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August 26, 2014
4:31 pm

Editors Note: This was originally posted on the U.S. Coast Guard Mid Atlantic's official blog

Posted by U.S. Coast Guard PA3 David Weydert

The Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter banked hard, flying around the last reported location of the distressed swimmer. The eyes of the helicopter crew were glued to the water, searching for any sign of splashing or movement. The crew’s newest member, Isaac Simmons started pointing and yelling over the headset.

“I see him! I see him,” shouted Simmons as he spotted the distressed swimmer.

“That’s not what we say, what do we say Isaac?” asked Petty Officer 2nd Class Roderick Ansley, the crew’s rescue swimmer.

“Oh yeah, mark, mark, mark,” exclaimed Simmons.

Ansley was cutting Simmons a little slack as Isaac Simmons is only 7-years-old. 


Over the weekend Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to welcome the newest Coast Guard rescue member, Isaac Simmons of Archdale, North Carolina. Isaac lives with a rare heart condition called Hypo-Plastic Right Heart, but that didn’t slow him down as he lived out his dream of being part of a Coast Guard rescue helicopter crew.

“Isaac has been telling us for several years that he wants to be a rescue pilot. It’s been amazing,” said Elizabeth Simmons, Isaac’s mother. “We thought [the Coast Guard] was just going to show him around, we didn’t know he would be getting into a plane!”

Isaac’s adventure began Saturday at the air station when he met with Coast Guard helicopter pilots and crew in preparation for his flight. The rescue swimmers presented Isaac with a personalized, miniature flight suit and the safety gear he needed.


The flight with Isaac was planned as a routine patrol down North Carolina’s Outer Banks. His flight took him over waving Coast Guard Facebook and Twitter fans who followed Isaac’s adventure throughout the day. During the flight, a sudden distress call came in reporting a troubled swimmer, played by the base’s chaplain unbeknownst to Isaac, needed an immediate rescue. The helicopter pilots diverted course to assist. Arriving on scene, Isaac spotted the chaplain and helped in deploying the crew’s rescue swimmer.   Isaac watched firsthand the coordination and teamwork needed to hoist someone aboard the helicopter. He then helped provide first-aid before landing at a local hospital, Isaac himself carefully walked the rescued chaplain down the path, guiding him to safety.

Upon his return to the air station, Isaac was greeted by a cheering crowd and the air station’s commanding officer who welcomed him back and presented him with awards and a set of naval aviator wings. 


On day two of his adventure, Isaac toured the Aviation Technical Training Center where he learned what it takes to become an aviation crewmember. He then experienced being rescued by Coast Guard rescue swimmers, learned how the electronics worked within the helicopter with Coast Guard aircraft electricians and got into the nitty-gritty with Coast Guard aircraft mechanics. At the end of the day, Isaac was presented with three honorary degrees in the aviation fields by the school’s commanding officer.

“All this was amazing. The Coast Guard here went above and beyond everything that we thought could happen,” said Ryan Simmons, Isaac’s father. “Everybody was wonderful, and this has just been a great experience and the time of his life.”


For more photos and captions, please visit:

For a recap of the live Facebook posts, please visit:

August 25, 2014
1:07 pm

When I became Under Secretary for Science and Technology this past spring, I was humbled and honored to be a part of such a distinguished organization as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). I was immediately impressed with the passion the S&T staff displayed in regards to the importance of our mission and how it affects the security of our nation today and in the future.

As the primary research and development arm of DHS, S&T is dreaming big – looking 20 to 30 years out, or even further, to define core “North Star” visionary goals for the future. And we need your insights – your best thinking.

Over the past several months, the S&T team has developed and refined proposed visionary goals that are based solidly on the policies and priorities of the White House, the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, and the DHS Secretary. We’ve posted these goals on the S&T Collaboration Community and invite your input.

Based on what we know of today’s homeland security environment, what do you think the future will look like in 20 to 30 years? What should S&T plan to tackle now to ensure the nation is more resilient and secure in the future?

This is what we are working with our partners across the entire homeland security mission space to define – our ultimate end state, our “North Star.” When finalized, S&T’s Visionary Goals will help lay the foundation for the creation of a new strategic plan.

We encourage you to join the discussion and:

  • Provide insights into each of the proposed visionary goals.
  • Add new visionary goals for consideration (Click on “Submit New Idea” on this page).
  • Share your ideas and perspectives and comment on others’ ideas through the comment features.

All comments provided during this comment period will be reviewed by the working group and incorporated, where possible, into the final S&T Visionary Goals – to be released in early Fall. The S&T Collaboration Community site will be open for comment through Sept. 7, 2014.

Make your voice heard – share your best thinking so together we can set a path to a stronger, safer, more resilient future.


August 22, 2014
11:28 am

I am pleased to report, for the fifth consecutive year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has scored an “A” rating on the Small Business Administration (SBA) Annual Small Business Procurement Scorecard.

Each year, the SBA Scorecard measures how 24 Federal agencies fare in achieving their small business contracting goals. SBA ratings are based on five categories: small businesses, women-owned business, service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, businesses in historically underutilized business zones (HUBzones), and small disadvantaged businesses. Of the seven Federal agencies that spend the most in contracting dollars, DHS is the only agency to receive a grade of “A” five years in a row.

In virtually every segment of our homeland security community, there are small businesses working to support the DHS mission and play a critical role in delivering efficient and innovative solutions to our long-and short-term acquisition needs. Small businesses play a major role in the nation’s economic recovery. DHS is pleased to suppose the President’s small business and economic agenda, further amplifying the President’s work in promoting greater business opportunities with the Federal government.

The strong SBA ratings the Department has received in the past five years are due in no small part to the hard work and dedication of the team in our Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) and the contracting professionals and small business advocates in every component. OSDBU staff continues to play a critical role opening new doors of opportunity by actively engaging small vendors throughout the country.  In a given year, they typically assist approximately 20,000 small businesses through conferences, vendor outreach sessions, meetings, phone calls, and emails. As a result of our efforts to foster open communication with industry, including small business outreach, in FY 2013 over 1,700 small businesses received their first DHS contract.

Since the Department’s creation in 2003, small businesses have been essential to our efforts to buy goods and services to help keep the country safe at the least cost to the American taxpayers. DHS looks forward to our continued partnership with SBA as we continually identify small business contracting opportunities and remain committed in our efforts to secure the nation.

For more information about DHS’s small business programs, please visit here.

July 30, 2014
5:14 pm

Posted by Maria Odom

Today, the United Nations will mark the first ever World Day Against Trafficking in Persons to raise awareness around the global issue of human trafficking and to encourage the international community to take action against this heinous crime.

Established four years ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Blue Campaign coordinates the Department’s ongoing efforts to work across our many missions to combat human trafficking. Fighting the hidden crime of human trafficking requires a collaborative effort, and the Blue Campaign works with DHS components to increase awareness, protect and support victims, investigate trafficking cases, and assist in the prosecution of traffickers. 

DHS continues to focus an unprecedented level of resources and engagement to combat human trafficking through a victim-centered approach. The Blue Campaign offers training and educational resources, raises public awareness through a multi-format media campaign, and enters into diverse partnerships to carry the message forward, improve reporting of human trafficking, and assist our efforts to protect victims and bring traffickers to justice.  

To date, more than 150,000 individuals – including government employees, law enforcement personnel, medical services providers, transportation workers, private sector employees, and many others – have been trained on the key indicators of human trafficking.

Our public awareness posters highlight examples of forced labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sex trafficking – all types of human trafficking.  They can be found at 325 truck stops nationwide and on display in 14 major airports as well as the facilities of partners such as Amtrak and Western Union. The Blue Campaign public service announcement, “Out of the Shadows,” has aired more than 8,000 times on almost 90 local television stations nationwide, and also airs continuously at Amtrak stations.

We also have developed other resources that are available to the public in a variety of languages – including human trafficking indicator cards for law enforcement and first responders to help identify potential victims, and pamphlets on human trafficking and DHS capabilities and programs—all targeted to diverse audiences.

The work of the Blue Campaign relies on strong partnerships with other federal agencies, foreign governments, international organizations, law enforcement, first responders, the faith-based community, non-profit organizations, the private sector, as well as our state, local, and tribal partners. We recognize the need to engage the issue of human trafficking at a grassroots level, and our partnerships with the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties have been a first step towards partnering with state and local governments to combat trafficking in communities across America. We continue to look for opportunities to expand our collaboration with state, local and tribal governments and the private sector to extend the reach of the Blue Campaign and its resources, and raise awareness throughout the nation.

Over the past four years, the Blue Campaign has made great progress but our work is far from over. Working with our partners we aim to increase investigations and prosecutions of human traffickers, train more law enforcement, further public awareness, and even better identify, rescue and improve services for victims. I encourage you to visit to learn more, get involved, and join us in the fight against human trafficking.

July 25, 2014
5:49 pm


Editors note: This blog was orginially posted by USCIS on July 25.

Hello Beacon readers! On July 9, I was sworn in as the fourth USCIS director and have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know the wonderful people who work for this remarkable organization. Of all my duties as director, I must admit that having an opportunity to participate in and administer naturalization ceremonies has been especially important to me.

Special naturalization ceremony held at the U.S. Department of Justice.  From left: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Leon Rodriguez, USCIS Washington District Director Sarah Taylor, Attorney General Eric Holder, Executive Office for Immigration Review Director Juan Osuna.

On July 22, I had the honor of swearing in new Americans at a naturalization ceremony hosted at the Department of Justice by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. This was my very first naturalization ceremony as USCIS director - and I can't imagine a more meaningful and moving experience as the son and grandson of immigrants who became American citizens. In fact, 50 years ago, I stood next to my parents as they took the Oath of Allegiance.

Director Rodriguez hands a naturalization certificate to a new American in the Great Hall at the Department of Justice

I was truly humbled to administer the Oath and congratulate 73 proud new citizens from 52 countries on their successful path to U.S. citizenship. There was an overwhelming amount of excitement and pride in the faces of those being naturalized in the Great Hall at the Department of Justice. Now I know why my predecessors said participating in naturalization ceremonies is the best part of the job. I look forward to more.

I am grateful and honored that President Obama asked me to lead the 18,000 men and women of USCIS. I believe that I was chosen for this position because of two elements of my professional background that don't typically go side-by-side. I've spent most of my career in law enforcement defending against all types of criminal justice threats. But a significant part of that background includes defending the most fundamental rights we have as Americans – our civil rights.

Director Rodriguez chats with his Chief of Staff Juliet K. Choi

Our mission at USCIS is to secure America's promise - to welcome those who have earned our nation's welcome, encourage them to become citizens, and guard against those who would cause us harm. My job is to make sure we apply the laws fairly and with consistency, integrity and compassion.

Over the coming months, I look forward to pursuing a dialogue with you to ensure we continue to be the best and brightest beacon for all who wish to call America their new home.

Yours truly,

Leon Rodriguez
USCIS Director

July 25, 2014
5:44 pm

This week, the Department of Homeland Security co-hosted the 8th Annual Chemical Sector Security Summit in Baltimore, Md., focused on strengthening chemical security and resilience across the country. We were joined by the Chemical Sector Coordinating Council and more than 500 government and industry stakeholders. This annual summit brings together industry experts, owners, operators, and government to share best practices andlessons learned, and to identify ways to make our nation’s chemical infrastructure safer, more secure, and more resilient.

Highlights from this year’s summit included a keynote address from National Protection and Programs Directorate Under Secretary Suzanne Spaulding, who discussed the importance of having both a strong cyber and physical security plan in place. In addition, we heard from panels and presenters regarding the status report on Executive on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, a review of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, the importance of voluntary programs and resources, and congressional perspective on current and future legislation related to the chemical sector.

This year’s summit came at an important time when we are beginning the transition to implementing the recommendations brought forward under the President’s executive order.  We discussed areas where we have taken critical steps in bringing together regulatory representatives and stakeholders with a vested interest in reducing the risks associated with the handling and storage of chemicals. The status report summarizes progress, focusing on actions to date, findings and lessons learned, challenges, and short and long-term priority actions, and focus on five specific thematic areas: Strengthen Community Planning and Preparedness; Enhance Federal Operational Coordination; Improve Data Management; Modernize Policies and Regulation; and Incorporate Stakeholder Feedback and Develop Best Practices.

At this year’s summit, we also highlighted the great strides that have been made in the CFATS program. The CFATS program is an important part of our nation’s counterterrorism efforts as we work with our industry stakeholders to keep dangerous chemicals out of the hands of those who wish to do us harm. Since the CFATS program was created, DHS has actively engaged with industry to identify and work with high-risk chemical facilities to ensure they have security measures in place to reduce the risks associated with the possession of chemicals of interest. While there is still work to be done, DHS to date has approved nearly 1,000 facility site security plans and the pace to approve and inspect facilities continues to improve.

Much of the important work ahead requires continued engagement with Congress to enact legislation providing multi-year authorization so that the program can continue its current path to success with stability. The Department is committed to continuing to work with industry, all levels of government, and Congress on a path forward to ensure the CFATS program continues to build on the progress it has made.

This year’s Summit once again brought people together in a way that I believe will lead to further progress and a safer nation. When it comes to the chemical sector, we are making great progress together and I want to thank all involved for a successful and productive Summit.

July 15, 2014
2:00 pm

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) joined the Departments of State and Energy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and 335 international experts and officials from 88 member states to participate in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) International Conference on Advances in Nuclear Forensics, Countering the Evolving Threat of Nuclear and Other Radioactive Material out of Regulatory Control in Vienna, Austria.

Conference participants were provided an overview of IAEA guidance on how nuclear forensics can be used to help ensure successful investigation of a nuclear security event. This guidance, which DNDO helped develop, promotes international cooperation in capability development as well as during investigations.

DNDO presented our National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development program, which can serve as a model for other IAEA member nations. Established in 2008, the program is a comprehensive U.S. Government effort to grow and sustain the qualified technical expertise required to execute the nation’s nuclear forensics mission.

DNDO, together with the Department of State, also discussed the development of National Nuclear Forensics Libraries and the results of Galaxy Serpent—an international nuclear forensics exercise conducted by the Nuclear Forensics International Technical Working Group.  The forensics libraries are an organized collection of information on nuclear or other radioactive material produced, used, or stored by a country. Through the exercise, we were able to determine that these libraries can play a vital role in the investigation of a transnational nuclear security event.

Also highlighted were a number of technical advances in nuclear forensics signatures and analytical methods stemming from DNDO-sponsored research and development at the National Laboratories that will continue to advance our important mission.

Nuclear forensics is a keystone of nuclear security, as it supports international efforts to counter illicit trafficking of material that could be used in a potential terrorist attack, and helps to identify the origin and pathway of nuclear and other radioactive materials.  Through our ongoing efforts, both at home and with the international community, DNDO continues to help advance nuclear forensics capabilities to keep our Nation and our partners safe.

For more information about DNDO, please visit

July 3, 2014
8:38 am

Last week, I was joined by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations Christopher Maston at the opening of the new DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Maryland Test Facility (MdTF) in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Many critical pieces of the S&T Apex Air Entry/Exit Re-Engineering (AEER) Project will be conducted at the MdTF — the next step toward meeting CBP’s need to enhance its entry and exit processes at U.S. ports of entry. 

Apex programs were developed in part to allow S&T to work collaboratively with other DHS components to solve problems of significant strategic importance.  The S&T Apex AEER project is a cohesive, seamless approach, conducted in partnership with CBP, to integrate biometrics within the entry and exit processes at U.S. ports of entry. The MdTF enables S&T to evaluate, assess, and leverage multiple biometric devices and proposed technologies with current or reengineered CBP operational procedures in order to develop and test new methods without impacting the traveling public, or CBP officers’ daily missions.

To accurately evaluate the performance of biometric devices in operational environments, the MdTF will simulate several operational airport setting scenarios outfitted with a variety of biometric implementations, such as a primary inspection station, entry booth, and boarding gate departure area.  At the MdTF, S&T’s scientists will study, develop, and test these procedures and processes, and then pass our recommendations back to CBP for consideration and future implementation. Working together with CBP, we will test and incorporate all aspects of the technology and new procedures with volunteer participants from throughout the National Capital Region.

In addition to fulfilling multiple operational goals, the S&T Apex AEER program is a clear demonstration of what can be achieved under Secretary Johnson’s Unity of Effort initiative—ensuring the Department invests and operates in a cohesive, unified fashion, while making decisions that are transparent and collaborative. Just over a year ago, CBP approached S&T for assistance in achieving the Congressional mandate for biometric exit, as well as reengineering international entry and exit processes. S&T is honored to work with our CBP colleagues toward achieving these important goals, including opening the MdTF last week.

I am proud of the teamwork displayed by S&T and CBP over the past year of MdTF development, and I look forward to continuing our work together to develop a faster, safer, and more efficient entry and exit operation for our ports of entry to better serve the millions of travelers who travel through them each day.

June 26, 2014
10:31 am

As millions of Americans tune in to watch the World Cup and cheer on the U.S. men’s national soccer team, it’s important to stay vigilant against cyber criminals and hackers who may to try to take advantage of people’s enthusiasm to gain access to their information online.  Hackers and identity thieves have been known to exploit high profile events using phishing emails and websites to target people looking to purchase tickets, merchandise, or stream video online.

If you’re purchasing merchandise or browsing for information on the World Cup, follow these tips to protect your personal information and avoid becoming a victim of identity theft:

  • Think before you act. Be wary of “too good to be true” deals. Free tickets, cheap team merchandise, cheap collectibles – if a deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • Check your bank and credit card statements regularly. Make sure that you authorized all of the charges listed.
  • Shop only at reputable online retailers. Look for the padlock symbol or for URLs that start with “https” or “shttp.” For auction sites such as eBay, check the seller’s reviews.
  • Be cautious online. Do not click on suspicious links or download items from unknown sources. Only use secure wireless networks and websites (those that start with https://) when conducting sensitive activities online.

It is also important to always take steps to stay safe online, including:

  • Use social media carefully. Do not divulge sensitive information (such as your address or birthday) over social media. Set your social network privacy settings so only your real friends and family can see your information.
  • Set strong passwords. Especially for sensitive online accounts (such as online banking), make sure your passwords are complex and unique. Do not set passwords that will be easy for cyber criminals to guess.
  • Keep a clean machine. Keep your software and operating system updated. This will help your computer better fight against malware.
  • Lock your devices when you’re away. Prevent others from accessing your computer and mobile devices by locking your devices when they are not in use.

For more information on individual cybersecurity, visit

June 20, 2014
12:47 pm

This week, we were proud to welcome more than 65 new U.S. citizens as our newest fellow Americans during special naturalization ceremonies held in Washington, D.C.

As America celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner, 15 candidates recited the Oath of Allegiance just feet away from the flag during a naturalization ceremony on June 17 at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson joined former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Dr. G. Wayne Clough, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Secretary Johnson joins former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a special naturalization ceremony.

Secretary Johnson joins former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a special naturalization ceremony. Official DHS photo.

These 15 candidates, symbolically representing the 15 stars and stripes on our Nation’s flag, hailed from Australia, Canada, El Salvador, Greece, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Italy, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, the Philippines, Romania, Sierra Leone and South Korea.

Candidates for citizenship wave American flags during a special naturalization ceremony.

Candidates for citizenship wave American flags during a special naturalization ceremony. Official DHS photo.

After administering the Oath of Allegiance, Secretary Johnson congratulated the candidates by saying, "Each of you are Americans by choice, and you remind the rest of us of the value and importance of being a citizen of this great country."

Secretary Johnson addresses candidates for citizenship.

Secretary Johnson addresses candidates for citizenship. Official DHS photo.

During the ceremony, celebrated fashion designer Ralph Lauren was honored with the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for his contributions to personal dedication to the preservation of national treasures as part of the 1998 campaign spearheaded by former first lady Hillary Clinton. Mr. Lauren’s contributions ensure the flag will be available for future generations. Mrs. Clinton and Dr. G. Wayne Clough presented Mr. Lauren with the award.

Ralph Lauren is presented with the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal.

Ralph Lauren is presented with the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal. Official DHS photo.

On June 18, Secretary Johnson was honored to join First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama for a special naturalization ceremony at the National Archives. Standing just a few feet away from the Charters of Freedom – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights – Secretary Johnson administered the Oath of Allegiance to 50 citizenship candidates.

Secretary Johnson addresses candidates for citizenship.

Secretary Johnson addresses candidates for citizenship. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

“I am proud to be among the first to welcome you as my fellow Americans,” Secretary Johnson said.

Candidates for citizenship recite the Oath of Allegiance.

Candidates for citizenship recite the Oath of Allegiance. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

First Lady Michelle Obama congratulated the new citizens in the audience, and delivered remarks to the audience on the importance of understanding our national history in order to advance future generations of civic leadership. “In many ways, it is because of, not in spite of, our immigrant population that we grow stronger every single day,” Mrs. Obama said. 

First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama addresses new U.S. citizens.

First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama addresses new U.S. citizens. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

She elaborated on the importance of immigration to our Nation, addressing the current issues plaguing our broken immigration system. She continued, saying: “Yet today, here in Washington, folks are still debating whether or not to fix our immigration system even though just about everyone agrees that it is broken.  But I want you all to know that my husband has made this his top legislative priority, and he refuses to give up the fight.  Because at the end of the day, this fight isn’t just about abstract principles, it’s about real people.  People like you.  People like us -- our fellow Americans.”

Juan Cua Monroy is one example of these real people. A student at Northern Virginia Community College, Juan wholeheartedly pursued his goal of becoming an American citizen. And yesterday, accompanied by the First Lady and the Secretary of Homeland Security, he led his fellow citizens in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

First Lady Michelle Obama greets new U.S. citizen Juan Cua Monroy, as Secretary Johnson looks on.

First Lady Michelle Obama greets new U.S. citizen Juan Cua Monroy, as Secretary Johnson looks on. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Juan, and the other 64 new U.S. citizens naturalized this week are “Americans-by-choice.” As they took their Oath of Allegiance in the presence of our national treasures, their inspiring stories remind us that citizenship is something that none of us should ever take for granted; it is the highest privilege.



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