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Homeland Security

Department of Homeland Security Efficiency Review Launch

Release Date: 
March 30, 2009

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010
Arlington, Va. 

Marianne Linger: Good morning, and welcome. My name is Marianne Linger and I'm a member of the Efficiency Review team and a TSA employee. It's my honor and privilege this morning to introduce Gale Rossides, the acting administrator of TSA. Gale's leadership and vision have brought lasting and meaningful changes throughout TSA and throughout the department. Please welcome in joining—please join me in welcoming Gail Rossides.

Gale Rossides: Thank you. Thank you, Marianne. I'd like to welcome Secretary Napolitano and all of the leadership that is here from the Department and across the components for coming out this morning. And I would like to give you a great big welcome to TSA's transportation systems integration facility, which we call TSIF. And the beauty of this facility—it is 128,000 square feet —it was created to ensure that our personnel, our processes, and our enhanced technologies are all integrated and work as designed before we deploy them in the nation's airports.

We've taken this old mail handling building, which was leased from the U.S. Postal Service, and are installing a full-sized mockup of our passenger, cargo, and baggage screening systems. In addition to these testing capabilities, the space can hold up to 140 TSA employees who work on the various technology projects. Fifty employees have currently moved in, as we've just opened it, and having the employees and the testing facility co-located in this building will save TSA approximately $750,000 annually, and much more over time as we learn how to deploy and integrate these technologies.

This facility literally exemplifies the innovation which is the core of TSA, and it is the drive behind our evolving security strategies which enhance the experiences for the traveling public. So it is a great honor to have you here this morning, and I would love to introduce our Secretary, Janet Napolitano.

Secretary Napolitano: Thank you. Good morning. We're here to discuss this great TSA project, but also the department-wide Efficiency Review initiative, which is designed to make sure that we get the highest and best use out of the precious taxpayer dollars that we have. And since we're such a large department and we're spread out over so many places and we're such a new department, there are lots of things that we can do to make sure that we run a very, very tight ship from a management perspective.

Before I go into that, however, I do want to pause and give you an update. In our department, because we have a very broad mission in Department of Homeland Security, we also cover natural disasters that may be occurring across the United States. And as you may or may not know, but there's extensive flooding occurring in the upper Midwest, in North Dakota and Minnesota in the Red River area. And it is flooding of a historic nature. The water is projected to crest tomorrow evening at a level higher than ever before. Indeed, the last highest flood was in 1897. This will way surpass that. There was a major flood there in 1997 that crested at around 42 feet. This will surpass that.

So our fellow DHS employees at FEMA [U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency] are on the ground assisting the officials in Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota across the river. Fargo, of course, is making the decision now, this morning, as to whether they will need to undertake a mandatory evacuation of a great part of, or all of, the city of Fargo because of the extent of the flooding. So, we are on the ground. We are providing assistance.

The Coast Guard has been there all this week. Currently, on the Coast Guard, we have 70 rescues that are attributable to our Coast Guard colleagues. We have six helicopters in play up there. We have nine airboats already up there; by tomorrow, there will be nine more airboats in that area. And we're using a C-130 to help bring in more assets for this flood. So we've already positioned 16 large truckloads of food for shelters in case we have to shelter 25,000-30,000 of the 100,000 inhabitants of the Fargo area. We have 97 truckloads of food and water, supplies for shelter, on their way to Fargo as we speak right now.

So I just wanted to give you an update on that, that we don't control rivers and we don't control how rivers rise and we don't control the weather, nor indeed how the weather is forecasted. But we are doing is working with the cities and states of Minnesota and North Dakota to prepare for the cresting and to prepare for the flooding that may occur. And by the way, when the cresting occurs, it's projected that will take place not just in a short period of time, but that the water will be that high from between three to seven days. So we're looking at a fairly long-term flood in that area.

But I've talked to both governors. I talked to the mayor of Fargo last night. Talked to their congressional delegation. And everything that can be done is being done. So that's just that report. And obviously that is top priority right now, not only for me, but the President has also been briefed on the situation.

But in our department, we multitask, you know. And as we deal with that flood, there's a volcano erupting in Alaska right now. They had to shut the airport in Anchorage yesterday because of the ash. That seems to be under control. We don't control volcanoes, either, by the way. I thought I would mention that.

But you know what? We do control how we operate, and we do control how we manage our money, and we do control how we manage our systems. And the challenge for us is how to do it most efficiently. And that's why, when I became the Secretary, I sent out the Efficiency Review directive to increase efficiency within our department. That's why the President has directed that the departments of the federal government, in all of our myriad forms, increase efficiency and increase our transparency of operations. It's not just about cost savings. It's really about how we use our time and our dollars most effectively to achieve the critical missions that we have. And if any part of Homeland Security has a critical mission, it is the TSA. Let us never forget that this department exists because airplanes were used as weapons to attack us on 9/11. And what we're talking about today are screening devices and the process by which we screen to prevent that from ever, ever happening again.

So what we are doing now in this facility, as Gale said—and I want to thank Gale, by the way, for her leadership as the acting administrator. She's been a terrific person to work with, and I'm really, really quite grateful. Where is Gale? Good job. Thank you so much.

What we have here is a facility in which we can combine our testing of new explosives-screening equipment. It is being funded out of the Recovery Act. And we can test this and use all different kinds of testing configurations before sending this state-of-the-art screening equipment out to airports around the country. By doing this in this fashion, we streamline the procurement process, and we standardize how equipment is tested. The alternative is case-by-case, airport-by-airport, at greater expense and less consistency.

Now, as many of you know, in February I issued an action directive tasking all DHS components and offices to identify current and past efforts to improve efficiency. To coordinate that effort, I established a steering committee with representatives from all of our components along with a full-time Efficiency Review Team composed of department veterans. Why department veterans? Because my experience is that folks who work in agencies, in departments, often are the ones that have the best ideas and the most intimate knowledge of what can be done to save money and still get the same job done.

So we have now identified through this team over 700 initiatives and components and offices throughout the department that will increase efficiency and save taxpayer dollars. For example, the Science and Technology Directorate has partnered with the Secret Service to digitize over 9,000 ink samples used to analyze evidence in investigations of financial and other crimes. This searchable database has improved matching times from days to minutes.

The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center recently won a nationwide competition for the impressive reforms it has made at its mail processing center. They cut the average cost of mail from over $18 to just under $7, resulting in over $460,000 in savings within a single quarter. Customs and Border Protection, CBP, started an initiative to convert its leave and earning statements from paper to online. This change by itself is expected to save a quarter of a million dollars annually. So that's just to give you a flavor. And you know, when you do all those things and you begin adding them up, we're saving the taxpayers of this country millions and millions and millions of dollars.

Now we want to go and do even more. So we developed a specific action plan to implement many of the strategies that have worked in one component or one agency, to implement those across the entire Department of Homeland Security. Today we are going to begin sharing aspects of that plan. They will begin these department-wide initiatives over the next 30, 60, 90, or 120 days, and they are divided into six categories: acquisition management, how we acquire goods and services; asset management, how we manage the assets that we have; property management, how to manage federal property; employee vetting and credentialing, how we screen employees; hiring and on-boarding, our process for hiring new employees; and information technology, managing computers and our IT systems. Some of these improvements will be immediate. Others are more complicated and will take longer to implement.

It's important to understand, everybody, that the efficiency review encompasses both simple commonsense reforms, whose benefits will be clear very quickly, and it encompasses longer-term systemic changes that will, over time, make DHS a leaner, smarter agency, even better equipped to protect the nation.

So let's go through some of the six items I just described. Acquisition management: In the next 30 days, we're going to change how we buy office supplies across the department. This may sound like a small matter, but consider this. In fiscal '07, we spent $100 million on office supplies, and only six percent of those purchases were as part of a DHS-wide purchase agreement. In other words, 94 percent of the time our agencies did not leverage our collective buying power to negotiate a better deal with suppliers. That is going to change because we're going to leverage our buying power, increase our usage of agreements, and we can realize a potential cost savings in the range of $35-52 million.

Within the next 30 days, we're also going to take immediate action to save costs in other areas. We will eliminate non-mission-critical travel for employees, and maximize the use of the conference calls and web-based trainings and meetings. We will reduce subscriptions to professional publications and newspapers to lower costs and avoid duplication. And we will eliminate the printing and distribution of all reports and documents that can be sent electronically or posted online.

In the next 90 days, we'll begin procuring multi-purpose office equipment, such as combined copier, printer, fax, and scanner machines that are all in one unit. This will save space and reduce service costs. Volume discount pricing might also provide a cost savings of as much as $10 million over the next five years.

The second category, asset management: Within the next 60 days, we will substantially improve how would track and monitor fuel usage across the department. By implementing a new electronic tracking system, we will identify opportunities to increase our alternative fuel usage, guard against waste, fraud, and abuse, and optimize how we manage our vehicle fleet.

Moreover, over the next 120 days, we will begin the process of acquiring hybrid vehicles across the department for administrative use. Where hybrid vehicles aren't feasible, we will switch to alternative fuel vehicles. As a result of this change, we expect a 30 percent increase in fuel efficiency in large vehicles and even greater efficiency in smaller vehicles.

Third category, employee vetting and credentialing: Within the next 60 days, we're going to develop a process for obtaining preliminary security background data for candidates referred for final consideration in the hiring process. Now, as we know, every DHS employee must undergo a background check. However, too often we have discovered these checks are conducted on people who have clear disqualifying factors that will prevent them from being hired. Nonetheless, the hiring process continues, and it wastes money, up to $5,500 per background check for a top secret clearance. And by the way, it also creates unnecessary backlogs. In the future, we are going to make it easier to identify potential disqualifying factors early on in the process. This will reduce the number of overall background checks and the time it takes to bring cleared personnel on board.

Next, IT acquisition management: Within the next 60 days, we're going to improve how we acquire new software licenses for the department's computers and IT systems. Right now, our components purchase computer software and negotiate contracts independently. Makes no sense. By using strategic sourcing—in other words, buying these licenses as one department—we expect to save over $47 million per year and $283 million over the next six years by focusing on a single software company's licenses.

Management of real property: We are a large department. We're the third largest department in the federal government, which means we have lots of real estate and facilities, and therefore a lot of overhead and energy costs. A major priority for this administration is moving to a clean energy economy and renewable sources of energy. Over the next 120 days, we are going to identify and begin implementing energy efficiencies at our offices across the country. We're moving to a renewable energy technology, and we are moving to conserving energy. We have set a goal of savings of at least $3 million per year.

Next, on-boarding, on-boarding new employees: Within the next 120 days, we will also initiate a process to improve new employee orientation and annual mandatory training. Now, to be sure, orientation and training are a critical part of maintaining and expanding professionalism within the department. But right now there's too much duplication and not enough consistency from one agency to the next. We want to streamline this process for new employees, and for all employees, actually. To this end, we are going to consolidate our new employee orientations and our annual mandatory training modules. This will eliminate duplicate course offerings and standardize the content of our orientation and mandatory training curriculum.

Now, last, beyond these initiatives, another priority for me is to create a common DHS culture to build unity across the department. That's why you may have noticed that many of these initiatives now say we need to do things as an entire department, not component-by-component-by-component. So today, we know that we will be assisted by having a consolidated headquarters. And the Recovery Act that the Congress just passed contains $650 million to renovate the St. E's [St. Elizabeth’s Hospital] facility. That, in a few years, will be our consolidated headquarters.

By the way, in doing that, we anticipate we will create 33,000 jobs for the District, in the District of Columbia, in an area that sorely needs work and sorely needs development. So there will be a synergy between what we need, which is a consolidated headquarters, and a stimulus that creates jobs and gets money flowing through the economy. So this is a win-win for everybody.

But in addition to that, in our effort to create one DHS, we're also taking action to reduce unnecessary costs associated with the department's branding because we all have noticed that across the Department, we have a lot of different seals and logos. And I don't know whether you know this or not, but since it was created, the department has spent $3 million on different logo and seal design, branding.

That is ending today. I'm announcing our new seal.

Look familiar? It's our seal, our existing seal. Beginning today, we are enacting a moratorium on all external contracts for the design and production of new seals and logos. Now, let me be clear. Many DHS components have long histories that are linked to your seals. We're proud of this heritage, and thankful for that service. But we are also stewards of taxpayer dollars, and we're not spending any more money to develop any new logos for the future. We are one DHS. And by doing that, we're going to save the taxpayers at least $3 million. No more branding contracts.

So thank you. We will keep everybody updated on our progress. We will announce initiatives in the future. And I want to just pause a moment and thank the employees, all the employees of the Department of Homeland Security, for helping us to get this far so quickly, providing ideas and suggestions. The result is, I believe, a stronger, more efficient department for years to come. And my goal is that our department becomes the leader and it becomes the touchstone that other departments have to try to match.

So we're laying the gauntlet down right now because I think on these initiatives, we can do a lot, and we can do it in a way that allows and facilitates us in the carrying out of the fundamental mission that we have throughout the Department of Homeland Security, and that is to protect the safety and security of the American people. Thank you all very much.

Ms. Rossides: As I mentioned earlier, bringing in our DHS and D.C. employees, if you'd like to take a tour of the facility, please meet me over here.

Question: [Inaudible]

Secretary Napolitano: Because REAL ID was enacted without adequate consultation of governors, who really have the responsibility for the administrative part of driver's licenses in a state. And there was no money put behind it, and the way it was constructed, it was enormously expensive. So it was a huge unfunded mandate at exactly the wrong time. So we've gone back to the drawing board on that, and hopefully very shortly we'll announce some things that we've agreed on with the National Governors Association about what should be done vis-à-vis driver's licenses.

Question: But enhanced driver's licenses is not REAL ID. It's what some of the states are doing.

Secretary Napolitano: You know, I think, though, Tom, I think because of REAL ID being out there, there was just a lot of uncertainty about what to do and how to do it. And quite frankly, given what happened with the economy, that has been the focus. And so the issue about ID has been put on the back burner.

Question: Madam Secretary, there was a report this week about how some citizens in Virginia are worried about possible detainees, Guantanamo Bay detainees, coming to their area. I'm just wondering if you have any words of comfort or if you think that's something that they should be worrying about.

Secretary Napolitano: Well, all I'll say about that now is that the review process is underway, led by the Attorney General [Eric Holder]. The Department of Homeland Security is part of that review process. But beyond that, I don't think it's appropriate to comment.

Question: Won't the Department of Homeland Security, though, be involved in efforts should any detainees come to the U.S.? Wouldn't the Department of Homeland –

Secretary Napolitano: It may be. That's why we're at the table on the review process now. But again, I don't think it's appropriate to comment further right now. The review is still ongoing.

Question: Madam Secretary – Madam Secretary, let's talk about the program 287-G. You're evaluating that. If it is proven that the efficiency of that program is not the right one, what will be the next steps?

Secretary Napolitano: Well, I think one of the things we want to do is make sure that program is accountable. We've already noticed that there are no measures for that program in terms of whether it's actually producing a good law enforcement result for the monies expended or not. So we're reviewing that right now. But again, I think we'll be announcing some things on that very shortly.

Moderator: One more question is all we have time for.

Question: I just want to ask you a question. I understand there's some new information about activity on al-Qaeda. What information do you have that might show any new attacks being planned for the United States?

Secretary Napolitano: I'm not going to comment on any of that. You know, we act all the time, the Department of Homeland Security and the President and everybody in this country, on prevention and preparation all the time. Beyond that, it would be inappropriate to comment on other information.

Question: With the floods happening right now, how much of an issue is it that we don't have –

Secretary Napolitano: Say again, please?

Question: With the floods happening now out in Fargo, how much of an issue is it that you don't have a FEMA head already gone through the congressional process and in place? Is that an issue, or do you feel that you're –

Secretary Napolitano: Well, you know, it is the reality there's a nominee, and hopefully he will get a Senate hearing shortly. He's highly experienced in hurricane and flood management and all the rest. The acting administrator of FEMA, however, Nancy Ward, is highly experienced herself. She's a career FEMA. She was the head of Region 9 and very, very good. She's in Fargo as we speak. She flew in this morning, so she'll be on the ground there. And then I've been spending a fair amount of time just monitoring the situation and making sure that whatever assistance, backup assistance—and again, the state and locals have the lead here—but backup assistance they need by way of shelters, equipment, those sorts of things, that I'm there to back them up and we get things moving very quickly. And indeed, the disaster declaration for North Dakota, I think we moved it through here in about two hours.

Moderator: Okay. Thank you all very much.

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