Leadership Journal Archive
October 12, 2007 - January 19, 2008

January 31, 2008

Engaging the Public for a Better Security Process

One of my main priorities for TSA in 2008 is to get passengers and TSA on the same side, working together toward a better security process for everyone. That’s why TSA has launched a blog called “Evolution of Security” to get a two-way conversation going between our workforce and the public. While I’ll still be posting here on TSA’s many transportation security initiatives, I invite you to check out www.tsa.gov/blog to interact with some TSA employees, learn about the innovations we have in the works for checkpoints, and give us your feedback. I wanted to share with Leadership Journal readers an excerpt of my initial Evolution of Security blog post:
Our ambition is to provide here a forum for a lively, open discussion of TSA issues. While I and senior leadership of TSA will participate in the discussion, we are turning the keyboard over to several hosts who represent what’s best about TSA (its people). Our hosts aren’t responsible for TSA’s policies, nor will they have to defend them -- their job is to engage with you straight-up and take it from there. Our hosts will have access to senior leadership but will have very few editorial constraints. Our postings from the public will be reviewed to remove the destructive but not touch the critical or cranky.

Please be patient and good-humored as we get underway. The opportunity is that we will incorporate what we learn in this forum in our checkpoint process evolution. We will not only give you straight answers to your questions but we will challenge you with new ideas and involve you in upcoming changes.

I encourage the readers of the Leadership Journal to visit our new blog and contribute to the conversation with TSA front line employees. This is your chance to let us know what you think, ask questions, and help us improve the screening process so it is more effective for everyone. Please stay tuned to this Journal as I will continue to be a major contributor.

Kip Hawley

TSA Administrator

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January 30, 2008

Securing Our Land Border

The Ambassador Bridge between Detroit, Mich., and Windsor, Ont., Canada Earlier this month, I wrote about the new border-crossing requirement we’ll be instituting tomorrow, January 31. We’re replacing the outmoded honor system of oral declarations at our border with a common-sense requirement of tangible documentation.

Most Americans might find it hard to understand why, in our post-9/11 world, our country even has a system that allows anyone -- including potential terrorists, convicted felons, and illegal aliens -- to cross our border simply by declaring who they are and where they’re from without having to prove it.

They’d be surprised to learn that even when proof of citizenship and identity are required, more than 8,000 different documents are accepted, including easily forged student library cards and foreign baptismal certificates.

And they would be dismayed by the fact that in spite of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that we take serious steps to identify who is crossing our border, our government faces mounting pressure from critics who strongly oppose replacing the current system.

We understand the concerns about commerce. We want commerce. But we can’t ignore the continued threat we face from dangerous people seeking entry.

They’re also ignoring the fact that -- as evidenced by last year’s immigration debate -- the American people rightly oppose open borders, care deeply about border security, and view secure ID as a national imperative.

And they seem unaware of the incongruity of building border fences to stop people from sneaking through America’s back door while failing to check adequately who’s walking through our front door.

Critics charge that our actions will harm commerce by slowing the processing of arriving travelers. In fact, with consistent identity and citizenship documents that are easily recognizable to our CBP officers, we expect processing speed to increase.

We’re also accused of springing these changes on people with little warning. On the contrary, we first gave notice to travelers and border communities in June of last year. We’ve since engaged in a sustained outreach campaign from regular briefings with stakeholders to participation in multiple media interviews. To this day, our outreach efforts continue. And starting tomorrow, when we begin implementation, we’ll do it in a flexible way, treating travelers with understanding and patience as they acclimate.

Michael Chertoff

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January 22, 2008

The National Response Framework

Today Secretary Chertoff and I released a new National Response Framework to guide how our nation plans, prepares for, and responds to disasters and emergencies of all kinds and all sizes.

The National Response Framework builds on the previous National Response Plan. It is designed to give senior elected and appointed officials from federal, tribal, state, and local government, as well as members of the private sector, a clear, straightforward, easy-to-understand system for working together before, during, and after disasters. It can be used to manage everything from the smallest local incident to a major catastrophic event that impacts our entire nation.

The Framework was not written by Washington bureaucrats working in isolation. It reflects extensive coordination and input from state and local officials and emergency managers from across the country – the very people who will be using the plan. As such, the National Response Framework is not a federal plan; it is a national plan that will make sure everyone involved in the response effort is working from the same sheet of music.

The new Framework builds on a set of core principles
  • It stresses the need for partnerships across government and the private sector.
  • It emphasizes a “bottom up” approach that recognizes most incidents are managed locally and that all incidents should be handled at the lowest jurisdictional level.
  • It is designed to be scalable so that it can be expanded or narrowed based on the scope and nature of the incident, and it is flexible and adaptable to different kinds of disasters.
  • It recognizes that successful emergency preparedness and response depend on unity of command and a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities among all involved.
  • It is always activated and encourages a forward leaning posture by emphasizing preparedness planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising and applying lessons learned. Planning ahead of the disaster is critical to a successful response, and the Framework encourages such coordination.
Today’s release of the National Response Framework marks the culmination of extensive outreach and coordination among the Department, FEMA, and literally thousands of people across the country involved in emergency management. We are grateful for the expertise that so many individuals lent to its creation, and we are pleased to present the Framework today to federal, state, local, and private sector partners and to the American people.

David Paulison
Federal Emergency Management Agency

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Ignorance is Not Bliss

Last week, the New York Times Science section ran a column that posed the question: What is more dangerous – al Qaeda or homeland security?

Pointing to a recent study about cardiac health problems caused by anxiety, columnist John Tierney suggested that continuing elevated threat levels – and changes in security measures – may spur anxiety-based heart damage that harms more people than al Qaeda.

I’ll admit that I began to read the article expecting at the end it would be tongue in cheek. But this didn’t turn out to be satire. The Times seems to feel that where terrorism is concerned ignorance is, if not bliss, at least tranquility.

Of course, there are a couple of quick points to be made. Contrary to Mr. Tierney’s assertion, the United States Government does not frequently change the alert level, and when we do we explain as fully as possible why.

I could also point out that the Times’ advice suggests that the newspaper itself may be a bigger cause of anxiety-related heart disease, what with the recent reporting about foiled terrorist plots in Spain and Germany, and, less happily, the Bhutto assassination, and bombings in Pakistan and Algeria.

But I want to take the Times’ point more seriously, because it is an example (more obvious and outlandish than usual, perhaps) of an increasing strain of intellectual denial when it comes to terrorism.

As I have often said, our approach to terrorism must be balanced. Neither complacency nor hysteria is appropriate in dealing with a global struggle that will be with us for the foreseeable future. The right answer is to acknowledge the threat, manage the risk and make the necessary reasonable and cost-effective investments that we need to secure ourselves and respond if necessary. And averting our eyes from the threat of terrorism will seem very hollow when the abandonment of security leads to tragic losses that cannot be ignored

We certainly debate about what the right balance of security is, but does it make sense to pretend that what we read about doesn’t exist? When facts become uncomfortable or upsetting, should we ignore them? On the Times’ theory, we should also not discuss preparing for pandemic flu or major catastrophes.

The anxiety caused by a 21st century in which technology has given terrorists and militants unprecedented destructive capabilities is very real. The constructive approach to that anxiety however, is not to wish it away or pretend that it doesn’t exist. The correct approach is to confront the danger, be transparent about the facts, and build real capabilities that assure us that we have maximized our chances of averting or minimizing harm. These are the kinds of behaviors that calm--rather than promote--anxiety.

Ignoring the danger leads neither to bliss nor tranquility. Rather, we should recognize that in a world where man-made and natural hazards exist, the most constructive outlet of anxiety is to motivate solid, intelligent, and balanced preparation.

Michael Chertoff

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January 19, 2008

Transition: Heads We Win, Tails You Lose

A quarter with heads showing. (US Mint)As I write, the United States government is engaged in planning across federal departments for the transition to a new administration next year. That includes our own Department of Homeland Security, where Secretary Chertoff and I continue to pursue these efforts which began early last year.

As part of this planning, we’re filling some of the top jobs previously held by political appointees with career professionals. For example, last year, we made Jay Ahern, a 30-year veteran of the federal government, second-in-command of our Customs and Border Protection component. Just recently, at our Transportation Security Administration, we filled our deputy slot with Gale Rossides, who also has had a 30-year federal career and has served at TSA since its inception six years ago. And we are training and cross-training such senior career people to ensure that DHS will have the continuity of leadership it needs following the transition.

It’s important to realize that major terrorist attacks, both here and abroad, are often launched shortly before or after national elections or inaugurations. By promoting dedicated civil servants who’ve proven their mettle, we’re not only building for the future, but are helping ensure that during the transition, as the perceived weakness grows, our department is prepared.

This really is common sense, but try telling that to critics like Think Progress, a self-styled “progressive” blog. Writing last Thursday, its blogger begins by claiming we’ve filled too many positions with political appointees, all of whom are deemed “incompetent.” In fact, less than one-tenth of one percent of our 208,000-member workforce consists of appointees. And as for “incompetence,” good luck to anyone who can square that charge with the fact that there have been no follow-up attacks on our homeland since September 11th.

Now if Think Progress believes we have too many appointees, that must mean they support our promotion of civil servants to replace appointees, right? Wrong.

Referencing a Wall Street Journal article about our department, the blogger quotes a “government bureaucracy specialist,” who suggests that the next administration might question whether we’re promoting our career staffers based on political connections rather than merit.

Note the contradiction: we are accused of being too “political” by allegedly hiring too many appointees -- and we are accused of being too “political” for replacing outgoing appointees with career professionals.

Clearly, this is the old game of “heads-we-win-tails-you-lose.” A reasonable person might ask who is really playing politics here.

Regardless of what the critics may say, we remain committed to ensuring a smooth and successful transition for 2009. Our goal remains to pass along a strong and effective department capable of protecting our nation well into the 21st century. We will continue to pursue it with unswerving dedication in the days and months ahead.

Paul A. Schneider
Deputy Secretary (Acting)


January 17, 2008

No More Honor System

The picture shows a car entering the United States from Canada through a dedicated commuter lane. Currently, American and Canadian citizens wishing to enter the U.S. through land or sea ports of entry may use over 8,000 different documents to establish their identity. Or, in some cases, they are allowed to simply declare their citizenship to a Customs and Border Protection officer. Barring any red flags, that’s all they need to cross the border.

Amazingly, this means that baptismal certificates, student ID cards, and thousands of other easily-forged documents can be used to enter our country – hardly an efficient or secure process. The current system puts an onerous burden on our CBP officers while allowing too much opportunity for criminals, illegal aliens, and potential terrorists to slip into our country.

That’s why starting on January 31st of this year, we will end the practice of accepting oral declarations alone at land and sea ports of entry. U.S. and Canadian citizens 19 years of age and older will need to present a government-issued photo ID--such as a driver’s license--along with proof of citizenship--such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate--to enter the country. Children 18 and under will only be required to show proof of citizenship.

We first announced this change months ago. The acceptable documents are all readily available and widely held. We are reminding travelers again so they will remember to carry the necessary documents, and grow accustomed to the new procedures at the border.

Ending oral declarations reduces a major vulnerability. So does decreasing the number of documents our CBP officers must assess from more than 8,000 to about two dozen. These measures are critical to securing the border – something which the American people rightly demand.

We will continue our vigorous education and outreach efforts to ensure that everyone is aware of these changes. We will also continue to work with the traveling public, our international partners, the private sector, and border communities as we implement these important security measures.

Michael Chertoff

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January 16, 2008

Building an Effective Bio-Defense Capability

Photomicrograph of Bacillus anthracis bacteria (anthrax)using Gram stain technique. (NIH) Over the next year, members of our Department will be increasingly talking about the need for Americans to resist complacency in the face of terrorism. There is no question that in some areas of the United States, the sense of urgency to do what is necessary to protect our country from terrorism has begun to wane in the six years since 9/11. Evidence of this can be found in the recent calls to delay new identification requirements to cross our borders; demands to relax current restrictions on liquids in carry-on baggage at our airports; and attempts to put off – or even eliminate – new measures designed to create secure driver’s licenses across our country.

Complacency can be a normal, healthy response to an immense tragedy like 9/11. No one wants to live in a perpetual state of fear or anxiety. But as a nation, it would be irresponsible to pretend the terrorist threat has subsided or that our enemies are no longer interested in waging war on our country. Our job at DHS is to resist complacency. We have not forgotten the need for constant vigilance against the terrorist threat and every day we work diligently to stay ahead of those who would harm us.

One area in particular where we have accelerated our efforts is developing an effective national bio-defense capability to guard against the release of a biological agent that could kill or severely injure tens of thousands to hundred thousands of Americans. Many of these biological agents are not difficult to grow or disseminate over a wide urban area causing thousands of people to become severely ill or potentially die.

Our approach to bio-defense is well defined in Presidential Directives issued by President Bush over the last several years. Our goal is to understand and increase our awareness of such an attack while the perpetrators are still abroad, and thereby prevent an attack from happening. To this end, we have deployed detection systems that monitor the environment for biological agents to provide the early warning necessary to prevent large numbers of causalities and deaths. We are also standing up a robust capability to monitor the status of animal health, human health, food, water, and the environment.

Working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services and other partners, we are creating a nimble and robust response structure to have medicines that can be distributed to people in the event of an attack.

With our colleagues at the Environmental Protection Agency and local environmental health agencies, we must be able to achieve environmental recovery from biological agents that can contaminate cities, buildings, homes, and the environment for years.

These are all complex challenges that require significant planning across all levels of government, multi-year investments in research and technology, and a comprehensive strategy that recognizes the individual needs of cities and states. Moreover, we must set national priorities so that our investments give us a level of national coverage, meet operational needs, and allow us to stay ahead of evolving threats.

We understand that a large-scale biological attack could be far more devastating than even the attacks on 9/11. As that tragedy moves further into the distance, we must remember that our enemy is patient and willing to wait years or decades to strike us when we are most vulnerable. We become more vulnerable as our sense of urgency and vigilance wanes. I can assure you that the committed public servants in our Department will not lose focus as time passes and we will continue to do what is necessary to protect the American people from the full range of threats we face.

Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D.
Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer

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January 12, 2008

Let's get Real

Secretary Chertoff Speaks at the National Press Club at the REAL ID RegulationsA key feature of modern society is the widespread presence of tangible proofs of identity, such as driver’s licenses and other government-issued IDs.

Our need for these documents is clear. Modern life consists of countless interactions among strangers and to guard against the dishonest or dangerous ones, it helps to have concrete evidence of who we all are.

But just as we need these documents to verify people’s identity, so must we verify the documents themselves. From potential terrorists trying to gain access to critical infrastructure, to illegal immigrants aiming to get jobs and stay in this country, to con men wanting to steal our identity, there are plenty of individuals who are obtaining these documents illegally or creating bogus ones.

Given this threat, the case for more secure forms of identification is compelling indeed. The 9/11 Commission recommended it; Congress has mandated it; the American people overwhelmingly support it; and now, my department has taken a big step forward toward achieving it.

In accordance with the REAL ID Act of 2005, yesterday we unveiled a set of uniform standards to help our states advance this national imperative.

Under these new standards, driver’s license applicants must furnish documentary proof of who they are and that they’re here legally. States must verify that the documents are legitimate, issue REAL ID licenses that are tougher to tamper with or counterfeit, and work together to prevent people from receiving licenses from multiple states. Department of Motor Vehicles offices must protect their operations and databases from identity theft and other nefarious activities.

Many states are already taking steps to secure identification and we will grant extensions for REAL ID implementation to those who need them and are making genuine progress.

To help defray the states’ implementation costs, we’re making $360 million available -- $80 million in dedicated REAL ID grants and $280 million in general homeland security funding. We’ve cut these costs by almost three-quarters by extending the enrollment deadline three years -- to December 2017 -- for Americans who will be 50 years of age or older as of December 2014.

As a result, the average cost increase for issuing a REAL ID license will be just $8 per person, or just $2 a year. For most Americans, that’s a price worth paying to secure our identity documents. But for a vocal minority, led by the ACLU and like-minded groups, it is not. Rather than an urgent necessity, they depict secure identification as an egregious violation of privacy.

Their position defies both logic and consistency. Have ACLU officials ever objected publicly to the presence of driver’s licenses and other ubiquitous forms of identification? Of course they haven’t. How then can they protest against every effort to secure these documents from fraud and falsification? Do they support insecure identification?

Privacy is indeed at stake here, but it’s the ACLU and their allies who pose the greatest threat to it. Without REAL ID, Americans will remain vulnerable to one of the most egregious privacy violations of all – identity theft.

Under our plan, the new licenses that States issue in 2011 will have to comply with REAL ID security standards.

Michael Chertoff

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January 10, 2008

Advice from Beyond the Beltway

Members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council at their January '08 meeting.As I mentioned in my last entry in December, we have a busy year ahead of us at the Department. As we begin to tackle our priorities for 2008, I want to share with you an important, but sometimes overlooked part of what makes this department effective – the advice and recommendations we receive from several internal and external advisory groups.

We know we don’t have all the answers in Washington – nor do we pretend to. That is why we rely on the advice and counsel of a host of advisory groups to broaden our understanding of critical homeland security issues and to help us make more informed policy decisions that benefit from a range of perspectives and professional experience.

On Tuesday I spoke to the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, which provides recommendations not only to the President and our Department, but to other federal partners, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Transportation, and Energy. These members are all experts from the private sector, academia, and state and local government. They include CEOs, fire and police chiefs, medical professionals, governors, and a university president, all of whom bring a unique set of skills and expertise to the table.

The council’s main focus is infrastructure security – how to better protect our nation’s physical structures and cyber systems from deliberate attack or disruption, and how to build greater resiliency into these critical systems. They have provided recommendations and issued reports in areas such as chemical, biological, and radiological threats, insider threats against critical infrastructure, protecting the economy and social stability during a pandemic health threat, and hardening the Internet against cyber attacks.

Today I met with members of another important group, the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Similar to the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, HSAC members are private sector presidents and CEOs, mayors, governors, and first responders. As a matter of fact, Judge William Webster, the Chairman, is a former CIA and FBI director. The HSAC has focused on a number of important areas, including the future of terrorism, as well as how to enhance the culture and effectiveness of the Department’s workforce as we meet the challenge of protecting our nation.

These and other advisory committees – whose members are experts on everything from privacy practices to transportation and global trade – provide an invaluable service to our department. Their experience is unmatched and they have given us incredible insight as we chart the best path forward for the department and the American people.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your continued feedback in 2008.

Michael Chertoff

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January 2, 2008

An Eye Opening Story

ICE targets human trafficking in public service announcement.
Every day at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), we are fighting a fight you rarely hear about in the media - the battle against human trafficking. ICE is taking an aggressive approach to dismantle the global infrastructure of people, money and materials that supports this heinous crime. I want to take this opportunity to share with you a story about a recent ICE human trafficking investigation.

Picture this: May 12, 2007. A rainy midnight in an affluent Long Island neighborhood where the average home cost around $1.5 million. A woman in her fifties – I’ll call her “Jane” – wearing ripped sweat pants and rags she’d sewn together into a shirt wandered the neighborhood looking for help. At first, Jane thought she’d go to a nearby home, but ended up abandoning that plan and even hid in the bushes every time a car passed, having never been out of the house before and unsure of whom she could trust.

Miraculously, Jane found her way to small shopping center with a donut shop - one of the only businesses open at that very early hour - more than a mile away. Again, fearful, she did not go in. But an alert employee spotted Jane and, despite the fact that he did not speak her Indonesian language, convinced her to come inside.

He and his manager sheltered and fed Jane until the manager’s mother, a nurse, arrived. Jane motioned and gestured that she’d been abused. And the nurse observed severe injuries behind her ears – as if someone had tried to cut them off – and dozens of scars and other marks covering her arms. Ultimately, the three called local police for help.

Nassau County Police Department officers arrived, as did a specially trained detective who is part of the local Human Trafficking Task Force. Jane was taken to the hospital and local officers contacted ICE.

The five-month ICE investigation that followed culminated on December 17 when a wealthy Long Island couple was convicted by jury trial on a twelve count federal indictment that included forced labor, peonage, document servitude, harboring aliens and conspiracy for holding Jane and another Indonesian woman captive. The couple is set to be sentenced on March 28, 2008, and each faces up to 40 years for their roles in this scheme.

These women were rescued, and the perpetrators brought to justice, because each of the individuals involved took action. Like many things in law enforcement, the badge-carriers can’t always do the job alone.

For years, a number of non-governmental organizations have assisted us in our cause – both through public outreach and by providing victim services. And now we’re augmenting their efforts by reaching out directly to the public with a new ICE Public Service Announcement. Our message is simple: A human trafficking victim can be anyone. If you see them, report it to ICE at 1-866-347-2423.

The sad reality is that trafficking victims remain anonymous as long as they are ignored. They hide in plain sight. We all must work together to shine a light on this problem and get the victims to the help they deserve.

Julie L. Myers
Assistant Secretary
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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