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  6. Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson at Arizona State University - As Delivered

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Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson at Arizona State University - As Delivered

Release Date: January 29, 2015

PRESIDENT CROW: Good afternoon everyone my name is Michael Crow, President here at Arizona State University and I have a great pleasure this afternoon to introduce our Secretary of Homeland Security. But before I do that, just for those of you that are visiting ASU, I just want to remind everyone that we are a highly differentiated public university. We are committed to the idea of inclusion versus exclusion and the success of our students. We are committed to the public impact of our research, rather than just the academic impact of our research. And we are committed and responsible for the outcomes in our communities, not just the outcomes inside the university. So that's a fundamental departure from the standard model. And out here in the frontier land of Arizona, we're having a fantastic time building this institution and making it work.

This school where we're sitting, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, which is named in honor of one of America's greatest communicators and greatest journalists is an example of the way that we work. It's a hands-on teaching hospital kind of place, which is both a center for journalistic education as well as the production of news and insight and perspective. So we do all of those things at the same time. It's an honor this afternoon to be able to introduce Secretary Jeh Johnson, who is our national leader in homeland security. Secretary Johnson has a distinguished career of service protecting the rest of us. He went to Morehouse College as an undergraduate, graduated from Columbia University Law School, was in private practice, served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the really complex place called New York. He has served in various jobs in the defense of our country as the General Counsel of the United States Air Force, as the leader of and the General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Defense. And now President Obama has asked him to take on one of the most complicated assignments that anyone could be given.

The Department of Homeland Security has almost a quarter of a million employees from almost two dozen agencies that were amalgamated together in the response to the situation after 911. And the Secretary's bringing his decades of experience and insight and perspective in protecting the rest of us to now managing things as broadly scoped as the Coast Guard to the Border Patrol  to the Secret Service to the Transportation and Safety Administration to all of the potential threats that we might face here in the homeland, from weapons of mass destruction and terrorist acts to everything that you can possibly imagine. And the Americans, by the way, in the United States, we've never had this kind of position before. It never existed. We always had our defense organizations outwardly focused rather than also focused on us here in the country. So the Secretary has been given a really complex set of organizational issues, political issues, the issues of the border, the issues related to immigration, the issues associated with protecting and defending the United States and our interests. And so, it really is an honor this afternoon to be able to introduce one of our national servants who's committed his life to the protection of the rest of us, Secretary Jeh Johnson.

SECRETARY JOHNSON: Thank you very much. I'm wearing a lot of wires and a lot of equipment, so I hope everybody can hear me in this room and beyond. Because we're in a classroom setting, I thought I would take off my jacket, talk to you in shirtsleeves. It is a real honor. You can see I'm really wired here, literally. It's a real honor for me to talk at this school, the Walter Cronkite School. I was born in 1957. I came of age, had my political awakening in the 60s and 70s. So, I'm of that generation where it wasn't fact, it didn't really happen, until I watched the CBS evening news and Walter Cronkite told me it happened. My family and I, we'd sit around the TV, Channel 2 in New York, at 6:30 or 7 o'clock. And if you'd heard during the course of the day, that something terrible had happened in the United States, it didn't really happen until Walter Cronkite explained it, and how he explained it. That's how much he meant in my household growing up. When I telephoned John McCain and I said I wanted to come to your state and I wanted to talk about border security, where should I go? The first thing he said was the Cronkite School at ASU. So here I am. I want to take the opportunity also to just kind of give a shout out to another great journalist from CBS who is here, Leslie Stall of 60 Minutes. Everybody give her a hand, please. As a public servant, I don't know whether to be overjoyed or scared to death that 60 Minutes is doing a segment about me, so here we are. I went, I've gone in and out of public service now 4 times. I left as the general counsel of the Department of Defense at the end of 2012. I thought I was done. I was back in corporate law practice. Eight months later, the President asked me if I would take on this responsibility. I was stunned, a little overwhelmed.

But I have to say, one of the things that I missed about public service most was the people, the quality of the people, the character of the people that you encounter in public service, particularly in the United States military. And, they're just such fascinating people that I work with in the joint staff and special ops and CENTCOM and Afghanistan, Iraq, other places in the Middle East. And I want to introduce you to two people who are with me here who work on my staff. Mario Flores and Frank Leon. These two gentlemen are United States Army, active duty. Frank, I don't think he'll mind me saying this, grew up in Los Angeles, in an immigrant family. Mario grew up in Chicago. These two gentlemen, stand up, these two gentlemen are United States Army. He's a lieutenant colonel. They've seen combat in Afghanistan. They are both bronze star recipients, and this man won the purple star also. Give them a hand. It's terrific to have people like this working with me every day. Your university president told you a lot about my responsibilities and the breadth of our mission in the Department of Homeland Security. I want to tell one, I want to go off on one little tangent just for a second here. In addition to all those responsibilities, I am also a dad. I am a dad of two college-age kids. How many of the students here have heard of, maybe most of you, have heard of something called Yik Yak. Raise your hands please. All right. Most of you. Before September, I had never heard of Yik Yak, but I learned all about it. My kids both go to college in Southern California. My daughter is a freshman.

My son is a sophomore. And they go to school about 30 miles apart. In September, I went to visit them. I went to visit my daughter and my son on a weekend in September. My daughter is 19. My son is 20. And I am under orders from my kids, from my daughter in particular. When you're 19, it's all about "Don't embarrass me, Dad." And I'm under orders from my daughter "When you come to visit me on my campus, can you leave behind as much of the Secret Service and the California highway patrol as you can? Please don't embarrass me. I'm a freshman." So I did my best to comply when I went to see my daughter in September, but sure enough the Secret Service when they're on a college campus, they're kinda conspicuous, even if you skinny down the detail as much as I'm committed to do that. And so, I walked onto campus and Yik Yak lit up. Immediately all this chatter "What's going on what's going on" and so first entry, "Hey, there are two Secret Service on campus. What up?" Response "Obama is here." Reply "No Obama's not here, he's on the East coast today. Calm down." Next entry "His daughters are looking at us for college. They're here." Reply "No they're not here, they're too young, calm down." And my son, my son can get Yik Yak also, he's looking at this chatter also going back and forth. My son cannot resist, he's gotta jump in anonymously. And he says "No, it's a Vin Diesel lookalike. He has armed bodyguards for some reason." Finally somebody figured it out and said "No it's the fake Obama. He runs Homeland Security. His daughter's a freshman here, don't you know that?" And then the whole conversation concluded when somebody said "Gee that's too bad. She'll never get a date in four years." So the Department of Homeland Security is the third largest department of government. As you heard 240,000 personnel. Three times the size of this university. Sixty billion dollar budget. 22 components. We were formed in 2003 in the wake of 9/11. And a lot of people ask, "Why did we have to do this large realignment of government?" One of those reasons is because all those 22 components were scattered all over the federal government in departments that did not have a homeland security mission as part of their core mission. And we put it all together and it resembles in many ways, ministries of interior of a lot of European governments, a lot of governments in the Middle East. I meet with counterparts in the Middle East and Europe and they have almost the exact same mission set. And I think it is correct that for a long time we thought we did not need a Department of Homeland Security, a Ministry of the Interior in this country because we have two oceans separating us from the rest of the world, the east and west. And that all changed on 9/11.

I've already seen the efficiencies that can be brought about by having a counterterrorism mission, by having at my conference table, the people responsible for land, sea, air, border security all in one place. And so, it's a good thing. We're growing as a bureaucracy. There are things we're working on to get better. We've only been in business for twelve years. We have the counterterrorism mission, which in my view remains the cornerstone of our Department's mission. We've got border security, the enforcement and administration of our immigration laws, cyber security, border security, aviation security, maritime security, protection of our national leaders, protection of critical infrastructure, protection against chem-bio threats, responses to natural disasters, if that's not enough - hurricanes, floods, mudslides, and I could go on and on.

I was here this morning to inspect the security at the Super Bowl on Sunday. And I wanted to come here in particular to talk about this subject. Basically, I want to do two things. One, I want to try to, I've given this talk now several times, and I want to separate fact from fiction. And the basic message that I intend to convey, that I want to convey in this, is that over the last fifteen years, we've done a lot for border security. We've invested a lot and we've seen a lot of good results, but there's a lot more we can do and we should do to get better at this. It's an evolving world, but there's a lot that we have done and we will do in the future. Now when I say fact from fiction, this is what I mean. The perception, I find this poll very interesting. This is a poll from June 2013 taken by pew research. Just your best guess, compared with ten years ago, do you think the numbers of immigrants entering the US illegally today is higher, lower, or about the same? In June 2013, 55% of those polled said "Higher." There are more coming in today than ten years ago, and only 15% said "Lower." 27% said about the same, and another 3% said "I don't know." That's actually a small percentage of people who say I don't know in response to a question. The reality is reflected here. This is going back to fiscal year 2000. This is apprehensions on the Southwest border, which is the busiest border we have. Apprehensions are a large indicator of total attempts to cross the border illegally and you can see the high in apprehensions was in FY2000, over 1.6 million people were arrested crossing our Southwest border in the year 2000. And in recent years, 11, 12, 13, 14, you'll see the numbers are a lot lower. They're a fraction of what they were then.

As I'll explain later on, this number here in FY14 of 479,000 was due largely to a spike in illegal migration that we saw in the Rio Grande valley in south Texas. Unaccompanied kids, which I'll get into in greater detail, but over half of this number is the RGV, is the Rio Grande Valley, right here. So this reflects a lot of good progress, it also reflects frankly, the economy in this country. The economy is a poll factor to illegal migration. So you look at the FY2000 number, everybody will remember what was happening in 2000 before the internet bubble burst, and then what would happen in 2008, 2009, you see the numbers actually getting lower. So the economy clearly also has a lot to do with it, but, these numbers in my view reflect a huge investment that this nation has made in the border patrol and border security, and I want to talk about past, present, and future efforts to secure our border.

Now, that is the San Diego Point of Entry in 1922. It looks rather quaint, not very busy. But this is what border security looked like in the 1920s, and in fact, our borders were completely open up until 1904. And in 1904 we began to make efforts to secure our border, by establishing a border patrol immigration service of basically 75 guys on horseback, patrolling the entire 2300 mile southwest border. Seventy-five guys on horses, doing that. That was our border security beginning in 1904. In 1921, Congress passed something called the Emergency Quota Act, which was our first effort to actually regulate immigration by nationality. By limiting the percentages prior to that, the only time we ever excluded somebody from the country, was when they were deemed to be, quote unquote undesirables, which is a list of people too politically incorrect to stay here. But in 1921 we began to regulate immigration in much the same way we do today, by quotas according to nationality. And in 1924, we established what is known today as the US Border Patrol. Today, the Border Patrol is actually - which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security - the Border Patrol is part of Customs and Border Protection, which is part of DHS. But the Border Patrol itself is one of our largest federal agencies with a 3.5 billion dollar budget, 23,000 personnel, and over 20,000 Border Patrol agents, lots of technology, lots of boats, helicopters, UAVs, fence, surveillance equipment, and a whole lot of other things. If you look at the comparison, just over the last 14 years, you will see that Border Patrol agents have grown considerably. We began making this huge investment in about 2000. In 2000 we had only 8,600 agents. That number today is somewhere over 18,000. Fence, a lot of people in Washington like to talk about building more fence, so we did that, beginning in FY2000. In FY2000, we had 57.9 miles of what's called primary fence. This is primary fence is very tall. One of the things that -- and this is a kind of a lesson for you -- those of you who might be interested in public service one day. There's the macro view, and the micro view of how we should make policy. So, I'm giving you kind of a Washington perspective on all of this. Where we, you know ask our people add up the, the amount of fence we had 15 years ago compared today. Get me a nice visual to show this, and we make our case, either for more funding from Congress, or to show the public where we are, but we also have to remember in Washington that what we do has real impact on the lives of people directly affected by this kind of stuff. So yesterday, I had my second visit with ranchers, here in Arizona, who live on the border, who, you know frankly care less about this macro view, and are concerned about what's happening on the border where they live. And so it's important for, I believe public servants like myself to not only have this perspective, but to also hear from people who are directly affected by our policies, and what is happening on the ground every day and try to be influenced by both these levels of what's going on. So anyway, this is what's called a pedestrian fence. It's very hard to climb. The reason I say that is because one of the ranchers told me yesterday that somebody actually cut a hole in this -- this is steel, actually -- cut a hole in this and drove a vehicle right through it. It took them a while to do it, but they were able to do it and drive right onto his property. But this is pedestrian fence, we now have 352 miles of this. We have more of this secondary fence, 10 miles, versus 36 miles. More of this vehicle fence, some people call this Normandy fence, it looks like the beach at Normandy. This is for a more rugged, remote area of the southwest border, mountainous. We have this kind of fence. Total fence between now and 2000, 15 years ago we've built almost ten times more fence, from 77 miles to 700 miles of these various different types of fence. We've built all weather roads which access the border, from 17 miles to 145 miles in the last 15 years. We've got more border lighting. You can probably see where all of this is going, more underground sensors, more equipment. We weren't even counting this in 2000 because of the technology wasn't that far along. We now have over 11,000 underground sensors. On the border we've got more aircraft by a factor of two to one. We've got more UAVs, we have 8 of these now that are devoted to the Customs Border Protection mission. I'm sure somebody's going to ask me a question about UAVs. We have more vessels, we had 2 in 2000, we've got 84 of these. We've got more mobile surveillance systems, the Border Patrol really likes surveillance equipment. We've got more of these, we've got more of these, we've got more of these towers, night vision goggles, 9,255. We've got thermal imaging capability, we weren't even counting this in 2000, I'm not sure it existed. We've got this now, we've got over 600 of these.

The other thing I'll say is, I spent a lot of time with our Border Patrol agents. I've been to the southwest border now in my thirteen months in office more times than I can count, been in south Texas more times than I can count, and we have in my judgment a remarkably dedicated group of people in the Border Patrol today. The organization is becoming more transparent, the Commissioner of CBP, Gil Kerlikowske is making efforts to have his agency be more transparent when it comes to use of force policy and so forth. And I've observed these people work overtime in circumstances that were extraordinarily difficult, particularly last summer. So the results of this huge investment that our nation has made in border security over the last 15 years looks like this. This is the chart that I showed you earlier. The numbers are down substantially, we've seen an uptick here, and we need to invest in border security further for the future, more technology and more integrated strategy, which I'm going to talk to you about in a moment.

This is Arizona, this is the two sectors in Arizona. The Tucson Sector and the Yuma Sector added together, you can see a comparable drop in the numbers of apprehensions along the Arizona border. Most of the 93,000 last year was in the Tucson Sector. This shows the relationship between our investment and border security, and the apprehensions. As we've invested in more border security personnel, the numbers of apprehensions has declined, in almost very parallel terms. Now, Pew research also, it makes estimates at the number of undocumented living in this country, and this too reflects something fascinating. Since this, it's the first time since the 1980s that the population of undocumented, according to Pew, has stopped growing. See it peaked in around 2006 at 12.2 million, it dropped off a little bit, and it sits at around 11.2, 11.3. Somewhat difficult to poll, to assess, but this is Pew Research's best estimate of the population of undocumented. And the top line message here is that the population has stopped growing, of undocumented in this country. We also do a lot in terms of interdiction, this was a discovery of a tunnel in Arizona, underneath the border just the other day in Nogales, Arizona. We discover these tunnels, not infrequently, there are large seizures of weapons, narcotics and so forth. So there's clearly, there's an interdiction aspect to our mission as well. Now, last summer, we had the spike in migration, illegal migration here in the RGV, the southwest border is divided into sectors, and this is the Rio Grande Valley Sector. Here you are up here in the, in the Tucson Sector, the El Paso Sector, and we've got the Rio Grande Valley Sector. And this sector got all the business, last summer. Migration patterns are very seasonal. They start to peak in January, they, they creep up, and they peak in early summer, and then it gets really hot, and they drop off, and they drop back down again. There's a pattern that occurs to that every year. In the RGV, what we've been seeing, lately, are illegal migrants coming from countries other than Mexico, from Central America, from other continents even, a detention facility in RGV will have, on any given day, 80 different nationalities. And so, the RGV lately has been getting a lot of attention and a lot of business.

Last summer, we saw an unprecedented spike in spring, early summer in kids, kids and families, at numbers we had never seen before. This is me and my wife, this is literally Mother's Day, Sunday, May 11th, we went out to visit our kids. I asked my wife, I'd like to go see a whole lot of other kids on Mother's Day at McAllen Station, Texas. We stopped, and the place was flooded. I'd been hearing about this, I wanted to see it myself, and the place was flooded with five year olds, seven years old, twelve, teenagers without parents. And so almost immediately after this, we put in place a number of things to deal with it, more personnel, more resources into south Texas. Under the law, when we identify somebody, like this young man, who is not accompanied by a parent the Department of Homeland Security, the Border Patrol is required to give the child over to the Department of Health and Human Services, and they under the law, place the child in a circumstance that is in the best interest of the child, which very often is here in the United States with a parent or an aunt, or whatever. And so, we had to, in the face of this unprecedented spike, ramp up our personnel, our resources. HHS had to build more shelters across the southwest in order to handle the increase numbers. We put in more detention space for the adults, the adults bringing their kids. We reduced the repatriation time, the time that sends, that send people back. For the adults from something like 30 days down to 4 days. We went after the coyotes, the criminal smugglers, almost nobody coming into the RGV was freelancing, they were all the clients of criminal smuggling organizations that reach out to them in Central America. And it's amazing that families will pay 5, 6, 8 thousand dollars a person to smuggle a child into south Texas. So we went after the coyote organizations.

We engaged in a very aggressive public messaging campaign. We were hearing from migrants in interviews, and I heard this myself, I probably spoke to hundreds of kids myself, in the Rio Grande Valley in these processing centers. We were hearing, "I, my parents heard that if I got here there would be permisos", free passes to those who made it into the United States. And so we put out a very aggressive public messaging campaign beginning in June, around June 22nd, that it's dangerous to send your kids from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras on a long journey, up through Mexico into south Texas. A lot of them, you may have seen the images, were stowing away on the top of freight trains. After a while these criminal organizations became so sophisticated, they were chartering buses for these kids. But we put out a public messaging campaign to highlight the dangers and to correct the misimpression that the coyotes were putting out, about there not being free passes, and we pointed out that the program, the deferred action program for children, the Dreamers the Docket Program was for those who had been here for 5 years. And that those who came here today or tomorrow were not eligible for this program. We engaged Mexican Central American leaders and the numbers, these are unaccompanied children crossing into that one sector I pointed out, declined pretty sharply. The peak in both this number, and the family units we saw was literally June 10th, 2014. And it began to drop considerably in mid-June, late July, again much of this is seasonal, but I have to believe a lot of this was due to the efforts we put in place.

Illegal migration is a very market sensitive thing, and it reacts to information in the market about what's going on the border. So the numbers dropped off, they've stayed low, even today, they're still low, they're lower than they were this time last January 2014, and I think in January they may be even lower than they were in January 2013. But, we have to be vigilant, in looking out for this. It really is dangerous for these children. So the future, in my view, is a risk based strategy to border security, and I'll explain what that is in a moment, better technology, more equipment, enhanced detention capability, and southern border campaign strategy, which I'll also explain in a moment. Now a risk based strategy means, we as a member of TSA pre-check at the airports. Alright, TSA pre-check is an example of a risk based strategy to Homeland Security, where rather than subjecting everybody to the same thing, we get a little information in advance from people who sign up to be members of TSA pre-check. Or we make assessments at the airport that this person go through a shorter line, and it frees up resources to focus on people we know less about. On, in the border security context, it means focusing your resources on where your surveillance and your intelligence tells you the risks exist. So, in that map I showed you, if you see a lot of activity in certain hot spots, and if we look at the RGV specifically, you could see a very concentrated area, where all those kids were going. You focus your resources on where you see the activity is going on through a lot of sophisticated surveillance capabilities, verses just simply building an entire wall across 2300 miles.

First of all you cannot build a wall along the Rio Grande Valley, however long the Rio Grande, it's impossible. Second, you're talking about very remote areas, even ranchers will tell you building a fence, a wall along a lot of mountainous area is not the answer. More technology more resources. And as Janet Napolitano used to say, "If you build a 15 foot fence, somebody will build a 16 foot ladder", or build a tunnel like the one I showed you there. So risk, the risk based strategy approach is the answer, which involves more technology, more surveillance. We're seeking from Congress more aircraft, more of these, more of these, more of these towers, we, we, we're into surveillance equipment, radar, video, and the like, these things called aerostats, these huge blimps, they're very expensive, but the Border Patrol really likes these. This too is the wave of the future, they're expensive, they're also expensive to maintain, but we'd like to get a few more of these. We're building more detention capability, this was a facility we opened in a place called Dilley, Texas last month. And we have a southwest border campaign strategy. I said my Department's only been around for twelve years. And, up until recently we've been very stole-piped, that's a Washington term, stole-piped, in how we do business. The Border Patrol, which is part of Customs and Border Protection, has its strategy, its view of how much it needs in terms of personnel and resources. Citizenship and Immigration Services has its own view of these things. The Coast Guard has its own view of how many boats, how many helicopters it needs. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has its view of how many people it needs to do its mission. And they would submit up to the Secretary of Homeland Security their view of what they need, which very often involves a lot of overlap, and therefore a lot of inefficiency. And when I'd go to places like McAllen in south Texas, and I'd sit down with our Border Patrol people, our Immigration Enforcement people, our FEMA people, our CIS folks to talk about the problem, the only person they had in common was, in their chain of command was me, and I'm all the way up in Washington.

So, what we decided to do is a more comprehensive strategic integrated approach, where we have a department wide strategy for border security in the southeast in the southwest, and we assigned tasks forces to pursue those missions in various parts of the country. This is the new chain of command we're putting in place, and this is what it would look like. So we've, we have a joint task force east, commanded by Coast Guard Admiral, three star, who is responsible for border security in the southeast, which is mostly water, Coast Guard, mostly water. And that commander is responsible for coordinating all of the assets of the Department of Homeland Security devoted to border security in the southeast. We have a Joint Task Force Director for the southwest, who is a Border Patrol Agent, three star, who's responsible for coordinating the assets of my department in the southwest. And then we have a Joint Task Force Investigations, which supports these two geographic tasks forces, which consist of these components. So this is the wave of the future, and needs to be the wave of the future as we've become more mature in the Department of Homeland Security.

The last thing that I've been stressing to Congress is, I need their help. I cannot print money, I cannot appropriate money, as much as I would like to myself. I have to have a partner in Congress and I'm operating right now on a Continuing Resolution. Mr. President you never want to be on a continuing resolution operating this university, which means that I'm restricted, I don't have an appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015, and therefore we're operating on what's called a continuing resolution which continues the spending at last year’s levels. And that is due to expire on February 27th, and so we need Congress, I need Congress to give us a full year’s appropriations bill to fund all the things that I've just been talking about here. As long as I'm on a CR, we  cannot engage in what are called new starts, new initiatives, new spending on the things we need to do to advance our border security mission, so I'm hoping Congress will help us out before the end of next month. So, that's my presentation. I know I have a lot of curious minds here, a lot of students. I'm happy to answer questions on any subject, in my lane. So, in Washington you learn how to stay in your lane, so please don't ask me anything about healthcare. Anyway, in all seriousness, yes Sir, right here.

STUDENT: Thank you for speaking today, first off. I was born and raised in Yuma, actually. And so it seems when you talk to people who don't know the facts about what the numbers that are coming in. People in Yuma always have a fear that illegal immigration is going to run over their city. I guess what's the public messaging side that Homeland Security is trying to do as you mentioned, concern that you have for people who erroneously think that illegal immigration is increasing, and what are you doing to combat the, the lack of knowledge about that in America?

SECRETARY JOHNSON: Well look, I mean it's, it's never that reassuring to somebody, who lives on the border who is everyday dealing with migrants crossing their property or whatever to know well fifteen years ago was much worse, doesn't that make you feel better. That's never reassuring. The purpose of this is to dispel the myth and to say that with the right investment and resources we actually can make progress. Now there's some, there's some in Congress who believe we ought to have operational control of the border. There's a bill floating around right now called "Secure the Border First Act of 2015", which requires that we have operational control of the border and the definition of operational control is no illegal crossings, none, that's it, perfection, which everybody knows you  cannot achieve. A lot of those kids, they were not seeking to evade capture, they would cross the border and run to the first border patrol agent they could find. And so, I think the message has to be that, with the right investment of resources we can make a difference, we have made a difference, and we need to do better, and we're focused on this and we're going to continue to make progress, so.

PRESIDENT CROW: Could people identify themselves when they ask a question?


REPORTER: Secretary Johnson...Bob Ortega with The Arizona Republic. Could you...just, just to do a follow up on what you were talking about a minute ago. You're asking, saying Congress, we need to pass an Appropriations Bill. In recent days we've see the Chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and several members of a, of a Congressmen on the House side really express, they're not particularly concerned, they don't see a big deal with passing a continuing resolution, with funding meeting this February 27th deadline, saying, "Well, you know most of the, a lot of the employees at Homeland Security will be able to, will continue working anyway". Could you explain what specifically, what do you see the problems being if they don't act by February 27th?

SECRETARY JOHNSON: Because, the, I  cannot...I'll give you a couple of specific examples. I was at the Op Center today for the security for the Super Bowl. All, almost all of the equipment, the communications equipment, the technology in that room was funded through grants from the Department of Homeland Security, and as long as we're on a continuing resolution, which is what we're on right now, we  cannot fund new grants for that kind of thing, which a lot of state and local law enforcement depends on from my department, for Homeland Security public safety missions. If we're in a government shutdown, which is what you were referring to, where I can only employ those regarded as essential, it's even worse, because there it's really the bare minimum of what I'm basically Constitutionally allowed to do in an emergency situation. The reason we need to get off of CR and a full year  appropriations bill is because I've got to pay for all the things that people in Congress want me to do. So, last summer when we were dealing with this spike in migration in the RGV, everybody in Congress is saying, "Do something, do something, you gotta do something". Okay, we're doing things, we're surging resources, we're building more residential capability, we're putting people on the border. But, I can't print my own money, I can't appropriate money. And so we sent up a request for supplemental funding for fiscal year 2014, which they never passed. Which meant that I had to reprogram money, which is basically transferring money from one shell to the other. And I took several hundred million dollars out of the disaster relief fund, which is meant for disasters. Fortunately, we had a good weather year, last year, and so we did not have that many major events. I do not assume that we're going to be that lucky in two thousand and fifteen. So I still have a bill to pay from last summer, and they're a lot of these things that I want to keep in place for border security for the future, that I need Congress' help on, and I  cannot do that if I'm functioning on a continuing resolution. I have to borrow from here to pay for that, at the existing funding levels. I  cannot fund new grants, and our ability to pay overall for Homeland Security is severely restricted. We just had a thoughtful, astute report from an independent panel that looked at the Secret Service for example. And I  cannot do the things that that panel is recommending unless we get funding from Congress to do that. So, there are just some discreet areas, so it's a, it is a far from desirable position. And everybody talks about we need Homeland Security, and we need Homeland Security in these challenging times, and we need help in the Executive Branch, from the Legislative Branch of government to do that. I can't appropriate my own money. Okay. Yes Sir.

STUDENT: Secretary Johnson, what do you believe today is the...

SECRETARY JOHNSON: Tell me who you are.

STUDENT: Oh, Tyler Peterson, I'm a student at Cronkite.

SECRETARY JOHNSON: Okay, do you want to be a journalist?

STUDENT: I do want to be a journalist.

SECRETARY JOHNSON: Okay, what is your interest - national security, law enforcement?

STUDENT: National security.

SECRETARY JOHNSON: Politics? National security, Okay.

STUDENT: What, today what do you see as the greatest and most likely threat to national security both domestically and abroad?

SECRETARY JOHNSON: A lot of people ask me that question that way, it's usually asked you know, what keeps you up at night, what's the number one challenge to Homeland Security, and I, I, I hesitate to rank them. I'll answer it this way, let me talk about counterterrorism. I think that we are, we've evolved to a new phase in our counterterrorism efforts, and in the global terrorist threats that we face internationally, in that as recently as 9/11, you had core Al Qaeda, with a relatively conventional command and control structure that would train operatives, direct them to carry out a mission and dispatch them overseas to conduct some type of terrorist attack. Then we had the rise of affiliates, like Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and another example therefore that would be the attempted Christmas Day bombing, December 25, 2009, where an operative was dispatched to try to blow up an aircraft flying into Detroit, Michigan that day. Now, we see more affiliates, more adherents, we see groups that are, that are disassociating and disavowing themselves, we see ISIL, ISIL is the most prominent example of a, of the new terrorist organization. And they have a lot of fighters on the ground in Iraq and Syria, over 30 thousand by most estimates.

But some of the new aspects of this terrorist threat are the foreign fighter phenomenon where people are leaving their home countries, they're going to the Middle East, they're linking up with extremist, and eventually, they try to come home. Either this country or another country. And the use of the internet, which is relatively new by terrorist organizations, and some of them are pretty slick at their use of the internet, the use of social media. If you look at some of their literature, some of their videos, it's westernized, it's English, it's very westernized. And that type of thing has the ability to reach into our homeland and inspire somebody who has never trained in one of the camps, who's never met another member of that organization, who may be inspired to commit an act of violence on his own, the so called lone wolf. And that type of threat is a little more difficult to detect, which is why I think it's important that we, in the federal government, my department, the Department of Justice, the FBI, work even more closely with state and local law enforcement. It's important I think to have public engagement. When you watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, you're going to see a, a new presentation of our "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign to recapture the public's attention on that. And I think it's important that we engage, community leaders who themselves have the ability to engage those who might be inclined to violence. So I spend a lot of time personally on what we refer to as our CVE engagement, countering violent extremism. I've been to Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and other cities, talking to community leaders, various cultural centers, about talking to people who may be inclined toward violence, about countering the narrative of these terrorist organizations. So, I think that given how the threat has evolved, we need to refocus our efforts in that direction. We haven't talked about cyber security here. We have daily, hourly cyber-attacks around the country, I suspect you see a lot of that, even in this university. We need legislation from Congress to bolster cyber security, to strengthen my department's role in our cyber security mission. And, there's always the natural disaster that could strike at any moment, the northeast has got a huge storm right now. So, there are a lot of things that keep me up at night.

STUDENT: Secretary Johnson.


STUDENT: My name is Miguel Averolla, I'm an ASC journalism student. Both you and President Obama talked about how the spike in immigration coming from Central America last summer was unprecedented. But the next summer is quickly coming, so are there any areas that you are expecting, well besides Mexico, surges in immigration or just new areas where people are coming in, that you haven't had to deal with before.

SECRETARY JOHNSON: Central America is, is the challenge, I mean there's push factors and pull factors. The poverty and violence that existed in the three countries, we're talking about Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, the violence still exist. And I'd hear these really sad stories from kids, "My mom sent me here because she was convinced that I was going to be killed". And those, and so, one of the things we're setting up, I got some good advice last summer about how to deal with this crisis. And one of the very good pieces of advice that we got was from somebody from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, who said, "You  cannot simply padlock the door, you have to offer people an alternative path. And so we've created with the State Department the opportunity for in-country processing. So if you are a parent here in the United States, you can petition to have your child sent here lawfully. They're interviewed in-country, and there's a process to do that. So we are offering people a lawful, safe path, an alternative path to do that, which I think is, I think is important. But the underlying conditions in those countries still exist and our government, collectively has got to make a concerted decision to support the efforts there to combat violence and to combat poverty. So.

PRESIDENT CROW: So, Mr. Secretary, we want to thank you very much for being here today. If we could recognize the Secretary, thank you. And we're going to ask that folks stay seated as the Secretary departs, and thank you for your service and for helping to protect all of us. Thank you.

SECRETARY JOHNSON: Last thing I want to say is, I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to student, and if you're like me at your age, you thought about, I thought about a career in public service, a lot of young people think about public service. And I would say to you, cling to that ambition if you have it. You really can make a difference. It's amazing how huge an impact we can make in public service on the lives of people and affect and influence them in a positive way. And so I would encourage you all to think about a career in public service. Thank you.

Last Updated: 02/25/2021
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