Statement By Secretary Nielsen On House Passage Of H.R. 3359 To Create The Cybersecurity And Infrastructure Security Agency
Release Date:December 11, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
WASHINGTON - “I commend the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 3359. I urge the Senate to pass similar legislation. As the events of this morning illustrate, our nation’s critical infrastructure can often be prime targets for adversaries of all types, including terrorists, nation state and other non-state actors, hackers, and ordinary criminals. As the threat landscape shifts and becomes more complex, our approach to security must evolve.
“I want to personally thank Chairman McCaul for his tireless work to reach this important milestone in furtherance of the Department of Homeland Security’s mission. This legislation, which has bipartisan support, has been a priority of this Administration from day one. I look forward to continuing to work with Congress to move this important legislation forward.”
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Statement By Secretary Nielsen On Attempted Terror Attack In New York
Release Date:December 11, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen spoke with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner James O’Neill regarding the details of the attempted terrorist attack in New York City. Secretary Nielsen released the following statement on the Department’s role in coordinating a federal response to terror-related incidents.
“The Department of Homeland Security is taking appropriate action to protect our people and our country in the wake of today’s attempted terrorist attack in New York City. We will continue to assist New York authorities with the response and investigation and we urge the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity. More broadly, the administration continues to adopt significant security measures to keep terrorists from entering our country and from recruiting within our borders. The enemy we face is persistent and adaptive. But they should know this: Americans will not be coerced by terrorism, and we will not allow it to become the new normal. We will fight back aggressively and bring terrorists to justice.”
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Secretary Nielsen Announces the Establishment of the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office
Release Date:December 7, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
DHS Undertaking Critical Reorganization to Protect the Homeland
WASHINGTON –Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen today announced the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office. The CWMD Office will elevate and streamline DHS efforts to prevent terrorists and other national security threat actors from using harmful agents, such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear material and devices to harm Americans and U.S. interests.
The office consolidates key DHS functions and will lead the Department’s efforts to counter WMD threats. It will also allow for greater policy coordination and strategic planning, as well as provide greater visibility for this critically important mission.
“The United States faces rising danger from terrorist groups and rogue nation states who could use chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents to harm Americans,” said Secretary Nielsen. “That’s why DHS is moving towards a more integrated approach, bringing together intelligence, operations, interagency engagement, and international action. As terrorism evolves, we must stay ahead of the enemy and the establishment of this office is an important part of our efforts to do so.”
The United States faces a rising danger from threat actors who could use chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents to harm Americans or U.S. interests. Intelligence analysis shows terrorist groups are actively pursuing WMD capabilities, are using battlefield environments to test them, and may be working to incorporate these methods into external operations in ways we have not seen previously. Certain weapons of mass destruction, once viewed as out-of-reach for all but nation states, are now closer to being attained by non-state actors. A terrorist attack using such a weapon against the United States would have a profound and potentially catastrophic impact on our nation and the world.
The CWMD Office will be led by Mr. James McDonnell, who was appointed by President Trump in June 2017 to serve as the Director of the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO).
Next week, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke will deliver remarks regarding the CWMD Office at The Hudson Institute. More information can be found here.
Written testimony of DNDO, OHA, and S&T for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications hearing titled “Examining the Department of Homeland Security’s Efforts to Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction”
Release Date:December 7, 2017
210 House Capitol Visitor Center
Chairman Donovan, Ranking Member Payne, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, thank you for inviting us to speak with you today. We appreciate the opportunity to discuss the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) work to bolster efforts to counter the threat of terrorist actors using weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against the Homeland. As the leaders of the organizations involved in the reorganization of WMD functions into one office within DHS, we appreciate your interest in this matter. We also appreciate the support from former Secretary John Kelly and Acting Secretary Elaine Duke in pursuing a Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office aimed at elevating and streamlining DHS’s role in the WMD mission and further unifying associated activities under one office.
As Acting Secretary Elaine Duke stated in her September 27, 2017 testimony to the Senate, our intelligence professionals have seen a renewed terrorist interest in WMD. The United States faces a rising danger from threat actors who could use chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents to harm Americans or U.S. interests. For instance, DHS believes terrorist groups are actively pursuing such capabilities, are using battlefield environments to test them, and may be working to incorporate these methods into external operations in ways we have not seen previously. Certain WMD, once viewed as out-of-reach for all but nation states, are now closer to being attained by non-state actors. A terrorist attack using a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapon against the United States would have a profound and potentially catastrophic impact on our Nation and the world.
Since the creation of the Department more than 15 years ago, DHS has lacked a focal point in the WMD threat space. Through presidential directives and legislation, various WMD-related programs and projects were established within the Department and across multiple components. In some cases, components were established through presidential directives and delegations of authority, but lacked full legislative authorization to carry out such vested responsibilities. This resulted in fragmented missions and uncoordinated activities across the Department, ultimately leading to a lack of strategic direction in this critical mission. Further, the current structure of CBRN functions within the Department resulted in a lack of visibility for the mission space, weak internal coordination and disjointed interagency cooperation.
DHS believes it is imperative to streamline and elevate its counter-WMD efforts. Multiple reviews in the last decade—both internal and external to the Department—have highlighted the Department’s shortcomings in this space, as well as the need for a focal point on CBRN matters. Five years ago, Congress required the Department of Homeland Security to study the issue, to rationalize its WMD defense efforts, and to report on whether a reorganization was needed. The previous Administration conducted such a study and made an affirmative determination to pursue changes1 that resulted in the Department of Homeland Security CBRNE Defense Act of 20152.
This year the Department again reexamined previous reviews, shortcomings in the mission space, and whether a re-organization would remedy such issues. As the new leadership team explored these issues, they took into consideration challenges associated with advancements in chemical and biological detection capabilities. Due to challenges in the chemical and biological defense space, and in light of the current threat environment, DHS determined that steps needed to be taken expeditiously to improve the effectiveness of our WMD defense functions. DHS leadership, including former Secretary John Kelly and Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, decided to establish a CWMD Office to elevate, streamline, and bolster an internal “unity of command” for our CWMD capabilities.
1 In the June 2015 “DHS Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Functions Review Report” to House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees, the Department reviewed its CBRN programs’ organization, operations and communications pursuant to Congressional direction in the Joint Explanatory Statement (JES) and House Report accompanying the Fiscal Year 2013 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (Pub. Law No. 113-6). In the JES, Congress identified the need to “elevate and streamline the Department’s focus on efforts to address [CBRN] threats and deter and counter weapons of mass destruction.”
2 H.R. 3875, Department of Homeland Security CBRNE Defense Act of 2015, sec. 2 (Passed House amended (12/10/2015). H.R. 3875 was referred to the Senate.
Current CWMD Office
As an initial step, the Department established the CWMD Office that unified the management structure and consolidated the following components and elements within the Department into one office: the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), the majority of the Office of Health Affairs (OHA), select elements of the Science & Technology Directorate (S&T), and select DHS Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans (SPP) and DHS Office of Operations Coordination (OPS) functions and personnel.
The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
The CWMD Office subsumed DNDO in total with all current functions remaining intact. DNDO was chartered, in law and presidential directive, using an interagency construct to coordinate technical efforts across the U.S. Government to technically detect and protect against radiological and nuclear threats. DNDO conducts a holistic program of end-to-end efforts in technical nuclear detection and nuclear forensics, including planning, research and technology development, technology acquisition, and support for federal, state, local, tribal and territorial operators in the field.
The Office of Health Affairs
The CWMD Office also includes the majority of OHA, retaining biological and chemical defense functions, external coordination of Department medical preparedness and response activities, health incident surveillance, and health security intelligence and information sharing functions. The CWMD Office is currently exploring enhancements to current biodetection technologies with the goal of acquiring and deploying new technology to reduce capability gaps in biological detection. Current DHS programs address specific elements of chemical defense, detection, security, and risk analysis. By elevating the mission and unifying Departmental efforts, the CWMD Office is optimizing existing DHS resources to better protect the Nation against chemical threats.
The CWMD Office, through the Chief Medical Officer, is continuing to provide advice and support to DHS leadership and public and medical health officials nationwide to prepare for, respond to, and recover from threats to the Nation’s health security. Ensuring the first-responder community receives health-related expertise in a CBRN incident is vital. The CWMD Office is continuing to provide support for emerging health and medical issues of national significance and support for external-facing medical first responder coordination.
The Science & Technology Directorate
The Department reassigned certain non-R&D functions from S&T to the CWMD Office, specifically the non R&D functions performed by S&T related to chemical, biological, and integrated terrorism risk assessments and material threat assessments as required by presidential directive and the Project BioShield Act of 20043. This will harmonize terrorism risk assessment efforts across the WMD spectrum within one organization, and result in a rigorous requirements development process. We expect this realignment to improve risk-informed strategy and policy development and further enhance our nation’s ability to protect against WMD terror threats.
The Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans (SPP) and the Office of Operations (OPS) Coordination
Lastly, the Department permanently reassigned a limited number of SPP and OPS personnel with WMD defense expertise to the CWMD Office. These transfers will allow the CWMD Office to leverage existing subject matter experts that had previously been in other parts of DHS to support effective planning and policy for WMD threats.
3 Pub. Law No. 108-276
Proposed CWMD Organization
To fully integrate these capabilities, we are requesting this Congress’ support and establish this organization through congressional authorization. The proposed CWMD Office would be responsible for advancing the Department’s CWMD capabilities by taking a comprehensive approach to the spectrum of threats. As part of this proposal, the CWMD Office would coordinate a global WMD detection and early warning architecture and infrastructure that would, in coordination with interagency partners, account for chemical, biological, and nuclear detection and data sharing capabilities. We intend to accomplish this by leveraging the existing Global Nuclear Detection Architecture.
During the reorganizational review of WMD-related support functions and activities, the Department found that components shared a number of related lines of effort that could be leveraged. For example, both DNDO and the Office of Health Affairs have acquisition activities that could be mutually leveraged. Conversely, the Department also found it lacked critical acquisition and requirements functions in its chemical and biological missions. For example, DNDO coordinates with the interagency planning and analysis activities related to the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture. Utilizing DNDO’s analysis and requirements generation capabilities for the chemical and biological detection mission across the US government is an opportunity to better accomplish this mission.
The proposed CWMD Office would leverage best practices from across the Department to fill gaps in the Department’s the chemical and biological defense functions by coordinating similar functions prescribed in law for DNDO. In particular, the CWMD Office will seek to approach chemical and biological defense activities holistically, much as is currently done for radiological and nuclear threats—from gap and requirement identification to operational deployment and support.
With regard to the leadership structure of the proposed CWMD Office, the Office would be most optimally organized by having a presidentially appointed Assistant Secretary to lead the organization and who would report directly to the Secretary. This leadership structure would empower the Assistant Secretary to coalesce and elevate CWMD matters to the Secretary in support of the DHS Operating Components and act as a DHS representative on relevant matters within the Federal interagency, as well as with external stakeholders at the state level, local level, and with private sector partners. The Assistant Secretary would be supported by a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary to serve as the deputy and an advisor on WMD issues.
Congress authorized a Chief Medical Officer within DHS in the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 (Pub. Law 109-295) (“PKEMRA”).4 Congress vested the Chief Medical Officer with primary responsibility within DHS for medical issues related to natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters, including serving as the principal advisor to the DHS Secretary and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator on medical and public health issues, and coordinating DHS biodefense activities.5 Shortly thereafter, DHS reorganized to implement the various changes in PKEMRA as well as additional organizational improvements.6 Under the 2007 reorganization, the Department established the Office of Health Affairs, to be led by the Chief Medical Officer. Since then, the Office of Health Affairs has been responsible for non-R&D chemical and biological defense non R&D activities, medical readiness, and component services functions.
After re-evaluating the Department’s WMD activities, leadership determined that the Chief Medical Officer would be most effective in the CWMD Office supporting the Assistant Secretary. The Chief Medical Officer will continue to serve as an independent medical advisor to the Secretary and other senior DHS officials including the FEMA Administrator. This proposed permanent re-alignment would ensure the Chief Medical Officer’s expertise is regularly leveraged not only on chemical and biological issues, as is largely the case today, but also on radiological and nuclear matters. Moreover, this permanent relocation of the Chief Medical Officer to the CWMD Office would ensure expertise is utilized on the full range of critical CWMD matters involving emerging WMD threats of national significance. Lastly the re-organization will ensure the Nation’s front-line responders are able to prepare for and respond to all threats, for which the Chief Medical Officer will provide advice, as appropriate.
With Congress’ support and codification of the reorganization, it would ensure the CWMD Office has the authorities and strategic focus on developing and enhancing the full range of the Department’s CBRN support programs and capabilities to secure the homeland from WMD terrorism. This approach will ensure partners across the Federal government, within the Department, and across state, local, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions have the support needed to protect the United States from WMD threats.
The Department anticipates the proposed CWMD Office will offer the following improvements:
- Enhanced U.S. defenses against CBRN threats. Integration of CBRN elements will elevate and streamline DHS efforts to prevent terrorists and other national security threat actors from using chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents to harm Americans and U.S. interests. The Department has long sought to bring unity of effort to this space, and in doing so, it will be able to confront these challenges more decisively. This includes providing better support to DHS front-line components, which are responsible for keeping such dangerous agents from entering the United States.
- Improved strategic direction. The CWMD Office will help advance the Department’s strategic direction related to CBRN threats. In particular, U.S. strategies on chemical and biological defense have lagged behind the threat landscape. The CWMD Office will help close this gap by better equipping DHS to put in place effective chemical and biological defenses and ensuring the Department is able to more effectively drive forward planned strategies being developed in the interagency.
- Reform through sharing of best practices. The CWMD Office will better leverage related lines of effort, functional activities, and administrative structures within the Department. This new construct will allow for seamless sharing of best practices and create new opportunities for reform. In particular, DNDO’s successful business model will help inform improvements to the chemical and biological defense mission space.
- A clear focal point for CWMD within DHS. The Department’s current fractured approach to CWMD has created policy coordination challenges, both internally and externally. With the changes the Department plans to undertake, stakeholders in the interagency, industry, and at the state and local level will be able to better engage with DHS to deal with CBRN defense and detection matters. For example, the creation of CWMD will enable DHS to collaborate closely with interagency partners such as the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, which is the focal point for WMD-related matters within the FBI.
- Reduced overlap and duplication. In the past, the Department has been forced to reevaluate and terminate major CWMD-related programs and acquisitions due to under-performance, cost overruns, or ineffectiveness. In some cases, these failures could have been avoided with better oversight, leadership, and strategic planning. The CWMD Office will leverage best practices and lessons learned to prevent such mistakes from occurring in the future. Moreover, the reorganization offers potential efficiencies, such as eliminating duplication of effort in cross-cutting functions such as operational support programs, and interagency and intergovernmental coordination.
4 Section 516 of the HSA, codified at 6 U.S.C. § 321e.
6 Notice of Implementation of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 and of Additional Changes Pursuant to § 872 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 from Secretary Michael Chertoff to Senator Michael B. Enzi (Jan. 18, 2007).
Recognizing that the success of this reorganization is imperative, the Department has heeded GAO’s prior recommendation to use, where appropriate, the key mergers and organizational practices identified in past reports and audits.7 Prior to and following the Department’s decision to establish a CWMD Office, the Department actively engaged internally among DHS components and with external stakeholders.
DHS has undertaken a number of activities to ensure compliance with GAO-identified best practices in organizational changes. First, an Implementation Team was created with a specific task to engage an independent and objective party to monitor and examine the Department’s reorganization and consolidation. Second, a methodology was developed, independent of management, to gather documentation and conduct interviews across Departmental components. Following the decision to pursue a re-organization, DHS started interviewing employees at the Department to ensure a smooth transition and bolster employee engagement. The Department intends to continue to use GAO-identified best practices as benchmarks by which we can measure progress for the current CWMD Office and the proposed Office.
While we are excited to elevate the Department’s CWMD mission, we have not forgotten about the men and women of DHS who work every day to ensure our Nation is secure. Departmental reorganizations require engagement among senior management as well as with staff at the working level. On numerous occasions, top leadership in the Department have hosted stakeholder meetings, joint employee town hall events, and developed internal and external communications strategies to create shared expectations with all relevant entities.
7 GAO Report to the Ranking Member, Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives, Homeland Security – DHS’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Program Consolidation Proposal Could Better Consider Benefits and Limitations, GAO-16-603 (Aug. 2016), p. 18.
Chairman Donovan, Ranking Member Payne, and distinguished Members of this subcommittee, thank you again for your attention to this important mission and for the opportunity to discuss proposed efforts to enhance support capabilities across the CBRN spectrum. We look forward to further working with Congress and this subcommittee on fully integrating WMD capabilities to secure the Homeland from WMD terrorism. With your help, we have full confidence that our Department can improve our strategic direction in this threat space and ensure our Nation is safer than ever before. We look forward to answering your questions.Topics:
Kirstjen M. Nielsen Sworn-in as the Sixth Homeland Security Secretary
Release Date:December 6, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
WASHINGTON – Today, Ms. Kirstjen M. Nielsen was sworn-in as the sixth Secretary of Homeland Security. Secretary Nielsen was joined by White House and Department officials during a brief swearing-in at the White House. Secretary Nielsen is now the first former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employee to become the secretary.
“It is my greatest honor to serve as Secretary alongside the remarkable men and women of DHS,” said Secretary Nielsen. “Our nation faces a complex threat landscape that is constantly evolving. I will do my utmost to ensure that the Department meets the threats of today and tomorrow, and to ensure our frontline personnel have the tools and resources to accomplish their vital missions.
“I am humbled by the trust placed in me to lead our Department. I want to thank Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke for her exceptional leadership over the past four months - especially her work leading the response during the destructive Atlantic hurricane season. I look forward to continuing this Administration's work to raise the standards for the security of our homeland in all areas - including securing our borders, protecting Americans from terrorist threats, and securing our cyber networks.”
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Written testimony of I&A for a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing titled “Adapting to Defend the Homeland Against the Evolving International Terrorist Threat”
Release Date:December 6, 2017
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member McCaskill and distinguished Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today – along with my colleagues from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and the Department of Defense (DOD) – to discuss how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) helps protect the homeland in today’s dynamic threat environment. In my testimony today, I will characterize the evolving threat and describe how I&A is working to share intelligence and information with our domestic and international customers in support of counterterrorism activities in the homeland and around the world.
Today, the threat we face from terrorism is much more diverse than during the 9/11 period. While we have made it harder for terrorists to execute large-scale attacks, changes in technology have made it easier for adversaries to plot attacks in general, to radicalize new followers to commit acts of violence, and to recruit beyond borders. The problem is compounded by the use of simple, “do-it-yourself” terrorist tactics conveyed via highly sophisticated terrorist marketing campaigns to audiences across the world.
As Acting Secretary Duke testified before this committee in September, we at DHS are rethinking homeland security for this new age. In the past, we often spoke of the “home game” and “away game” in the context of protecting our country, with DHS especially focused on the former. But that line is now blurred. The dangers we face are becoming more dispersed, and threat networks are proliferating across borders. The shifting landscape challenges security, so we must move past traditional defense and non-defense thinking. This is why DHS is overhauling its approach to homeland security and bringing together intelligence, operations, interagency engagement, and international action in new ways and changing how we respond to threats to our country.
The rising tide of violence we see in the West is clear evidence of the serious threat. As our government takes the fight to groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and ash- Sham (ISIS) and al-Qa’ida (AQ), we will continue to see operatives disperse and focus more heavily on external operations against the United States, our interests, and our allies. While much of today’s hearing will focus on terrorist threats from Syria and Iraq, it is important to emphasize that the terrorist threat is fluid. Many terrorist groups continue to pose a risk to our security and safety.
Core AQ and its affiliates remain a major concern for DHS. Despite the deaths of many AQ senior leaders, the group and its affiliates maintain the intent, and, in some cases, the capability to facilitate and conduct attacks against U.S. citizens and facilities. The group and its affiliates have also demonstrated that capability to adjust tactics, techniques and procedures for targeting the West.
Likewise, we continue to monitor the evolving threat posed by ISIS. ISIS fighters’ battlefield experience in Syria and Iraq have armed it with advanced capabilities that most terrorist groups do not have. Even as the so-called “caliphate” collapses, ISIS fighters retain their toxic ideology and a will to fight. We remain concerned that foreign fighters from the U.S. or elsewhere who have traveled to Syria and Iraq and radicalized to violence will ultimately return to the U.S. or their home country to conduct attacks.
In addition to the threat of foreign fighters overseas, the threat from ISIS also contains a domestic component. ISIS utilizes a sophisticated messaging and propaganda capability, which enables it to reach a global audience as it encourages acts of violence wherever its followers are able. The group regularly disseminates high-quality media content on multiple online platforms. ISIS members continue to attempt to recruit and radicalize to violence Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs) through social media. The reach and popularity of social media has enabled HVEs to connect more easily with terrorist organizations, such as ISIS. We assess there is currently an elevated threat of HVE lone offender attacks by ISIS sympathizers, which is especially concerning because mobilized lone offenders present law enforcement with limited opportunities to detect and disrupt their plots.
In order to address this threat, DHS, and I&A with the assistance and input it receives from DHS components, works to share intelligence and information with our domestic and foreign partners to help front-line operators identify, disrupt, and respond to developing threats. We are committed to continuing our efforts, along with our colleagues in the Intelligence Community (IC), to give our customers at DHS and in the homeland the information they need about terrorist tactics, techniques and procedures to better protect the homeland, and to partner with international counterterrorism allies to share information about terrorist threats.
I&A is the only member of the IC statutorily charged to share intelligence and threat information with state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector (SLTTP) partners. To help these partners address the evolving terrorist threat, I&A produces tailored assessments on the motivations of HVEs, suspicious behavioral patterns, likely tactics and techniques, and preferred targets. Additionally, I&A partners with the FBI and fusion centers across the nation to produce intelligence products for state and local law enforcement on the trends and observable behaviors in individuals seeking to commit violence in the homeland.
On the international front, DHS continues to broaden and deepen international liaison efforts through DHS Attaches at post to improve our ability to share information with key foreign allies. As a part of that effort, I&A engages with foreign partners to share analytic and targeting methodology, chiefly by conducting analytic exchanges, to enhance the ability of DHS and foreign allies to identify individuals and travel routes, and prevent foreign fighter travel to foreign conflict zones.
The terrorist threat is dynamic, as those who operate individually or as part of a terrorist organization will continue to challenge our security measures and our safety. DHS will continue to work with our international counterparts and our colleagues within the FBI, NCTC, DOD, the Department of State, and across the IC to identify potential threats to our security, both at home and abroad.
Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member McCaskill, and distinguished Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I look forward to answering your questions.
Acting Secretary Duke Statement on the Senate Confirmation of Kirstjen Nielsen
Release Date:December 5, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
WASHINGTON – Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke today released the following statement after the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Kirstjen Nielsen as the sixth Secretary of Homeland Security:
“Congratulations to Kirstjen Nielsen on becoming the sixth Secretary of Homeland Security. Ms. Nielsen is a homeland security expert with a deep understanding of the issues facing the Department and is well-positioned to lead us into the future. It has been an honor to serve as the Department’s Acting Secretary, and I look forward to working alongside Ms. Nielsen as her deputy as we continue to carry out the DHS mission of safeguarding the American people, our homeland, and our values.”
Incoming Secretary Nielsen will be sworn-in in the coming days.
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DHS Announces Progress in Enforcing Immigration Laws, Protecting Americans
Release Date:December 5, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
ICE and CBP Release End of Fiscal Year 2017 Statistics
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its end-of-year immigration enforcement numbers, the results of a year-long return to enforcing the law, upholding the integrity of our lawful immigration system, and keeping America safe. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported 310,531 apprehensions nationwide, 303,916 of which were along the Southwest border, underscoring the need for a physical barrier at the border. Additionally, in FY 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Removal Operations (ERO) conducted 143,470 arrests and 226,119 removals. While 2017 marked a successful year in border security efforts, reducing illegal cross-border migration, increasing interior enforcement, and dismantling transnational criminal enterprises, multiple challenges still remain in providing immigration officials with the tools needed to keep criminals off the streets, eliminate the pull factors for illegal immigration, and remove aliens who have violated our immigration laws from the country. The previously announced Trump Administration’s immigration priorities would address these challenges by enhancing border security, implementing a merit-based immigration system, and closing loopholes that encourage illegal immigration.
“We have clearly seen the successful results of the President’s commitment to supporting the frontline officers and agents of DHS as they enforce the law and secure our borders,” said Acting Secretary Elaine Duke. “We have an obligation to uphold the integrity of our immigration system, but we must do more to step up and close loopholes to protect the American worker, our economy, and our communities.”
“We have seen historic low numbers this year - an almost 30 percent decline in apprehensions in FY17, but we are very concerned about the later month increases of unaccompanied minors and minors with a family member,” said Acting Deputy Commissioner Ronald Vitiello. “We are also concerned about the significant uptick in the smuggling of opioids and other hard narcotics, including heroin and cocaine, which generally increase when illegal border crossings spike. The men and women of CBP, working along our borders and at the ports of entry protecting our great nation, are doing outstanding work. For us to truly have an operationally secure border, we must close loopholes in our laws that help fund the cartels.”
“These results are proof of what the men and women of ICE can accomplish when they are empowered to fulfill their mission,” said Thomas Homan, ICE Deputy Director. “We need to maintain this momentum by matching the dedication and drive of our personnel with the resources they need to perform at even higher levels. We need to confront and address misguided policies and loopholes that only serve as
apull factor for illegal immigration. We must continue to target violent gangs like MS-13, and prevent them from rebuilding what we have begun to dismantle. Finally, we need to find a solution to the dangerous sanctuary city policies and the politicians who needlessly risk innocent lives to protect criminals who are illegally present in the United States.”
Customs and Border Protection
In FY17, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recorded the lowest level of illegal cross-border migration on record, as measured by apprehensions along the border and inadmissible encounters at the U.S. ports of entry. However, in May CBP began to see a month-over-month increase in apprehensions and inadmissible cases along the Southwest border, most notably from children, either as part of a family unit or unaccompanied by their parent or legal guardian.
In addition to the 310,531 apprehensions by U.S. Border Patrol agents there were 216,370 inadmissible cases by CBP officers in FY17, representing a 23.7 percent decline over the previous year. Illegal migration along the Southwest border declined sharply from January 21 to April, which was the lowest month of border enforcement activity on record.
By the end of the year, family-unit apprehensions and inadmissible cases reached 104,997 along the Southwest border. Another 48,681 unaccompanied children were apprehended or determined to be inadmissible.
CBP continues to be concerned about steady increase in the flow of unaccompanied children and family units from Central America, as transnational criminal organizations continue to exploit legal and policy loopholes to help illegal aliens gain entry and facilitate their release into the interior of the country.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
The most significant changes in immigration enforcement strategy can be found in the interior of the United States. The executive orders issued by President Trump in January 2017 strongly emphasized the role of interior enforcement in protecting national security and public safety, and upholding the rule of law. By making clear that no category of removable aliens would be exempt from enforcement, the directives also expanded enforcement priorities for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Overall, in FY 2017, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) conducted 143,470 arrests and 226,119 removals. Notably, from the start of the Trump Administration on January 20, 2017 through the end of the fiscal year, ERO made 110,568 arrests compared to 77,806 in FY2016 - an increase of 40 percent. During the same timeframe, removals that resulted from an ICE arrest increased by 37 percent, nearly offsetting the historically low number of border apprehensions, a population that typically constitutes a significant portion of ICE removals. Total ICE removal numbers for FY17 (226,119) reflect a slight decline (6%) from FY2016 (240,255), largely attributed to the decline in border apprehensions.
ICE continued to prioritize its resources to enhance public safety and border security, which is demonstrated by the data, which reflects that 92 percent (101,722) of aliens ICE administratively arrested between January 20, 2017 and the end of FY2017, were removable aliens who had a criminal conviction or a pending criminal charge, were an ICE fugitive, or were an illegal re-entrant.
The executive orders also prioritized efforts to dismantle transnational gangs, with a specific focus on MS-13, one of the most violent gangs in the United States. In FY2017, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 796 MS-13 gang members and associates, compared to 434 in FY2016 – an 83 percent increase. Overall, HSI made 4,818 criminal arrests related to gang activity and 892 administrative arrests as a result of gang investigations. Additionally, ERO administratively arrested 5,225 gang members and associates.
Overall in FY17, HSI conducted 32,958 total criminal arrests and seized $524 million in illicit currency and assets over the course of investigations into human smuggling and trafficking, cybercrime, transnational gang activity, narcotics enforcement, human smuggling and other types of cross-border criminal activity.
In addition to these improved numbers, the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results for CBP and ICE personnel significantly improved this year, reflecting that the Administration is allowing them to faithfully execute their duties and fully enforce the law.
Earlier today, ICE, CBP and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services participated in a press briefing to announce the end of year numbers. Click here to watch the recording.
The Office of Immigration Statistics will release their annual report on DHS-wide enforcement data in January.
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As Historic 2017 Hurricane Season Comes to an End, Federal Support to Recovery Continues
Release Date:November 30, 2017
For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
WASHINGTON – While Nov. 30 marks the end of a historic hurricane season, FEMA and its partners continue to work diligently in support of disaster survivors recovering from the devastating season. Four hurricanes made landfall: Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate (the first three were classified as major hurricanes, which affected roughly 25.8 million people). Also during this season, nearly two dozen large wildfires burned more than 200,000 acres of land in northern California.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma marked the first time two Atlantic Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the Continental United States, in the same season. Hurricane Harvey set a new record for the most rainfall from a U.S. tropical cyclone, with more than 50 inches of rain in some areas. The storm resulted in catastrophic flooding in Texas and western Louisiana. Two weeks later, Hurricane Irma became the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane on record. Winds peaked at 185 mph, and Hurricane Irma remained a hurricane for 11 days. Irma was the longest-lived Atlantic hurricane since Ivan in 2004. The public response to Hurricane Irma, as the storm approached, resulted in one of the largest sheltering missions in U.S. history.
Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico soon after Hurricane Irma struck their shores. Hurricane Maria was the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall on the main island of Puerto Rico in 85 years, and the resulting response became the longest sustained air mission of food and water in FEMA history. In addition to these hurricanes, prior to the 2017 season FEMA already had 17 Joint Field Offices working 28 presidentially-declared disasters.
Since Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, the President has granted 16 Major Disaster declarations and 14 Emergency Declarations, while FEMA has authorized 25 Fire Management Assistance Grant declarations. Over a span of 25 days, FEMA and our partners deployed tens of thousands of personnel across 270,000 square miles in three different FEMA regions.
So far, more than 4.7 million disaster survivors registered for federal assistance with FEMA – more than all who registered for hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma and Sandy combined. To respond to the historic demand, FEMA expanded its call center capacity by tenfold, and increased the number of home and property damage inspectors fourfold.
“This historic hurricane season should serve as a gut check and an opportunity for citizens, businesses, state, local, tribal and federal officials to re-evaluate how we prepare for and respond to any disaster,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long. “Response and recovery is dependent upon the whole community to be successful. While we continue to support the recovery from these storms, we must also take the opportunity to become better prepared for future disasters.”
To date, FEMA has placed more than $2 billion in disaster assistance into the hands of disaster survivors to help them recover from these events. As of mid-November, National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholders filed approximately 120,000 claims, resulting in payments totaling more than $6.3 billion.
“State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, along with the residents in the impacted areas, are the true first responders,” said Administrator Long. “FEMA alone cannot deliver assistance to this vast number of survivors. We must hit the re-set button on the culture of preparedness in our country.”
Non-profit organizations provide crucial services to sustain lives in partnership with the rest of the response and recovery infrastructure. The private sector also plays a significant role in disasters, as businesses work to restore critical services and donate their time and resources – in close coordination with emergency management personnel – to help communities rebound in the wake of disasters.
Thousands of members of the federal workforce were deployed to Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, including 13,892 staff from various offices of the Department of Defense (DoD), including the military services. For the first time, FEMA extended the Department of Homeland Security’s “Surge Capacity Force,” to all federal agencies, deploying over 3,800 non-FEMA federal employees.
FEMA search and rescue teams saved nearly 9,000 lives, in addition to those saved or assisted by DoD, the Coast Guard, state and local partners, first responders, and neighbors helping neighbors.
While the 2017 Hurricane Season has ended, recovering from these devastating hurricanes will take years, and FEMA and our federal partners will continue to support affected governments and survivors as they build back stronger.
For the latest information about FEMA support to response and recovery efforts, see:
Acting Secretary Duke: We Are Rethinking Homeland Security For A New Age
Release Date:November 30, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Says the Fundamentals of Terrorism Have Evolved
WASHINGTON – Today, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security for a hearing on World Wide Threats: Keeping America Secure in the New Age of Terror.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is addressing the evolving threat landscape and moving past traditional defense and non-defense thinking. DHS is enhancing its approach to homeland security and bringing together intelligence operations, interagency engagement, and international action in innovative ways.
In her written testimony submitted to the committee, Acting Secretary Duke said, “Acts of terrorism and mass violence against soft targets have become so frequent that we associate them with the names of cities that have been victimized: Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels, Orlando, Istanbul, Nice, Berlin, London, Barcelona, and most recently in New York City on Halloween.” As a result, DHS is enhancing coordination with state and local officials. In her oral testimony, Acting Secretary Duke stated, “I also want to make clear today that DHS is not standing on the sidelines as these threats proliferate. And we will not allow frequent terrorism to become the new normal.”
Additionally, DHS is “raising the baseline” of the United States’ security posture by examining everything from traveler screening to information sharing, and setting new standards to close security vulnerabilities. Acting Secretary Duke said, “At the Department, we are building an action-oriented, results-centric culture. We are pushing our border security strategies and pressing foreign partners to enhance their security so that terrorists, criminals, and other threat actors are stopped well before they reach our shores.”
Acting Secretary Duke on Rethinking Homeland Security for a New Age:
“We are seeing a surge in terrorist activity because the fundamentals of terrorism have changed. Our enemies are crowd-sourcing their violence online and promoting a “do it yourself” approach that involves using any weapons their followers can get their hands on. We saw this just last month right here on our own soil when a terrorist killed and wounded pedestrians in New York City using a rented vehicle. But New Yorkers rallied, and they refused to be intimidated by this heinous attack.
“I also want to make clear today that DHS is not standing on the sidelines as these threats proliferate. And we will not allow frequent terrorism to become the new normal.
“The primary international terror threat facing our country is from global jihadist groups. However, the Department is also focused on the threat of domestic terrorism. Ideologically-motivated violence here in the United States is a danger to our nation, our people, and our values.
“We are tackling the overall terror threat to the United States head-on... [W]e are rethinking homeland security for a new age. There is no longer a “home game” and an “away game.” The line is blurred, and the threats are connected across borders.
“That’s why DHS is moving towards a more integrated approach, bringing together intelligence, operations, interagency engagement, and international action like never before.”
Acting Secretary Duke on Raising the Baseline of Our Security Posture
“We are also strengthening everything from traveler screening to information sharing. We now require all foreign governments to share critical data with us on terrorists and criminals—and to help us confidently identify their nationals. We must know who is coming into our country and make sure they do not pose a threat. That is why I recommended—and the President approved—tough but tailored restrictions against countries that pose a risk and which are not complying with our requirements.
“And we are trying to stay a step ahead of emerging threats. We are planning next to launch a new Office of Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction next week, to consolidate and elevate DHS efforts to guard against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats.
“Separately, our Global Aviation Security Plan is making it harder for terrorists to target U.S.-bound aircraft with concealed explosives or by using corrupted insiders.
“At the same time, we are rededicating ourselves to terrorism prevention to keep terrorists from radicalizing our people. And our newly reorganized Office of Terrorism Prevention Partnerships will lead the charge.
“Finally, we have stepped up DHS efforts to protect soft targets, which will not only help better defend our country against terrorists but against tragedies like we have witnessed in Las Vegas and Texas.”
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