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February 24, 2015
7:39 am

By Connie L. Patrick, Director, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center

FLETC would not be able to offer classes to over 3,400 officers and agents from across the country in the event of a DHS shutdown.On any given day, there are roughly 7,000 personnel at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) facilities across the nation.  Of that number, roughly 3,000 are law enforcement trainees from across the country.  A DHS shutdown would have a real impact on our ability to provide training to law enforcement officers and agents across the country to ensure that they have the skills they need to do their jobs, and keep our communities safe and secure.

To be clear, this would not just affect Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel.  FLETC serves as an interagency law enforcement training organization for 95 agencies across the Federal government, such as the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Capitol Police, Pentagon Force Protection, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Almost 90 percent of FLETC’s partner organizations are non-DHS agencies. In fact, our law enforcement trainees come from every branch of government.

Without funding, we cannot provide the necessary training for state, local, rural, tribal, territorial, and international law enforcement agencies. Many of these agencies are small departments with limited budgets and personnel. They have difficulty acquiring training to meet their local law enforcement accreditation standards. A funding hiatus would prevent the necessary training for their personnel.

Our training centers would all be affected including our headquarters at Glynco, near Brunswick, Georgia, and facilities in Artesia, NM, Charleston, SC and Cheltenham, MD.

For each week that the FLETC remains closed, a projected average of roughly 3,400 officers and agents per week would be affected. All of the students currently residing at FLETC facilities would be sent home or housed off of the FLETC campuses.  There would also be lost wages for several thousand local support service contract employees, including food services, custodial and grounds maintenance. This would also be an unnecessary burden on our employees, as well as for these agencies who would have to wait for their officers and agents to get the training they need before beginning their duties.

A delay in training would have impacts on the security of the nation’s borders, aviation security, protecting our nation’s leaders and diplomats, safeguarding the United States Capitol and other federal buildings, and other federal law enforcement activities.

If a budget is not passed, FLETC would be forced to suspend scheduled law enforcement training programs until funding is secured. We would attempt to reschedule all suspended training; however, there may be a point at which the FLETC cannot accommodate all of the training suspended in addition to the training scheduled for Fiscal Year 2015.

FLETC remains hopeful that Congress will pass a budget on time, so that we can continue to train the men and women who risk their lives every day to keep us and our homeland safe and secure.

February 23, 2015
11:18 am

By Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft

Today, United States Coast Guard men and women are standing the watch around the world in service to our Nation. Our efforts and mission success depend on reliable and predictable funding.

The Coast Guard is currently operating under a continuing resolution that expires on Friday.  Secretary Johnson has highlighted some of the key impacts this continuing resolution has on maritime security, emphasizing the need for a clean, full-year Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2015 to support the necessary operational, personnel, and acquisition funding for the Coast Guard. 

Unreliable funding jeopardizes aircraft, cutter and boat maintenance and operations.  It unnecessarily places an increased burden on our extraordinary people – 88,000 active duty, reserve, civilian and auxiliary members – who go into harm’s way every day, and they deserve safe and effective operational platforms.  

Although Coast Guard men and women will continue to protect life and property at sea and preserve national security interest because of the oath they took, a lapse in funding will require the Coast Guard to curtail operations in several key mission areas, including routine law enforcement patrols and facility inspections; fisheries enforcement; mariner licensing and credentialing; certain vessel inspection and waterways management activities; and recreational boating safety.

If our appropriations lapse, Coast Guard men and women standing watch globally will not be paid.  Further, over 6,000 valuable Coast Guard civilians – or nearly three quarters of our total civilian workforce – will be furloughed.  Again with no guarantee of pay. 

Also in the event of a lapse in appropriations, nearly $1 billion in acquisition and maintenance contracts will continue to be deferred or otherwise disrupted – reducing the long-term operational availability and effectiveness of the Coast Guard.  These delays erode the security of our maritime borders.

Finally, a lapse in appropriations will adversely affect our retired personnel.  These dedicated veterans, who often live on fixed incomes, will not receive their retired pay.

I echo Secretary Johnson’s support of America’s Coast Guard and his call to action in passing a clean, full-year appropriations bill.

February 20, 2015
7:55 pm

This week marks the one year anniversary of the release of Executive Order 13659:  Streamlining the Export/Import Process for America’s Businesses. This Executive Order set an ambitious deadline of December 2016 for the Department of Homeland Security to complete the International Trade Data System (ITDS) and other modernization activities to improve the security and facilitation of goods crossing our Nation’s borders.  Once completed, the ITDS will allow businesses to fulfil government import and export requirements by electronically transmitting a streamlined set of data through the new “Single-Window.”  This electronic system will significantly reduce the reliance on paper forms and manual processes, speed cross-border commerce, and enhance U.S. economic competitiveness.

Work to develop a the ITDS Single Window started years ago, but the concrete deadlines and specific requirements established under Executive Order 13659 inspired a renewed sense of urgency and commitment.  Today, over half of ITDS Single Window technical capabilities have been successfully deployed, and DHS, in partnership with the dozens of other federal agencies with trade-related responsibilities, remains on track meet the December 31, 2016 deadline.  We are working with the trade community to test capabilities as they are deployed, ensuring we develop a system that works for both the government and private sector users.  In addition, DHS led efforts during 2014, to establish a new governance structure called the Border Interagency Executive Council.  As Chair of this Council, I’ve worked with the leadership of other Departments to set common expectations about strategic goals, key milestones, performance measures, and core system capabilities.  We have also challenged ourselves to re-think existing policies and processes impacting trade operations at the border and find ways to improve service outcomes for both businesses and government stakeholders.  For example, the Council is working to implement unified messaging from the government to filers regarding the status of a shipment, enhanced coordination of risk-management activities across agencies, and streamlined data requirements that reduce the filing burden for the trade community.  These improvements, which utilize ITDS capabilities, will result in faster, more predictable processing of lawful cargo at the border while supporting the government’s enforcement and compliance responsibilities.

Looking forward, we will need to continue efforts in 2015 to remain on schedule for an on-time delivery of a fully functional U.S. Government Single Window.  However, engagement and expertise from the industry stakeholders who will ultimately rely on the system remain one of the most critical elements of success.  We would like to thank the many companies that have already partnered with us and other agencies to test Single Window capabilities, as well as the trade advisory committees, Trade Support Network, and other industry partners whose valuable input has guided our work to-date.  We are confident that this strong private-public sector collaboration will continue as we develop the necessary capabilities, conduct operational tests in real-work environments, and then work quickly to ratchet-up use of the system. 

More information about ITDS, including technical documentation, a list of upcoming outreach events, and guidance on how to participate in an ITDS pilot are available at http://www.cbp.gov/trade/automated.     Again, I thank all stakeholders, both private and public, for their commitment to this significant effort and look forward to the continued work ahead.

February 13, 2015
2:53 pm

By Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Over the last five years, more than 333 million international visitors have traveled to the United States. Growth in spending from these visitors during this period has supported roughly 280,000 new American jobs. Preliminary estimates show the U.S. welcomed a record 74 million international visitors in 2014 alone, and these travelers spent a record $222 billion on expenses including food, lodging, recreation, gifts, entertainment, and local transportation, supporting 1.1 million jobs.

The United States is not alone in our efforts to attract international visitors and the jobs they support.We are competing with countless global destinations; therefore, the Obama Administration is focused on efforts to improve how we welcome travelers into the United States. For example, we have reduced visa wait times for international travelers and reached a new agreement with China that extends the validity of tourist and business visas to 10 years and student visas to five years. In the three months since this smart reform was enacted, Chinese demand for U.S. visas has grown by more than 50 percent compared to the same period in 2014 .

We are taking these actions and others to ensure the travel experience is safe, efficient, and welcoming, while also protecting the security of this country. We want to travelers to return to the U.S. often and encourage their friends and families to visit, as well. 

Today, the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security released a report to President Obama, titled “Supporting Travel and Tourism to Grow Our Economy and Create More Jobs: a National Goal on the International Arrivals Process and Airport-Specific Action Plans.” The report establishes a national goal: “The United States will provide a best-in-class arrival experience, as compared to our global competitors, to an ever-increasing number of international visitors while maintaining the highest standards of national security.” This goal was developed through extensive consultation with leaders from the airline, hospitality and travel industries, airport authorities, and state and local governments.

The report contains more than just a goal. To ensure success, the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security are establishing a new interagency task force, co-chaired by the Deputy Secretaries of Commerce and Homeland Security, which will engage with a broad array of industry stakeholders to identify the factors that drive a traveler’s perception of the international arrivals experience and decision to visit the United States. We will assess the arrivals process from planedisembarkment to primary passport inspection and baggage collection to exiting the airport through final baggage inspection, and the task force will use the results of the assessments to inform ongoing improvement of the arrivals process.

In addition, today’s report outlines 17 Airport-Specific Action Plans, developed in partnership with industry, to simplify and streamline the entry process at the nation’s top airports while also increasing security. For example, these airports are leveraging technology to offer a 21st century arrivals experience, and improving airport signage to make travelers’ entry into the United States easier to navigate. Thirteen different U.S. airports are installing 340 additional Automated Passport Control Kiosks through more than $20 million in public-private partnerships. These kiosks expedite air passenger inspection for U.S. and Canadian citizens, U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents, and certain other travelers at participating airports and reduce officer interaction time by 45 percent to approximately 30 seconds. By shortening the line to see a CBP officer, the overall waiting time of all arriving travelers is reduced. At the same time, these measures increase security by allowing officers to focus on the passenger instead of administrative tasks.

The Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security will continue our work with the private sector to reach the goal President Obama set in our National Travel and Tourism Strategy: to welcome 100 million international visitors by 2021. We will strive to make our arrivals experience the most welcoming in the world, so that international visitors continue to select the United States as their destination of choice.

 

Category: Air
February 12, 2015
11:21 am

By Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske

The clock is ticking, and time is running out. On February 27, the continuing resolution currently funding the Department of Homeland Security and its component agencies – including U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – expires.

U.S. Customs and Border officer on patrol

Four things can happen.

Congress can let the continuing resolution expire, and CBP may have to furlough employees, which complicates our mission as the nation’s largest law enforcement agency. Or Congress can pass another short-term continuing resolution; this approach simply prolongs the kind of budget uncertainty that makes it difficult for CBP to plan and implement mission-critical border security programs and technologies. Or Congress can pass a full-year continuing resolution, potentially compromising CBP’s ability to make critical investments in aging and obsolete technology and facilities. Or Congress can pass a full-year appropriations bill.

That fourth option is the best way to go. But, the President has been very clear that he will veto any appropriations bill that contains amendments that attempt to defund our executive actions on immigration reform.

CBP has made great strides in making it easier and safer for lawful travelers and cargo to cross our borders. We’ve invested in paperless technologies and partnered with private industry to roll out improvements like automated passport control, and we’ve implemented trusted traveler programs to help ease wait times at our ports of entry. We’ve given our Border Patrol agents and our Air and Marine personnel better equipment and resources to ensure that our borders are secure.

We have committed to do more. But we can’t because of the uncertain budget climate. For example:

  • Improving our increasingly obsolete nonintrusive inspection and detection technology is on hold. This technology detects illegal goods and materials and reduces the time it takes to conduct to these inspections, moving trade and travel faster.  This is vital to the U.S. economy. 
  • Upgrading and replacing remote and mobile video surveillance systems in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas is on hold.  These technologies are vital to improving CBP’s situational awareness, officer and agent safety, and detection capabilities.
  • Improving the operational systems and analytic tools that support our National Targeting Center is on hold.  The NTC supports DHS efforts to identify and deter transnational criminal organizations and these operational systems help identify terrorists and criminals attempting to cross our borders. 
  • Enhancing CBP’s ability to analyze geospatial intelligence is on hold.  This capability is essential for identifying traffic patterns along the border as well as for prioritizing Border Patrol and Air and Marine deployments.
  • Beginning the procurement process to fix outdated and inefficient Border Patrol facilities is on hold.  This would allow CBP to address a portion of its deferred maintenance backlog, ensuring the safety and well-being of CBP staff and supporting operations in the field.  

I have 40 years of experience in career law enforcement. A shutdown would be a needless hardship for our nearly 60,000 dedicated and professional CBP employees, their families, and for the nation. Nearly all of them – more than 53,000 – would come to work but would not take home a paycheck. CBP, meanwhile, would have to shut down or scale back many of its most important training functions and processing the paperwork to move trade, a risk to the national economy.

Time is running out. Congress should pass a clean, full-year appropriations bill.

The stakes are simply too high when it comes to ensuring secure and efficient border operations.

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February 11, 2015
5:21 pm

By Commissioner KerlikowskeU.S. Customs and Border Agent shows Commissioner Kerlikowske flowers to be inspected.

Yesterday, I traveled to Miami where U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s highly trained agriculture specialists are inspecting millions of roses, daisies, tulips and other flowers.  On any given day, the agriculture specialists process about 16.4 million cut flower stems; but in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, our specialists are looking at a massive 378.2 million stems.

It’s critically important not only to consumers, but to the vitality of the U.S. economy that cut flower imports are carefully inspected.  Some of these flowers may carry hitchhiking pests and diseases that could cause millions of dollars in damage to the U.S. flower industry and beyond. 

While the vast majority of flowers entering the country are safe, even one hitchhiking pest or plant disease can cause significant damage to American agriculture. Close collaboration with floral industry stakeholders has resulted in an unwavering commitment to facilitating the importation of these flowers while ensuring the interception of any hitchhiking pests to protect American agriculture.

Valentine’s Day at Miami International Airport is one of the most demanding times of the year for CBP agriculture specialists who ensure that flower bouquets are free from pests.

Visit our website for more information and statistics about CBP’s cut flower inspections.

During the 2014 Valentine’s season:

  • CBP agriculture specialists in Miami processed approximately 87 percent of the total imported cut flowers nationally; Los Angeles ranked second.
  • The top cut flower imports processed in Miami consist of roses, mixed bouquets, and Dianthus.
  • The imported cut flowers inspection process resulted in 2,737 pest interceptions nationally. Miami intercepted 1,422 pests, followed by Los Angeles with 383 pests.

Flower leaf with an insect crawling on it.

  • The most common type of insects intercepted in these cut flower imports are Tetranychus sp. (mites), Aphididae (Aphids), Agromyzidae (Miner Flies) and Noctuidae (moths).
  • Most of the cut flower shipments are imported from South America, primarily Colombia, followed by Ecuador.
  • CBP processed approximately 801.1 million cut flower stems nationally during the 2014 Valentine’s season from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, compared to 867.2 million stems processed during the 2013 season -- a decrease of 7.6 percent.
February 11, 2015
1:47 pm

February is Black History Month – and an excellent opportunity to take a moment and reflect on the rich history each of us brings to our community.

Secretary Johnson greets staff gathered a Black History Month celebration at the U.S. Small Business Administration

Secretary Johnson greets staff gathered a Black History Month celebration at the U.S. Small Business Administration

To know and honor African American history, Irish American history, Italian American history, Jewish history, Hispanic history, or any other heritage, one need look no further than your own family tree.  We are all part of a continuing arc of history that contributes to the rich diversity of this Nation.

Secretary Johnson listens while being introduced to deliver keynote remarks entitled “A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture” at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

Secretary Johnson listens while being introduced to deliver keynote remarks entitled “A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture” at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

My great grandfather Richard M. Goodwin was from Selma, Alabama.  He was a Pullman car porter for 44 years and a member and officer of A. Philip Randolph’s Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.  In 2006, my wife, kids, parents and I piled into an RV and ventured south to visit Selma to find some trace of my mother’s Goodwin ancestry there.  We looked through cemeteries for headstones marked “Goodwin,” and asked around town.  We found nothing.  Then, we stopped by the historic Brown Chapel in Selma, origination point for the 1965 civil rights march that crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge and on to Montgomery.  My father, an architect, happened to look at the cornerstone of that landmark church structure, built in 1908, and discovered it said “R.M. Goodwin, Secretary.”

Secretary Johnson listens engages with SBA staff following his remarks.

Secretary Johnson engages with SBA staff following his remarks.

I encourage all of you to celebrate Black History month by attending and participating in events in your communities.

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February 10, 2015
5:27 pm

NBA See Say

For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
Contact: 202-282-8010

The Department of Homeland Security is proud to continue our partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA) at the NBA All-Star 2015 in New York City to ensure  the safety and security of fans, players, and employees.

The NBA will display “If You See Something, Say Something™” materials in and around the All-Star venues - the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden - that remind fans “If You See Something, Say Something™.” Materials will also be on display in many hotels across New York City where players and fans will be staying. The message is simple: if you see something that doesn’t look right – an unattended bag or package, a person behaving in a suspicious manner, a vehicle that seems out of place – report it to the authorities.

Recently, Secretary Johnson announced the re-launch of a revamped “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign at Super Bowl XLIX, including new campaign materials with re-designed imagery, a new microsite, and for the first time in-app advertising. The campaign highlights the Department’s message that homeland security begins with hometown security.

"If You See Something, Say Something™" is a national campaign that raises public awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, as well as the importance of reporting suspicious activity to state and local law enforcement. While the campaign materials are new, our message of public vigilance is not. “If You See Something, Say Something™” is more than just a slogan, and we all play a role in keeping our communities safe. We are proud of the Campaign’s many long-term partners, like the NBA, who are committed to amplifying the message and reminding the American public to report suspicious activity. 

Whether you are attending the NBA All-Star events, or watching from home in Great Plains, the mountain west, or the bustling city, we are counting on you to help protect the community you live in. If you see suspicious activity, contact local law enforcement. 

Learn more about the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign, and see how you can help to protect your everyday.

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February 6, 2015
5:39 pm

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.

FEMA Efforts

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.

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February 3, 2015
2:55 pm

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 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 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 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 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

President Obama addresses employees from DHS Headquarters

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