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September 14, 2015
3:06 pm

By: Russ Deyo
Under Secretary for Management

Underpinning each of the Department of Homeland Security’s diverse missions is a pledge to uphold the highest accountability standards to the American public. One marker of this commitment is the Department’s accurate and timely public reporting of our performance on our top priorities. We’re proud that DHS has been recognized once again for outstanding transparency.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today reviewed how six Federal agencies reported their performance on top priority goals. Of the six agencies, DHS received a rating of “outstanding,” the highest possible score. The GAO also noted that DHS was the only agency reviewed to publically publish a comprehensive set of performance measure verification data with its annual performance report.

This recognition is just DHS’s latest accolade regarding performance reporting. Thanks to tremendous teamwork and dedication by our workforce and the leadership of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, other remarkable accomplishments include:

  • Two consecutive clean opinions on the Department’s financial statements;
  • Two Certificates of Excellence in Accountability Reporting (CEAR) awards from the Association of Government Accountants, the highest recognition in federal government management reporting; and
  • This year, DHS had the Best-in-Class Summary of Performance information, which recognizes the Department as the best in reporting of performance information among all agencies considered for the CEAR award.

Every day, DHS employees across the Department work to advance our vital missions while upholding the highest standards of transparency and accountability. These recent honors confirm their efforts.

For additional information on the Department’s accountability and performance reporting, please visit DHS.gov

September 14, 2015
2:01 pm

Is it possible to capture hope, a feeling, or a story in six words? The idea of very short stories began in the 1900s, but has begun to take off on various social networks as people share their stories.

Today, we’re launching six-word essays for Citizenship Day and Constitution Week.

Here’s How it Works

Join the project by writing a six-word summary of what citizenship means to you. It can be a sentence or any six words that, together, express your thoughts. You can even share photos illustrating your essays. To get you started, here are examples:

  • Born and raised; I love it!
  • A new world, a new life.
  • Freedom, travel, culture, exploration, blessings, pride
  • Something much bigger than me, possibilities.
Are you up for the challenge? What are your six words? Share them in the comments below, on Twitter using #citizenship6, or as a comment on our Facebook post.
 
Throughout the week, we’ll retweet and share submissions on Twitter and Facebook. Afterward, we’ll pull together a collection of essays we like and share on our blog, The Beacon, and produce a slideshow for YouTube.

Who Can Participate

Everyone can participate: citizens of any country, living anywhere. Here are a few rules:
  • You can enter your six-word essay any time from Sept. 14-24, 2015.
  • You can’t enter a six-word essay that belongs to or has been copyrighted by someone else.
  • Don’t include:
    • Obscene, indecent, or profane language.
    • Threats or defamatory statements.
    • Hate speech directed at race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, age, religion, or disability.
    • Advertising, promotion, or endorsements of products or services.
  • The topic of your six-word essay can’t be nudity, drugs, violence, or symbols or acts of hatred.
Now for a little legal language: by entering your six-word essay, you agree to all of the above, and you agree to allow us to use your essay worldwide without being compensated. We also reserve the right to not consider entries for any reason.
 
We look forward to seeing what you have to say!
September 11, 2015
4:22 pm

The bell tolls at the site where United Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pa. on September 11, 2001. Today, on the 14th anniversary of the attacks, the names of those lost on Flight 93 were read aloud to honor their memory and to celebrate the unity and spirit of our nation.

The bell tolls at the site where United Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pa. on September 11, 2001. Today, on the 14th anniversary of the attacks, the names of those lost on Flight 93 were read aloud to honor their memory and to celebrate the unity and spirit of our nation.

Official DHS photo by Barry Bahler | Download high-resolution image (640x480)

September 9, 2015
12:14 pm

When someone goes missing, the first few minutes and hours of the search are critical. A key to the success of search and rescue (SAR) teams is an aggressive, well-planned initial response. However, many times, first responders on scene in a missing person search don’t have the extensive training and development of initial search plans that specialized SAR teams have.

The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) First Responders Group recently released a mobile app, developed with the support of SAR teams around the nation, that provides step-by-step instructions on search plans for first responders and response teams. It provides search guidance, protocols and strategies used by SAR teams around the nation.screenshot of the Lost Person Behavior App

The Lost Person Behavior mobile app was released this spring and is available to download (for a fee) from Apple iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.com. Since its release, the app has received two-five star reviews from the APCO International Application Community and has been used in actual SAR operations in Virginia.  

Using data from over 150,000 missing person cases across the country, the app provides guidance, tactical briefings, investigative questions, and statistics for over 40 different scenarios. These include lost hikers, hunters, children, missing vehicles, despondent individuals, dementia patients, and climbers. It also provides guidance for snow and water incidents.

 “The Lost Person Behavior app is designed to provide a step-by-step checklist for first responders as well as everyday citizens involved in search and rescue efforts,” said program manager Christine Lee. “The app incorporated the feedback from SAR teams across the country for the development a comprehensive set of data, such as what questions to ask and what resources to use. It provides the knowledge obtained from experienced SAR teams into the hands of someone who may never have had any training at all.”

The app identifies high probability areas where an individual goes missing so searchers can initiate rapid response. It also breaks down the categories of lost people with related behavior profiles and provides a checklist of questions to ask friends and family of missing individuals. Using this data, the app uses the data to provide initial search locations and has filters for ecoregion and terrain.

The Lost Person Behavior app was developed under SBIR initiatives by dbs Productions, Charlottesville, Virginia.

September 4, 2015
3:10 pm

DHS and TSA work with Amtrak and law enforcement partners to keep our nation’s passenger rail system safe every day. Operation RAILSAFE, which took place this week,  provides enhanced, visible law enforcement and security presence at train stations and along trains on selected high volume travel days.

DHS and TSA work with Amtrak and law enforcement partners to keep our nation’s passenger rail system safe every day. Operation RAILSAFE, which took place this week,  provides enhanced, visible law enforcement and security presence at train stations and along trains on selected high volume travel days.

Official DHS photo by Barry Bahler | Download High-Resolution Photo (2100 x 1395)

September 3, 2015
2:50 pm

Today I am pleased to announce our selection of the University of Texas at San Antonio as the Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations (ISAO) Standards Organization. The selection followed a competitive process to designate an organization to create standards to assist in the widespread establishment of ISAOs. ISAOs will serve as focal points for cybersecurity information sharing and collaboration within the private sector and between the private sector and government.

The University of Texas at San Antonio will work with existing information sharing organizations, owners and operators of critical infrastructure, federal agencies, and other public and private sector stakeholders to identify a common set of voluntary standards or guidelines for the creation and functioning of ISAOs, as provided by Executive Order 13691 – Promoting Private Sector Cybersecurity Information Sharing. In encouraging the rapid creation of ISAOs, the Executive Order expands information sharing by encouraging the formation of communities that share information not just within a sector but across a region or in response to a specific emerging cyber threat. 

ISAOs will contribute greatly to our national efforts to expand the breadth and speed of cybersecurity information sharing, which in turn is key to our shared effort to reduce the prevalence and impact of cybersecurity incidents. The ISAO standards developed by the University of Texas at San Antonio will reflect the most effective and innovative ideas from the public and private sectors. Through a public, open-ended engagement with business communities, civil society groups, and other stakeholders, the University of Texas at San Antonio will develop transparent best practices that align with the needs of all industry groups.

I highly encourage all organizations to support, partner with, and participate in the standards development effort. This support will ensure that the ISAO standards most effectively promote secure, rapid, and widespread information sharing that helps organizations detect and block increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats.

August 26, 2015
2:13 pm
By Shaun Donovan
Director of the Office of Management and Budget

Summary: Get the facts and data behind the programs the Obama administration has put in place in partnership with the communities they intend to serve, all across the country. As the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, it’s my job to oversee the implementation and enforcement of the President’s priorities across the Administration.

You might call us the nerve center where goals become initiatives, and initiatives become programs at work on the ground in local communities and states across the country.

With that in mind, let’s go back to basics for a second and focus on something we can all agree on:

Any plans that we want to make for improving communities across the country need to be hatched in partnership with those communities -- by the people who live in them, work in them, and stand to benefit from them.

OMB Place Map

This week marks ten years since the neighborhoods of New Orleans were left devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Since then, community partnerships with the federal government have helped revitalize those communities. They’ve made sure the city’s vital health clinic system stays funded and delivering high quality services. They’ve laid the groundwork to open the Loyola Avenue-Union Passenger Terminal Streetcar Line in the city’s business district. They’ve brought the number of homeless veterans in New Orleans to a functional zero by December of 2014 – more than a year ahead of the proposed goal. (Hear straight from a New Orleanian about the role open data played in the city's transformation.)

There are projects like these at work across the country, whether you realized it or not.

Over the course of the past six years, this Administration has been steadily creating programs in partnership with the communities they intend to serve – from southeastern Kentucky to Fresno to Detroit.

While there are a lot of things we have been up to from addressing climate change to poverty alleviation, we are taking a new approach -- one that relies on communities developing plans that best fit their needs rather than the laundry list of programs the government has. It’s pretty simple. First, we partner with communities by seeking out their plans or vision. Second, we take a one-government approach that crosses agency and program silos to support communities in implementing their plans for improvement. Finally we focus on what works, using data to measure success and monitor progress.

Nola Before

Construction and development of the Loyola Avenue-Union Passenger Terminal Streetcar Lines had stalled out, leaving low-income areas underserved for decades. A $45 million TIGER grant ensured the streetcar expansion was completed by 2013, and has connected residential neighborhoods -- including low-income communities -- directly with Amtrak and intercity bus service.

Fresno After

The plot of land at Belmont and Poplar Avenues was virtually abandoned. AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps has since installed water-saving irrigation, cleaned up the alleys, built a community garden, and planted native trees.

We wanted to give the American public a sense of exactly what that looks like – and give you the opportunity to take a look at what’s at work in your area. So today, we released a snapshot view of the Obama administration’s community-based initiatives. It combines datasets from initiatives across more than 15 Federal agencies – and we’re adding datasets and features as we continue building it.

Take a look – see what’s at work in your area.

Then, share how you’ve seen these programs at work in your community. If you’ve got a photo, share that with us, too.

From the start, this map has been built in the open, and source code is available on GitHub. We want to know what you think, and how we can improve it – so share your thoughts with us here.

August 25, 2015
5:46 pm

On August 6, an 11-year-old boy named Jonathan was discovered by our Border Patrol at the Mexico/Texas border.  Days or weeks before, Jonathan left his native El Salvador and headed north because his family wanted him to have a better life in the United States.  But, by the time Jonathan reached the Texas border in the blistering summer heat, he was dehydrated and exhausted.  Our Border Patrol agents found Jonathan and tried to save him, but it was too late.  Jonathan was pronounced dead in a nearby Texas hospital.

My message to Central American families in the United States and in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala: Know the facts before you gamble with your child’s life.    

I have said many times before that sending a child on the long journey, from Central America, through Mexico, and illegally into the United States is dangerous, particularly in the summer heat and in the hands of criminal smugglers.  That is true now as it was before. 

This summer we are seeing another troubling and dangerous thing. Before smuggling women and children across our border, the Coyotes are forcing them to spend days in “stash houses.” These women and children, who have paid the Coyotes thousands of dollars, are then held by the Coyotes against their will with little food and water.  We are told many women are sexually abused by the smugglers.  One Honduran woman told us that her experience at a stash house was the worst part of the journey. She now warns others: “Don't believe everything the Coyotes say because they tell you a different story than what is reality. Reality is really hard.”   

Know the facts.  Do not be misled.  Do not fall prey to criminal smugglers who regard children as commodities.  We are cracking down on these smuggling organizations.  Just last month, we arrested 23 smugglers at once and charged them with human trafficking.  These smugglers now each face sentences of up to ten years in federal prison. 

Know the facts.  Our borders are not open to illegal migration.  There are no “permisos” or work permits for families attempting to enter the United States illegally.  In fact, under our new policies, anyone apprehended crossing our border illegally after January 1, 2014 is a top priority for deportation, regardless of age.  If you come here illegally, there will be consequences.  You will be detained, often required to pay a bond, and agree to conditions that ensure your return to court for your immigration case. The recent court decision has not changed this policy.

Know the facts.  For some children in Central America, there is a lawful and safe path to come to the United States.  We remain committed to protecting families with legitimate humanitarian claims under our laws.  Late last year, we established an in-country refugee processing program in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, for children with at least one parent lawfully present in the United States.  We encourage families to take advantage of this program, which will provide those who qualify with a safe and legal alternative to the perilous illegal journey.  More information about this program can be obtained at http://www.uscis.gov/CAM or through your local consulate.

We urge you to choose this path, not the dangerous and illegal one.

Meanwhile, President Obama wants to address the violence and poverty in Central America.  That is why he has asked Congress for $1 billion to create economic opportunity in Central America and accountable, functioning governing institutions. 

Jonathan’s journey to the United States ended tragically. Don’t subject your child to the risk of the same fate.

# # #

This first appeared in EFE.

August 24, 2015
1:54 pm

In a special ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field office in Miami, Amanda Angelica Budino, a 100-year-old applicant from Buenos Aires, Argentina, recently took the Oath of Allegiance and became a naturalized U.S. Citizen. She has lived in the United States since 2001 and currently resides with her daughter and granddaughter in Miami. Mrs. Budino was the only member of her family who had not attained U.S. citizenship, and said she didn’t want to die without becoming an American citizen.

Amanda Angelica Budino becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen

Amanda Angelica Budino stands with Acting Miami USCIS Field Office Director Conrad Zargoza.

USCIS officials were struck by her remarkable accomplishment. “I was honored to have interviewed Mrs. Budino regarding her naturalization application,” said Immigration Services Officer Iliam Espada, who helped her through the application process. “She was very warm, bright, and we here in Miami wish her all the best.”

Mrs. Budino was so excited during her naturalization interview that she answered every question while waving an American flag and saying “Let’s go, USA!” After taking the Oath, she said, “I am very thankful to this country, and I am very happy to become an American citizen.”

###

August 21, 2015
3:46 pm

Members of the task force boarding the SS Cape Isabel to collect simulated nuclear detonation debris samples for nuclear forensic analysis. (Photo courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigations)

Members of the task force boarding the SS Cape Isabel to collect simulated nuclear detonation debris samples for nuclear forensic analysis. (Photo courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigations)

This week the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) participated in a successful land-based and maritime exercise of the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Ground Collections Task Force, whose mission is to collect vital forensic evidence in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation to assist in determining the responsible entity.  The task force, comprised of members from the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Energy (DOE), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), collects debris samples near the site of the detonation for analysis at designated laboratories.

Exercise Prominent Hunt 15-2, which took place in Southern California earlier this month, simulated a nuclear detonation near the ocean.  For the first time, the task force had to coordinate the collection of forensic evidence at sea. Nuclear forensics serves as the technical pillar of nuclear attribution, which fuses law enforcement, intelligence, and nuclear forensics information to identify the source of the device and the persons or groups responsible for its use in acts of terrorism.

Prominent Hunt 15-2 involved extensive collaboration among federal and local partners, including the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD). As they would in responding to a real event, DOE, DoD, and the LASD  deployed air assets with aerial radiation detection and mapping equipment to ascertain radiation levels from a nuclear detonation. These assets helped to ensure the collection of optimal evidence samples as well as the safety of the task force and other responders. The LASD was the first agency on-scene, where they gathered initial radiation level data with their helicopter-mounted detection system and, upon the arrival of federal assets, integrated into the DOE-managed aerial detection operations.  The DOE flew its Aerial Measurement System equipment on their fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. The DoD 244th Aviation Brigade also practiced with the DOE Aerial Measurement System as well as the DoD 20th CBRNE Command Airborne Radiological Detection, Identification, and Measurement System.

Throughout the exercise, DNDO collaborated with federal and local partners for a successful exercise. Exercises such as these support DNDO’s mission to help ensure the nation’s nuclear forensics capabilities are prepared to respond to nuclear threats.

Members of the task force collecting simulated debris samples from the SS Lane Victory. (Photo courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigations)

Members of the task force collecting simulated debris samples from the SS Lane Victory. (Photo courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigations)

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