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October 15, 2014
3:59 pm

I was extremely proud to join with my colleagues today from across the Department of Homeland Security, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as we engage many of our friends in the 2014 Public Private Partnerships Conference. We are meeting with a wide range of public and private sector partners, such as the United States Northern Command and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to discuss the significant ways we have worked together and how we plan on building on our successes to create a stronger, more resilient, Nation.

The 2014 “Building Resilience through Public-Private Partnerships” conference is a forum that allows for the sharing of ideas, best practices and lessons learned with our partners throughout academia, government, the private sector, and internationally. This year’s conference includes key speeches from Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Executive Vice-President Al Martinez-Fonts Jr., and CEO of the Weather Channel David Kenny.

The discussions over the course of the day and a half, and the relationships that will be forged and strengthened, will go a long way toward ensuring safe, secure and resilient communities where our way of life can thrive.

Over the years, as we’ve faced many challenges from natural disaster or from others who look to harm our Nation, we have found that challenges are best met and handled through partnerships across Federal, state and local governments, the private sector, and non-profit and faith-based organizations.

The 2014 conference is highlighting successful partnerships across the homeland security enterprise and identifies ways to ensure a true unity of effort toward shared goals. Each year, the conference attracts over 450 participants who look to promote innovation in furthering ongoing partnerships across the enterprise.  Just a few of the topics of discussion this year include: “The Evolving Threat Environment,” “Bridging the Cyber-Physical Connection,” “Public-Private Partnerships in Action,” and “Business Continuity and Corporate Philanthropy: Why Resilience is Good for the Corporate Will.”

For additional information, visit the 2014 Building Resilience through Public-Private Partnerships Conference page and remember to follow us on Twitter at:  #PPPConf

October 10, 2014
6:52 pm

Information technology (IT) exists in almost all of the products that we use. IT products help us run our homes, businesses, and cities and help us to stay in touch with loved ones around the world. As we embrace new technologies, we must acknowledge the security challenges and potential threats that inadvertently accompany them. An entire industry has been developed to help secure these products, including anti-virus software and malware detectors, security services firms, and offices dedicated to protecting information technology.

As software becomes more complex, discovering vulnerabilities within these systems also becomes more difficult. For example, the recent Heartbleed vulnerability existed within popular encryption software for two years before it was discovered.

Not every household or company is able to ‘employ’ cyber professionals to ensure that their IT products are secure. Therefore, during National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we are looking at the importance of securely developing IT products to decrease the number of vulnerabilities in software as it is built. This involves following a software development lifecycle and adding security features, like encrypting information and requiring strong passwords. Building software so that it is secure from the beginning helps us all.

Government and industry groups must work together in this endeavor, setting and maintaining high cybersecurity standards across all critical infrastructure industries. In this spirit, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) developed the Software Assurance Program, which seeks to reduce software vulnerabilities, minimize exploitation, and address ways to improve the routine development and deployment of trustworthy software products. Through a public-private partnership, the Software Assurance Program is designed to spearhead the development of practical guidance and tools and to promote research and development investment in cybersecurity. 

Regardless of how secure our IT products are, everyone has a role to play in protecting our cybersecurity. Individual users can and should take a few steps to improve their cybersecurity. For instance, when purchasing software or hardware, consumers should:

  • Install and maintain vendor-distributed patches or updates
  • Ensure they are using the latest operating systems on their computers and mobile devices
  • Use strong passwords

To learn more about software and applications, visit the US-CERT tips and advice page.

Secure IT products also do not excuse people from practicing unsafe online behavior. I encourage everyone to stop and think about the choices they make when online, and to connect with care and caution. For general online safety tips and resources, visit the Stop.Think.Connect.™ campaign resource guide.

I also encourage people to consider a career in cybersecurity. The country is in need of a strong cybersecurity workforce to help build the secure IT products of the future. Learn more about cyber careers at www.dhs.gov/join-dhs-cybersecurity.

To learn more about National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2014, visit www.dhs.gov/national-cyber-security-awareness-month-2014.

October 3, 2014
6:01 pm

This week marks the start of National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2014, a time to reflect on our cybersecurity practices and promote greater online safety for all Americans. Thanks to technology, the world is more interconnected than ever before. Through the Internet, people across the globe can connect to each other and conduct more of their business and personal activities online. People can bank exclusively online, stay in touch with family and friends, control their homes and cars from their smartphones, and work remotely from almost anywhere. But with the convenience of the Internet also comes potential threats to our personal information and security.

Being online exposes us to cyber criminals and others who commit identity theft, fraud, and harassment. Every time we connect to the Internet – at home, at school, at work, or on our mobile devices – we make decisions that affect our cybersecurity. Emerging cyber threats require engagement from the entire American community to create a safer cyber environment—from government and law enforcement to the private sector and, most importantly, members of the public.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month is designed to engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives with the goal of raising awareness about cybersecurity and increasing the resiliency of the nation in the event of a cyber incident. Throughout this month, DHS and its partners will host numerous events across the country and distribute of resources and materials to the public. Year-round, we also engage the public through the Stop.Think.Connect.™ campaign to encourage Americans to practice safe online behavior.  

Organizations can support National Cyber Security Awareness Month by hosting an event in their community or distributing cybersecurity tips and resources such as the Stop.Think.Connect.™ toolkit.

With a few simple steps, all Internet users can improve their cyber hygiene during October and throughout the year.  These include:

  • Set strong passwords and don’t share them with anyone.
  • Keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by installing updates.
  • Maintain an open dialogue with your family, friends, and community about Internet safety.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you post online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely.
  • Be cautious about what you receive or read online—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Stay tuned for news and events throughout National Cyber Security Awareness Month. For more information, visit http://www.dhs.gov/national-cyber-security-awareness-month-2014.

September 23, 2014
5:10 pm

Posted by: Mike Kangior, Senior Director of Resilience Policy & Matt Fuchs, Deputy Director of Resilience Policy

Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognized the nation’s first recipients of Resilience STARTM designations during a ceremony hosted by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). The Resilience STARTM Home Pilot Project is part of the Department’s continuing effort to work with our state, local, and private sector partners to ensure our local communities are resilient in the face of all disasters.  
 
Yesterday’s ceremony recognized homeowners who have met the goals of the DHS Resilience STARTM Pilot Project, which promotes home design features that are both affordable and proven to enhance resilience to disasters such as hurricanes. Earlier this year, DHS began soliciting applications from builders, homeowners, and third-party evaluators to participate in the Pilot Project. Several hurricane-prone coastal communities in Alabama and Mississippi were chosen for the projects, and the pilot homes were built or retrofitted, and evaluated by independent third parties to ensure that homes meet IBHS standards for structural resilience. 

The Resilience STARTM designation is given to homes that are built or retrofitted to withstand damage from specific natural disasters, utilizing the standards and third-party verification process in the IBHS FORTIFIED HomeTM program. The FORTIFIED standards are designed to improve the quality of residential construction and feature practical, meaningful solutions for new and existing homes throughout the United States. 

Through initiatives like the Resilience STARTM Home Pilot Project, we can continue to increase the readiness and resilience of our communities. In the coming months, it is anticipated that DHS will launch additional pilot projects.

For more information on the Resilience STAR™ Home Pilot Project, visit https://www.disastersafety.org/resilience-star/.

September 5, 2014
3:40 pm

Posted by Megan H. Mack, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Being able to communicate efficiently and effectively is critical to the Department of Homeland Security’s diverse missions. Today, I am pleased to announce the release of draft Language Access Plans from the Department’s component agencies, which address the language needs of persons with limited English proficiency.

These Language Access Plans, developed pursuant to Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency and the DHS Language Access Plan issued in February 2012, provide a framework for the Department’s components and offices to improve our delivery of language services for diverse communities across the country.

The Department is now seeking the public’s input to ensure that we are providing meaningful access to our programs and activities for our stakeholders, including persons with limited English proficiency and the organizations that represent them. Your input will assist us in continuing to develop approaches to ensure meaningful access by persons with limited English proficiency that is “practical and effective, fiscally responsible, responsive to the particular circumstances of [DHS], and can be readily implemented.”
The following components and offices have draft plans available for your comments: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Secret Service, Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office of Inspector General; National Protection and Programs Directorate, Federal Protective Services, and the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman.

DHS welcomes your feedback from now through October 31, 2014, by providing written comment or through participating in stakeholder engagement meetings. The Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, together with representatives from across the Department and the federal government, will review your comments and work to implement your suggestions in the final version of the plans.

We are proud of the work the Department has done to address the critical language needs of our country’s diverse landscape. The Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties will continue to support the Department’s goal to ensure that all individuals can meaningfully participate in DHS programs and activities through language access.

To learn more about the draft DHS Language Access Plans and to find opportunities to provide input at one of the stakeholder meetings, please contact crcloutreach@dhs.gov.  CRCL has access to interpreters and translators and can communicate with you in any language, for those who do not speak or write in English.

August 26, 2014
4:31 pm

Editors Note: This was originally posted on the U.S. Coast Guard Mid Atlantic's official blog

Posted by U.S. Coast Guard PA3 David Weydert

The Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter banked hard, flying around the last reported location of the distressed swimmer. The eyes of the helicopter crew were glued to the water, searching for any sign of splashing or movement. The crew’s newest member, Isaac Simmons started pointing and yelling over the headset.

“I see him! I see him,” shouted Simmons as he spotted the distressed swimmer.

“That’s not what we say, what do we say Isaac?” asked Petty Officer 2nd Class Roderick Ansley, the crew’s rescue swimmer.

“Oh yeah, mark, mark, mark,” exclaimed Simmons.

Ansley was cutting Simmons a little slack as Isaac Simmons is only 7-years-old. 

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Over the weekend Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to welcome the newest Coast Guard rescue member, Isaac Simmons of Archdale, North Carolina. Isaac lives with a rare heart condition called Hypo-Plastic Right Heart, but that didn’t slow him down as he lived out his dream of being part of a Coast Guard rescue helicopter crew.

“Isaac has been telling us for several years that he wants to be a rescue pilot. It’s been amazing,” said Elizabeth Simmons, Isaac’s mother. “We thought [the Coast Guard] was just going to show him around, we didn’t know he would be getting into a plane!”

Isaac’s adventure began Saturday at the air station when he met with Coast Guard helicopter pilots and crew in preparation for his flight. The rescue swimmers presented Isaac with a personalized, miniature flight suit and the safety gear he needed.

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The flight with Isaac was planned as a routine patrol down North Carolina’s Outer Banks. His flight took him over waving Coast Guard Facebook and Twitter fans who followed Isaac’s adventure throughout the day. During the flight, a sudden distress call came in reporting a troubled swimmer, played by the base’s chaplain unbeknownst to Isaac, needed an immediate rescue. The helicopter pilots diverted course to assist. Arriving on scene, Isaac spotted the chaplain and helped in deploying the crew’s rescue swimmer.   Isaac watched firsthand the coordination and teamwork needed to hoist someone aboard the helicopter. He then helped provide first-aid before landing at a local hospital, Isaac himself carefully walked the rescued chaplain down the path, guiding him to safety.

Upon his return to the air station, Isaac was greeted by a cheering crowd and the air station’s commanding officer who welcomed him back and presented him with awards and a set of naval aviator wings. 

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On day two of his adventure, Isaac toured the Aviation Technical Training Center where he learned what it takes to become an aviation crewmember. He then experienced being rescued by Coast Guard rescue swimmers, learned how the electronics worked within the helicopter with Coast Guard aircraft electricians and got into the nitty-gritty with Coast Guard aircraft mechanics. At the end of the day, Isaac was presented with three honorary degrees in the aviation fields by the school’s commanding officer.

“All this was amazing. The Coast Guard here went above and beyond everything that we thought could happen,” said Ryan Simmons, Isaac’s father. “Everybody was wonderful, and this has just been a great experience and the time of his life.”

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For more photos and captions, please visit: http://www.dvidshub.net/image/1520754/coast-guard-dream-becomes-reality-...

For a recap of the live Facebook posts, please visit: www.facebook.com/uscgmidatlantic

August 25, 2014
1:07 pm

When I became Under Secretary for Science and Technology this past spring, I was humbled and honored to be a part of such a distinguished organization as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). I was immediately impressed with the passion the S&T staff displayed in regards to the importance of our mission and how it affects the security of our nation today and in the future.

As the primary research and development arm of DHS, S&T is dreaming big – looking 20 to 30 years out, or even further, to define core “North Star” visionary goals for the future. And we need your insights – your best thinking.

Over the past several months, the S&T team has developed and refined proposed visionary goals that are based solidly on the policies and priorities of the White House, the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, and the DHS Secretary. We’ve posted these goals on the S&T Collaboration Community and invite your input.

Based on what we know of today’s homeland security environment, what do you think the future will look like in 20 to 30 years? What should S&T plan to tackle now to ensure the nation is more resilient and secure in the future?

This is what we are working with our partners across the entire homeland security mission space to define – our ultimate end state, our “North Star.” When finalized, S&T’s Visionary Goals will help lay the foundation for the creation of a new strategic plan.

We encourage you to join the discussion and:

  • Provide insights into each of the proposed visionary goals.
  • Add new visionary goals for consideration (Click on “Submit New Idea” on this page).
  • Share your ideas and perspectives and comment on others’ ideas through the comment features.

All comments provided during this comment period will be reviewed by the working group and incorporated, where possible, into the final S&T Visionary Goals – to be released in early Fall. The S&T Collaboration Community site will be open for comment through Sept. 7, 2014.

Make your voice heard – share your best thinking so together we can set a path to a stronger, safer, more resilient future.

 

August 22, 2014
11:28 am

I am pleased to report, for the fifth consecutive year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has scored an “A” rating on the Small Business Administration (SBA) Annual Small Business Procurement Scorecard.

Each year, the SBA Scorecard measures how 24 Federal agencies fare in achieving their small business contracting goals. SBA ratings are based on five categories: small businesses, women-owned business, service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, businesses in historically underutilized business zones (HUBzones), and small disadvantaged businesses. Of the seven Federal agencies that spend the most in contracting dollars, DHS is the only agency to receive a grade of “A” five years in a row.

In virtually every segment of our homeland security community, there are small businesses working to support the DHS mission and play a critical role in delivering efficient and innovative solutions to our long-and short-term acquisition needs. Small businesses play a major role in the nation’s economic recovery. DHS is pleased to suppose the President’s small business and economic agenda, further amplifying the President’s work in promoting greater business opportunities with the Federal government.

The strong SBA ratings the Department has received in the past five years are due in no small part to the hard work and dedication of the team in our Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) and the contracting professionals and small business advocates in every component. OSDBU staff continues to play a critical role opening new doors of opportunity by actively engaging small vendors throughout the country.  In a given year, they typically assist approximately 20,000 small businesses through conferences, vendor outreach sessions, meetings, phone calls, and emails. As a result of our efforts to foster open communication with industry, including small business outreach, in FY 2013 over 1,700 small businesses received their first DHS contract.

Since the Department’s creation in 2003, small businesses have been essential to our efforts to buy goods and services to help keep the country safe at the least cost to the American taxpayers. DHS looks forward to our continued partnership with SBA as we continually identify small business contracting opportunities and remain committed in our efforts to secure the nation.

For more information about DHS’s small business programs, please visit here.

July 30, 2014
5:14 pm

Posted by Maria Odom

Today, the United Nations will mark the first ever World Day Against Trafficking in Persons to raise awareness around the global issue of human trafficking and to encourage the international community to take action against this heinous crime.

Established four years ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Blue Campaign coordinates the Department’s ongoing efforts to work across our many missions to combat human trafficking. Fighting the hidden crime of human trafficking requires a collaborative effort, and the Blue Campaign works with DHS components to increase awareness, protect and support victims, investigate trafficking cases, and assist in the prosecution of traffickers. 

DHS continues to focus an unprecedented level of resources and engagement to combat human trafficking through a victim-centered approach. The Blue Campaign offers training and educational resources, raises public awareness through a multi-format media campaign, and enters into diverse partnerships to carry the message forward, improve reporting of human trafficking, and assist our efforts to protect victims and bring traffickers to justice.  

To date, more than 150,000 individuals – including government employees, law enforcement personnel, medical services providers, transportation workers, private sector employees, and many others – have been trained on the key indicators of human trafficking.

Our public awareness posters highlight examples of forced labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sex trafficking – all types of human trafficking.  They can be found at 325 truck stops nationwide and on display in 14 major airports as well as the facilities of partners such as Amtrak and Western Union. The Blue Campaign public service announcement, “Out of the Shadows,” has aired more than 8,000 times on almost 90 local television stations nationwide, and also airs continuously at Amtrak stations.

We also have developed other resources that are available to the public in a variety of languages – including human trafficking indicator cards for law enforcement and first responders to help identify potential victims, and pamphlets on human trafficking and DHS capabilities and programs—all targeted to diverse audiences.

The work of the Blue Campaign relies on strong partnerships with other federal agencies, foreign governments, international organizations, law enforcement, first responders, the faith-based community, non-profit organizations, the private sector, as well as our state, local, and tribal partners. We recognize the need to engage the issue of human trafficking at a grassroots level, and our partnerships with the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties have been a first step towards partnering with state and local governments to combat trafficking in communities across America. We continue to look for opportunities to expand our collaboration with state, local and tribal governments and the private sector to extend the reach of the Blue Campaign and its resources, and raise awareness throughout the nation.

Over the past four years, the Blue Campaign has made great progress but our work is far from over. Working with our partners we aim to increase investigations and prosecutions of human traffickers, train more law enforcement, further public awareness, and even better identify, rescue and improve services for victims. I encourage you to visit www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign to learn more, get involved, and join us in the fight against human trafficking.

July 25, 2014
5:49 pm

POSTED BY LEON RODRIGUEZ

Editors note: This blog was orginially posted by USCIS on July 25.

Hello Beacon readers! On July 9, I was sworn in as the fourth USCIS director and have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know the wonderful people who work for this remarkable organization. Of all my duties as director, I must admit that having an opportunity to participate in and administer naturalization ceremonies has been especially important to me.
 

Special naturalization ceremony held at the U.S. Department of Justice.  From left: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Leon Rodriguez, USCIS Washington District Director Sarah Taylor, Attorney General Eric Holder, Executive Office for Immigration Review Director Juan Osuna.

On July 22, I had the honor of swearing in new Americans at a naturalization ceremony hosted at the Department of Justice by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. This was my very first naturalization ceremony as USCIS director - and I can't imagine a more meaningful and moving experience as the son and grandson of immigrants who became American citizens. In fact, 50 years ago, I stood next to my parents as they took the Oath of Allegiance.
 

Director Rodriguez hands a naturalization certificate to a new American in the Great Hall at the Department of Justice

I was truly humbled to administer the Oath and congratulate 73 proud new citizens from 52 countries on their successful path to U.S. citizenship. There was an overwhelming amount of excitement and pride in the faces of those being naturalized in the Great Hall at the Department of Justice. Now I know why my predecessors said participating in naturalization ceremonies is the best part of the job. I look forward to more.

I am grateful and honored that President Obama asked me to lead the 18,000 men and women of USCIS. I believe that I was chosen for this position because of two elements of my professional background that don't typically go side-by-side. I've spent most of my career in law enforcement defending against all types of criminal justice threats. But a significant part of that background includes defending the most fundamental rights we have as Americans – our civil rights.
 

Director Rodriguez chats with his Chief of Staff Juliet K. Choi

Our mission at USCIS is to secure America's promise - to welcome those who have earned our nation's welcome, encourage them to become citizens, and guard against those who would cause us harm. My job is to make sure we apply the laws fairly and with consistency, integrity and compassion.

Over the coming months, I look forward to pursuing a dialogue with you to ensure we continue to be the best and brightest beacon for all who wish to call America their new home.

Yours truly,

Leon Rodriguez
USCIS Director

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