Homeland Security and Compliance with U.S.
WASHINGTON – Thousands of first responders and volunteers continue working together to save lives, restore power and help survivors affected by Hurricane Michael.
More than 16,000 federal employees, including over 8,000 military personnel have been deployed to support Hurricane Michael response efforts.
Since Michael’s landfall, search and rescue teams from FEMA, the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard and others, working alongside state responders and volunteers, have completed 110 evacuations, 4,193 rescues/assists, 15,287 shelter in place checks, and 128 animal assists. Structural assessments were completed on 16,827 structures in Florida.
FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance teams are in Florida helping survivors register for assistance. More than 28,000 individuals and households registered for disaster assistance and are being referred to federal, state or voluntary agencies for assistance.
Sunday, President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for Georgia, making federal assistance available to individuals and households, and authorizing debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance.
Sixteen different states are sending support through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. More than 25 missions are active in both Florida and Georgia with more than 430 people deployed to assist.
More than 35,000 utility workers from 26 states, are working to restore power. Customer outages are declining; as customers are restored, companies are reallocating resources strategically. Efforts in the hardest hit areas may be prolonged due to access constraints and the level of damage.
In Florida, FEMA provided 715,000 meals and 1.5 million liters of water per day. FEMA transferred more than 350,000 meals to Georgia for feeding operations.
The federal government is supporting more than 30 distribution sites to provide meals, water and other items in areas where stores are not open, or supplies are limited. Florida residents can find information about food and water locations by visiting FloridaDisaster.org. Georgia residents can learn more at the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency's website. These points of distribution are further supported by voluntary and faith-based field kitchens and mobile feeding units.
Residents in Alabama, Florida and Georgia should:
- Stay safe. Return home only if you are told it is safe by local officials. As you clear debris please look carefully around the debris for any visible cables. If you see any cables, wait for professional help. Power cables can kill easily.
- Be strong. Focus on your specific needs and take care of one another. Shelters are providing information, charging stations, and connection to assistance from federal, state, and voluntary agencies. They also have communications support so you can contact loved ones and let them know you’re safe.
- Start cleaning up. Photograph/video damages before you start cleaning up. Contact your insurance company to file a claim.
For those outside the impacted area,never forget – Cash Is Best! It’s critical that the right resources get where they’re needed most. A financial contribution to one of the over 80 voluntary and faith-based organizations operating in the impacted area will speed recovery and help survivors.
The Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has made the Disaster Distress Helpline available to assist residents in the impacted area in coping with the stress caused by Hurricane Michael. To connect with a trained crisis counselor, call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (for Spanish, press 2 or text Hablanos to 66746).
Other federal, private sector and voluntary organizations response actions include:
FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Teams
- Three rescues, 110 evacuations, 61 assists, 15,287 shelter in place checks, 1,055 animal assists, and 16,827 structural assessments completed in Florida.
American Red Cross
- More than 1,600 people stayed overnight in shelters in Florida and Georgia.
- As people are now in shelters, survivors can use the American Red Cross’s Safe and Well site to check in and find missing individuals.
U.S. Department of Defense
- More than 5,000 personnel are engaged in Hurricane Michael response efforts.
- Department assets including 32 helicopters, six fixed wing aircraft, 17 swift water vehicles and up to 160 high water vehicles are available to support search and rescue missions.
National Guard Bureau
- More than 4,000 National Guard troops in Florida and Georgia have been assigned to over 50 missions that include search & rescue, engineering, route clearance and POD support at 30 locations. Troops are also providing support at 12 shelter locations.
- A Guard heavy engineering unit has cleared 107 city blocks in the affected area.
U.S. Coast Guard / U.S. Customs and Border Patrol
- U.S. Coast Guard working with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, completed 355 assistances/rescues and one animal rescue in Florida.Three USCG Damage Assessment Teams and two Reconstruction Teams are assessing and repairing damaged facilities.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- The Corps is engaged in seven response programs including providing temporary emergency power in Florida, offering technical assistance on debris removal, route clearance and temporary roofing.
- The Corps deployed 90 personnel to support response efforts.
- Twenty route clearance teams are clearing roads in Florida.
- Two Deployable Tactical Operations System Vehicle are in Florida to assist with communication capabilities and connectivity.
- The Corps is actively monitoring and managing dams within the area impacted by Hurricane Michael to make as much water storage available as possible.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Eight Health and Human Services Disaster Medical Assistance Teams are caring for patients at four emergency departments in Florida.
- A U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps behavioral health team is providing crisis counseling for hospital staff, emergency responders and community members in severely impacted areas.
U.S. Department of Transportation
- DOT created an interactive web mapping application on transportation infrastructure.
Federal Communications Commission
- The FCC is providing emergency assistance to communications providers and has created a dedicated webpage for information about Michael, including tips for communicating during an emergency.
U.S. Department of Interior
- Interior has 225 personnel on the ground conducting debris clearance and infrastructure damage assessments.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
- USDA launched a disaster assistance discovery tool through its new website Farmers.gov that provides information about disaster assistance programs offered by the USDA.
U.S. Department of Labor
- National Dislocated Worker Grant (DWG) funding is available to help Florida assess its workforce needs due to significant job losses caused by Hurricane Michael. This funding assists the state and local governments to expand service capacity of dislocated worker training and employment programs.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- NOAA law enforcement continues supporting urban search and rescue missions.
- Aerial images of the Florida panhandle are available on www.NOAA.gov.
Whole Community Response Efforts
The federal government is just one part of the team; FEMA is leading a partnership with faith-based, voluntary, and non-governmental agencies and the private sector to reach every survivor who needs help.
The Salvation Army mobilized 48 mobile feeding units with a combined service capacity of 72,000 daily meals.
Operation Barbeque Relief has field kitchens in Florida with a total meal capacity of 30,000 meals per day.
In Florida, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief opened a disaster kitchen which can produce up to 20,000 meals per day. Three more kitchens with an additional 40,000 meals per day capacity are expected to open today.
In Georgia, Southern Baptists Disaster Relief is opening one kitchen today with a capacity of 15,000 meals per day.
Airbnb announced 900 homes have opened to host displaced survivors for free, including 200 in Florida. Airbnb expanded Open Homes program across Florida and adjacent states.
- More than 6,000 volunteers have registered with Volunteer Florida to assist Hurricane Michael survivors.
# # #
What DHS and FEMA are Doing
What the U.S. Government is Doingdisaster relief, Hurricane Michael, natural disasters
Today, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen hosted the second day of the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, which focused on improving citizen security and safety in Central America. As part of the conference, Secretary Nielsen and Mexican Foreign Secretary Videgaray met with leaders from Northern Triangle countries in Washington, D.C., including Minister of Government Degenhart of Guatemala, Secretary of Security Pacheco of Honduras, and Minister of Justice and Public Security Landaverde of El Salvador.
Throughout the day's sessions, discussions focused on security cooperation, stemming the flow of illegal migration, combating organized crime and gangs, and enhancing regional and citizen security.
Secretary Nielsen recognized the efforts being taken by the Northern Triangle governments to strengthen security in the region. In the area of narcotics trafficking, one of many subjects the leaders touched upon today that affects security in the region was that much of South American cocaine bound for the U.S. travels through Central America. As part of the Department's commitment to stopping the flow of illicit drugs crossing our borders, Secretary Nielsen committed to continuing to work with these countries to address drug trafficking.
Additionally, the leaders discussed the flow of illegal immigrants from Northern Triangle countries. Since 2014, when nearly 52,000 children from the Northern Triangle region of Central America made the dangerous journey alone to the U.S. border, the U.S. government has worked with the governments of the Northern Triangle to address the root causes of illegal immigration to the United States. By reducing crime and violence, addressing corruption and impunity, disrupting the activities of transnational criminal organizations, and providing citizens in Central America with greater economic opportunity, the United States is helping to foster an environment where families can envision their futures in their home countries and communities.
During the working sessions, Secretary Nielsen thanked all of the Central American leaders for their continued partnership as we work to build a secure and prosperous Central America. Secretary Nielsen also reaffirmed her commitment to fighting human smuggling organizations and transnational criminals who continue to do harm to Central American families and children.
For more information on the joint progress since the 2017 conference and the agreements to expand cooperation over the two-day Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, please see the U.S. Fact Sheet here.
(DHS Official Photo/Tara Molle)
###Keywords: International partnerships
Topics: International Engagement
“Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Pete Gaynor to be Deputy Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). With the 2018 hurricane season fully underway, Pete’s confirmation could not have come at a more critical time. His experience as both a state and local emergency manager, combined with more than two decades of service in the United States Marine Corps, make him an invaluable addition to the Administrator’s leadership team at FEMA. Deputy Administrator Gaynor will immediately get to work helping the many Americans recently devastated by the destruction of Hurricane Michael across the East Coast. I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead to support the men and women of FEMA as they carry out their missions.”
###Keywords: FEMA, Secretary Nielsen
Topics: Disasters, Secretary of Homeland Security
WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security has issued a waiver to waive certain laws to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads near the international border in the state of Texas, in the county of Hidalgo. The waiver was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 11, 2018.
This waiver is pursuant to authority granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security by Congress and covers a variety of environmental, natural resource, and land management laws. Congress provided the Secretary of Homeland Security with a number of authorities necessary to carry out DHS’s border security mission. One of these authorities is found at section 102 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, as amended (“IIRIRA”). Section 102(a) of IIRIRA provides that the Secretary of Homeland Security shall take such actions as may be necessary to install additional physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the United States border to deter illegal crossings in areas of high illegal entry into the United States. In section 102(b) of IIRIRA, Congress has called for the installation of additional fencing, barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors on the southwest border. Finally, in section 102(c) of IIRIRA, Congress granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to waive all legal requirements that the Secretary, in Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure the expeditious construction of the barriers and roads authorized by section 102 of IIRIRA.
The Department exercised the waiver authority in Section 102 (c) of IIRIRA on five occasions from 2005 to 2008 and on two occasions in 2017.
The geographic scope of this waiver covers an approximate 14-mile long wall project located in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. This is within the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector. The Rio Grande Valley Sector remains an area of high illegal alien activity and marijuana seizures. In fiscal year 2017, the United States Border Patrol apprehended over 137,000 illegal aliens and seized approximately 260,000 pounds of marijuana and approximately 1,192 pounds of cocaine in the Rio Grande Valley Sector. In order to achieve operational control of the border in the RGV Sector, DHS will implement a border infrastructure project that will focus on an area consisting of multiple segments of border wall that will start near the intersection of Abram road and the IBWC levee and extend eastward to the intersection of Rio Rico Road and the IBWC levee. The new segments of wall construction will augment the existing wall infrastructure by closing a substantial amount of border gaps along the border in Hidalgo County that were not previously completed during the 2008 wall construction.
While the waiver eliminates DHS’ obligation to comply with various laws with respect to covered projects, DHS remains committed to environmental stewardship. DHS has been coordinating and consulting, and intends to continue doing so, with other federal and state resource agencies to ensure that impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized, to the extent possible.
The Department of Homeland Security continues to implement President Trump’s Executive Order 13767 - also known as Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements – and continues to take steps to immediately plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border.
# # #Keywords: Border Security, CBP
Topics: Border Security
WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security has issued a waiver to ensure the expeditious construction of gates in existing wall structure near the international border in the state of Texas. The waiver was published in the Federal Register Oct. 10, 2018.
This waiver is issued pursuant to authority granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security by Congress. Congress has provided the Secretary of Homeland Security with a number of authorities necessary to carry out DHS’s border security mission. One of these authorities is found at section 102 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, as amended (“IIRIRA”). Section 102(a) of IIRIRA provides that the Secretary of Homeland Security shall take such actions as may be necessary to install additional physical walls and roads near the United States border to deter illegal crossings in areas of high illegal entry into the United States. In section 102(b) of IIRIRA, Congress has called for the installation of additional fencing, walls, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors on the southwest border. Finally, in section 102(c) of IIRIRA, Congress granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to waive all legal requirements that the Secretary, in Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure the expeditious construction of the walls and roads authorized by section 102 of IIRIRA. The Department exercised the waiver authority in Section 102 (c) of IIRIRA on eight prior occasions.
The geographic scope of this waiver provides for the installation of 11 automated border wall gates and associated site improvements at existing openings in the existing PF225 Bollard Fence alignment in the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector. The project sites are within the area of responsibility of the Fort Brown, Brownsville, and Harlingen Border Patrol Stations within Cameron County Texas. The gates will be located off the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) Levee at the end or along existing levee ramps. Once installed, the gates will serve as a persistent impediment to illegal entry while still allowing access to the riverside of the gates for the USBP, certain private citizens and other local/state/federal officials, and local emergency responders.
The Rio Grande Valley Sector remains an area of high illegal alien activity. In fiscal year 2017, the United States Border Patrol apprehended over 137,000 illegal aliens and seized approximately 260,000 pounds of marijuana and approximately 1,192 pounds of cocaine in the Rio Grande Valley Sector. The new segments of wall construction will augment the existing wall infrastructure by closing gaps in the existing border wall. No wall will be constructed within the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge under this project.
While the waiver eliminates DHS’ obligation to comply with various laws in carrying out the project, DHS remains committed to environmental stewardship. DHS has been consulting, and intends to continue doing so, with stakeholders including federal and state resource agencies and affected landowners. Such consultation facilitates DHS’s assessment of potential impacts and informs its efforts to minimize, to the extent possible, potential impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic resources.
The Department of Homeland Security continues to implement President Trump’s Executive Order 13767 - also known as Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements – and continues to take steps to immediately plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border.
###Keywords: Border Security, CBP, dhs
Topics: Border Security
Written testimony of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing titled “Threats to the Homeland”
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member McCaskill, and distinguished Members of the Committee:
It is a privilege to appear before you today to discuss the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) crucial missions and how we are implementing a policy of “relentless resilience” to confront worldwide threats.
Let me first say that the men and women of DHS are exceptional and dedicated professionals who are on watch 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year protecting Americans from threats by land, sea, air, and in cyberspace, while also safeguarding our values and promoting our nation’s economic prosperity. They work tirelessly to strengthen the safety and security of our nation, and to secure it from persistent and emerging threats, including terrorists, transnational criminal organizations, hostile nation-states, natural disasters, and more.
In recent public remarks, I noted that today’s threats are very different now than they were at the time of the Department’s creation. Today, I will elaborate on that and describe five major changes in the threat landscape that are requiring us to comprehensively rethink homeland security. I will explain how we are building resilience into everything we do, preparing our frontline defenders to protect America in a new age, and responding to these evolving challenges.
A Dark Cloud
Last month marked an important anniversary: 17 years since the 9/11 attacks. We are now many years from the pivotal moment that gave us a permanent mission, but we have not allowed the passage of time to dull our memories or weaken our resolve. We cannot afford to, especially with new storm clouds forming on the horizon.
In the months prior to 9/11, then-CIA Director George Tenet said that the system was “blinking red.” Our intelligence professionals were picking up so-called chatter that signaled danger was coming, yet we did not know when or from where. My colleague Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, recently said the system is “blinking red” once again. His concern relates to our nation’s digital infrastructure, and he is right to be alarmed. Our digital lives are in danger like never before.
But the danger goes beyond our networked systems and digital world. We are witnessing historic changes across the entire threat landscape. The balance of power that has characterized the international system for decades has been eroding. America’s unipolar position is at risk. Power vacuums are springing up across the globe and are quickly filled by hostile nation-states, terrorists, and transnational criminals. They all share a common goal: they want to disrupt our way of life. Many of them are inciting chaos, instability, and violence.
At the same time, the pace of innovation, our hyper-connectivity, and our digital dependence have opened cracks in our defenses, creating new opportunities and new vectors through which these nefarious actors can strike us. This is a volatile combination. The result is a world where threats are more numerous, more widely distributed, highly networked, increasingly adaptive, and incredibly difficult to root out.
The Resilience Agenda
The Department’s policy in the face of growing dangers will not be strategic patience. Instead, we are reasserting leadership, and we are focused on building the strongest homeland security enterprise to date. Our approach begins and ends with one word: resilience.
In our darkest hour on 9/11, we saw real heroism, renewed hope, and relentless resilience. Americans pledged not to be intimidated by evil. The Department of Homeland Security was born from that commitment, and this year we marked our 15th anniversary. We have come a long way, but we cannot be prepared for everything. What we can do, however, is instill a “culture of resilience” into our everyday lives. That culture is not just about bouncing back; it is about moving forward, adapting when under attack, and emerging stronger than before.
I am pleased to announce that we will soon release a new DHS strategic plan, or “Resilience Agenda,” that will guide our actions in defense of the American people.
Our Resilience Agenda is focused on:
- Leaning in against today’s threats while zooming out to prepare for those on the horizon;
- Being adaptive to keep pace with our adversaries;
- Identifying and confronting systemic risk;
- Preparing at the citizen level;
- Building redundancy and resilience into everything; and
- Raising the baseline of our security across the board—and across the world.
Perhaps more important than anything are the partnerships we build. In today’s world, dangerous actors are crowd-sourcing chaos, and we must crowd-source our response. That is only possible through deep public, private, and international cooperation. These partnerships are a lifeline for America’s security and prosperity.
What Has Changed Since 9/11
I will speak today about the five major shifts in the threat landscape and how we are bringing our Resilience Agenda to bear against them.
First, we must recognize that the “home game” and “away game” are no longer distinct. They are one and the same.
After 9/11, our strategy was to take the fight to enemies abroad so we did not have to fight them here at home. Unfortunately, that is no longer the world we live in. Our enemies do not respect borders are not constrained by geography. Today’s threats exist in a borderless – and increasingly digital – world. Accordingly, our operating posture must follow suit.
We must reassert our sovereignty by dismantling transnational threat networks that reach into our country, hardening our physical and virtual boundary defenses, and pushing our security measures outward. Indeed, DHS actions abroad are just as important today as our security operations here at home. We have thousands of personnel forward-deployed who are taking an end-to-end approach to dismantling threat networks. This phenomenon—the merging of the home and away game—magnifies all of the others I will talk about today.
Second, terrorism and transnational crime have spread across the globe at fiber-optic speeds.
After 9/11, we faced a centrally-directed terror threat. Today, the threat can exist virtually anywhere. The U.S. Government is conducting terrorism investigations in every state. Self-radicalized terrorists are appearing across the globe. DHS prevents ten individuals with known or suspected terrorism connections a day from traveling to the United States and posing a potential threat to our homeland, and those are just the ones we know about. Even when the United States and our allies destroy jihadist sanctuaries abroad—and we have decimated the so-called caliphate belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—they are still able to hide in virtual safe havens online.
Groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda now direct, finance, and inspire attacks from their smartphones. This allows them to act anytime and anywhere with a network connection. They are turning Twitter followers into terrorist foot soldiers. In so doing, they are promoting do-it-yourself terror by urging followers to adopt a “Bring Your Own Weapon” policy, and to conduct violent acts wherever and whenever is convenient.
DHS takes this threat very seriously. In fact, under this Administration, we have made the most sweeping counterterrorism enhancements at the Department since its creation. We have put in place historic measures to keep terrorists from infiltrating the United States, to stop them from radicalizing and recruiting in our communities, and to prevent them from carrying out attacks.
For instance, last year we announced the first-ever “global information-sharing baseline”—a requirement that every nation in the world share information about terrorists and take action to make it harder for them to travel undetected. The handful of countries that failed to comply now face travel restrictions or other sanctions, which have made America safer. In the year ahead, we will be pressing foreign partners to step up their sharing and efforts to prevent terrorist travel, and we look forward to working with partner governments to make it harder for nefarious actors to evade border security.
We have also implemented the toughest screening and vetting measures in DHS history to help weed out violent extremists. We are conducting deeper background checks on foreign travelers, screening applicants against more intelligence information, using biometrics to confirm identities, and conducting more thorough departure and arrival screening. Before the year ends, we will also open a groundbreaking National Vetting Center that will centralize and standardize U.S. Government screening and vetting activities.
Despite their success with do-it-yourself terror, groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda are still focused on executing major attacks, especially against the aviation sector. DHS has met this threat by putting in place the most significant upgrades to aviation security in a decade. In response to threat intelligence, we required every airport in the world with flights to the United States to implement new “seen and unseen” measures to detect concealed explosives, guard against harmful chemicals, and identify insider threats and suspicious passengers. International flights are now more secure than they have ever been.
Our new counterterrorism measures also include: extensive engagement with the tech sector to make it harder for terrorists to weaponize the web with their propaganda; efforts to protect soft targets nationwide against attack; an overhaul of our “terrorism prevention” programs focused on helping communities spot signs of terror sooner; and much more. Last week, the White House released a bold new counterterrorism strategy that puts our enemies on notice and lays out a path to victory against them.
Criminals are exploiting the same environment as the terrorists in order to build cartel superpowers with sprawling networks. Indeed, a decade ago, transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) were much like the terrorists of the 9/11 era: they were confined to certain geographic areas, with a centralized command-and-control structure, and a more limited focus. Today, they are spreading rapidly, outsourcing their work, diversifying their activities, and cooperating with ever-wider cabals of identity forgers, money-launderers, smugglers, traffickers, drug-runners, and killers. They are not only imbedding their enterprises further in the physical world, they are also selling their illicit wares in the virtual world.
In response, DHS is working alongside our international, federal, state, and local partners to pursue renewed efforts to better counter TCOs. In particular, in the coming months we will step up interagency actions with the goal of taking a more global and comprehensive approach to defeating these threats and dismantling their networks for good.
Third, we are witnessing a resurgence of nation states threats.
DHS has spent many years since 9/11 focused on non-state actors. Nevertheless, our nation-state rivals are increasingly asserting themselves in ways that endanger our homeland. In fact, threats to the United States from foreign adversaries are at the highest levels since the Cold War. Countries such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia are willing to use all elements of national power—finance, trade, cyber, espionage, information operations, and more—to undermine the United States, and to advance their own interests.
Even in peacetime, hostile nation states are now taking the fight directly to citizens — attacking their personal electronic devices, compromising essential functions as demonstrated in a cyber attack against Ukraine’s power grid, targeting individuals directly as we saw with recent poisonings in the United Kingdom, or seeking to destabilize the heart of democracy they depend on through malicious influence campaigns. As I have said before, this is not a fair fight. Neither private companies nor citizens are equipped to oppose nation-state threats alone. So DHS must forge nationwide partnerships to protect our country and our people.
Top of mind for most Americans is the Russian interference in our 2016 elections. At President Vladimir Putin’s direction, Moscow launched a brazen, multi-faceted influence campaign to undermine public faith in our democratic process and distort our presidential election. Although no actual ballots were altered by this campaign, this was a direct attack on our democracy. We should not, cannot, and will not tolerate such attacks, nor let them happen again.
Election security was not a mission envisioned for the Department when it was created, but it is now one of my highest priorities. In the past two years, DHS has worked hand-in-hand with officials in all 50 states and the private sector to make our election infrastructure more secure than ever. We are sharing intelligence nationwide with election officials. We are forward-deploying cyber experts to help states and localities scan and secure their systems. By the midterm elections next month, our network security sensors will be deployed to areas to protect the election infrastructure for more than 90 percent of registered voters.
On Election Day, our teams will be out in full force and hosting a virtual, nationwide “situation room” to monitor activity. Our efforts will also continue well after the midterms, and we will work with our partners nationwide to make their systems and processes even more secure. Today, I am calling on every state in the Union to ensure that by the 2020 election, they have redundant, auditable election systems. The best way to do that is with a physical paper trail and effective audits so that Americans can be confident that—no matter what—their vote is counted and counted correctly.
DHS is also undertaking new efforts in partnership with the FBI, the intelligence community, and others to counter foreign influence through close industry engagement and foreign partnerships. Several weeks ago, I helped secure a commitment from our “Five Eyes” partners—Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—to collaborate more closely to block meddling in our democracies. More broadly, I have directed a shift from a “counterterrorism” posture at DHS to a wider “counter-threats” posture to ensure we are doing everything possible to guard against nation-state interference. We are overhauling our crisis response teams and advisory boards, realigning our intelligence enterprise into new “mission centers,” and taking steps to prevent adversaries from infiltrating U.S. companies and critical industries.
Fourth, cyber attacks now exceed the risk of physical attacks.
Terrorists, criminals, and foreign adversaries continue to threaten the physical security of our people. However cyberspace is now the most active battlefield, and the attack surface extends into almost every American home. A Cybersecurity Ventures report estimates that by 2021, cybercrime damage will hit $6 trillion annually. To put that in perspective, that is equivalent to almost ten percent of the world economy.
It is not just cybercrime we are worried about. Foreign adversaries are working to build the capabilities to attack financial systems, knock out critical services, take down vital networks, and lock down or alter data—calling into question its availability and integrity. Such attacks can spread well beyond their intended targets and have unforeseeable, cascading consequences. This is the viral spread of volatile malware. Indeed, we have moved past the “epidemic” stage and are now at a “pandemic” stage—a worldwide outbreak of cyber attacks and cyber vulnerabilities. We saw it last year when both Russia and North Korea unleashed destructive code that spread across the world, causing untold billions in damage.
More than 30 nation-states now have cyber-attack capabilities, and sophisticated digital toolkits are spreading rapidly. DHS was founded fifteen years ago to prevent another 9/11, but I believe an attack of that magnitude today is now more likely to reach us online. Virtually everyone and everything is a target, including individuals, industries, infrastructure, institutions, and our international interests.
In response, earlier this year, DHS released a new cyber strategy that outlines how we are changing the way we do business. Above all, it highlights how we will identify and confront systemic risk, moving away from a focus on the protection of specific assets or systems. In July, DHS hosted the first-ever National Cybersecurity Summit, where we brought together top CEOs and cyber minds to discuss these issues. We agreed that we cannot afford to defend ourselves in silos. If we prepare individually, we will fail collectively. We must move from endemic vulnerabilities to system-wide endemic resilience.
To support this strategy, I announced the launch of the DHS National Risk Management Center, which will serve as a central hub for government and private sector partners to share information and better secure the digital ecosystem. Together we will identify single points of failure, concentrated dependencies, and cross-cutting underlying functions that make us vulnerable. We are also driving forward ambitious supply chain security efforts to identify upstream weaknesses before they have downstream consequences.
DHS is working with our partners throughout the Administration to hold cyber attackers accountable. We will no longer tolerate the theft of our data, nor stand by as our networks are penetrated, exploited, or held hostage. We will respond decisively. The United States has a full spectrum of options—some seen, others unseen—and we are already using them to call out cyber adversaries, to hold them to account, and to deter future malicious actions.
This Administration is replacing complacency with consequences and replacing nations’ deniability with accountability. However, DHS was not built for a digital pandemic. Our cybersecurity arm—the National Protection and Programs Directorate—needs to be authorized in law and transformed into a full-fledged operational agency. Today, I ask Congress to pass legislation immediately, and absolutely before the year’s end, to make this a reality. I thank Senators on this Committee for their hard work in helping us move to establish the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and for the Senate’s recent action to advance that legislation.
Fifth and finally, emerging threats are outpacing our defenses.
Unmanned aerial systems, often referred to as drones, are a prime example. Terrorists are using drones on the battlefield to surveil and to destroy; drug smugglers are using them to monitor border patrol officers so they can slip into America undetected; and criminals are using them to spy on sensitive facilities. The threat is real, and they can be used for a wide array of nefarious purposes.
Unfortunately, outdated laws have prevented us from setting up the sophisticated countermeasures we need to protect significant national events, federal facilities, and other potential targets from an airborne menace. DHS has lacked the clear legal authority to track and identify dangerous drones—and to neutralize them effectively if they are determined to be a threat. Furthermore, we have not been able to test many of the crucial countermeasures we need in real-world environments where the risks exist.
Today I am pleased to offer our gratitude to this Committee for helping us secure these authorities in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 to get ahead of this challenge. The President signed this bill into law last week, and it will give us the ability to better protect Americans against unmanned aerial threats. We have already begin planning in earnest for how to best deploy these authorities and defensive technologies to defend the United States against this emerging danger.
Our professionals at DHS are also concerned about weapons of mass destruction. For instance, terrorists and nation-states continue to explore the use of chemical and biological weapons to conduct attacks. We have seen Russian intelligence operatives poison civilians in the United Kingdom using a deadly military-grade nerve agent, the brutal Assad regime use chlorine and sarin gas to attack their own people, and ISIS deploy chemical weapons on the battlefield. We remain concerned that terrorist groups are seeking to use such capabilities in plots outside of conflict zones.
DHS is taking these threats seriously. Last December, I formed the DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office. It was one of the most important DHS reorganizations in years and has already helped us better protect the American people. Although CWMD has broad authorities to guard against radiological and nuclear dangers, the office does not have the same comprehensive authorities to defend against chemical and biological threats. However, thanks to the leadership of this Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee, we are close to strengthening our CWMD office by empowering it with the authorities it needs. The House passed this legislation, and we urgently need the full Senate to do the same. The Department cannot adequately fulfill its missions in the chemical and biological spaces without these crucial authorities being provided this year.
I cannot tell you how proud I am to lead the 240,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security. Every day, they roll up their sleeves and go to work to build a better and safer America. They enforce the laws passed by Congress. They believe in accountability. And they are relentlessly resilient.
Whether it is a FEMA employee supporting the response to fires and floods …or an ICE agent taking a murderer off the streets…or a Coast Guard lieutenant seizing drugs near our shores…or a CBP officer stopping a terrorist trying to enter the country…or a TSA agent working to keep explosives off of airplanes…or a USCIS officer helping a family of refugees find a safer life in our country…or a Secret Service agent taking down a fraud scheme...or a cyber analyst sharing threat indicators to stop a digital heist...or a FLETC instructor providing much needed training to law enforcement officers from communities across America…or the many, many other employees who work to protect our homeland. They all deserve our respect and gratitude. As do their families—for when one serves at DHS, his or her family serves too.
I can tell you firsthand these patriots have thwarted real plots, real threats, and real danger to our people in just the ten months I have been on the job. I will continue to work with Congress to make sure we are doing everything possible to support them so that, with honor and integrity, they can continue to safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values.
I want to thank you, Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member McCaskill, distinguished Members, and staff for the support you have shown the Department, and the work undertaken by this Committee to ensure DHS has what it needs to adapt to the changing threat environment.
Thank you.Keywords: CUAS, CWMD, Emerging threats
Topics: Cybersecurity, Preventing Terrorism, Secretary of Homeland Security, Weapons of Mass Destruction
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced the release of the Strategy for Protecting and Preparing the Homeland against Threats from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) and Geomagnetic Disturbance (GMD).
The Strategy lays out a clear vision and an approach for DHS to take to protect critical infrastructure and prepare to respond and recover from potentially catastrophic electromagnetic incidents. The Strategy also reflects a consensus Intelligence Community assessment of the EMP threat posed by our nation’s adversaries.
Electromagnetic incidents caused by an intentional EMP attack or naturally-occurring GMD events, while unlikely, could cause serious damage to the nation’s critical infrastructure, including the electrical grid, communications equipment, and transportation capabilities.
While the Strategy is primarily focused on Departmental activities, it recognizes the importance of continued close collaboration with federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial decision-makers, sector-specific agencies, and private sector critical infrastructure owner-operators. This partnership is essential to help critical infrastructure owners and operators to manage EMP and GMD risk.
The Department is currently developing an accompanying Implementation Plan, which will include measures that enable DHS to evaluate progress toward addressing identified capability gaps. Together, the Strategy and its companion Implementation Plan will improve the Department’s management oversight and optimize resource utilization for our EMP/GMD protection, response, and recovery activities.
DHS intends to review and update the EMP/GMD Strategy, as needed, and regularly assess the Department’s progress on the Implementation Plan.
You can view the Department’s EMP/ GMD Strategy here.
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“The Department of Homeland Security is aware of the media reports of a technology supply chain compromise. Like our partners in the UK, the National Cyber Security Centre, at this time we have no reason to doubt the statements from the companies named in the story. Information and communications technology supply chain security is core to DHS’s cybersecurity mission and we are committed to the security and integrity of the technology on which Americans and others around the world increasingly rely. Just this month – National Cybersecurity Awareness Month – we launched several government-industry initiatives to develop near- and long-term solutions to manage risk posed by the complex challenges of increasingly global supply chains. These initiatives will build on existing partnerships with a wide range of technology companies to strengthen our nation’s collective cybersecurity and risk management efforts.”Keywords: Cybersecurity, supply chain security
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen released the following statement today on President Trump’s National Counterterrorism Strategy:
“Since 9/11, the threats to our homeland—and our enemies—continue to evolve. It’s time for our counterterrorism posture to do the same. President Trump’s National Counterterrorism Strategy is the bold framework we need to confront a new age of terror, in which the ‘away game’ and ‘home game’ are now one in the same.
“Today our country is fighting terrorists groups, such as ISIS and al-Qaeda, on physical and virtual battlefields. Our enemies are crowd-sourcing their violence and spreading their hate to all corners of the globe, including into our own communities. And they are pursuing sophisticated plots using emerging technologies, as well as simple do-it-yourself tactics, in order to cause fear and destruction and to undermine our open society.
“The President’s strategy puts terrorists on notice that their time is up. We are hardening our defenses at home and abroad, shutting down their plots and obstructing their operations, crushing their networks wherever we find them, and working to prevail over their hateful ideology. In cooperation with our many partners across the country and around the world, DHS is committed to supporting the President’s strategy and implementing his vision for a forward-leaning defense of the homeland.”
Topics: Preventing Terrorism, Secretary of Homeland Security
Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen Statement on Passage of Legislation to Counter Dangerous Unmanned Aerial Systems
WASHINGTON — Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen released the following statement today on the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which will provide the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) with authorities to counter unmanned aerial systems (CUAS) used for nefarious purposes:
“The evolving threat posed by malicious drone technology is quickly outpacing the federal government’s ability to respond. Transnational criminals use drones to identify security gaps in order to sneak into the country undetected. Smugglers use drones to bring illegal drugs across the border. Terrorist groups aspire to use armed drones against our homeland and U.S. interests and have already deployed such devices abroad to surveil, disrupt, and kill.
“Existing legal constraints and statutes have prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from addressing these drone-threat scenarios and protecting the American people. The Department’s lack of authorities also prevented us from testing truly needed drone-defense technologies. Today Congress took a major step forward to address these vulnerabilities.
“I am grateful Congress has voted to send a bill to the President’s desk that provides DHS the crucial authorities it needs to protect the homeland against unmanned aerial threats. Today’s action will help the U.S. government identify, track, and mitigate weaponized or dangerous unmanned aerial systems in our skies.
“I would like to thank Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-MO), of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) of the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee; Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) for their support.
“Additionally, I would like to thank Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Ranking Member Bennie Thompson (D-MS) of the House Homeland Security Committee; Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) of the House Judiciary Committee; Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), who championed this legislation.
“The Department can now begin to address these vulnerabilities and stop nefarious actors from exploiting them.”
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Topics: Homeland Security Enterprise