The coordinated response across the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has played a major role in the Whole-of-America approach to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. With a workforce that crosses more than a dozen offices, coordination remains crucial. The DHS Office of Operations Coordination (OPS) ensures the flow of information is shared accurately and effectively across the Department and with interagency partners.
“OPS continues to perform all of our essential functions including information sharing, situational awareness, DHS continuity of operations, and Departmental operations coordination during the COVID-19 pandemic” said Office of Operations Coordination (OPS) Director Christopher Tomney. “This includes the staffing of the National Operations Center (NOC) which operates 24/7, and ensures situational awareness continues throughout the Department. Additionally, OPS has established a Crisis Action Team, which is a dedicated staff who solely focuses on ensuring COVID-19 information is shared with our interagency partners, DHS leadership, and the Department’s Operational Components.”
Below is a list of some of DHS’s efforts against COVID-19 last week:
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Providing Grants to States for Supplemental Lost Wages Payments. To ease the economic burden for those struggling with lost wages due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, President Donald Trump authorized FEMA to expend up to $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund for lost wage payments. As of August 29th, Administrator Gaynor has approved 40 states for FEMA grants under this unprecedented program. FEMA’s grant funding will allow the approved states to provide those unemployed due to COVID-19 $300 or $400 per week on top of their regular unemployment benefit. As of August 29th, FEMA has obligated $18 Billion in support of lost wages supplemental assistance. All approved grant applicants receive an initial obligation of three weeks of funding, with additional disbursements made on a weekly basis.
Providing Full Federal Reimbursement for States’ National Guard Forces. On August 3rd, President Trump granted an extension for the use of the National Guard under Federal Title 32 orders to respond to COVID-19 until December 31, 2020. As of August 28th, 17,021 National Guard troops have activated in T-32 duty status and 237 troops have activated in State Active Duty status to help with testing and other response efforts. To date, President Trump has approved 49 National Guard requests for federal support for the use of National Guard personnel in a Title 32 duty status through December 31. For those states and territories that are approved under these criteria, FEMA executed a fully reimbursable mission assignment to the Department of Defense, including reimbursement for pay and allowances of National Guard personnel serving in a Title 32 duty status in fulfillment of the FEMA mission assignment.
Coordinating Deployment of Federal Personnel to Support States’ Efforts. FEMA continues to lead the operational coordination for the federal interagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of August 28th, there are over 21,704 federal personnel deployed across the country from FEMA, HHS, CDC, DoD, National Guard and VA to support state, local, tribal and territorial COVID-19 response efforts. FEMA and our interagency partners are constantly tailoring staffing and resources across agencies, ensuring we can provide support when and where it’s needed most.
Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC)
Graduating the Next Generation of Law Enforcement: As of August 28, nearly 2,300 officers and agents have successfully graduated and are now in the field performing work that is critical to protect the homeland since training was restarted on June 17. There are currently 2,277 students attending in-residence training at Glynco, Charleston, and Artesia training delivery points. There are an additional 146 students attending training at the Cheltenham training delivery point. Their graduation in the coming months and the continual influx of new students ensures that our federal law enforcement partners receive the trained personnel they need to help keep our nation secure.
Science and Technology (S&T)
Driving Evidence-Based Policymaking. On August 25, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate updated its Master Question List (MQL), and does so weekly, to compile available research on operationally-relevant questions to aid decision makers in the COVID-19 response. The MQL is a quick-reference guide covering what is known about the virus, what additional information is needed, and who may be working to address these fundamental questions. New entries include the following:
- An article published in the journal Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy stated that Rhesus macaques have been suggested as the best non-human primate model of human COVID-19 infection, based on a more similar clinical presentation than other primate models.
- An accepted manuscript posted in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology showed that in an outbreak on a fishing vessel where 85% of the crew became infected, three individuals who had high levels of neutralizing antibodies from previous SARS-CoV-2 exposure were protected from the on-board outbreak.
- An article published in The Lancet showed that in 94 COVID-19 patients, there was no association between viral genotype and clinical severity. However, a 382 base pair deletion in the SARS-CoV-2 genome has been linked to milder clinical illness.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel and Commerce. Between August 23rd and August 29th, TSA screened more than 4,683,490 passengers, who have all reached their destinations safely. TSA officers are required to wear facial protection and gloves while on duty at the checkpoint. In support of air travel and all other modes of transportation, the agency continues to follow CDC guidance to protect Americans, its workers, and the nation’s transportation system. TSA continues to promote its “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure” campaign which outlines significant airport checkpoint modifications, including new technologies that reduce or eliminate physical contact, implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19, comply with CDC guidelines, and promote healthy and secure summer travel.
Ready to Ensure Safety During the Summer Travel Period. Between August 23rd and August 29th, TSA issued press releases promoting the deployment of new acrylic barriers and technologies to reduce physical contact between passengers and TSA officers as a result of COVID-19, including at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, NV, as well as at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, San Diego International Airport, Richmond International Airport, and Norfolk International Airport. On August 28th, TSA issued a press release promoting a food drive by TSA employees at Newark International Airport (NWR) to provide food to local community members impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Office of Operations Coordination (OPS)
Ensuring Situational Awareness. The Department’s Crisis Action Team (CAT) and National Operations Center (NOC) continue to work 24/7 on Department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This work includes managing situational awareness and reporting to our interagency partners and senior DHS leadership which fulfills OPS’s responsibility to share information internally and externally during the pandemic. Between August 23rd and August 29th, the CAT and NOC produced more than a dozen COVID-19 related reports covering Departmental and nation-wide actions and impacts on the DHS workforce.
United States Coast Guard (USCG)
Hurricane Preparedness. As of August 29th, USCG is conducting overflights, port assessments along the Western Gulf Coast region affected by Hurricane Laura. The Coast Guard is working closely with all local and state emergency operation centers to manage Coast Guard storm operations in the midst of COVID-19. Coast Guard Conducts Overflight, Port Assessments along the Western Gulf Coast Region Affected by Hurricane Laura.
Monitoring Vessels that Pose a Risk to Public Health. As of August 28th, the USCG is tracking 61 cruise ships moored, at anchor, or underway in vicinity of a U.S. port, or with potential to arrive in a US port, with approximately 10,669 crewmembers. This includes an estimated 201 American Citizens crewmembers dispersed among 33 vessels. The Coast Guard is working with the CDC based on its extension of the No Sail Order for cruise ships, which permits the off-loading of crewmembers following submission of a plan to the CDC.
Reservists. As of August 28th, the USCG has recalled and deployed 417 Reservists in support of COVID-19 operations. They are activated to serve in numerous types of roles, including work in IT support, medical clinics, PPE warehouses, command centers and other incident management roles, notably assisting federal partners such as HHS, and supporting state emergency operations centers on behalf of FEMA.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Averting an Administrative Furlough. On August 24th, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that the agency will avert an administrative furlough of more than 13,000 employees, scheduled to begin Aug. 30 as a result of unprecedented spending cuts and a steady increase in daily incoming revenue and receipts. On May 15, USCIS notified Congress of a projected budget shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and requested emergency funding of $1.2 billion.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Keeping the Public Safe from COVID-19-Related Fraud. Keeping the Public Safe from COVID-19-related Fraud. ICE’s Operation Stolen Promise (OSP) targets fraudulent activity stemming from the pandemic. The initiative combines ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) expertise in global trade investigations, financial fraud, and cyber investigations with robust private and public partnerships to disrupt and dismantle this criminal activity and strengthen global supply-chain security. As of August 27, as part of OSP, the agency has made 69 criminal arrests, analyzed 59,474 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $8,610,353 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 48 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,317 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 88 search warrants and made 1,068 COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more.COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Getting American Citizens Home Safe. As of August 23, 2020, CBP had referred 700,097 travelers at the 15 funneling airports to DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) for enhanced health screening. CBP also continues to collaborate on a daily basis with the Department of State (DOS) to facilitate the safe travel of American citizens currently abroad to return home. CBP also works closely with DOS and foreign consulates to review 212(f) National Interest Waiver requests.