We've seen a lot of supportive comments roll in, and, naturally, we've seen some criticism as well. It's true, official blogging isn't easy. Look at this as an evolving discussion, a work in progress.
Secretary Napolitano just posted some thoughts on the Leadership Journal about her upcoming trip to Europe and Kuwait. We encourage you to check it out, and keep checking the blog while she's traveling. We'll be dedicating most of our posts next week to tracking her trip. We'll have some guests talking about how her trip, stop by stop, is connected to our efforts here at home.
Thanks for your interest. We're doing this because the President issued a call for transparency when he assumed the office, and Secretary Napolitano wants to answer it. And keep leaving comments – we're listening.
We recently signed several important agreements with our European allies to improve information sharing and enhance collaboration on the development of science and technology. My trip, which begins this Saturday and will include visits to Ireland, Britain, Portugal, and Spain, with a final stop in Kuwait to visit our Coast Guard operations, will build on these and other efforts.
- In Ireland I will assess preparations for aviation preclearance operations, which are scheduled to begin on July 29.
- In the UK, I’ll be meeting with the new Home Secretary and the new Transport Secretary on a number of issues, including cyber-security, science and technology collaboration, countering violent extremism, and civil aviation security.
- In Portugal, we will discuss ways to improve and increase information sharing to counter threats in both of our countries.
- And in Spain we will discuss enhancing the security of air travel between our two countries, building off of the recent agreements we’ve made to improve criminal information sharing and science and technology cooperation.
We have a strong partnership with Europe when it comes to fighting terrorism and other forms of transnational crime. In the coming weeks, I’ll be talking more about our counter-terrorism efforts both at home and abroad, especially as we approach the 5th anniversary of the release of the 9/11 Commission Report on July 22.
It will be a good opportunity to assess how far we’ve come in our fight against terrorism, our work to secure our country – and what steps remain.
Secretary Napolitano sat down with some reporters and bloggers yesterday to answer questions and talk about her upcoming overseas travel and priorities for the summer. Reporters were free to ask questions on any topic – and so, the Secretary discussed counterterrorism, cybersecurity, PASS ID, and a number of other issues. We put the highlights together in the video below for your viewing pleasure. Check it out.
Click here for a transcript of the Secretary's remarks.
When Secretary Napolitano was appointed, she made it her mission to do a top-down review of how this department spends your money. As the Governor of Arizona, she did something similar, saving Arizona almost $1 billion. And that’s in a state where the annual budget is about $10 billion.
So, from existing government contracts, to software, to office space, we are taking a detailed look at every dollar we use at the department. The goal is to engage in smart spending. We began the Efficiency Review less than three months ago, and have already identified savings throughout the department. Here’s a snapshot of the new initiatives we hear about each week:
- TSA: $433,000 in software savings
- USCG: $1.7 million in contract consolidation savings
- USCIS: $165,000 in equipment savings
- CBP will achieve a 25 percent reduction in energy costs at their new Border Patrol Sector Station in El Paso using "green" construction methods.
- ICE: $61,000 in savings by utilizing government vehicles instead of private rentals and more than $40,000 annually by eliminating subscriptions to publications available on-line.
The Secretary just delivered a message to department employees, thanking them for their work and continued commitment in making this a leaner, more efficient, and thereby effective department. We’ll bring you more updates on the review as it happens.
From the Washington Times, on President Obama's commitment to immigration reform:
President Obama told lawmakers Thursday he wants to sign an immigration bill this year or early next year even though they don't have the votes yet to pass it -- and just in case they fail, the administration is ramping up talk of other actions it's taken to help immigrant rights.
Embracing yet another heavy lift for his legislative agenda, Mr. Obama convened an immigration summit at the White House and told members of Congress he will stand behind them as they try to craft a compromise. The lawmakers promised to fend off attacks from both sides of the political spectrum and craft a bill that cracks down on employers and legalizes illegal immigrants.
"After all the overheated rhetoric and the occasional demagoguery on all sides around this issue, we've got a responsible set of leaders sitting around the table who want to actively get something done and not put it off until a year, two years, three years, five years from now," Mr. Obama said.
From the Associated Press, on Secretary Napolitano's upcoming trip to Europe and Kuwait:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano leaves this weekend for meetings with officials in Europe and Kuwait on counterterrorism issues.
At a meeting with reporters Thursday, Napolitano said she will be meeting with her counterparts in Britain as well as officials in Spain, Ireland and Portugal.
Napolitano also said she is particularly interested in what the British do in their de-radicalization programs. In Kuwait she said she will be looking at U.S. Coast Guard operations there.
Napolitano leaves on Saturday.
10 AM EDT
Deputy Under Secretary for National Protection and Programs Philip Reitinger will participate in a panel discussion at the “Google D.C. Talks: Developing a National Cybersecurity Strategy” summit
1101 New York Avenue NW, 2nd Floor
9 AM PDT
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Chief Financial Officer Rendell Jones will deliver remarks during a naturalization ceremony at the Los Angeles Sports Arena
Los Angeles Sports Arena
3939 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, Calif.
9:30 AM Local
Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan will participate in a roundtable discussion about DHS’ privacy compliance processes and practices
Field Fisher Waterhouse
35 Vine Street
in the State Dinning Room of the White House. From left; Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, Rep. Luis Guitierrez,
D-Ill., Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., Rep. James Clyburn, D - S.C. the president, Vice President Joe Biden,
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Secretary Napolitano was at the White House yesterday with the President and members of Congress working on identifying a way forward on comprehensive immigration reform. From the White House blog:
While Congressional leaders are working to tackle the complexities of immigration reform, the Administration has already taken steps to improve the system. The FBI has cleared much of the backlog of immigration background checks, the Department of Homeland Security is speeding up citizenship petitions and in conjunction with the Department of Labor, they are working to crack down on employers who are exploiting illegal workers. The President also announced a new collaborative effort that will utilize technology to improve legal immigration:At the President’s direction, Secretary Napolitano will convene a group of leaders from the White House and Congress to begin identifying the way forward on comprehensive immigration reform.
"Today I'm pleased to announce a new collaboration between my Chief Information Officer, my Chief Performance Officer, my Chief Technologies Officer and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office to make the agency much more efficient, much more transparent, much more user-friendly than it has been in the past.
In the next 90 days, USCIS will launch a vastly improved Web site that will, for the first time ever, allow applicants to get updates on their status of their applications via e-mail and text message and online. And anybody who's dealt with families who are trying to deal with -- navigate the immigration system, this is going to save them huge amounts of time standing in line, waiting around, making phone calls, being put on hold. It's an example of some things that we can do administratively even as we're working through difficult issues surrounding comprehensive immigration.
And the idea is very simple here: We're going to leverage cutting-edge technology to reduce the unnecessary paperwork, backlogs, and the lack of transparency that's caused so many people so much heartache." --More on the White House Blog.
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Visit Serve.gov for more information on how to get involved. jxmkp7t2sb
From IT World, on last week's "Eagle Horizon 2009":
The Department of Homeland Security conducted its Continuity of Operations plans yesterday. In their proclivity to assign all such operations mysterious sounding names, the disaster continuity exercise was called "Eagle Horizon 2009".
The mandatory exercise is held each year for all executive branch departments, and is coordinated by DHS through FEMA and the National Continuity Programs Directorate. The exercise is meant not only to test out the government's continuity of operations procedures, but also to ensure coordination between agencies in the event of an emergency. The coordination testing is an important part of any preparedness exercise, and one that private corporations should also consider. Recovering from a disaster is more than just getting systems back up and running, it also calls for a tremendous amount of coordination between areas of the enterprise that typically don't talk to one another. Recovery is, I venture to say, 50 percent procedural, and 50 percent just getting everybody to work together under unusual and stressful circumstances.
From the Washington Post, on the new "virtual fence":
After years of frustration, controversy and delay -- and some maddening technological glitches -- the first link in the federal government’s new $6.7 billion “virtual fence” is being erected here along the border.
We visited a newly constructed detection tower, out in the middle of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Contractors were still plugging in the off-the-shelf components. The concept is simple. The execution is not. A previous test of the virtual fence concept was so plagued with snafus that the Department of Homeland Security scrapped it and announced a “do over.”
“We created a set of expectations that were unreasonable, and unfortunately it didn’t work as well as we would have liked,” says Mark Borkowsky, director of the project in the Customs and Border Protection agency.
'According to Borkowsk, this is the basic idea: In a 23-mile-long section of Arizona desert, the agency and its contractor, the Boeing Company, will erect a picket line of 17 towers -- nine towers will hold the detectors, eight will handle communications.
Atop each 80-foot-tall detection tower are a radar and two cameras -- one camera works with daylight and another detects heat signals at night. A nearby communications tower will send data back to a command center in Tucson.
From the Associated Press, on the latest Homeland Security spending bill:
The House passed a $44 billion spending bill Wednesday that awards the Homeland Security Department a 7 percent budget increase, with money for more border patrol agents and for anti-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia.
As part of a GOP campaign against President Barack Obama's order to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the bill requires the department to conduct threat assessments for the terrorist suspects being held there. It also requires that the department ensure that detainees are placed on its "no-fly" list and denied an array of immigration benefits, including admission into the United States and refugee status.Those moves complement steps to block the release of Guantanamo detainees into the United States contained in a newly-enacted war-funding bill.
12 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a pen & pad session with DHS beat reporters and bloggers
3801 Nebraska Avenue NW
10:30 AM Local
Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan will deliver remarks at the European e-Identity Management Conference
100 Victoria Street
11 AM EDT
ICE Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge John Kelleghan, will join USDA, CBP and USPIS to donate seized exotic beetles to the Smithsonian Institution
200 Chestnut St.
12 PM EDT
National Protection and Programs Directorate Acting Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications Rear Admiral Michael Brown will deliver remarks at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) Cybersecurity Symposium
1001 16th Street, NW
2 PM EDT
TSA Public Affairs Manager Sari Koshetz will participate in a media event to introduce Orlando’s Proprietary canine teams
Regional Transportation Authority
LYNX Bus Station/Central Station
455 N. Garland Avenue
From the Washington Post, on Secretary Napolitano's decision to end the National Applications Office program:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced yesterday that she will kill a controversial Bush administration program to expand the use of spy satellites by domestic law enforcement and other agencies.
Napolitano said she acted after state and local law enforcement officials said that access to secret overhead imagery was not a priority.
Two years ago, President George W. Bush's top intelligence and homeland security officials authorized the National Applications Office (NAO) to expand sharing of satellite data with domestic agencies. But congressional Democrats barred funding for what they said could become a new platform for domestic surveillance that would raise privacy and civil liberties concerns.
Earlier this month, House Democrats expressed surprise that Obama included funding for the program in the classified portion of the Department of Homeland Security's 2010 budget, and they threatened to kill the office.
"The Secretary's decision is an endorsement of this Committee's long-held position," Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.
From USA Today, on increased use of E-Verify:
Construction company CEO David Dominguez no longer worries about inadvertently hiring workers who are in this country illegally. That's because he uses E-Verify, the federal program that allows him to quickly check the legal status of potential employees.
Dominguez, who builds residential interiors in Arizona and California, said that as word gets around about the program, job applicants without legal status avoid businesses such as his, Andrew Lauren Co., which use E-Verify.
"The system works," Dominguez said. His San Diego-based company has been using E-Verify for several years in hiring office workers and laborers.
The voluntary federal program has seen a rapid growth in use this year, Department of Homeland Security records show. More than 1,000 employers are signing up each week on average, and employment checks are approaching 200,000 a week.
Use rises each year"If the goal is not to hire illegal citizens, then you should have it," Dominguez said.
Halfway through this year 5.5 million worker checks have been made by employers through the E-Verify online service. In 2008, 6.6 million checks were made, twice the number in 2007."From a year ago, it's just tremendous" growth, said William Wright, spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that administers the program.
4:45 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano and Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba will sign a letter of intent on science and technology information sharing
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Press Room
Ronald Reagan Building, Concourse Level
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
9 AM EDT
FEMA Administrator Fugate will deliver remarks at the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Conference
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
9 AM EDT
Secretary Morton will participate in a panel discussion at the 6th Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference
Georgetown University Law Center
600 New Jersey Avenue NWWashington, D.C.
10 AM EDT
Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Bart Johnson will testify before the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment, about the fiscal year 2010 budget request
311 Cannon House Office Building
10 AM EDT
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary will consider the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to be U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director
226 Dirksen Senate Office Building