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Homeland Security

Remarks by Secretary Napolitano at the Aspen Institute

Release Date: 
June 4, 2009

Washington, D.C.
Aspen Institute

Secretary Napolitano: Thank you. Thank you, Walter. Thank you, Clark. Thanks to the Aspen Institute. It's great to be here. What I thought I would do is line out where we are with the Department on my template for the organization of the Department; and, then, of course, I think we're really interested in its questions and the dialog that we will have.

When I agreed to become the Secretary of Homeland Security there were a lot of people who said congratulations, but—and the “but” was—how do you manage this department? It was created in the wake of 9/11. It was an amalgam of 22 agencies. It's 208,000 employees, and how do you manage in the sense the management. And the answer is that you take a look at the Department.

You look at the work already that had been done; and, let me just pause for a moment and say that I think Tom Ridge and Mike Chertoff did a very, very good job of getting the Department started and getting the institutional groundings of the Department established. And I enjoyed working with them and with some of you on the transition. So you take what it is fair realizing that it's still very new, and in a way we are building the plane as we are flying the plane, because the security needs of the country are ongoing and intense and the responsibilities of the department are many.

So what I have done is put the Department into a framework, and it's a framework informed by a few things. One is my experience in both state and Federal Government. Two is really the knowledge that there is sense to this Department and to the agencies that were put together. And, three is—harking back to what the man said earlier—recognizing that a great deal of work already had been done, and also that the men and women at this Department were very qualified and dedicated to its mission. And so we had a personnel base with which to work. So that being said, let me, if I might, give you a sense of that framework.

First, the number one mission of this Department is terrorism. It is the reason it was created. It is the reason that these agencies were put together to help connect dots. And the question that has to be, well, under the terrorism label what is the key role of this department. Well, first, of course, is to be the recipient of and developer of intelligence. The second, I think, is to provide intelligence in a useable form to state, local and tribal governments.

In other words, there's a lot of intel that gets spread around this community through its various agents and subparts. But what we really have not perfected is how do you get functional, useable intelligence out to the country and get functional intelligence back, and do it on a real time basis. And so that is really a key priority we have now on our building into our I&A, Intel and Analysis Division. And part of that is already in process, and that is moving intel analysts out to the country to what are called fusion centers.

There are 70 some odd fusion centers now, because these are where state, local, federal agencies can co-locate. They work out some of the very technical issues about who can have access to what computer sites, and the like. But if we really want to have sharing at the state and local level, given the number of state and local agencies that there are, we have to have some way to have that organized on the state and local recipient side. And the most obvious way is through these fusion centers, which already, like I said before, we already have 70.

So unprecedented outreach on the Intel side, I think, is one of the key value added things this Department will contribute in the fight against terrorism. The second is forming new types of international partnerships. For example, on my trip to Berlin a few months ago we signed an agreement with them on the sharing of science and technology that is designed for counter-terrorism, and we're reaching those kinds of science and tech agreements with some of our other colleagues as well.

The third way that we can really contribute value added in the counter-terrorism battle is to really focus where we are mission specific. In other words, when we had the lead on the mission and one of those of course is the protection of transportation of air, land and sea, and so to the extent we are gathering, developing, refining intelligence, really have a focus there of what needs to be done to protect the transportation system of the country in all its myriad form from a terrorist attack. And, indeed, as we know, 9/11 was the use of transportation as a terrorist weapon.

So that's the first mission of the department. The second mission of the department is to secure the border and that is a mission that has two parts to it. One is to secure it against illegal traffic, but the other is to do it in such a fashion that you don't cut-off legitimate trade, tourism and the like that needs to go back and forth across those borders. I'm very sensitive to this now, because Monday we started implementing what's called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, WHTI. But WHTI is the end of being able at the Canadian border to say you're a citizen and getting back and forth.

You can't do that anymore. You have to have the right kind of document; and, although mass chaos was predicted with its implementation with long lines and upset people, and frustrated commerce and the like, we did a lot of prep work. Customers and Border Protections deserves credit for this. And, to date, we are not seeing any kind of difficulty at all with the sole exception of one port of entry in upstate New York, a small port of entry where on the Canadian side there's an Indian tribe that's upset that the Canadian law enforcement will be armed now.

Nothing had anything to do with WHTI. And so they are blocking the station there. But, other than that, WHTI implementation is going well; and, I only mention it because it epitomizes or represents that balance for securing the border, the balance we have to strike, and how from a logistics management standpoint it is very difficult to do that.

The Southwest border initiative, this is our increased efforts at the Southwest border given what's been going on in Mexico to make sure that that violence does not spill over into the United States, but also to provide assistance to the Mexicans in their fight against the cartels. So we have moved a lot of resources to that Southwest border. We have also instituted southbound checks, which hasn't been happening before. For example, rail cars, looking primarily for arms and for cash going into illegally into Mexico being used by the cartels in their fights, so, securing the border at the Northern border, Southern border, air, land and sea.

The third major mission of this Department is the template we are putting, I think, is really the smart and effective enforcement of our nation's immigration laws. This, like securing the border, has two facets to it. One is to keep out illegal immigrants, to find illegal immigrants who are in the country, but also to facilitate legal immigration under the laws that we do have. And so we have both Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the DHS umbrella, but also Citizenship and Immigration Services. So we have all sides of the immigration issue facilitated there.

I'll give you an example of one of the things we have done on the enforcement side. There has been a lot of controversy about so-called work-site raids, whether those were effective, whether they were separating families, whether they were placing fear into people and the like. And we really have looked at that issue and said, look, we need to do work site enforcement. You can't just do immigration enforcement at the border.

You have to have interior enforcement to go along with it, and the primary driver of illegal immigration is the labor market, so you have to go after the pull that that market is creating. That means you have to go after employers who are hiring illegal labor. But we really weren't going after employers and we weren't really focused on the time and effort it takes to develop a case, to show that a particular employer was intentionally hiring illegal labor and the law requires us to be able to prove that knowing is knowledge and intent. And so we have put emphasis in our guidance to our field saying, "Look. Take the time. You have knowledge or developing facts and employers intentionally and knowingly hiring, like the employer who has 25 employees and 22 are here illegally. Maybe there's something going on there that really falls on the side of the law that should be prosecuted."

I work with the U.S. Attorney's offices to bring those cases. I've talked a lot with Eric Holder, the AG, about opening the door for the U.S. Attorneys' offices for those cases; and so that is kind of, as we turn this big boat with different emphases, that is one emphasis that we do have. But on the same side, we are also and I am also a big supporter of a computer data system called e-Verify that employers can use to verify whether somebody who has applied for employment is in the country lawfully.

And we'll be asking the congress as part of our ongoing efforts in the immigration field to reauthorize e-Verify to put more money into e-Verify as part of our budget, by the way. Because I think that if we're going to crack down on employers, we also on the safe side ought to have mechanisms to make it easier for them to comply with the law.

The fourth major mission of this Department is the preparation, response and recovery from major disasters. Obviously, hurricanes happen, floods happen. Our preparation for those and response to can only improve after Katrina. And a lot of improvement has occurred and we've spent a lot of time and effort on getting ready for hurricane season, which started on Monday by the way.

Anyway, but it's also H1N1, and while the outbreak that occurred has subsided from the news accounts, there's still more people getting sick. There are still some more fatalities, although at a lesser level than you would get in a normal seasonal flu. But we also share the concern that this particular new strain will mutate over the summer, come back in the fall in a more virulent form. And so what we saw in the H1N1 outbreak are some places where we can do better, where planning is not complete.

For example, we saw the critical role that schools play; and, when you have to begin to make decisions to close schools, what impact that has on people being able to go to work for example, and the ripple effect in an area if you have to close the school to prevent epidemic from spreading. So we are now working across the Federal Government and again state and local tribal. And we will be working through the summer with the private sector as well to make stronger the planning that had been nascent with the planning for avian flu, but now which needs to be more robust and nuanced in light of H1N1.

And then, you know, we are continuing. We continue to have things like ice storm in Kentucky, Arkansas and Missouri, flooding on the Red River, to name but a few things. Each time we do we find something new that needs to be responded to, and so our real lesson is we have to be strong and resilient and flexible, because you can't plan for everything. You've got to be able to figure out the problem and deal with the problem as it occurred.

Lastly, unifying the Department, I just want to mention there the fifth mission I have is to create “One DHS” out of many elements, and that's everything from having a communication system within the Department that is Department wide to having program management acquisition discipline, fiscal management tools in place that do not differentiate between the different components but that are unified in one management structure, so we are working on that.

Let me close briefly with three kind of cross-cutting approaches that cut across all of those missions of the Department. One I touched upon, and that is the issue of partnership. Security cannot be the role of the Department of Homeland Security alone. Everybody has a role. It means partnerships with the private sector, state, local, tribal, international partners, all very, very key.

We can be a coordinator or a convener. We can be a strategizer, thinking ahead about what we should be getting ahead on, but we cannot do it by ourselves. The role of partnership and development of vital partnerships is key. Second, cross-cutting is the greater use of science and technology. This is an area where again I think we can have real value added security of the United States. The under secretary for science and technology nomination is now moving forward. She is an expert on bioweapons of mass destruction, but we need to have greater capacities on the civilian side of science and tech; and, on the defense side you have a DARPA.

Well, we need a civilian equivalent of something like that to really be cutting edge on the development of S&T. And then the last, as Clark mentioned in the interim a little bit, is an efficiency initiative, where we're really driving down to find out where we can save money or avoid costs. And, it's everything from what conferences don't really need to be held and can be managed elsewise—otherwise. Sorry; I knew that wasn't the right word. To my favorite was eliminating contracts for logo design on which we had spent $3 million in our first five years of existence, so I think we have enough logos, thank you very much. So if you're a logo designer out there, sorry, but we're not going to be bidding out any work.

So, you know, that in a nutshell in about 12 minutes gives you, you know, what I view as the overall mission of this big Department. Three cross-cutting strategies that will help us address these missions and where I am focused as the Secretary to take the Department of Homeland Security in this new administration. And that is my report to the committee.

Thank you.

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