We promised video last week of the groundbreaking ceremony for the department's new headquarters at the St. Elizabeths Hospital campus.
The work of consolidating so many of our D.C offices will save money, improve communication and coordination, and, most importantly, foster unity and cohesion as the department matures. Check out the video below from that rainy morning.
A bipartisan task force recommended Tuesday that the Obama administration
simplify and reset the U.S. government's iconic color-coded terrorism warning
system to the lowest of three new levels, if it keeps using levels at all.
The findings, which Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said
she will share with the White House and national security officials, could lead
to substantial changes to a widely panned but politically sensitive tool created
after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to alert the nation to
Since its inception, critics inside government and out have ridiculed
the Homeland Security Advisory System -- keyed to five colors running from
green, or "low risk," to red, or "severe risk" -- for being vague and
In raising and lowering alert levels 17 times from 2002 to 2006, the
Bush administration opened itself to charges that it was manipulating the system
for political effect. Tom Ridge, President George W. Bush's first homeland
security secretary, acknowledged in a recent memoir that his personal concerns
about that possibility contributed to his decision to step down after Bush's
reelection in 2004.
In practice, the nation has never been below the third, or
middle-threat, tier -- yellow, or "elevated risk." Analysts say it is unlikely
any politician would risk lowering the level, regardless of threat intelligence,
because any unexpected attack could hand opponents a political club.
Fragos Townsend, co-chairman of the Napolitano task force and Bush's former
homeland security adviser, said the system has lost the confidence of the
From the Wall Street Journal, on the H1N1 vaccine:
The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved vaccines designed to
protect against the H1N1 influenza virus, a key step before starting a
The approval was announced by Health and Human Services Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius at a hearing that was held by the House Energy and Commerce
An FDA spokeswoman said the agency approved vaccines made by a unit of
Sanofi-Aventis SA, Novartis AG, CSL Ltd. and AstraZeneca PLC's MedImmune
MedImmune makes a vaccine in the form of mist delivered through the
nose rather than a shot.
Ms. Sebelius said a large-scale vaccination program
will begin in mid-October.
The U.S. has spent more than $1 billion to purchase and administer a
total of 195 million H1N1 vaccine doses being made by five companies, including
GlaxoSmithKline PLC. Ms. Sebelius said that the agency's officials are still
working on that application.
About 40 million to 50 million vaccine doses will be available by the
middle of next month and will be distributed to each state's health department
From the Los Angeles Times, on the new path to citizenship for members of the military:
Looking more like a student than a soldier, the young Indian in jeans and a
T-shirt snapped his heels together and stood at attention in front of an
American flag. He raised his right hand and pledged to defend the United States
against all enemies.
The enlistment ceremony earlier this month at a military center near
Los Angeles International Airport took less than five minutes. With that, he
became the 101st person in Los Angeles to join the Army under a program that
significantly increases the number of immigrants eligible to serve.
"I think I'm in seventh heaven," he said, grinning.
Until recently, the 25-year-old with a master's degree from Purdue
University in Indiana would not have been permitted to sign up. He had come to
the U.S. on a student visa, and only citizens or permanent residents who carry
green cards were eligible to join the armed forces. That changed in February
when the Army started taking applications from foreigners with specific language
and medical skills who are here on temporary visas or as refugees or asylum
Although all military branches are meeting or exceeding their recruitment
goals, they have struggled to find individuals with critical skills needed in
Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, officials said. In exchange for their service, the
foreign recruits -- who offer skills it would take years to teach -- get an
expedited path to citizenship.
6:30 PM MDT
Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks at the Domenici Legacy Conference on Public Policy
New Mexico State University
Corbett Center Ballrooms
Las Cruces, N.M.
9:30 AM LOCAL
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Preparedness Directorate Deputy Administrator Tim Manning will participate in a panel discussion about disaster management at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Third Emergency CEO’s Forum
Sofitel Plaza Hotel, 1 Thanh nien Street
10:30 AM EDT
Transportation Security Administration Public Affairs Manager Sari Koshetz will participate in a media availability to announce funding for Explosive Detection System (EDS) equipment for an in-line system
Panama City – Bay County International Airport
4424 County Road 388
2 PM EDT
Richard Serino will participate in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing for his nomination as FEMA Deputy Administrator
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
From the Federal Computer Week, on yesterday's "pen and pad" session with USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas:
Federal officials said Monday small business owners should be prepared to operate with fewer employees this fall as swine flu spreads across the country.
The Department of Homeland Security is issuing guidelines on combating swine flu to small businesses, which employ about half the workers in the U.S. private sector.
"They play a key role in protecting the health and safety of the country but also their own employees and also helping us limit impact of an H1N1 pandemic on our economy and our country," Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano told reporters.
A guidebook released by the Department of Homeland Security recommends small businesses identify their essential operations and have plans for operating with reduced staffing. The government also says businesses should consider letting employees work from home if they get sick.
Napolitano said small businesses could be particularly vulnerable to a pandemic because they often "have fewer resources, they work with leaner staffs and absenteeism can be a particular issue."
The new director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said today he wants to emphasize public engagement, transparency and information technology modernization of the immigration agency during his term.
To meet those goals, Alejandro Mayorkas said he has created a new Office of Public Engagement and is debuting a new, interactive Web site Sept. 22 that will allow for public feedback on agency policy and proposals. The updated Web site also will allow for greater ease of use and more access to information about pending requests and applications.
USCIS’ involvement with community stakeholders “should be more of a collaborative effort, engaged and interactive,” Mayorkas said. “We want to have the community involved at a level where we can understand what we are doing well -- and what we are doing wrong.”
Another high priority is moving forward on implementing the next stages of the USCIS’ information technology transformation project, which will digitize the agency’s paper-based records systems, Mayorkas said. The project was started in 2005 and is expected to cost more than $500 million.
“We are currently a paper-based agency, and we have to move into the electronic age,” Mayorkas said. “The modernization is already under way. It is of critical importance to the future of this agency, and critically important to me.”
From Xinhua News Agency, on a long overdue return home:
The U.S. government Monday returned some priceless pre-historic fossils to China as a result of two countries' cooperation on fight against transnational crimes.
At a ceremony at the Chinese Embassy, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) returned the fossils seized during routine inspections of goods coming into the country.
Deputy Chief of Mission Xie Feng of the Chinese Embassy expressed the heartfelt gratitude to the U.S. government for its efforts to return the fossils to China.
"In recent years, China and the U.S. have developed close cooperation in law enforcement and made steady progress and prominent achievements, particularly in the fields as counter-terrorism, drug enforcement as well as combating other transnational crimes," said Xie.
"Such law enforcement cooperation will benefit the safety of our countries and the protection of our people's lives and property," he said, adding that the fossils would be well placed and preserved in the Geological Museum of China for scientific research.
8:30 AM CDT
NPPD Cyber Exercises Program Director Brett Lambo will deliver remarks about current cyber threats at the Minnesota Federal Executive Board (FEB) Cyber Security Exercise
Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building
1 Federal Drive, Suite 510
Saint Paul, Minn.
9:30 AM EDT
Under Secretary for Management Elaine Duke will testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement about investment management and acquisition challenges at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
2154 Rayburn House Office Building
“Small businesses play an essential role in our national effort to prepare for all disasters and emergencies—including the H1N1 flu,” said Secretary Napolitano. “This guide will help America’s small businesses maintain continuity of operations and ensure resiliency as the fall flu season approaches.”
The guide encourages small business owners to write a plan, and to be prepared for H1N1 as we enter flu season. The guide also offers some basic "Keeping Healthy" tips for businesses and individuals.
The "How to Write Your Plan" section focuses on seven basic steps:
- Identify a Workplace Coordinator...
- Examine policies for leave, telework, and employee compensation...
- Determine who will be responsible for assisting ill individuals in the workplace...
- Identify essential employees, essential businessfunctions, and other critical inputs (e.g. rawmaterials, suppliers, subcontractor services/products,and logistics) required to maintain business operations...
- Share your pandemic plans with employees andclearly communicate expectations.
- Prepare business continuity plans...
- Establish an emergency communications plan.
“Small Business owners should take the time to create a plan, talk with their employees and make sure they are prepared for flu season,” added Administrator Mills. “For countless small businesses, having even one or two employees out for a few days has the potential to negatively impact operations and their bottom line. A thoughtful plan will help keep employees and their families healthy, as well as protect small businesses and local economies.”
You can check out the preparedness guide at flu.gov.
The Transportation Security Administration has been testing technology that will allow X-ray machines to detect whether a liquid is a threat or not, and once deployed, restrictions on liquids in carry-on baggage could be dropped.
Last October, Kip Hawley, the TSA administrator in the previous administration, had said he thought that would happen in 2009. But now TSA says you'll likely have to keep putting 3.4 ounce bottles in quart-sized bags at least for another year.
"Aggressive testing continues with industry and at the national labs in working towards a solution," TSA spokeswoman Sterling Payne says. One issue: TSA says it anticipates having contracts in place by the end of fiscal year 2010 to purchase enough upgraded machines to cover every federalized airport in the U.S.
That means Sept. 30, 2010.
One new technology that is being rolled out is a test for powders to determine if a particular powder could be used in an explosive. TSA X-ray machines can now, apparently, flag powders for secondary screening while distinguishing common powders, which are all permitted.
"Officers will use X-ray technology to determine which substances may require additional screening'' with a powder test kit, Ms. Payne says. For security reasons, she declined to say how that happens.
From the Associated Press, on a year after Hurricane Ike:
Anne Willis, a lifelong resident of Bolivar Peninsula, moved back to her hometown of Crystal Beach nearly three months after Hurricane Ike.
The storm had shattered homes, leaving only concrete slabs and splintered wooden beams. Electricity had just returned, but at night it was so dark that paper bags floating in the sea breezes resembled ghosts. Services at one church were held for six months under a white tent along a highway.
"There were only 100 people here. Our grocery store had been reopened in an RV," said Willis, a real estate agent. "I thought it was terrible. How are we going to get through this?"
But a year after the devastation, Willis and other southeast Texas residents are surprised and grateful for the progress they've made in coming back from Ike, the costliest natural disaster in Texas history. Ike's powerful storm surge, as high as 20 feet, and its 110 mph winds caused more than $29 billion in damage, destroying thousands of homes and fouling farmland and ranches with saltwater from the Gulf Coast through Houston, 50 miles inland.
Ike made landfall near the island city of Galveston in the early morning hours of Sept. 13, 2008. While power outages temporarily crippled Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city and the center of the U.S. energy industry, it wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast.
From the San Diego Union Tribune, on increased inspections at the southwest border:
Stepped-up inspections of vehicles heading to Mexico from the United States have yielded more than $40 million in seizures of bulk cash since April, Assistant Homeland Security Secretary Alan Bersin told reporters yesterday.
The searches were ordered border-wide by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to cut down on weapons and large sums of cash smuggled from the United States to Mexico to support activities of drug cartels.
Bersin met with reporters before addressing the Institute of the Americas at UC San Diego. During his talk, Bersin touched on a broad range of subjects relevant to the U.S.-Mexico relationship, including immigration reform, drug cartels and travel safety in Mexico.
1:15 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano, Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Influenza Division Deputy Director Dr. Daniel Jernigan will participate in a conference call to discuss a new flu guide issued to small businesses on decreasing exposure to regular seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 flu
9:30 AM EDT
National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) Office of Infrastructure Protection Sector-Specific Agency Executive Management Office Director Craig Conklin will testify at a field hearing before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology about federal and local efforts to secure radiological sourcesThe State University of New York (SUNY)
Downstate Alumni Auditorium
395 Lenox Road
10 AM EDT
NPPD Deputy Under Secretary Phil Reitinger and U.S. Secret Service Office of Investigations Assistant Director Mike Merritt will testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs about protecting industry against the growing threat of cyber attacks
324 Dirksen Senate Office Building
1 PM CDT
NPPD Infrastructure Visualization Branch Chief Mike Clements, will deliver remarks at the GIS for Oil and Gas Conference 2009
Marriott Westchase Hotel
2900 Briarpark Drive
3 PM CDT
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Assistant Commissioner of International Affairs Allen Gina will participate in a signing ceremony with Chinese Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Xie Feng to repatriate pre-historic fossils back to China.
3505 International Place NW
“Since 9/11, we have helped more than 52,000 courageous soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors gain the benefits and rewards of U.S. citizenship,” said Secretary Napolitano. “I am proud to swear in these brave men and women who have come from all over the world to serve our country and become its newest citizens.”
"I thank you for defending the people of the United States, your people, and the self-evident truths they hold so dear."
We'll have video soon.
From the Washington Post, on an interview with the Secretary:
On the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, here's what keeps the secretary of homeland security up at night:
"Complacency," Janet Napolitano says without missing a beat. "The fact that it has been eight years since 9/11, and people just assume the government is going to take care of that. . . . Safety, security is a shared responsibility. It doesn't take much for everybody just to take a deep breath and say, 'Okay, what would I need to do to be prepared?' "
Emergency preparedness is just a sliver of Napolitano's vast portfolio, which covers issues from counterterrorism to swine flu to cybersecurity. The former Arizona governor oversees a relatively new agency that is still ironing out some kinks, and she must also face more than 100 congressional committees that oversee various parts of her operation.
From CNN, on yesterday's groundbreaking at St. Elizabeths:
Washington notables broke ground on the future home of the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, symbolically starting construction on the biggest federal building project in the Washington area since the Pentagon 68 years ago.
The project will bring together more than 15,000 employees now scattered in 35 offices in the region, placing them on a 176-acre campus strewn with historic buildings in a long-neglected corner of Washington, five miles from the Capitol building.
Department leaders hope the $3.4 billion consolidation will help the department fulfill its core mission -- protecting the homeland -- in ways big and small.
"It will help us hold meetings," Secretary Janet Napolitano said. "It will help us build that culture of 'One DHS.'"
At the groundbreaking, political leaders shoveled dirt with care, but pitched historical references and metaphors with abandon.
From the Jacksonville Daily News, on today's naturalization service at the Pentagon:
Two Camp Lejeune Marines will be participating in a naturalization ceremony Thursday at the Pentagon.
Sgt. Tikonblah Dargbeh, with Headquarters Company, 2nd Marine Regiment and 2nd Marine Division, and Cpl. Elizabeth Covarrubias-Ruiz, with Headquarters Support Battalion, Installation Personnel Administration Center, will become citizens during the ceremony.
Both Marines have deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Dargbeh received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained while in Iraq.
The all-service naturalization ceremony is scheduled for 2 p.m. and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will preside over the ceremony, according to a press release from Camp Lejeune.
2 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano, Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas will participate in a naturalization ceremony for 31 military service members
8:30 AM EDT
Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan will deliver remarks about the Privacy Office’s accomplishments to the Federal Advisory Committee Act Data Privacy Committee at its quarterly public meeting
Marriott Detroit at the Renaissance Center
9 AM EDT
ICE Special Advisor on Detention & Removal Dr. Dora Schriro will be participating in a panel discussion at the Migration Policy Institute on the MPI report being released tomorrow critiquing ICE’s detention database and case tracking system.
1400 16th Street, NW., Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
9:10 AM EDT
Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications Gregory Schaffer will participate in a panel discussion about securing systems and networks at the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) 2009 Homeland Security Symposium and Exhibition
Arlington Crystal Gateway Marriott
1700 Jefferson Davis Hwy
10:30 AM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Assistant Commandant for Acquisition Admiral Ronald Rabago will participate in a roundtable discussion about current and upcoming Acquisition Directorate projects
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
2100 2nd Street SW
1 PM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Captain Frederick Sommer, Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, will participate in a satellite press teleconference of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Task Force to discuss findings from a 41-day mission in the Arctic Ocean. Scientists on board Healy have been collaborating with Canadian counterparts aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent since August 7 as part of a joint effort to delineate the outer edge of the North American continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean.
1:10 PM EDT
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Acting Administrator Gale Rossides will deliver opening remarks at the Aviation Security Advisory Council (ASAC) Meeting.
Doubletree Hotel, Crystal City
300 Army Navy Drive
1:30 PM EDT
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection Maj. Gen. James L. Snyder will participate in a panel discussion about stimulus investments and critical infrastructure resiliency at the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) 2009 Homeland Security Symposium and Exhibition
Arlington Crystal Gateway Marriott
1700 Jefferson Davis Hwy
3:10 PM EDT
Bruce McConnell, Counselor to NPPD Deputy Under Secretary Phil Reitinger, will moderate a cyber security panel discussion at the Gov. 2.0 Conference
Grand Hyatt Hotel
1000 H Street NorthwestWashington, D.C.
The move to St. Elizabeths will mark a new chapter for the department, as we begin the process of consolidating many of our offices around the city into the new headquarters. The Secretary spoke at the event, emphasizing the importance of departmental unity and the economic benefit to the area that will result from the new headquarters:
“The Department of Homeland Security continues to unify our many components into one cohesive agency with a shared central mission,” said Secretary Napolitano. “The construction of our new headquarters at St. Elizabeths using Recovery Act funding will help consolidate more than 35 offices in the Washington area while creating thousands of local jobs.”Senator Lieberman spoke as well, noting that the new headquarters is the largest building project in the Washington metro area since the Pentagon. That groundbreaking was held 68 years ago this week, on September 11th, 1941, and 60 years to the day before the 9/11 attacks. It was that same day in 1941 that President Roosevelt spoke to the American people during one of his fireside chats, saying, "When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike you, do not wait until he has struck." Senator Lieberman talked about the creation of the deparment after the 9/11 attacks, and how our foundation, and our continuing mission, fall in line with President Roosevelt's message to the American people that evening.
We'll have video from the event soon.
TSA said it will begin using powder explosives detection kits at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and other airports around the country this week, following a pilot test of the kits in late 2008 at airports in Los Angeles, New York, Detroit and Washington, D.C. At about $145 each, the 1,250 kits distributed nationwide cost close to $185,000.
Typical security checkpoint procedures will not change, the agency said. Security screeners will use X-rays to determine which substances need additional screening.
When substances are selected for additional screening, security officers will use a powder test kit to collect a sample and apply a solution to test for potential explosives. Powders that are "determined to be a potential threat" will not be permitted past checkpoints or in checked baggage, according to TSA.
Common powders are not prohibited and the vast majority of commonly carried powders, like most medication, infant formula and makeup, are unlikely to need further screening, TSA said.
From Associated Press, on the new Girl Scout Preparedness Patch:
It's not just the Boy Scouts who need to "Be Prepared."
To reinforce a motto shared with the Girl Scouts, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Girls Scouts CEO Kathy Cloninger announced a new emergency preparedness patch to encourage girls to prepare for emergencies.
"We've been talking the past eight months now that I've been in the department about the need to get more individuals involved and also to get young people used to the idea of emergency preparedness," Napolitano, a former scout, said at Scotchtown Hills Elementary School in Laurel.
The event in suburban Washington coincided with President Barack Obama's speech to students at an Arlington, Va., high school about taking responsibility to be good students.
To earn the patch, girls will have to create an emergency preparedness plan for their families. They also will learn about local alerts and warning systems and get involved in community service. Planning for natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes
will be part of the exercise, as well as other emergencies.
"It covers the full scope of emergency preparedness," said Brigid Howe, program services manager for the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital.
The program was developed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Girl Scouts also announced a new affiliation with DHS Citizen Corps, a part of FEMA that brings government and community leaders together to get residents involved
in emergency planning.
10 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano, General Services Administration (GSA) Acting Administrator Paul Prouty, U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty and Councilman Marion Barry will participate in a ceremonial groundbreaking to commence consolidation of a new unified DHS headquarters
St. Elizabeths Campus
2700 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave SE
9:30 AM EDT
National Programs and Protection Directorate (NPPD) Under Secretary Rand Beers will deliver remarks at the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness Conference
Hyatt Regency Jersey City on the Hudson, Manhattan Room
2 Exchange Place
Jersey City, N.J.
11 AM EDT
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Director Colleen Manaher will participate in a panel discussion about U.S. land border management at the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) 2009 Homeland Security Symposium and Exhibition
Crystal Gateway Marriott
1700 Jefferson Davis Hwy
1 PM EDT
Private Sector Office Acting Assistant Secretary Bridger McGaw will testify before the House Committee on Small Business about the fall 2009 H1N1 flu season and its potential impact on small businesses
2360 Rayburn House Office Building
- Identifying and preparing for potential emergencies
- Learning about local alerts and warning systems
- Engaging in community service
The Secretary remarked:
“This new preparedness patch will increase citizen preparedness and enhance our country’s readiness for disasters,” said Secretary Napolitano. “As a former Girl Scout, I know the ‘Be Prepared’ motto well—and I look forward to working with the Girl Scouts to spread the preparedness message to all of our nation’s citizens.”
The Secretary also took the opportunity to announce a new partnership between the department's Citizen Corps and the Girl Scouts to advance community preparedness nationwide. The two organizations will work together to encourage young women to become community leaders in emergency management and response fields and to raise public awareness about personal preparedness, training and community service opportunities.
The Secretary also participated in President Obama’s My Education, My Future initiative while at the school, by visiting students and listening to the President’s remarks encouraging them to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their education.