What better way to start my first blog post than to let you know I am very interested in what the public has to say. My top priorities include improving TSA's counterterrorism focus through intelligence and cutting edge technology, supporting the workforce, and strengthening our relationships with stakeholders and the traveling public.
I've seen firsthand that strong counterterrorism efforts include an engaged and informed public and it’s imperative that we listen.
I commit to you that I will utilize “Talk to TSA” to address some of the more commonly asked questions and themes. I’ll be addressing those concerns right here on the blog. So send us your ideas, suggestions, and feedback. I’m listening.
John S. Pistole
The hard work and innovative ideas of DHS employees have led to hundreds of millions of dollars in cost avoidances through the DHS Efficiency Review—from leveraging the buying power of the Department by consolidating software licenses to eliminating non-mission critical travel, posting publications online instead of printing them, and moving events and conferences to government buildings from private facilities, among many others.
These efforts helped capture the attention of the President, who established the annual SAVE Award contest last fall to identify the best ideas for saving money and improving performance across the federal government. Last year, more than 38,000 ideas were submitted government-wide in just three weeks.
DHS employees led this effort, submitting thousands of ideas, twelve of which have served as the basis for new DHS Efficiency Review initiatives in 2010, including paperless earnings and leave statements for employees across the Department; bulk purchasing agreements for furniture, non-military uniforms, and wireless communication devices and services; and reciprocity of security clearances for those coming to DHS from other federal agencies and law enforcement entities.
Now, the President wants to hear from DHS employees again about their Efficiency Review ideas for how DHS and the entire federal government can continue to trim costs and save taxpayer dollars.
I encourage all DHS employees to submit their ideas for the 2010 President's SAVE Award online at http://www.saveaward.gov/. The winning idea will be incorporated into the FY 2012 Budget, and the winner will have the opportunity to visit the White House and personally present his or her Efficiency Review initiative to President Obama. The deadline for submissions is Thursday, July 22.
Through the SAVE Award and the Efficiency Review, DHS employees have been a model for changing the way government does business for the better.
For more information, go to http://www.saveaward.gov/.
On June 25th, the White House released a draft National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) that speaks to this very issue. NSTIC proposes an improved online environment where all users have a choice in the personal information they share to perform online transactions. Due to the widespread impact of a national strategy to improve technologies, processes, and even services offered online, NSTIC is available for public comment until July 19th on http://www.nstic.ideascale.com/. This Strategy builds on the recommendations resulting from the Cyberspace Policy Review that was signed by the President in May 2009.
The vision described in this Strategy outlines potential changes to America’s online infrastructure in order to trust identities during online transactions. Details for this vision include guiding principles, goals and potential actions needed to accomplish this change. By creating a consistent way to establish, use and validate identities, individuals, governments and private organizations can interact in a more secure and efficient manner. This is not solely a change for the Federal government; it will take collaboration across public and private sectors, among individuals and groups. We are looking for your input. Please visit http://www.nstic.ideascale.com/ to participate in the discussion.
Today, President Obama announced the Presidential Policy Directive on Space. Space policy has been a part of national security since President Eisenhower issued the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law in 1958. Every President since has used national space policy to address the unique challenges and priorities of the time.
President Obama’s Directive includes several measures to ensure that space policy promotes homeland security. It emphasizes partnerships with the private sector and international governments and recognizes the crucial relationship between space-based assets and critical infrastructure, such as electric power and cell phones.
These initiatives will enable DHS and others to use the best space technology available to address the concerns of today as well as the challenges of tomorrow. Check out the President's statement.
Throughout our history, we have welcomed more refugees and asylum seekers than any other nation in the world. Since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, approximately 2.5 million refugees have been resettled in the U.S. and approximately 500,000 asylees have been granted protection by our government. Almost 1.3 million of these refugees and over 165,000 asylees have gone on to become American citizens.
Last fiscal year, DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) granted protection to over 11,933 asylum seekers and to more than 74,000 refugees from 79 countries. To safeguard the integrity of our refugee and asylum processes, USCIS engages in robust security screening, training, and quality assurance mechanisms – executed in close collaboration with other DHS components.
These efforts sometimes involve significant danger for USCIS personnel, who have traveled to war zones across the globe to conduct refugee status interviews to identify those who qualify – many of whom have assisted U.S. military efforts abroad – and ensure they can find protection and build new lives in the United States.
This World Refugee Day, I want to take a moment to commend these DHS employees, at home and abroad, for their dedicated service on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers. Thanks to their work, we are fulfilling an important humanitarian mission.
Most of our readers know Admiral Thad Allen as the National Incident Commander for the Deepwater BP Oil Spill. In this role, he manages the federal oversight and response to the oil spill, advises the President and Secretary Napolitano, and makes sure that BP is doing its job to stop the leak, clean up the spill, and compensate individuals, businesses, and governments for losses related to this disaster. His last job was equally as impressive – Allen served as Commandant of the United States Coast Guard for the past four years. In dealing with Hurricane Katrina and other disasters, Allen has proven that he can handle a big challenge, no matter what his title is.
On May 25, 2010, Secretary Napolitano spoke at the official Change of Command ceremony where she thanked Allen for his service and welcomed the new Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Robert Papp. While new to the position, Admiral Papp is no stranger to the men and women of the United States Coast Guard – he celebrates his 35th year of service this year. Prior to his new position, Admiral Papp served as Commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Region, Chief of Staff of the Coast Guard and Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Headquarters. In addition to his years of valuable experience in the Coast Guard, Papp holds the honor of Gold Ancient Mariner, a position given to an officer who has held the qualification as a Cutterman longer than any other. Both Allen and Papp spoke at the Change of Command ceremony as the guests celebrated the contributions of these men and the rest of the Coast Guard. The video is featured below – take a look and learn a bit more about the leaders of this important branch of the United States military.
A part of our Department has been recognized as a leader in forward-thinking technology solutions. At yesterday’s NextGov award luncheon for technological successes in the federal government, the Federal Protective Service (FPS) won an award for its Risk Assessment and Management Program. Eight recipients were awarded among 19 Finalists and 100 Nominees.
Susan Burrill, FPS Risk Management Division Director, was honored for her work on the development of a new system that will change the way FPS protects more than 9,000 facilities nationwide.
The Risk Assessment and Management Program (RAMP), is a secure, web-enabled tool that will revolutionize the way FPS collects, stores, analyzes and shares information to manage security risks for federal facilities. RAMP also has the added benefit of replacing six individual legacy systems.
As well as a software tool, RAMP is a comprehensive program that involves software, hardware, and process improvements to multiple high profile programs. To further the RAMP initiative, Susan has overseen the design and delivery of a national-level training initiative for over 1,000 FPS personnel to learn the new system. Congratulations to FPS and Susan for a job well done.
Every day, the men and women of DHS work directly with international, federal, state, local and tribal partners in a unified effort against the evolving threats we face. This kind of coordination is essential to meet the evolving challenges of the world in which we live – one in which the accelerated flow of ideas, goods, and people, while vital to supporting and advancing our interests, also creates security threats that are increasingly borderless and unconventional.
In my time as Secretary, I have also focused on the threats that take place here at home: domestic-based terrorism and violent extremism. In the last few months, we have seen individuals in our country engaged in plots to kill Americans after interacting with radical individuals online or in terrorist training camps abroad. The fact that a number of these individuals, like the Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad, are U.S. citizens makes this a uniquely dangerous challenge.
Some of these terrorists have ties to al Qaeda or other terror groups - like David Headley, who pled guilty for his role in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, or Najibullah Zazi, who pled guilty to plotting to bomb the New York subway. Other suspects have been online followers of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen based in Yemen who is a self-proclaimed member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and who supports the use of violence against America.
Domestic terrorists or extremists can be particularly difficult to detect because they often attempt to exploit the freedoms of our open society in order to plot and carry out acts of violence. That is why we are constantly working to find new ways to counter these threats.
Currently, DHS is working with federal, state, and local law enforcement, and with a range of community groups, to better combat the threats posed by domestic-based terrorism. We do this by ensuring that law enforcement at every level has access to information and intelligence about threats so they are fully equipped to confront them on the frontlines.
The Department of Homeland Security is also working directly with communities to help them combat violent extremists that target vulnerable individuals before they are radicalized. Just last week, the Homeland Security Advisory Committee issued a series of recommendations on implementing successful community policing practices to confront this new challenge.
This process has been aided by the active involvement of many religious, ethnic and community organizations, including leaders from the Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian communities, who have played critical roles in thwarting violence, and underscoring the enormously positive roles that these communities play in enriching our national life.
As we work together to confront the terrorist challenge, we must acknowledge that keeping our country safe demands trust and cooperation. Terrorism is a tactic designed not just to kill, but to undermine our freedom. We must forge strong partnerships between communities and state, local and federal law enforcement, build resilience, and maintain vigilance at all times not only to prevent acts of terrorism, but also to protect the very freedoms that make this country great.
No nation—particularly a free and open society of 300 million Americans—can prevent every single threat to its citizens. But we will continue to do everything in our power to guard against terrorism and we will remember that America is – and always will be–a strong and a resilient country. We will never let a violent fringe take that away.
Cross-posted from the TSA Blog
Summertime isn’t officially here yet, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s summer as soon as the pools are open. So, in preparation for this holiday weekend and the summer travel season to come, I wanted to post some helpful travel tips. Our highly trained security officers are prepared for the increase in passenger volumes and are dedicated to ensuring safe travels. TSA will be fully staffed and prepared to address the needs of the traveling public this summer.
So lather up with your favorite suntan lotion, take your laptop out in the sun, and read all about TSA travel tips. Fruity beverages and lounge music are optional.
3-1-1 is the name for our liquid policy. You can read here for more details, but here is the gist of 3-1-1… Each passenger is allowed to take one clear quart-sized sealable bag and fill it with as many liquids in 3.4 oz or less sized containers that will fit, while still being able to seal the bag. Basically, don’t stuff it to the point where it won’t close. Make sure you take the bag out of your carry-on prior to sending it through the X-ray, or our officers will have to search your bag.
- Batteries and Devices
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Hunting & Fishing
- Lighters and Matches
- Photographic Equipment & Film
- Scuba Equipment
- Sporting Equipment
If you’re traveling internationally, be sure to check out U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s international travel tips.
Have a great summer!
TSA Blog Team
A few months ago, the DHS Private Sector Office started a project to gather all the training, publications, guidance, alerts, newsletters, programs, and services available to the private sector from across the department. The idea was to centralize all this information and publish it in a catalog for our private sector partners, providing them direct lines of access to critical resources at DHS - whether they need a contact in the Intelligence and Analysis Private Sector Partnership Program, or if they just want to read the latest on this blog - the Private Sector Resources Catalog was to be a "white pages" of sorts where our partners in academia, the non-profit world, NGOs, and the business sector could find at-a-glance information on any topic or office within DHS.
The resulting product turned out to be a fantastic resource we think has value both for the intended private sector audience and for the public alike. The catalog provides information, contact numbers and email addresses, and websites for almost every program, office, and component within DHS. Need the 4-1-1 on the 3-1-1 liquid restrictions for passenger travel on commercial airlines, or information about TSA's Security Grant Programs? Just visit the TSA Programs and Services section. Want a run down of all the DHS Centers of Excellence? Check out the Science and Technology Directorate section. There is also an A-Z appendix of key program office and component contacts from around the department.
We hope that our partners in the private sector and indeed the public will find this a useful resource. President Obama and Secretary Napolitano are committed to increased transparency and public access to those serving in the public trust; the catalog is another tool that serves that purpose.
Check out the new Private Sector Resources Catalog, and leave your feedback in the comments section of the blog.