We focused on the four core principles behind the Open Government Initiative in drafting the plan:
- Publishing government information online
- Improving the quality of government information
- Creating and institutionalizing a culture of open government
- Enabling a policy framework for open government
The plan mandates a 15 percent reduction of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request backlogs per year at DHS - which we've already decreased by 81 percent over the past four years - to enhance transparency of departmental records and communications.
The plan recommends the expansion of "Virtual USA" - a DHS information-sharing initiative that links disparate tools and technologies to improve communication between first responders during emergencies.
The plan also highlights the Department's efforts to support fusion centers with state and local governments, critical assets in preventing crime and terrorism in communities across the country through two-way intelligence and information sharing between DHS and the rest of the federal government and our state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement partners.
The department also solicited and incorporated public feedback in drafting the plan. We plan to continue this method of public engagement as we develop other initiatives and tools. Look for new ways to engage with the Department in the coming months.
"My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”
- President Obama, 01/21/09
Antonio “Tony” Machorro, who serves as the lead for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in implementing the Department-wide initiative of eliminating non-mission critical travel, is always searching for ways to reduce TSA’s travel costs.
Tony’s enthusiasm for finding efficiencies has resulted in a variety of creative ways to save money, including changes in travel for employees on temporary assignments, frequent outreach to employees about how to get the most out of their travel budgets, and even a new pilot program using non-refundable airfares for government travel.
This new pilot program is based on the idea that, when it comes to routine travel, the small number of cancellation or change fees that result from using less-expensive but non-refundable airfares would end up costing the government less than always buying more expensive but fully refundable airfares. Since December 2009, approximately 10 field airports have actively participated in the pilot program, buying non-refundable airfares for approximately fifty routine trips—and achieving a cost avoidance rate of approximately 53 percent.
As a result of this program and other changes, TSA was able to reduce the average employee trip cost in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2009 by 21% compared to the previous year. In fact, during fiscal year 2009, TSA reduced overall travel expenditures by $19 million over fiscal year 2008 expenditures.
As the second year of the Efficiency Review gets underway, Tony’s efforts will lead to even more ways to stretch TSA’s travel dollars – as will the commitment of employees across the Department to ensuring DHS is getting the most out of our resources to make DHS a leaner, smarter agency better equipped to protect the nation.
Each of our 20 Department-wide initiatives has a technical lead who coordinates the nuts and bolts of the initiative to make sure it gets implemented correctly and stays on track. One such technical lead, Mike Smith, Director of Strategic Sourcing within the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer, has been pulling triple duty for the Efficiency Review. Mike has served as the technical lead for three separate initiatives: maximizing the use of government office space for meetings and conferences in place of renting facilities, increasing usage of DHS-wide blanket purchase agreements for office supplies and converting printers, fax machines, copiers, and scanners into all-in-one machines as replacements are needed.
Under Mike’s leadership, these initiatives are already expected to avoid $7 million in anticipated costs. “I’ve found that when you give people freedom to make a difference along with management support, they will rise to the occasion,” said Mike. “I’ve been impressed and encouraged with the creativity and responsiveness to these initiatives across the Department..”
Through the facilities initiative, Mike has helped saved the Department money by helping DHS employees find federal facilities for meetings and events in place of commercial space. Mike has also helped the Department take advantage of lower prices for office supplies by leveraging the buying power of multiple offices. Finally, through the all-in-one machines initiative, Mike has helped DHS save on maintenance costs and energy, not to mention floor space, when machines that perform just one function wear out and need to be replaced
Smith has brought his considerable knowledge and experience to bear on these initiatives, shepherding them from initial concept to across-the-board implementation. His dedication to these common-sense changes has been critical to their success, and serves as a model for employees throughout DHS to ensure the Department makes the most out of every taxpayer dollar.
Cross-posted from the TSA Blog
There's been a lot of public discussion about TSA's deployment of new screening technology known as AIT. Public discussion and debate is good, and we at TSA have worked hard to inform, educate and adjust our screening protocols in the interests of security, efficiency, safety and privacy. Our FY 2011 budget request includes $573 million to purchase 500 Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) units and to operationally staff, operate and maintain 1,000 units, which includes the 500 units we are deploying now. This is indeed an important investment decision and not something we take lightly. We don't take the threats we're facing lightly either.
We've greatly improved TSA's IED detection capabilities in bags through better technology and more rigorous training and testing of our officers. Getting to threats hidden on a body is more difficult, because of the limitations of metal detectors, and patting down everybody that comes through a checkpoint isn't an option anyone likes.
So starting in 2007, we began testing AIT at the Transportation Security Lab and TSA's own operational testing facility to study its capability to detect non-metallic items as well as metallic ones. Based on the success in the labs, we tested the units in the airport environment, where they proved effective in threat detection and they were accepted by passengers as a screening option. The airport testing also looked at throughput, staffing needs, real estate requirements, privacy protections, and reaffirmed all safety requirements were met for the public and our officers. We left no stone unturned.
All the work we have done in the past two years gives me confidence that this technology will significantly increase TSA's detection capability at the checkpoint. Using AIT, our officers are finding things like small packages of powder-based drugs hidden on the body. When I say small, I mean that one packet was smaller than a thumb print. We have also found small weapons made of composite, non-metallic materials.
Based on the intelligence reporting we see every day, this technology is absolutely essential to address the threat we see today. It can also be upgraded over time, either as the threats change or as the industry improves the threat detection software.
With our first 1,000 units we will be able to use AIT to screen over 60% of all air passengers each day. We take our responsibility to protect each and every traveler very seriously. We have used lessons learned from the past, and we deployed this technology only after we were fully confident it would work in an operational environment and after our acquisition process had undergone extensive reviews and approvals by DHS' Acquisition Review Board.
Which brings me back to the cost. At about 1.8 million passengers going through checkpoint screening a day - 650 million passengers a year - the annualized, full cost of purchasing, installing, staffing, operating, supporting, upgrading, and maintaining the first 1,000 units of this technology is about $1 per trip through the checkpoint.
Is it worth a dollar per passenger in the short term for increased long term security? You bet it is.
Gale Rossides is the Acting Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS’) Office of Security and Integrity Chief Jan P. Lane and her team have done exactly that.
As part of the Efficiency Review, Jan and her team fundamentally changed the way they were conducting trainings and conferences for more than 10,470 USCICS employees around the country- saving time, reducing travel costs, and cutting back on training materials. By adopting new web-conferencing software, employees from across the country can participate and get the information they need to do their jobs whenever they need it- all while working from their own desks.
The USCIS Office of Security and Integrity estimates that they’ve avoided more than $600,000 as a result of deploying this new web conferencing tool. And when you consider the indirect or harder to measure savings, such as lost productivity due to travel days, coordinating travel, and conferences, the overall impact of this efficiency is even more impressive.
By using technology to streamline operations, save employees’ time and taxpayers’ money, and ensure that personnel receive the critical training information they need when they need it, Jan Lane and her team have put Efficiency Review into action.
Sometimes, it’s the simplest changes that make a big difference.
U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Ryan Murphy recently came up with one such idea – an ingeniously simple energy-saving efficiency. Ryan realized that, by installing timers on vending machines to automatically turn them off at night when no one is using them, his base, Coast Guard Base Support Unit Honolulu, might lower its utility bills.
Ryan got the idea after examining sales records for each vending machine on the base and measuring their energy consumption over time. He found that several vending machines were consuming a great deal of power but had very low sales revenue. He also realized that the machines were not being used at night.
As a result, Ryan removed some machines from service, relocated others, and, using seed money from the Coast Guard’s Facility Energy Efficiency Funds, outfitted all remaining machines with inexpensive occupancy sensors that allow the machines to power down after hours. Additionally, because the machines would not be operating at night, he removed the lighting systems from the remaining machines, further reducing their daily energy consumption.
Sure enough, Murphy’s base now expects to lower its utility bills by $6,000 a year as a result of this clever innovation.
Sensible and easy-to-implement, Ryan’s efficiency is a great example of the many creative ways DHS employees are saving time and resources across the Department.
Robert Namejko and Richard Winkler of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Administration and Judy Shetler and Dora Shomette of CBP’s Office of Internal Affairs are great examples of employees working together to make a difference. Together, these four employees identified millions of dollars in cost avoidances by lowering the costs of background investigations.
According to Dora, “there was a need to unify our background investigation contracts to ensure that all contractors were working from the same rules and regulations, and eliminate requirements that were no longer relevant or essential.”
By combining Dora and Judy’s security expertise with Robert and Richard’s experience with procurement issues, CBP was able to cut the costs of the contracts for background investigation services by almost $3.2 million in fiscal year 2010 while reducing the average required time to complete a case from 60 to 40 days.
As the second year of the Efficiency Review gets underway, we’re sure that CBP and DHS will identify even more efficiencies as a result of Dora, Judy, Robert and Richard’s continued efforts to seek innovative ways to make the most of taxpayer dollars.
Recently, some media reports have used statistics that appear to call into question the effectiveness and accuracy of E-Verify. I’d like to set record straight. A report by the independent research firm Westat, using a sample from a three month period in 2008, concluded that E-Verify was accurate 96 percent of the time. Since then, the Obama administration has taken significant steps to further improve E-Verify.
Read the report for yourself here.
What else did this report tell us about E-Verify?
- 93.8 percent of workers screened by E-Verify were authorized for employment—and the system instantly and accurately confirmed more than 99 percent of these eligible workers.
- The remaining 6.2 percent were not eligible for employment. Out of this estimated 6.2 percent, approximately half were told they are work authorized when they were not—just 3.3 percent of the overall population screened by E-Verify.
- To be clear, this means that only an estimated 3.3 percent of all workers screened by E-Verify were incorrectly told they were work authorized.
The system’s accuracy and efficiency continues to improve, reflecting the changes and improvements to E-Verify that USCIS has made over the past year—and continues to make.
Our anti-fraud efforts are improving E-Verify’s ability to prevent illegal workers from using stolen identities to obtain employment—including a photograph screening capability that allows a participating employer to check if photos on Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) or Permanent Resident Cards (green cards) are exact matches with the images stored in USCIS databases.
USCIS is also planning additional enhancements to E-Verify that will further improve employer compliance, reduce fraud and increase efficiency. We are adding U.S. passports to the list of documents available to provide photo confirmation, and working with states to access state driver’s license data—the #1 document used to validate identity. We’re also planning to launch a pilot program to explore the use of biometric or biographic-based verification.
Employers at more than 600,000 worksites nationwide used E-Verify to check the work authorization status of more than 8.5 million workers during fiscal year 2009, and E-Verify has processed more than five million queries during the last five months alone.
Quite simply, E-Verify ensures a legal workforce while protecting the rights of employers and employees alike—accurately, easily and efficiently. It is critically important to a legal workforce and directly impacts national security and our economy. The ultimate success of E-Verify will rely on public-private cooperation, and we are committed to continuing to work with all of our partners to improve this tool.
Lauren Kielsmeier is the Acting Deputy Director and Chief of Staff for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Secretary Napolitano was in Glynco, Georgia today to visit the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). FLETC trains law enforcement agents and officers from dozens of federal, state, local, and tribal agencies, serving 88 federal entities and training tens of thousands of students - over 67,000 in fiscal year 2009 alone.
The Secretary also observed a flying-while-armed training demonstration while at the facility. The Tactics for Flying While Armed Training Program (TFATP) prepares officers and agents for a range of situations they may encounter while flying armed. Now, you've probably gathered what the program teaches, as the course name is pretty descriptive, but the real point is that we train more than Federal Air Marshals to help keep the skies safe. The program has trained more than 25,000 officers and agents since 2004.
During her remarks, the Secretary discussed the diverse training FLETC provides to law enforcement professionals throughout the world—using advanced technology, real-life simulations, research and instruction to provide the latest tools and skills to guard against terrorism and other threats, secure U.S. borders, protect the traveling public and build more ready and resilient communities.
Learn more about FLETC.
traveling in 2009 alone.
While there, she will meet with top officials from the Asia/Pacific region and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to discuss ways to bolster global aviation security-such as strengthening information sharing and enhancing international transportation security agreements.
At these meetings, she will emphasize our ongoing commitment to working with global partners to strengthen the security of the international aviation network and prevent terrorists from boarding commercial aircraft. Yesterday, Secretary Napolitano took a moment during her busy schedule to tour Tokyo's famous Hai Shrine.