Last August, I directed the Department to implement a new Veterans Coordination Strategy to broaden our efforts to draw on the vast expertise, dedication, and commitment to service of our Nation’s veterans. This Strategy has already yielded significant results.
Veterans currently comprise 25 percent of our DHS civilian workforce, in addition to the 42,000 active duty members of our U.S. Coast Guard. Every day, these men and women bring their skills, talents, and experiences to bear in fulfilling our many missions – from guarding against terrorism, strengthening aviation and maritime security, and protecting our cyber networks and critical infrastructure, to securing our borders, enforcing and administering our immigration laws, and preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters.
Beyond our own employees, veterans are also an integral part of our larger homeland security team. Over the past year, we’ve expanded opportunities for veterans to do business with the Department, exceeding our goal of awarding over $1 billion in contracts to veteran-owned businesses in fiscal year 2010. We also expect to be one of only a few agencies that will surpass the Small Business Administration’s goal for contracting with businesses owned by service-disabled veterans.
We plan to do even more in the coming months through additional veterans outreach, recruitment, and hiring, with the goal of having 50,000 veterans working at DHS by the end of 2012 and continuing to promote business opportunities and other partnerships to get veterans to get involved in the Department’s work.
This week USCIS will hold a number of naturalization ceremonies around the country and throughout the world – including one in Baghdad, Iraq – for military personnel who will become our newest U.S. citizens. In 2010, USCIS naturalized more than 11,000 noncitizens serving in our military, more than any year since 1955.
The service and sacrifice of veterans enriches our Department and our nation. I hope you will join me in thanking our veterans for all that they have done – and all they continue to do – in support of our country.