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.
Agencies across the federal government on Tuesday will start ordering contractors to use an electronic system to verify whether their employees are eligible to work in the U.S.
The sweeping new mandate, crafted by the Bush White House but being implemented by the Obama administration, represents a significant expansion for the so-called E-Verify system, which government officials and independent experts expect to eventually become mandatory for private employers. Already, some states require companies operating within their borders to use it, regardless of whether the companies have government contracts.
About 169,000 federal contractors and subcontractors, who employ roughly 3.8 million workers, will eventually be covered by the program taking effect Tuesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams Jr. rejected an 11th-hour-effort late Friday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to delay the mandate while a federal appeal is pending. Upset about the liability the mandate puts on employers, the groups suing argue it is illegal for the government to extend E-Verify to contractors through an executive order.
The Chamber argues that given the state of the economy, this isn't the time to add more costs to U.S. businesses.
From the Dayton Daily News, on a new baggage screening system for the Dayton International Airport:
A $10 million federal grant from economic stimulus funds will allow Dayton International Airport to install a new baggage screening system and move the current machines out of the terminal lobby to make more room for travelers, airport officials said Friday, Sept. 4.
The city is soliciting bids from contractors to build an expansion of the airport's terminal building and install the new system there. It will use conveyors to transport baggage from airline ticket counters to another part of the building for screening.
Airport officials expect the contractor to start work in early January and have the system ready to operate in late December .
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will provide the funding. The government additionally is to provide screening equipment with an estimated value of $5 million, said Iftikhar Ahmad, Dayton's director of aviation.
From the Clayton News Daily, on the Beagle Brigade:
The wet nose of a beagle named Button recently led a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialist canine enforcement officer to a suitcase at the world's busiest airport.
Button sat down next to the suitcase and indicated to her handler that the luggage contained prohibited agricultural items.
"Show it to me," the handler commanded.
Button obeyed the command by placing her furry paw on the suitcase and barked and wagged her tail while waiting to be rewarded with a treat. The demonstration was part of a recent training exercise at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Button is part of the Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Canine Program and the Plant Protection and Quarantine program of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She belongs to one of numerous teams that work on concourse E, also known as the international terminal, at Hartsfield-Jackson.
"The CBP (Customs and Border Protection) Agriculture Canine Program utilizes detector dogs to locate fruits, vegetables, meats or other prohibited items that may carry pests or diseases that could harm U.S. agricultural resources," said Scott Sams, a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection at Hartsfield-Jackson. "The CBP Agricultural Specialist Canine teams seize thousands of types of prohibited plant material and animal products every year. Agriculture specialists in the canine program are an integral part in the fulfillment of the CBP mission to protect American agriculture."
12:30 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano, Laurel, Md., Mayor Craig Moe and Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Kathy Cloninger will launch a Girl Scout preparedness patch, announce a new partnership and participate in a media availability
Scotchtown Hills Elementary
15950 Dorset Rd.
9 AM CDT
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Tribal Liaison Steve Golubic will participate in the Tribal Assistance Coordination Group presentation and tabletop exercise
at the National Native American Law Enforcement Association 17th Annual Conference
Tulsa Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
777 West Cherokee Street
The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review is in the midst of its second National Dialogue. For those of you who haven’t been following too closely, the review is a congressionally mandated, top-to-bottom review of homeland security. There are six study groups, focusing on:
- Counterterrorism and Domestic Security Management
- Securing Our Borders
- Smart and Tough Enforcement of Immigration Laws
- Preparing for, Responding to, and Recovering from Disasters
- Homeland Security National Risk Assessment
- Homeland Security Planning and Capabilities
We are using online dialogues to allow stakeholders the opportunity to inform the work of our study groups.
During the first dialogue, more than 8,000 stakeholders rated and commented on proposed visions and goals from the study groups. We reviewed all rating data and comments submitted and forwarded to study groups – overall, we were very impressed with the quality and thoughtfulness of what we heard from you during the first dialogue.
For example, we received many recommendations on how to improve content, like simpler and more direct language. Stakeholders pointed out the critical interdependencies and emerging overlaps between study groups, and reinforced the need to stress mitigation as having a complementary role with preparedness, response, and recovery. Participants also stressed the need for ‘resiliency’ in the entire QHSR strategy, and the use of standard terminology.
We heard you – we relied on your feedback to modify our proposals and to enhance the user experience for the second national dialogue, which began on August 31st. During the second dialogue, we are asking stakeholders to rank proposed objectives and offer suggestions on how to achieve them.
Due to the upcoming Labor Day Weekend Holiday, we have extended the Second National Dialogue to Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2009. We’re eager to hear your input.
Join the conversation at http://www.homelandsecuritydialogue.org/
Alan D. Cohn is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy (Strategic Plans)