue Campaign, the Department’s unified voice to combat human trafficking.
I encourage you to watch this video to learn more about the work of the Blue Campaign, and how you can get involved in the fight against human trafficking.
The Blue Campaign recently launched a new, re-designed website with information and resources for federal, state, and local governments, non-governmental organizations, first responders, and the public.
All of us can increase our awareness of the crime of human trafficking so that each of us can be more vigilant where we live and work. Human trafficking is, after all, a tragedy that occurs not only internationally but also within our own borders and inside our own communities.
Let us renew our commitment to fight human trafficking, and let us do it together.
We live in a world of increased threats and risks. Within the past year alone we have seen the unprecedented impacts of natural disasters, terrorism, and public health emergencies. These threats require us to think differently about the role science and technology plays in saving lives and ensuring safety and security for all. To meet these growing challenges, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate must operate at the pace of innovation and discovery. It is a global imperative that we all play an active role in developing new technology solutions that improve our ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters on every level. To that end, S&T is reinventing the way the federal government conducts research and development.
I am pleased to launch the National Conversation on Homeland Security Technology—a multi-directional series of online and in-person discussions intended to foster exchange between everyone – responders and other users, industry, government, academia, and citizens. Through this exchange, we hope stakeholders will work together to generate innovative homeland security solutions that will help keep our communities, and those who protect them, safe and resilient into the future.
We want to provide the forum for everyone to come together to discuss issues such as equipping the responder of the future, enabling homeland security decision makers, establishing a trusted cyber future, screening at speed, and creating resilient communities. We are looking for your best thinking on how we can optimally design, develop, experiment, test, and transition technologies in support of these areas and encourage you to think out of the box. There are innumerable commercial solutions that are not currently used for homeland security purposes, but with a stretch of the imagination and thoughtful innovation, the possibilities for applying state-of-the-art solutions in new ways are endless.
Starting January 12, go to http://scitech.dhs.gov for more information and to start talking!
Today is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day (L.E.A.D.). On this day we show our support for our nation’s approximately 780,000 police officers who put a badge on each day, knowing they may face extremely dangerous situations while carrying out their duties. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognizes and thanks these brave men and women, including the Department’s frontline personnel, who protect and serve their communities to keep our Nation safe day after day.
DHS has a state-of-the-art training center, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), located in Glynco, Georgia, where in the men and women in blue learn the skills needed to do their job safely to ensure they make it home to their families each day.
Since 1970, FLETC has trained more than one million law enforcement professionals. FLETC’s mission is to train those who protect our homeland, including officers and agents who work for our more than 90 federal partner organization; state, local, campus and tribal law enforcement, and international law enforcement. All FLETC training strives to well equip every one of these individuals with the skills, tools and knowledge to protect and secure communities across our nation.
Today, DHS and FLETC encourage Americans to show their support of our law enforcement in one or more of the following ways:
- Wear blue clothing in support of law enforcement
- Send a card of support to your local police department or state agency
- Share a positive story about a positive law enforcement experience on social media
- Ask children in your community to write letters in support of law enforcement
- Participate in Project Blue Light. Proudly display your blue light in support of law enforcement
- Most importantly, if you see a police officer, thank a police officer
On Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, and every day, DHS supports and recognizes all those who stand on the front lines and continue to keep our homeland secure.
By Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Strategy and Emergency Communications Bobbie Stempfley
With the holiday season in full swing, many Americans are doing last minute shopping or heading to see family and friends. As the same time, the holiday travel season is a peak period for hackers and thieves to prey on unsuspecting travelers. Vigilance is the key to protecting yourself from identity theft when shopping and traveling.
Identity theft continues to top the Federal Trade Commission’s national ranking of consumer complaints, with American consumers reporting a loss of over $1.6 billion to fraud in 2013. It’s a problem that has been made worse in recent years by the use of unsecured wireless networks at hotels, airports, and other public places, and the infiltration of smartphones through Bluetooth technology.
The Stop.Think.Connect. campaign has some simple tips for you to help protect yourself and your personal information while traveling:
- Password-protect your devices. Everyone tends to be very busy during the holidays and moving a mile a minute. If you put your phone down even for a moment, you give thieves potential access to all of your phone’s sensitive information such as photos, passwords, files, and more. By password-protecting your device, if it falls into the wrong hands, it will be harder for a thief to access your information.
- Downplay your laptop or smartphone. There’s no need to advertise to thieves that you received a new laptop or smartphone as a present. In public, keep your device close to your body and consider non-traditional bags for carrying your laptop.
- Be aware of your surroundings. If you do use your mobile device in a public area, pay attention to the people around you. Take precautions to shield yourself from "shoulder surfers" (i.e., make sure that no one can see you type your passwords or see any sensitive information on your screen).
- Turn Bluetooth off. Cyber criminals have the capability to pair their Bluetooth device with yours to steal personal information. Check your settings to ensure your Bluetooth is turned off when you do not need to use it.
- Be wary of public Wi-Fi networks. Only connect to secure networks, and only use those that ask for a network security key. Checking email or financial accounts or online shopping over an unsecure network provides an easy gateway for hackers to access your information. Also, read the privacy statement to see what that network provider may be collecting from your computer.
- Back up your files. If your portable device is stolen, it’s bad enough that someone else may be able to access your information. In addition, no one wants to lose their holiday vacation pictures or family videos. To avoid losing all of the information on your device, be sure to make a backup of important information and store the backup in a secure location.
Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and each of us has a role to play. For more tips on how to stay safe this holiday season, visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.