Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Graham, and distinguished Members of this Committee:
On Sunday, I traveled to Rolling Fork, Mississippi to assure the residents there, and others in Mississippi devastated by the tornadoes that had just struck, that our Department will support their recovery in the days, weeks, and months ahead. More than 20 people lost their lives, and many more lost their homes and all they possessed.
Yesterday, I spoke with Senators Blackburn and Hagerty, and with Governor Lee and Mayor Cooper, and offered our Department’s support in response to the tragic – the too tragic and senseless murder of children and adults at St. Paul Christian School in Nashville, Tennessee.
Senator Blackburn, I know this is very personal to you and your connection to the school and, of course, the community.
Our thoughts, prayers, and support are with all who are suffering today.
The threat landscape has evolved significantly since our Department was created 20 years ago. Homeland Security – as we thought of it in the wake of the 9/11 attacks – today has new meaning. Cyber-attacks by criminals and adverse nations, the rise of aggression by the People’s Republic of China, increasing economic and political instability around the world, the rise of domestic violent extremism, the gravity and frequency of extreme weather events, and other forces combine to create a heightened threat environment here at home.
In addition, the displacement of people across the region is greater than at any time since World War II. To meet this challenge, the Department is surging resources, hiring 300 additional Border Patrol Agents – the first increase since 2011 - investing in new technology, working with our partners in Mexico and Central and South America, and developing innovative processes to reduce irregular migration at our Southwest border.
Over the past several months, we have implemented new measures for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans that combine a lawful pathway for eligible individuals with consequences for those who cross the border without authorization. We have seen a decline of about 95% in encounters of nationals from these four countries between our ports of entry.
We are attacking the cartels and smugglers like never before. Last year we launched an unprecedented campaign that has led to the arrest of more than 9,100 smugglers and the disruption of over 9,000 human smuggling operations. Through advanced screening and enforcement surges – like Operation Blue Lotus that we announced last week – we are seizing record amounts of fentanyl at our ports of entry.
The threat of terrorism has evolved to include lone offenders who, fueled by hate, anti-government ideologies, false narratives, and personal grievances, seek to advance their political or social goals through violence. Combatting this threat demands a collaborative, community-centered approach. Through our Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships and our grants programs, we help governments, nonprofit organizations, schools, and houses of worship build local prevention capabilities and make physical security improvements.
We are transforming the way we collaborate to stay ahead of cyber threats posed by hostile nations, like the PRC, that seek to gain access to our intellectual property, data, and infrastructure. After Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, our “Shields Up” initiative galvanized tens of thousands of businesses to implement urgent cybersecurity improvements.
Through groundbreaking public-private initiatives like the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative, the Cyber Safety Review Board, and our Cybersecurity Performance Goals, we are hardening the cyber defenses of businesses, critical infrastructure, and the public. And we are deepening our international security partnerships, including by expanding the Abraham Accords to encompass shared cybersecurity goals.
Emerging technology is creating new threats. Unmanned Aircraft Systems can be used to conduct attacks and increasingly violate temporary flight restrictions that protect high-ranking officials, disrupt airport operations, surveil outdoor mass gatherings, and attempt to transport illegal narcotics across borders. It is vital that Congress act to extend and expand the Department’s counter-UAS authorities to protect against malicious drone activity.
Separately, it is critical that Congress fully renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which provides fast, reliable, and specific insights that enhance our understanding of the threats posed by our adversaries.
Every day, every day the 260,000 dedicated public servants of the Department of Homeland Security work tirelessly to deliver safety and security to the American people. Our mission has never been more vital, our components have never collaborated more closely, and our nation has never been more prepared. We know that we have a great deal of work still ahead of us. The non-partisan spirit of collaboration upon which our Department was founded is needed now more than ever to address the challenges we face.
Thank you very much. I look forward to your questions.