From the Washington Times, on Veterans Day:
President Obama visited Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday as part of Veterans Day events across the country honoring U.S. service members who have sacrificed to preserve America's freedom.
"We honor your service. We are forever grateful," Mr. Obama said while standing in a cold drizzle with the cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns in the background. "To our veterans, to the fallen and to their families - there is no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice."
The president, dressed in a dark suit and overcoat, also participated in the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the cemetery in Arlington, across the Potomac River from Washington.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama began the day by hosting a Veterans Day breakfast in the East Room of the White House.
The Obamas joined Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and wife Jill, whose son Beau recently returned from Iraq, at the cemetery. The first couple concluded their visit by going to a section of the cemetery reserved for those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While Memorial Day commemorates those military members who are deceased, Veterans Day provides an opportunity to thank America's 23 million living veterans for their service.
The Bidens later hosted a lunch at the Naval Observatory for veterans, active duty service members and their families, and Mrs. Obama spoke at an event at George Washington University, where she hailed military members' commitment to service:
"They don't just want to serve for a certain number of years of deployment - they want to make their entire life a tour of duty."
From Homeland Security Today, on the new veterans page at dhs.gov:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) marked Veterans Day with a new Web portal to inform veterans of job and business opportunities with DHS components.
The Web site, located at www.dhs.gov/veterans, informs veterans of hiring opportunities to become a civilian employee of the department, which employ roughly 47,000 veterans, or 25 percent of its civilian workforce.
"This new website reflects the shared commitment across the department to hiring American veterans," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement. "Veterans play a vital role in the Department of Homeland Security's mission to protect the nation, and this website will help us build our veteran workforce to more than 50,000 department-wide by 2012."
The Web site also links to overviews of veteran contracting and to opportunities for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs). Federal law requires DHS and other agencies to award 3 percent of its annual contracts to SDVOSBs--a mark that many federal agencies regularly miss.
From the Miami Herald, on "Hidden in Plain Sight":
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is spearheading a campaign in Miami and 13 other U.S. cities to enlist the public's help in identifying possible victims and suspects involved in human trafficking.
Known as a form of modern-day slavery, human trafficking involves people -- usually women -- being forced or lured into unpaid labor as servants, agricultural workers or prostitutes.
Victims generally come from poor countries and are smuggled into the United States and other rich nations to serve as veritable indentured servants.
Several harrowing human trafficking cases have been discovered in South Florida in recent years. Local cases involved a Peruvian woman found working long hours for little pay in Key Biscayne and a 14-year-old forced to work as a prostitute by a Fort Lauderdale man who operated an escort service.
The campaign -- with the slogan ``Hidden in Plain Sight'' -- will feature billboards and ads that include a toll-free number (866-DHS-2-ICE or 866-347-2423) that people can call to report cases to law-enforcement authorities.
11 AM EST
Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks and join ICE Assistant Secretary Morton for a media availability to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Secure Communities initiative
500 12th Street SW
9 AM EST
NPPD Director for Software Assurance Joe Jarzombek will deliver keynote remarks at the Open Web Application Security Project AppSec 2009 Conference
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
801 Mount Vernon Place, NW
9:40 AM EST
NPPD Under Secretary Rand Beers will deliver keynote remarks about the role of broadband in public safety and emergency response communications at the Federal Communications Commission Broadband Field Hearing
Georgetown University, Leavey Center
3900 Reservoir Road, NW
11:15 AM EST
NPPD Cyber Security Evaluation Program Director Patrick Beggs will participate in a panel discussion about information technology sector risk management at the 10th Annual Security Conference
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
11:30 AM CST
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas will participate in a media availability about his vision for the agency and current initiatives
USCIS District Office
8940 Fourwinds Drive
San Antonio, Texas
1:45 PM EST
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
1 PM CST
USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas will deliver remarks about immigrant integration and USCIS’ coordination with local partners at the National League of Cities’ Congress of Cities and Exposition
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center
555 South Alamo Street
San Antonio, Texas
“The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”
That quote is inscribed on the Kennedy Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. JFK delivered it as part of his inaugural address in January of 1961, and was referring not to a scientific venture, nor to contentious legislation, but to the cause of “defending freedom in its maximum hour of danger.” He went on to challenge the nation, asking us to find it within ourselves to better serve our country. Generations of Americans have answered that call and many others through service in our armed forces; we honor them today.
Today is Veterans Day, and the Secretary, the President, the Vice President, and other government officials participated in events around the country today to pay respect to our veterans' contributions.
“Today we pay our deepest respect to the courageous men and women of who have served the U.S. Armed Forces and who currently risk their lives at home and abroad. The tragic events of recent weeks remind us of the tremendous sacrifice those in uniform make every day for our Nation, and I am proud to count the Department of Homeland Security’s 47,000-strong veteran workforce and the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard as colleagues in our mission to protect the country,” said Secretary Napolitano.The Secretary also penned an entry in our Leadership Journal - committing the department to employ 50,000 veterans by 2012 - and reminding us that we must work to honor their contributions throughout the year. We encourage you to check it out, and to visit the White House Blog for a roundup of events and remarks from the President, Vice President, and other cabinet secretaries.
DHS’ civilian workforce includes approximately 47,000 veterans, comprising 25 percent of all employees—including Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute—in addition to the 42,000 active duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Every day, these men and women play a critical role in our nation’s security – guarding against terrorism, securing our borders, enforcing immigration laws, preparing for and responding to disasters, and strengthening our Department’s operations.
Monday, I joined President Obama as he signed an Executive Order establishing the Veterans Employment Initiative to increase employment opportunities in the federal government and help recently hired veterans succeed in their jobs.
Engaging veterans and veterans’ organizations at the Department continues to be one of my top priorities. We want and need veterans to lend their unique skills, experience, and clear commitment to service to our mission. That’s why we have set a goal to have 50,000 veterans on-board at the Department by 2012.
To help us achieve that goal, today we launched a new website specifically for veterans – www.dhs.gov/veterans. This one-stop-shop contains information about hiring and business opportunities for veterans, ways to get involved in community-based efforts like Citizen Corps, and special veteran programs such as Operation Warfighter and Wounded Warrior, which provide employment opportunities for severely wounded or recovering service members to assist their transition back to the military or civilian workforce.
We’re proud to have so many veterans at DHS contributing to our mission every day. On Veterans Day and every day throughout the year, let’s continue to give thanks to veterans, both inside and outside the Department, for all they've done to serve our country.
Earlier today, the Secretary recorded a message honoring our nation’s veterans, nearly 47,000 of who continue to serve today at the Department of Homeland Security. These veterans bring with them special skills and experiences that are invaluable to our ability to carry out our mission. As the Secretary said in her message, we are proud to have as many veterans among our ranks as we do, and we’re working actively to bring even more veterans – along with their proven skills and dedication to protecting our nation – on board.
To support our recognition and recruiting efforts, we launched a new page on the DHS website last night to provide more resources for veterans who want to work at or with DHS. At www.dhs.gov/veterans, you can see profiles of a few of the 47,000 veterans within the DHS workforce and read how their military experience prepared them for work at DHS, in their own words. We are grateful every day for their service, not just on Veterans Day - we encourage you to take a look at the new page, and share any thoughts you might have in the comment section there.
From the Wall Street Journal, on the Coast Guard's rescue of two men stranded on an offshore oil platform:
Customs officials have arrested a man they say tried to smuggle 8 pounds of heroin in his luggage on a flight from Guatemala City to Newark Liberty International Airport.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers arrested Guatemalan citizen Jose Arevalo on Oct. 31 after he was selected for routine baggage inspection. Inspectors say they found an unusually thick supportive backing on bags Arevalo was carrying, as well as false compartments in his luggage that contained a brown powder-like substance.
Authorities say the substance tested positive for heroin and has an estimated street value of nearly $370,000.
Two Chevron Corp. employees were rescued from an offshore oil platform 80 miles south of New Orleans on Monday after the facility was damaged because of Hurricane Ida, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
The workers called for help because they were worried that their living quarters "could fall into" the waters of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike O'Berry, a spokesman for the Coast Guard.
A walkway that connects crew members' living area to the rest of the platform was damaged by a wayward lift boat, stranding the two men, O'Berry said. A video shot by the Coast Guard shows rescuers hoisting the men into a helicopter in 28 mile-per-hour winds and choppy waters.
"It's a good thing we got the call when we did," Lt. Marc Lanore, a pilot at Air Station New Orleans who flew the helicopter during the rescue mission, said in a news release. "If it were any later, we may not have been able to perform the rescue because of the effects of Hurricane Ida."
From the Austin American Statesman, on DHS's efforts to eliminate human trafficking:
The Department of Homeland Security agency charged with investigating cases of modern-day slavery is enlisting the public's help to root out those involved.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement wants people to take action if they encounter possible victims of human trafficking and call its tip line anonymously at 866-347-2423 (866-DHS-2-ICE). It is part of a public service campaign called Hidden in Plain Sight, unveiled last week to draw attention to the plight of thousands of human trafficking victims in the United States.
According to the State Department, as many as 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked around the world each year, as many as 17,000 in the United States. Lured with false promises of well-paying jobs, victims are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor, or other types of work.
10 AM EST
Erroll Southers will participate in a hearing considering his nomination to be Assistant Secretary for the Transportation Security Administration before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
2 PM EST Bruce McConnell, Counselor to National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) Deputy Under Secretary Philip Reitinger, will deliver remarks about balancing privacy and civil liberties protection with effective national cybersecurity via a live webcast entitled, “A Perspective on National Strategy for Identity Management and Cyber Security.”
From CNN, on a weakened Ida:
The killing of 13 people by a Muslim psychiatrist at an American army base must not lead to the victimisation of Muslim Americans, the US secretary of homeland security has said.
On a visit to the capital, Janet Napolitano said grassroots efforts were vital to preserving relations between Muslim Americans and the wider community after Friday's shootings at Fort Hood in Texas.
"We object to, and do not believe, that anti-Muslim sentiment should emanate from this," she said. "This was an individual who does not represent the Muslim faith."
Describing the killings as "a terrible tragedy", Ms Napolitano said a civil rights and civil liberties directorate in her department aimed to "prevent everybody being painted with a broad brush"."That work is ongoing and is part and parcel of how we view security," she said. "One of the things we'll do is make sure that we're reaching out to the state and local authorities within the US, because they often have better outreach to members of the Muslim community than we do." Ms Napolitano was speaking to female students at Zayed University, and took part in a private question-and-answer session with them.
Hurricane Ida weakened to a tropical storm Monday morning as it neared the U.S. Gulf Coast, where it could come ashore in the next 24 hours.
Ida's top winds fell to 70 mph (110 kph), the National Hurricane Center said in its 10 a.m. ET update.
Coastal communities between Grand Isle, Louisiana, and the Aucilla River in Florida are under a tropical storm warning.
Ida is expected to dump up to eight inches of rain in some parts of the affected area. It will begin drenching the area hours before its expected landfall Tuesday morning.
The hurricane center also warned of "large and destructive waves" caused by the storm, as it heads northwest near 16 mph (26 kph).
From the Associated Press, on a new cutter for the Coast Guard:
The U.S. Coast Guard has taken delivery of the second in a new class of
cutters built by Northrop Grumman Corp.
The first was delivered in May 2008; the latest, Friday, at the company's
Pascagoula shipyard. Eight Legend-class cutters are planned.
Bob Merchent, Northrop's vice president of surface combatants and U.S. Coast
Guard programs, called the cutters flagships of the Coast Guard fleet.
While the Waesche is only the second in her class, Merchent said she's "far
ahead" of her predecessor, the Bertholf, in fit, finish and mission
The ship, which includes two aircraft hangars and a flight deck capable of
handling rotary wing and manned and unmanned aircraft, can accommodate a crew of up to 148.
Commissioning is planned for May.
9 AM EST
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials will conduct a demonstration of CBP’s Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator vessel
Comachee Cove Yacht Harbor
3070 Harbor Drive
10 AM CST
Science and Technology Directorate and Army Corps of Engineers officials will demonstrate the latest Portable Lightweight Ubiquitous Gasket (PLUG) concepts for closing levee breaches
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service
Hydraulic Engineering Research Unit
9501 W Lakeview Rd
Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Bart R. Johnson will deliver remarks about the homeland security intelligence role and information sharing with state, local and tribal governments through fusion centers at the National Homeland Defense Foundation’s Symposium VII
Broadmoor (Boeing Conference) Hall
Colorado Springs, Colo.
St. Augustine, Fla.
Dubbed Operation ATLAS (Assess, Target, Link, Analyze and Share), this groundbreaking investigation brought together law enforcement agencies from over 80 countries worldwide to target and disrupt cash couriers--people employed by criminal organizations to move their illicit funds across international borders.
Operation ATLAS focused on identifying these illicit cash couriers by employing several different methods to detect cash carried in baggage, on travelers and in shipments aboard commercial flights at designated airports. ATLAS also promoted the sharing of information and intelligence among customs agencies. In the United States, this operation was led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with participation from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and coordinated by the World Customs Organization.
Operation ATLAS is the latest and largest example of how increased international cooperation among law enforcement and customs agencies has resulted in the identification of new smuggling routes and methods used by criminal organizations throughout the world.
In September, ICE worked closely with law enforcement partners in Colombia and Mexico to uncover more than $41 million smuggled in shipping containers bound for Colombia. And in July, an ICE-led multilateral operation targeting cash couriers seized more than $3.5 million and detected an additional $4.2 million in undeclared currency at ports of entry around the globe.
This level of multilateral coordination is truly unprecedented and illustrates how the Department and our international allies are working together to shut down criminal organizations’ old ways of doing business.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
President Barack Obama promised "answers to every single question" about Thursday's shooting at Fort Hood after an attack by at least one U.S. service member that left 12 soldiers dead and 31 wounded.
Speaking at the Interior Department, Obama said he had already conferred with Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the attack and would continue to receive updates.
"We don't yet know all the details," Obama said. "What we do know is that a number of American soldiers have been killed and even more have been wounded in a horrific outburst of violence."
"These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to the rest of us on a daily basis," the president continued. "It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil."
U.S. Border Patrol agents netted nearly 900 pounds of marijuana during two unrelated seizures Wednesday.
The first seizure occurred just before noon when agents spotted a black 1992 Honda Accord speeding north from the Rio Grande, according to a U.S. Border Patrol statement. The agents stopped the car and found two bundles of marijuana in the passenger area. A search of the car revealed four additional bundles in the trunk. Agents arrested the driver and seized 274 pounds of marijuana.
The larger seizure took place in the late afternoon when agents saw a black 1997 Lincoln Town Car also speeding away from the Rio Grande. Agents attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver accelerated north onto Farm-to-Market Road 493 from Military Highway 281. The driver lost control of the vehicle and it came to rest in a dirt culvert. The driver ran away and evaded arrest, but a passenger was taken into custody. Authorities found eight bundles of marijuana with a total weight of 604 pounds.
The drugs from the seizures have an estimated street value of $702,400.
From the Associated Press, on possible DNA testing for immigrants:
The Obama administration is considering using DNA tests for some foreign refugee applicants following a Bush-era pilot program that found massive fraud among those claiming family links to join relatives already in the United States.
The State Department said Thursday that it and the Homeland Security Department are nearing a decision on ways to reinstate a refugee resettlement program that was suspended last year when the fraud was uncovered.
"These new procedures will likely include DNA testing," the State Department said in a statement given to the Associated Press.The U.S. experiment using genetic testing ended in 2008 and was aimed only at proving family relationships.
From the Orange County Register, on a change in ICE's policy towards illegal immigrants:
Immigration agents in charge of chasing down illegal immigrants who are avoiding deportation orders are increasingly focusing their efforts on arresting those with criminal records.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics reflect a shift in the new administration's focus compared to the last three years. For instance, three years ago only 22 percent of those arrested by fugitive operations agents in the Southern California area had criminal records. During this fiscal year, more than 50 percent of the 3,039 arrests in the same area had a criminal history
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a meeting with the European Parliament to discuss coordination to combat international crime and terrorism.
Altiiero Spinelli Building
Rue, Wiertz, 60
12 PM LOCAL
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a media availability with members of the European Parliament.
Ana Politovskaia Press Roo
2:15 PM LOCAL
Secretary Napolitano will join World Customs Organization Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya announce the results of Operation ATLAS.
World Customs Organization
Rue du Marche, 30
Whether you are boarding a flight to Des Moines, on an AMTRAK train that shares a track with freight transports, or on the road behind a truck carrying hazardous materials - TSA has a hand in making sure that you are safe along the way. (Planes, trains, and automobiles, indeed.) I suppose it goes without saying that with this level of public interaction comes with a lot of opinions. The rules for what you can and can't bring onto an airplane are complicated, and sometimes frustrating. Why in the world would a government agency tell you that you have to take your flip-flops off before going through a metal detector? Well, flip-flops can be modified to conceal a small compartment – just about any shoe can, even the slimmest stiletto. Who knew? Behind each of these rules is a lot of research, intelligence, and consideration - and that's not easy to explain at an airport checkpoint.
So, almost two years ago, TSA began an experiment, launching a blog to directly engage with the public. Today the idea might seem pedestrian, but in January of 2008 it was among the first ten government blogs in existence, and "risky" would have been an understatement in describing what TSA was proposing: an online public forum where one of the government's newest and most controversial agencies would discuss its most controversial rules and decisions and let travelers do the same. Good times.
Almost two years later, the results speak for themselves. Over one million hits to date; dozens if not hundreds of public comments and discussions on each post; and a reputation as a space where government responds quickly to public concern, and proactively addresses issues that may generate questions and confusion. Now, it goes without saying that the DHS blog would laud the efforts of one of its component blogs, right? Except today, you don't have to take our word for it.
Yesterday, Adobe and MeriTalk honored the TSA Blog with a Merit Award during a ceremony at the Ronald Reagan building here in Washington, D.C. Merit Awards "recognize excellence in innovative implementations that aim to deliver a more efficient and transparent government." The TSA Blog earned the award for "demystifying airport security processes and debunking myths by providing simple, non-bureaucratic explanations of why TSA does what it does to keep the traveling public safe."
So, big ups to our friend to Curtis "Blogger Bob" Burns and the entire team who work every day on the TSA Blog to combat misconceptions, respond to public questions and criticisms, and explain in human terms the reasons behind our security measures. From the President on down, this administration has worked since day one to make government a more transparent, open, engaging institution, a place from which the public can expect more information and answers from their elected officials and government employees. Congratulations to TSA for staying ahead of the curve on this one.
"Blogger Bob" Burns just after receiving the Merit Award.
Head over to the TSA Blog to check out some of their latest responses.
The Senate late Wednesday confirmed by voice vote Tara O'Toole as undersecretary of the Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate.
Her nomination had been held up by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., over concerns about past lobbying work. But an aide to McCain said he would allow the nomination to go forward after she responded to questions.
"Dr. O'Toole is assuming her role at a critical time, as the H1N1 flu pandemic is spreading across the nation at an alarming rate," Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman said in a statement. "Dr. O'Toole brings a remarkable breadth of experience to this job that is so crucial to our nation's security. She is an inspired choice and I congratulate her on her confirmation."
From Information Week, on IdeaFactory:
The Department of Homeland Security is latching onto one of the Transportation Security Administration's most innovative IT initiatives, a Web 2.0 crowd-sourcing portal called IdeaFactory. Like TSA, Homeland Security will use the platform to encourage its employees to come forward with new ideas on how to do things.
IdeaFactory is a custom-built, .NET Web application that lets employees submit ideas for new programs and rule changes. Other users can rate the ideas, comment on them, pick favorites, and forward them to others. When a proposal gets enough attention, it's sent to an "idea committee" that reviews it and decides what steps to take. It's essentially a digital, and transparent, ideas box.
From Homeland Security Today, on the first public meeting of the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Working Group:
The departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) hosted the first public meeting of their Long-Term Disaster Recovery Working Group Wednesday in New Orleans, La., to begin the development of a national disaster recovery framework.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, along with representatives from about 20 federal offices, joined the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the Louisiana Recovery Authority, and the City of New Orleans at the University of New Orleans to discuss 16 specific topic areas.
Questions debated by the government officials at the form ranged from the roles of federal, state and local governments in disaster recovery to unmet needs in recovery to best practices for incorporating public input into recovery efforts.
Napolitano called the public forum a useful means of strengthening the ongoing recovery of the Gulf Coast region, which is still rebuilding more than four years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
1:40 PM Local
NPPD Cyber Protection and Awareness Director of Critical Infrastructure Jenny Menna will deliver remarks about the Cyberstorm exercise at the Swedish EU- Presidency International Conference on Resilience-Resilient Electronic Communications
Folkets Hus at the Stockholm City Conference Centre
3 PM Local
NPPD United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team Acting Director Randy Vickers will deliver remarks about the Government Forum of Incidence Response and Security Teams at the Swedish EU- Presidency International Conference on Resilience-Resilient Electronic Communications
Folkets Hus at the Stockholm City Conference Centre
10 AM EST
ICE Office of Investigations Deputy Assistant Director Janice Ayala will testify about organized retail crime before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
2141 Rayburn House Office Building
2:15 PM EST
NPPD Counselor Bruce McConnell will deliver remarks about DHS’ cybersecurity initiatives at the INPUT Fed Focus Conference
Tyson’s Corner Ritz Carlton
1700 Tyson’s Blvd
2:30 PM EST
NPPD Deputy Under Secretary Philip Reitinger will deliver closing remarks about the importance of integrity, security, and reliability in software and the DHS’ perspective on software security progress at the 11th Annual Software Assurance Forum
Crystal Gateway Marriott 1700 Jefferson Davis Highway