Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen to Travel to G7 Security Ministerial
Release Date:April 20, 2018
WASHINGTON— Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen will travel to Toronto, Canada to participate in the G7 Security Ministerial on Monday, April 23 and Tuesday, April 24. There, Secretary Nielsen will meet with her foreign counterparts to discuss joint efforts to combat terrorism, human trafficking, and cybersecurity threats. Secretary Nielsen will discuss the threats currently facing the United States and G7 partners and how a global approach is necessary to adequately address them.
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Secretary Nielsen Joins President Trump at JIATF-South to Discuss Efforts to Stop Drugs and Criminals from Entering Our Country
Release Date:April 19, 2018
On Thursday, April 19, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen joined President Donald J. Trump and senior U.S. officials at the Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S) in Key West, Florida. The purpose of the visit was to review the Administration’s ongoing efforts to combat transnational organized crime and stop illicit drugs from entering the United States. Secretary Nielsen reaffirmed the Department’s commitment to JIATF-S as well as the Department’s ongoing work with international partners to support the JIATF-S mission.
During their visit, President Trump and Secretary Nielsen received an operational briefing and toured the JIATF-S Joint Operations Center. They were joined by General Kelly, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Zukunft, U.S. Southern Command Commander Admiral Tidd, U.S. Northern Command Commander General Robinson, JIATF-S Director Rear Admiral Tomney, and other senior officials.
JIATF-S is the frontline for interdicting the record amounts of cocaine produced in Colombia and shipped to the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia through the transit zones. The information obtained from JIATF-S produces leads and enhances investigations, prosecutions, and intelligence that are critical to U.S. government efforts to combat transnational criminal organizations.
Several DHS equities work with JIATF-S including the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Homeland Security Investigations. In addition to supporting JIATF-S with personnel, DHS is its principal source of surface and air assets. Last year, with the assistance of CBP and USCG air assets, JIATF-S coordinated the seizure or disruption of over 285 metric tons of cocaine, an all-time record since the creation of JIATF-S in 1989. The majority of these interdictions were effected by USCG cutters.
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DHS Press Secretary Statement on Sessions v. Dimaya
Release Date:April 17, 2018
Today, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Press Secretary Tyler Q. Houlton released the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to void certain aspects of the aggravated felony ground of deportability.
"Today’s ruling significantly undermines DHS’s efforts to remove aliens convicted of certain violent crimes, including sexual assault, kidnapping, and burglary, from the United States. By preventing the federal government from removing known criminal aliens, it allows our nation to be a safe haven for criminals and makes us more vulnerable as a result. The Secretary has met with hundreds of members of Congress over the last few months to implore them to take action on passing legislation to close public safety loopholes, such as these, that encourage illegal immigration and tie the hands of law enforcement.”
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Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen to Speak at RSA Conference
Release Date:April 12, 2018
WASHINGTON – Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen will speak at the 2018 RSA Conference on Tuesday, April 17 at 1:05PM EDT/10:05AM PDT. Secretary Nielsen will lay out the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity priorities and policies in addition to addressing the cyber threats affecting the United States today. Following her remarks, Secretary Nielsen will also participate in a fireside chat on cybersecurity issues.
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Written testimony of USCG for a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing titled “Are We Ready for the Next Hurricane Season? Status of Preparation and Response Capabilities for 2018”
Release Date:April 12, 2018
253 Russell Senate Office Building
Good morning Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Committee. It is my pleasure to be here today to discuss the Coast Guard’s preparations for the next Atlantic hurricane season, lessons learned from the 2017 hurricane season, and the demands contingency responses place on the Coast Guard.
First, let me thank you for the outstanding support this committee has given the Coast Guard (Service), especially as it relates to the supplemental funding for hurricane response activities. This critical infusion allows the Service not only to rebuild damaged and destroyed facilities, but also provides the ability to rebuild to modern resiliency standards, ensuring the best chance of withstanding future disasters.
The U.S. Coast Guard is the world’s premier military, multi-mission, maritime service responsible for the safety, security and stewardship of U.S. waters and hundreds of miles seaward. At all times, a military service and branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, a federal law enforcement agency, a regulatory body, a first responder, and a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community, the Coast Guard stands the watch and serves a nation whose economic prosperity and national security are inextricably linked to broad maritime interests.
As the Nation’s maritime first responder, the Coast Guard has unique capabilities, capacity, and authorities that allow it to play a critical role in disaster response. Today I would like to discuss the Coast Guard’s primary missions in disaster response, its strengths, limitations, and some issues that demand our focus as we look toward the 2018 hurricane season.
Primary Missions in Disaster Response
The Coast Guard’s primary missions in domestic disaster response are:
- Saving lives in distress, and ensuring the safety and survivability of its own forces and assets for immediate post-disaster response operations;
- Security and reconstitution of ports, waterways, and critical maritime infrastructure;
- Environmental response operations (oil, chemical and hazardous material); and
- Support to other agencies in a whole-of-government response effort.
Saving lives in distress remains our first priority. During Hurricanes HARVEY, IRMA, MARIA, and NATE, Coast Guard women and men in vessels, aircraft, vehicles, and on foot rescued nearly 12,000 people and over 1,500 pets.
For each of these storms and all natural disasters along our coastline, Coast Guard crews are typically the first federal responders to enter an impacted area, right alongside our state, local, tribal, and territorial responders, to conduct rescues and assess damage. I should note that in an average year, the Coast Guard saves 3,600 lives. The Coast Guard tripled that number during HARVEY alone in a matter of days.
In addition to search and rescue operations, the Coast Guard flows forces into the impacted regions to restore ports and waterways, respond to pollution, provide security and additional law enforcement capability where necessary, and protect offshore petrochemical platforms. Within five weeks, Hurricanes HARVEY, IRMA, MARIA, and NATE impacted over 2,500 miles of shoreline1. The Coast Guard responded to 1,269 aids to navigation discrepancies, handled 290 pollution cases, and targeted and assessed thousands of grounded vessels, with more than 4,200 removed to date. Coast Guard damage assessment teams were on-scene within hours determining the status of ports and waterways, documenting environmental hazards, assessing the impacts to Coast Guard facilities and capabilities, and leveraging technology, such as the employment of electronic aids to navigation, to facilitate the reopening of key ports and waterways.
The Coast Guard response during the 2017 hurricane season was historic and overwhelmingly successful. However, as an organization dedicated to continuous improvement and increased resiliency the Coast Guard inherently knows there are lessons to be learned, even after a successful contingency response. The Coast Guard has identified several strategic and over one hundred tactical-level lessons learned. The Coast Guard is tracking, and will continue to track, these issues until they have been resolved. The Service is updating policies and plans, improving capabilities, sharing best practices, and working with FEMA and state partners to improve processes. As we approach the start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1, 2018, the Coast Guard will conduct fifty-two natural disaster exercises at its District and Sector Commands. In addition, the Coast Guard will participate in the 2018 Atlantic Fury National Level Exercise involving a National Capital Region impact in order to test headquarters-level preparedness for hurricane response.
1 Using CRS method of Shoreline Measurement: Texas: 367 mi, Louisiana: 397 mi, Florida: 1,350 mi, Puerto Rico: 311 mi, USVI: 117 mi
The Coast Guard has several key strengths that enable quick and effective response to natural disasters. The first of these strengths begins with its people, whose bias for action and adaptability to rapidly changing circumstances and uncertainty never ceases to fill me with pride and admiration.
Coast Guard cutters, aircraft, and boats are built to respond to a variety of missions without the need for any significant reconfiguration. Cutters conducting counter-drug patrols in the Transit Zone can quickly divert to disaster areas to provide command and control, deliver rotary wing air capability from the sea, conduct refueling, and provide forward staging facilities. Coast Guard aircraft that normally perform law enforcement surveillance to thwart transnational maritime criminal activities can be dynamically repositioned and re-tasked to deliver disaster relief supplies, additional responders, and equipment to affected areas.
Additionally, Coast Guard forces are on station at key locations around the Nation, most of them on short-notice recall, which can respond quickly to emergent events. When a major catastrophe occurs or is anticipated, the Service can reposition forces quickly to that area to optimize the response.
The Coast Guard enjoys an agile and decentralized command and control structure, which provides operational commanders the authority to move forces quickly to respond to large contingencies. Two Area Commanders, and their nine subordinate District Commanders, can shift and reallocate forces from one region to another based on levels of risk and anticipated demand for operational capabilities.
The Coast Guard has also developed and regularly exercises Continuity of Operations Plans for relocating command and control functions out of harm’s way to strategically advantageous positions to effectively conduct response and recovery operations. During the 2017 hurricanes, seven major shore commands and one District command shifted out of the path of the storms to alternate facilities, resulting in only minor disruptions and no loss of command and control.
In addition to fielding flexible, multi-mission forces and effective command and control systems, the Coast Guard also benefits from a unique mix of broad standing authorities, as well as extensive experience operating within both military and other interagency response organizations.
As a military service, the Coast Guard can be a supported or supporting commander, and its forces are frequently integrated with U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) services in Joint Task Force organizations. The Service regularly provides forces in support of DOD exercises, Combatant Commander contingency plans, and theater security cooperation activities. This routinely exercised relationship develops close cooperation at the service level, enabling Coast Guard and DOD forces to integrate seamlessly during disaster response operations.
In addition to its military role, the Coast Guard routinely works with other federal agencies, state and local governments, non-governmental agencies, and international organizations under its U.S. Code, Title 14 law enforcement and regulatory responsibilities.
The Coast Guard is the Nation’s “maritime first responder” and has a leading role in executing the National Response Framework (NRF) for disaster situations. Its personnel are well-trained and experienced in response operations, which make them a sound choice to be designated for key leadership positions in the NRF structure. This ability to operate concurrently in both military Joint Task Force and civilian NRF structures enhances unity of effort during whole-of-government responses across organizations and dramatically improves the effectiveness of disaster response, which makes the Coast Guard a truly unique federal agency.
Despite the many strengths the Coast Guard brings to disaster response, the Service has limitations that must be considered.
Across the 2017 hurricane response operations, more than 3,000 Coast Guard women and men, and 200 assets or platforms from across the Service, from places as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine responded to save nearly 12,000 citizens in distress. The hurricane response had a significant impact on Coast Guard operations. The Coast Guard is small in comparison to the other Armed Services. With only 40,600 active duty, 7,000 reserve, and 8,500 civilian personnel, responding to a major natural disaster requires balancing risk in other geographic regions and mission areas in order to flow forces and capabilities into the major disaster response.
Residual risk was spread across the Coast Guard, with a keen eye towards meeting minimal mission standards in most, but not all, locations. Given the heavy demand for aviation capabilities following each of the storms, all aviation training was stopped until the later stages of recovery efforts were reached. The level of forces typically allocated to performing counter-drug, fisheries enforcement, and migrant interdiction operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Florida Straits was reduced as well.
The Service has a limited capacity to respond to prolonged and sequential events. While the Coast Guard is well-positioned for immediate and effective first response, plans to sustain operations and hand-off responsibilities once a crisis has been stabilized are primary considerations for Coast Guard commanders responding to natural disasters. During 2017, the initial hurricane response spanned multiple months, with some response operations continuing today. The Coast Guard endured risk exposure across all 11 missions with service-wide impacts to training, personnel readiness, and maintenance of equipment. To sustain prolonged response operations, the Service had to sacrifice preparedness for the next contingency response. When discussing resiliency, infrastructure and assets immediately come to mind. However, the resiliency of the Coast Guard as an organization is equally critical to mitigating the secondary effects of responding to emergent events. The Coast Guard must be able to meet the needs of the Nation, through a resilient and well-trained workforce, while simultaneously answering the call for help during a disaster.
The age and condition of the Coast Guard’s assets is another concern, and is one that the Administration, with the support of Congress, is working hard to improve. The newest National Security Cutter JAMES, working alongside several modern Fast Response Cutters, showcased its abilities after hurricane MARIA by serving as a command and control platform off of Puerto Rico. As more modern and capable cutters repositioned for hurricane response, the Coast Guard Cutter ALERT, a 48-year-old cutter, held the line in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The crew performed admirably, including a two-week period as the only cutter operating in the Eastern Pacific.
Issues to Focus on Going Forward
Lastly, there are several areas that will require continued energy and focus in the months and years ahead in order to enhance the Coast Guard’s national disaster response capacity and capability.
When the Coast Guard has the opportunity to recapitalize its facilities, it needs to make them more storm-resilient and survivable. In fact, several shore facilities that were rebuilt following Hurricane IKE suffered minimal damages along the paths of HARVEY and IRMA, a testament to modern building codes and standards.
Continued investment in recapitalizing Coast Guard resources is paramount. The need for modernized assets, such as the Offshore Patrol Cutter and Waterway Commerce Cutters, to replace an aging fleet is highlighted by the National Security Cutter’s superior ability to coordinate and communicate with Coast Guard, Department of Defense, and interagency resources during contingency responses.
Investing in the Coast Guard’s infrastructure supports its greatest resource: its people. Although the Service deployed approximately 3,000 additional Coast Guard women and men to support response operations, many more Coast Guard personnel from within the impacted areas responded to help those that were displaced and distressed, even as they and their loved ones were also displaced. The Coast Guard had to relocate over 700 Coast Guard members and dependents after their homes were damaged to the point of being uninhabitable.
Many do not realize the residual risk associated with surging resources to an incident. No amount of response capacity and capability will be effective without a foundation of preparedness. Having enough well-trained and properly equipped personnel, the right assets, and adequate contingency infrastructure in place prior to an event is vital to sustained success during a major disaster response, and to the reconstitution of the impacted area. It is too late to train responders, procure new equipment, or find alternate command posts when a hurricane is barreling toward our coasts. As has been shown time and again, investment in the Coast Guard pays dividends when they are needed most.
The Coast Guard is well-positioned to respond to natural disasters due to its unique blend of authorities, capabilities, and capacity. Flexible, multi-mission forces and agile command and control systems provide the solid foundation from which we can respond to major catastrophes. When combined with broad authorities and extensive experience operating with diverse partners, the Coast Guard provides a vital service to our Nation. As an organization that strives to better serve the Nation through continual improvement, the Coast Guard evaluates its successes and failures to optimize performance through applying both strategic and tactical-level lessons learned. The Coast Guard’s dedication to ongoing self-improvement will ensure that it is best positioned to deliver the level of service the Nation expects and deserves well into the future.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today and for your ongoing support of the women and men of the Coast Guard. I look forward to your questions.
Written testimony of MGMT for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency hearing titled “Building for the Future: Examining Challenges Facing DHS's Consolidated Headquarters Project”
Release Date:April 12, 2018
210 House Capitol Visitor Center
Chairman Perry, Ranking Member Correa, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Consolidated Headquarters at St. Elizabeths. I am Tom Chaleki, Chief Readiness Support Officer for DHS. My responsibilities include the oversight and management of the Department’s facilities and real property, and the consolidation of DHS facilities in the National Capital Region.
I am pleased to appear with my colleagues from the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to update the Subcommittee on the progress since the 2014 hearing of GSA’s development of the St. Elizabeths West Campus as the DHS Consolidated Headquarters. I have experience with the Headquarters Consolidation Program, as until very recently I was the Deputy Chief Readiness Support Officer with oversight responsibilities for the DHS property portfolio. I also worked for several years in facility planning for the U.S. Coast Guard and as an Air Force Reserve civil engineer. As a result of my background and experiences, I have a great appreciation for the challenges of this complex development in an uncertain funding environment, and can testify to the benefits that completion will bring to the Department operationally and fiscally with your continued support.
Beginning with the submission of the DHS National Capital Region Housing Master Plan submitted to Congress in 2006, in cooperation with the developer GSA, five Secretaries, including Secretary Nielsen, have determined that the existing DHS Headquarters at the Nebraska Avenue Complex (NAC) is insufficient to meet the Department’s needs. Currently, DHS Component headquarters offices are scattered across the National Capital Region (NCR), which adversely impacts critical coordination. It is clear that GSA’s development of a new DHS Consolidated Headquarters at St. Elizabeths is vital to effective mission execution and to support the Department’s Unity of Effort. While the threats, challenges, and priorities of the Department have evolved over time, the need for a consolidated headquarters is just as important today as it was when we started this effort in 2006. Aside from the operational benefits, a consolidated headquarters allows for effective utilization of the Department’s resources. Rightsizing the portfolio in long-term government owned space and taking advantage of the changing dynamics of the federal workplace will reduce long-term occupancy costs and free up scarce dollars for other priorities.
2014 GAO Report
The GAO Report (GAO-14-648), Federal Real Property: DHS and GSA Need to Strengthen Management of DHS Headquarters Consolidation, provided three recommendations with respect to the St. Elizabeths program. The Department concurred with all three and has taken action to address each within our responsibilities.
As a tenant agency, DHS does not manage the development-side of the St. Elizabeths campus project. We provide programmatic requirements to GSA; budget for and fund certain tenant specifications; review GSA managed design and construction activities; coordinate with GSA and all stakeholders on historic preservation consultations and regulatory reviews of the project; and provide oversight on GSA’s use of DHS’s funding in the execution of their responsibilities as the developer. All development activities are managed by GSA in accordance with GSA policies, to include the preponderance of contracting and construction activities. The Department fully cooperates with GSA, but does not exercise acquisition oversight or procurement decisions related to GSA’s property development activities.
GAO’s first recommendation was that GSA and DHS should conduct a needs assessment and gap analysis of current and needed capabilities; and an alternatives analysis that identifies the cost and benefits of leasing versus construction alternatives. In response to the first recommendation, DHS worked closely with GSA to revise the Headquarters Consolidation Plan, resulting in the development of the Enhanced Plan, which served as the basis of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget request. The Enhanced Plan reduced planned construction at St. Elizabeths while implementing DHS’s new space standards and flexible workplace strategies to accommodate 17,000 employees; this represented a 3,000 staff increase over the original plan. This plan was based on a comprehensive revision of the program of requirements for housing DHS in the NCR and also accelerated completion of the St. Elizabeths construction to 2021 rather than 2026. The relocation from existing leased and federally-owned facilities was aligned with the construction plans cognizant of the management of existing lease contracts. DHS provided GAO a copy of the business case analysis (BCA) on November 20, 2015.
This business case analysis provided the comprehensive needs assessment for DHS Headquarters facilities in the NCR based on updated space standards and implementation of flexible workplace strategies to optimize the DHS portfolio, as recommended by GAO. The analysis compared the continued development of St. Elizabeths with federal construction under the Enhanced Consolidation Plan versus commercial lease consolidation. The analysis showed that consolidation under the Enhanced Plan would provide a $1.2 billion, 30-year present value cost avoidance to DHS, over the best case commercial lease consolidation plan, if funded and executed on a timely basis. The plan was prioritized based on lease expirations, which requires an annual decision to fund federal construction, extend or replace existing leases.
The second GAO recommendation dealt with the development of revised cost estimates and schedules in accordance with leading practices. As noted above, GSA manages these aspects of the project. DHS collaborated with GSA in their development of these comprehensive documents over a period of more than two years.
The third GAO recommendation indicated that the Secretary of Homeland Security should designate the headquarters consolidation program a major acquisition, consistent with DHS acquisition policy, and apply DHS acquisition policy requirements. DHS concurred with the part of the recommendation that the DHS funded portion would come under the purview of the Acquisition Review Board (ARB). However, given the project is managed by GSA in accordance with GSA acquisition polices, it would not necessarily follow the fully defined DHS acquisition process. The business case analysis provides the foundational documentation for the consolidation and related acquisition efforts. The Department conducted a program review of the DHS-funded portion of the project on November 15, 2016, utilizing the draft updated cost, schedule, and risk data developed by GSA in response to GAO recommendations. Further, the office I lead, the DHS Office of the Chief Readiness Support Officer, is actively working with the DHS Program Accountability and Risk Management Office to align the extensive program documentation developed under this GSA managed acquisition to meet the spirit of the DHS Acquisition policy guidance.
Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act of 2015
Public Law 114-150, Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act of 2015, requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, in coordination with the GSA Administrator, to submit to the appropriate committees of Congress information on the implementation of the Enhanced Plan for the Department’s Headquarters Consolidation project within the National Capital Region. Given the lack of funding in FY17 and FY18, the plan is misaligned, outdated, and no longer accurate. The Administration is now revisiting the Enhanced Plan. While DHS and GSA developed initial estimates in response to the reporting requirement, these analyses are no longer informative because of the underlying assumptions about the project’s schedule. The plan and supporting documentation are now being revised with the recognition that certain leases must be re-competed as a result of the two-year delay and that other adjustments are necessary given the challenges encountered with historic building renovations on the St. Elizabeths campus.
Next Steps with St. Elizabeths
With the FY 2019 President’s Budget Request, DHS Secretary Nielsen and GSA Administrator Murphy have committed the Department and GSA to continue the Headquarters Consolidation project. It remains vital for operations integration and mission effectiveness as well as for the efficient management of our property portfolio. Both GSA and DHS are committed to completing the remaining development in the most cost effective manner possible. GSA and DHS are working aggressively to address priority lease expirations, address certain programmatic challenges, and validate remaining occupancy requirements. We believe the remaining development needs to focus on cost effective, space-efficient construction that maximizes site utilization. DHS and GSA will brief our congressional committees and GAO on our future St. Elizabeths plans, as appropriate.
Despite these challenges, the St. Elizabeths campus project demonstrates effective interagency cooperation between DHS and GSA in executing this highly complex development in an uncertain funding environment. At this time next year, we project we will have reached a critical milestone as we will be moving the majority of the Office of the Secretary and Executive Management from the NAC to the renovated and historical Center Building at St. Elizabeths. The renovation of the Center Building will be complete this fall, and will then be followed by information technology and outfitting installations.
At the same time, the National Operations Center construction is progressing within the DHS Operations Centers facility. The stand-up of this relocation will be synchronized to the Secretary’s move. The continued build-out and transition of Component operations centers to St. Elizabeths is a foundational element of the headquarters consolidation effort. The collocation of operations centers at St. Elizabeths will enhance communications/coordination among components, lead to more effective operational resource planning and allocation in mission execution. GSA is also proceeding with the Central Utility Plant expansion and the Hitchcock Hall renovation that will be completed in conjunction with the Center Building occupancy. The new Center Building West Addition construction is also well underway with occupancy planned for 2020. While all this activity is ongoing across the campus, GSA and DHS continue to support U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters operations, including the Coast Guard National Command Center, a joint operations center space housing both the Coast Guard Cyber Command Watch and the DHS Chief Information Officer Enterprise Security Operations Center, the Information Technology Operations Center, and the Campus Security Operations Center.
DHS and GSA fully support the St. Elizabeths project. With the DHS Secretary’s occupancy a year from now, we will have achieved a critical milestone in the development of St. Elizabeths. We must continue to develop the campus to its fullest potential and leverage the significant investment the taxpayers have made in the campus thus far by providing the Department with the facilities it needs to aggressively perform its mission into the future. We appreciate continued support from Congress for this critical investment to help advance DHS’s mission and Unity of Effort.
In closing, I would like to assure this Subcommittee that DHS is working hard to remain a good steward of the taxpayers’ money by managing our real estate portfolio, both government owned and leased, in a cost effective manner that will facilitate securing the Homeland and save the American taxpayer money. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today on this important matter. I would be pleased to answer any questions the Subcommittee may have.Topics:
Written testimony of TSA Administrator for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Protective Security hearing titled “Examining the President’s FY 2019 Budget Request for the Transportation Security”
Release Date:April 12, 2018
210 House Capitol Visitor Center
Good morning Chairman Katko, Ranking Member Watson Coleman, and distinguished members of the subcommittee. Thank you for inviting me here today to testify on the President’s FY 2019 Budget, which includes a request of $7.7 billion for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
I am grateful for the longstanding and constructive relationship that TSA enjoys with this subcommittee. This budget supports our highest priority funding needs and allows TSA to continue its critical mission of protecting America’s transportation systems.
TSA was created in the wake of the September 11th attacks and charged with the mission of preventing another large scale act of terrorism on the American transportation system. Many things have changed since that fateful day, but our fundamental mission has not. Our nation relies on the professionals at TSA, and across the transportation community, to protect passengers and commerce traveling to and within the United States.
Across the country, TSA screens more than two million passengers every day. Since September 11, 2001, there have been no successful attacks on the U.S. aviation system. Our motto, “not on my watch,” speaks to our commitment to defeat terrorist attempts to attack our transportation systems.
Every day we are reminded anew that we face ambitious adversaries who are watching us, studying our vulnerabilities and working hard to develop new attack strategies to replace those that have failed. To stay ahead of them, we have to innovate, we have to deploy new solutions rapidly and effectively, and we have to make the most of our resources. Since 9/11, we have taken bold and unprecedented steps to ensure the security of aviation. Aviation and transportation hubs remain highly-valued targets for terrorists, and terrorist modes and methods of attack are much more decentralized and opportunistic than ever before.
Since my swearing in, I have made it a priority to meet with members of the TSA workforce, industry, and stakeholders. These discussions reinforce that our transportation systems fundamentally underpin our economy and that as technology is changing the way the world operates it is also changing the way our adversaries operate. Securing this environment requires a proactive and agile agency with a professional workforce that coordinates closely with key partners in government and industry domestically and around the world.
As I traveled across the transportation system, I met thousands of people who are deeply committed to the security of the system. These encounters strengthened my belief that security is a communal effort and that our greatest assets are – and will always be – our people, our partners, and the traveling public. These experiences have also led me to conclude that TSA must move faster if it is to meet the demands of the future. Faster to minimize vulnerabilities, faster to test new technology, and faster to procure and deploy new technology. In short, we need to be more agile.
That is why I have set out in the new TSA Strategy, three key priorities: improve security and safeguard the transportation system, accelerate action, and commit to our people. These priorities reflect my focus on preserving frontline operations, quickly transitioning to new technologies, and creating efficiencies to optimize limited resources.
We believe strongly that innovation is central to our continued success. This firm belief inspired the creation of the TSA Innovation Task Force in 2016. This task force is collaborating with industry, airlines, and airport authorities to find and deploy the very best ideas for increasing security while reducing friction for the traveler.
For example, with your help, we will drive as hard and fast as we can to rapidly deploy Computed Tomography (CT) systems to high-risk domestic airports in 2019. Our confidence in the security impact of these solutions has led us to request $71.5 million to purchase and deploy CT systems in FY 2019. Research and development efforts have shown that CT is the most consequential technology available today for airport checkpoints, as it automates much of the threat detection function. We have devoted significant resources into testing this technology during this current fiscal year, and pending results, we anticipate operational tests will be conducted at up to eight airports in the coming months.
The FY 2019 budget request includes a $70.6 million increase for CT technology over the FY 2018 level, which will allow us to begin purchasing and deploying CT technology to airport checkpoints. The budget provides funding for the purchase of 145 CT units and an additional $2.4 million for 19 new full-time Transportation Security Specialists-Explosives to help respond to the increased alarm rates that we expect as we roll out the new technology. With the funding requested in the FY 2019 President’s Budget, we also plan to procure and deploy 294 credential authentication technology (CAT) units at a number of airports. CT and CAT are cornerstone technologies to transform security at the checkpoint.
TSA has extraordinarily dedicated employees -- people of high integrity, who have great respect for and commitment to our mission and to one another. Both the Administration and I share a continued commitment to invest in and strengthen this workforce. Therefore, the FY 2019 budget request includes funding for 43,877 full-time Transportation Security Officers. This request will increase TSA’s workforce by 687 full-time Officers, which begins to address our frontline shortfall in the face of increased passenger volume and evolving threats to aviation.
To make the most of these budgetary priorities, we are asking industry and our stakeholders to partner with us to develop and deploy new technology. We are asking our employees to recommit to our core values of integrity, respect, and commitment, to be leaders regardless of their titles or level in the agency, and to be ambassadors for TSA. We ask members of the public to see themselves as part of the solution and to remember that the Officers at the checkpoint are doing their job to keep Americans safe. Finally, we ask you, the members of this subcommittee, for your continued partnership, insight, and support.
Securing our Nation’s transportation system is a complex task and we cannot do it alone. Since our inception, TSA has lived by the motto “not on my watch.” This has served as a powerful call to action for the TSA workforce. I hope to encourage an even stronger relationship between those outside TSA and those within by acknowledging our shared security mission. Together we will adopt and embrace a new creed: “Not on Our Watch.”
Chairman Katko, Ranking Member Watson Coleman, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. I look forward to your questions.
Written testimony of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing on the President's Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request for the Department of Homeland Security
Release Date:April 11, 2018
2362-B Rayburn House Office Building
Chairman Carter, Ranking Member Roybal-Allard, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee:
It is a privilege to appear before you today to discuss the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) crucial missions and to present the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Budget request for the Department.
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 promoting our Nation’s economic prosperity. They work tirelessly to strengthen the safety and security of our Nation from persistent and emerging dangers, including terrorists, transnational criminal organizations, rogue nation states, and natural disasters.
The FY 2019 Budget request provides funding to advance core DHS missions. It sustains and strengthens our most critical programs and capabilities and places emphasis on protecting our nation from terrorism and countering threats; securing and managing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws; preserving and upholding the nation’s prosperity and economic security; securing cyberspace and critical infrastructure; and strengthening homeland security preparedness resilience. DHS will also build a culture of efficiency on the foundation of agency reform efforts to ensure accountable, effective, and efficient operations.
The FY 2019 President’s Budget for DHS requests $47.5 billion in net discretionary funding and an additional $6.7 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) for response and recovery to major disasters.
This Budget would make crucial investments needed to secure our borders against threats and illegal entry. The request includes recruitment, hiring, and training of 750 additional U.S. Border Patrol Agents, 2,000 additional U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) law enforcement officers, and more than 1,500 support staff needed to more robustly execute the Department’s border security and immigration enforcement missions. It also funds construction and renovations at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers to meet increased training requirements for DHS.
Investments in our layered defense at the border would include 65 miles of new border wall construction in the highest-traffic zones along the southwest border, as well as priority tactical infrastructure, border security technology improvements, and aircraft acquisition. The Administration also reiterates the unfunded wall requests from the FY 2018 Budget in addition to the investments outlined in the FY 2019 Budget. These investments ensure DHS law enforcement personnel are supported with effective surveillance technology and equipment to improve their ability to detect and interdict illegal activity.
The FY 2019 President’s Budget includes funding for 52,000 detention beds, including 2,500 beds reserved for family units, to ensure that apprehended aliens who are subject to removal from the United States—such as illegal border crossers, criminal aliens, and national security threats—are detained in safe and secure detention facilities pending their removal. For apprehended aliens who are not considered a threat to our communities, but who may pose a diminished flight risk, the President’s Budget would fund ICE’s Alternatives to Detention Program to provide intensive supervision for up to 82,000 average daily participants through a combination of home visits, office visits, alert response, court tracking, and electronic monitoring. Proposed funding for removal operations will facilitate the complex coordination required to return aliens safely and expeditiously to their home countries and pay for transportation costs.
Unfortunately, some of these critical missions are impeded by jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with DHS in the enforcement of federal law. This makes it more dangerous for federal agents and officers to do their jobs. And it creates a greater threat to public safety, and results in greater expense to American taxpayers. I hope the Committee will work with DHS to help make sure jurisdictions around the country do not harbor criminal aliens or put the men and women of DHS at risk while they are doing their jobs to protect the public.
The Budget gives our frontline operators the tools and resources they need to more aggressively disrupt and dismantle transnational threats. It would advance the Administration’s efforts to block terrorists, criminals, and other nefarious actors from reaching the United States and exploiting our immigration system. It would further integrate intelligence into DHS operations to make sure rapid changes in the threat environment are met with a near-real-time change in our response. And it proposes funding across the Department for initiatives that will help us keep pace with adaptive enemies and new threats.
For example, the Budget focuses on bolstering DHS activities to counter transnational criminal organizations (TCOs). TCOs are facilitating the illicit flow of opioids and other deadly substances into America. The drugs and violence they import are a threat to the homeland, which is why we are focused on ramping up counter-TCOs activities. The Budget bolsters the capacity of ICE/HSI special agents to conduct transnational criminal investigations, and it provides funding to support law enforcement hiring and workload growth consistent with this mission, including $105 million for critical training, IT, facility support infrastructure, and wiretaps associated with ICE’s proposed increased staffing and workload.
The Budget proposes essential funding to implement the President’s executive orders to intensify vetting of U.S.-bound travelers and individuals in our immigration system. Since the beginning of last year, DHS has undertaken historic efforts to improve every phase of the vetting process so that we can be more confident in knowing who is coming into our country—and more capable of identifying nefarious actors. This includes making applications more rigorous, deepening background checks, tightening travel and arrival screening, and enforcing foreign government information-sharing requirements. The Budget will facilitate the stand-up of the newly announced National Vetting Center (NVC), which will become a central U.S. Government hub for fusing intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security data to enhance the vetting process. A detailed implementation plan is currently under development to identify NVC capacity and operational needs that will inform future budget requests.
Additionally, DHS is seeking to provide critical resources to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to better defend the nation against transnational threats and natural disasters. The USCG secures our maritime borders by operating up to more than 1,500 miles offshore to extend the Nation’s security and to enforce laws. During the 2017 hurricane season, the USCG, working alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was prepared and immediately responded to the needs of our citizens and partner nations. Their unique blend of statutory authorities combines civil law enforcement, response, and prevention with military service capabilities, resulting in an extremely agile force capable of responding to any significant event or emergency.
The FY 2019 President’s Budget requests $1.9 billion for the recapitalization of USCG assets. This funding provides for a new Offshore Patrol Cutter, four Fast Response Cutters, and the Nation’s first new heavy Polar Icebreaker in more than 40 years, providing an advanced command, control and communications platform capable of operating in the harshest environments. It also provides for timely and necessary sensor and service-life extensions to aircraft and improvements to shore infrastructure. These are the investments we need to be making to defend our territory, and I hope the Committee will support our requests.
We are also seeking important cybersecurity enhancements. This Committee knows that the dangers we face online are serious, and they emanate from hackers, TCOs, nation-states, and other nefarious actors. DHS is on the digital frontlines of this fight and is undertaking historic efforts to safeguard the Federal Government’s civilian information technology systems and to work with all levels of government, international partners, and business sectors to share cybersecurity information and build resilient systems.
The President’s Budget would continue investments in cybersecurity initiatives that protect federal networks and address identified vulnerabilities. More than $644 million is requested for DHS’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program and the National Cybersecurity Protection System program, commonly referred to as EINSTEIN, which provide network monitoring tools, intrusion prevention, intrusion detection, and analytical capabilities that strengthen the cybersecurity of federal civilian departments and agencies.
The threat is real, and we know that a sophisticated adversary can put the foundations of our democracy at risk through cyberattacks, which is why our request for FY 2019 would also make sure DHS is positioned to counter foreign meddling by supporting state and local election officials in defending the integrity of election systems. The Budget also would provide $158 million to secure the Nation’s interoperable emergency communications capabilities that enable first responders and government officials to continue to communicate in the event of natural and man-made disasters.
Moreover, DHS is seeking to ramp up “soft target” security efforts. From terrorist attacks to school shootings, we have seen public areas continue to be struck by violence. Our National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) is helping to lead the charge on soft target security. The President’s Budget would provide almost $12 million for the establishment of the Soft Target Security Program which would expand NPPD’s capabilities to reduce the risks to these locations through a mix of technology integration, targeted threat information sharing, training, and improved standards for security. This program will provide a more comprehensive, innovative, and coordinated approach to address threats to soft targets—including schools, entertainment venues, major events, and public spaces.
Our wider transportation system also faces persistent and emerging threats, as terrorists adapt their tactics to target airlines, airports, and other transportation hubs. The President’s Budget was built to confront these challenges. It would add 687 TSA screeners and 145 additional computed tomography systems in order to stay ahead of our enemies, especially by helping to better detect concealed explosives, threat devices, and suspicious passengers. This budget would also provide an increase of nearly $27 million for CBP’s National Targeting Center to improve our capabilities to identify high-risk individuals and cargo both entering and leaving the United States in the air, land, and sea environments.
Similarly, we are seeing an evolution in the danger posed by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents. That is why in December I announced the establishment of a DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD). I call on Congress to permanently authorize this Office and to ensure we have the authorities needed to protect Americans against such deadly agents. Already, CWMD has been at the forefront of driving the Department’s response to recent threat streams and incidents. The President’s Budget supports CWMD’s efforts to mitigate security vulnerabilities, and includes $75 million for the acquisition and deployment of nuclear, chemical, radiological, and biological systems to support operational customers, including enhanced Radiation Portal Monitors and other programs to support scanning of cargo entering the Nation. In addition, it includes $65 million for capability building, including outreach efforts necessary to ensure federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and international partners are enabled to support the WMD detection mission.
The President’s Budget recognizes that homeland security is central to economic security. It would provide funding to ensure DHS components are able to facilitate lawful trade and travel, mitigate threats, hold violators accountable, counter foreign economic aggression, and advance America’s economic interests. For instance, the Department is focused on maintaining a level playing field for the $2.4 trillion dollars of imports crossing our border each year, which is why the President’s Budget includes funding to enhance the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) and to put more attention on high-risk imports while facilitating smaller, legitimate shipments more quickly. The request also includes funding for additional attorneys, trade specialists, and financial specialists to provide adequate support for trade facilitation and enforcement activities.
The men and women of the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) also protect our Nation’s financial infrastructure, and the FY 2019 Budget supports the USSS in its use of advanced technologies and task force partnerships to enforce counterfeiting laws and to safeguard the payment and financial systems of the United States from financial and computer-based crimes. The agency also protects our highest elected officials, visiting foreign dignitaries, select Federal facilities, and major events. The request would allow for an additional 450 USSS agents, officers, and professional staff and would fund critical protective infrastructure and technology upgrades.
Last year our country experienced one of the most costly and damaging seasons for natural disasters in recent history. DHS is committed to helping our communities in the wake of these catastrophic events, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will devote the resources and attention needed—in cooperation with state, local, and tribal governments across the country—to ensure we recover. The President’s Budget supports the DRF, which sustains FEMA’s response and recovery efforts and funds a variety of federal assistance programs that enable state and local governments to prevent, protect, respond, and recover from incidents of terrorism and other catastrophic events. The Budget also focuses on other efforts that will help create a “culture of preparedness” nationwide and make our nation more resilient to disasters.
The 2019 President’s Budget is committed to ensuring that every American dollar is spent wisely, and DHS continues to identify efficiencies to meet this goal. The Budget funds the construction of a new headquarters building for FEMA at the St. Elizabeths campus, which will consolidate a wide range of DHS entities in a common location when complete. This will not only foster integrated decision making and collaboration, but it will provide for more efficient use of shared resources across the Department, while also reducing the Department’s rent costs.
Ultimately, the President’s FY 2019 Budget request recognizes current fiscal realities, as well as the persistent and evolving dangers we face. We have outstanding men and women working at DHS committed to protecting our homeland and the American people. You have my commitment to work tirelessly to ensure that they are equipped and empowered to do their jobs. And I appreciate your support in doing so.
Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today and for your continued support of DHS. I remain committed to working with Congress, and I look forward to forging a strong and productive relationship to secure our homeland.
I am pleased to answer any questions.Topics:
Written testimony of FEMA for a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing titled “Update on the Restoration of Puerto Rico’s Electric Infrastructure”
Release Date:April 11, 2018
2322 Rayburn House Office Building
Good afternoon, Chairman Harper, Ranking Member DeGette, and members of the Subcommittee. I am Jeff Byard, the Associate Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Office of Response and Recovery. On behalf of U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Nielsen and FEMA Administrator Long, thank you for the opportunity to discuss DHS and FEMA’s ongoing efforts to assist with power restoration in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) following the devastating hurricanes in 2017. One of FEMA’s top priorities has been—and continues to be—the restoration of electric power across both territories.
2017 Hurricane Season
Last year’s historic hurricane season was a true test of the Nation’s ability to respond to and recover from multiple concurrent disasters. Three major hurricanes made landfall in the United States, which includes Puerto Rico and the USVI: Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The impacts of these events were substantial. Roughly 25.8 million people were affected by these three storms – roughly eight percent of the entire U.S. population.
In order to deliver disaster assistance to such a large and dispersed number of survivors, FEMA has worked in concert with our federal partner agencies; state, local, tribal, and territorial governments; and also non-governmental organizations (NGO) and the private sector to ensure a unity of effort that serves the needs of disaster survivors.
Unity of effort is required for disaster response and recovery on any scale. It has been—and will continue to be—especially crucial during response and recovery efforts following last year’s hurricane season. All levels of government, non-profit organizations, private sector businesses, and even survivors—each drawing upon their unique skills and capabilities—will need to work together to meet the needs of disaster survivors.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria: Impacts and Federal Response
On September 6, 2017, the eye of Hurricane Irma made landfall in the British Virgin Islands, just north of the USVI, as a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane. Extreme winds and heavy rainfall ravaged the USVI, particularly St. Thomas and St. John. Hurricane Irma then continued on its path of destruction, passing just north of Puerto Rico on September 7—still as a Category 5 storm—leaving more than one million customers without power.
President Trump approved an emergency declaration for the USVI on September 5 prior to Hurricane Irma’s landfall, followed by a major disaster declaration on September 7. This major disaster declaration made federal funding available to affected individuals on the islands of St. John and St. Thomas through FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program. It also made federal funding available to territorial and eligible local governments, and certain non-profit organizations, through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. Funding under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program was made available for the entire territory.
Following an emergency declaration on September 5, President Trump approved a major disaster declaration for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico on September 10, making Individual Assistance funding available to affected individuals in the municipalities of Culebra and Vieques. Public Assistance funding was also made available to the Commonwealth, eligible local governments, and certain private nonprofit organizations. Hazard Mitigation funding was made available throughout the Commonwealth. This disaster declaration was later amended to expand both Individual and Public Assistance to additional municipalities.
FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) was activated to a Level I (the highest level of activation, with all Emergency Support Functions activated) prior to Hurricane Irma’s impacts on the USVI and Puerto Rico. Federal personnel were also pre-positioned in the USVI and Puerto Rico to coordinate with territorial and municipal officials. This included FEMA staff that operate out of the Caribbean Area Division office located in San Juan, regional personnel from FEMA’s Region II (which has responsibility for both Puerto Rico and the USVI), as well as Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMATs) that were deployed to both territories. Additional federal resources and personnel were strategically staged just outside of the storm’s path, including ships from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Defense. Once the storm had passed, these additional federal resources and personnel flowed into the territories as part of a unified federal response.
Within days of Irma’s impact, more than 582,000 shelf-stable meals, 380,000 liters of water, and other life-saving commodities (cots, baby formula, temporary roofing materials, and other necessities) were delivered to the USVI National Guard for distribution at local Points of Distribution in St. John and St. Thomas. These items were also distributed to shelters operated by the American Red Cross and other recovery partners. More than 3,600 liters of water and other commodities were also transferred to Puerto Rico at the request of the Commonwealth, supplementing the resources already staged in FEMA’s distribution center on the island. In addition, Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams were quickly on the ground in both the USVI and Puerto Rico to help assess needs of affected communities.
On September 19—only two weeks after Hurricane Irma impacted the USVI and Puerto Rico— the eye of Hurricane Maria passed just south of the USVI on its way to making landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20. St. Croix and Puerto Rico were devastated by Hurricane Maria's powerful winds and heavy rainfall, which severely damaged communications and power grids, destroyed homes, and downed trees across both islands. In its wake, Hurricane Maria—the fifthstrongest storm ever to impact the United States and territories, and the strongest storm to strike Puerto Rico in nearly a century—left nearly all of Puerto Rico’s 1.5 million electricity customers without power or communications.
President Trump approved major disaster declarations for both the USVI and Puerto Rico on September 20, making FEMA’s Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, and Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs available for both territories. The federal government also immediately launched a massive and united response and recovery operation.
One day after Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, there were already more than 3,500 federal staff on the ground in Puerto Rico and the USVI supporting response and recovery operations. These included a National Incident Management Assistance Team (N-IMAT) and FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) taskforces that were prepositioned to operate immediately following the storm’s landfall. By September 29, there were more than 10,000 federal staff (including more than 800 FEMA personnel) on the ground in Puerto Rico and the USVI, working around the clock with territorial and local officials to stabilize the situation. To date, FEMA has delivered more than $1 billion in food and water to Puerto Rico and the USVI in support of disaster survivors.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria: Power Restoration Efforts in Puerto Rico and the USVI
Power restoration in Puerto Rico and the USVI has been a top priority for FEMA following Irma and Maria. On September 30, 2017, FEMA mission assigned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to provide temporary power to both territories. In furtherance of the temporary power mission, USACE installed over 1,900 emergency generators in Puerto Rico and 180 emergency generators in USVI. The Hurricane Maria temporary power mission is the largest one in the agency’s history.
FEMA, along with its federal and NGO partners, have also worked closely with the respective Governors and agencies in the USVI and PR to ensure that temporary power support continues to be prioritized for critical facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations, communications facilities, and water treatment plants.
Emergency Power Grid Repairs
In order to provide a stable power solution for survivors, FEMA has also supported restoration of the electrical power grid on Puerto Rico and the USVI. On September 30, FEMA issued a mission assignment to USACE to assist the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) on emergency repairs across the island. Specifically, USACE was tasked to help restore temporary power and “lead planning, coordination and integration efforts in preparation to execute electrical power grid restoration in Puerto Rico due to impacts caused by Hurricane Maria” and to “develop and execute applicable temporary repairs to the electrical grid to allow interim restoration of system segments as directed by FEMA until the full electrical grid restoration can be implemented.”
As assigned by FEMA, USACE leads the federal effort to repair the hurricane-damaged electrical power grid in support of the Government of Puerto Rico. USACE is partnering with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the Department of Energy and FEMA to restore safe and reliable power to the people of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico has 2,400 miles of transmission lines across the island and 30,000 miles of distribution lines with 300 sub-stations. As of April 9, PREPA reports more than 96 percent or approximately 1.41 of the 1.47 million pre-storm customers who are able to receive electric power have their service restored.
In the USVI, FEMA has supported the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (VIWAPA) in its efforts to restore the power grid. By mid-November, expedited FEMA grants totaling more than $75 million allowed VIWAPA to begin the emergency repair of transmission and distribution lines in St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. The power authority shipped in power lines and poles, as well as 500 lineman from across the United States, resulting in a ten-fold increase in local capacity compared to before the hurricanes. Power was restored to over 90 percent of customers in the USVI by the end of December. As of March 9, power has been restored to 100 percent of customers.
In addition to USACE, FEMA has also mission assigned the Department of Energy (DOE) to assist with power grid restoration. DOE is providing subject matter expertise and technical assistance in support of power grid damage assessments and power restoration efforts in both Puerto Rico and the USVI, in coordination with USACE. The Department of Energy is also working to identify various options for the long-term restoration and resilience of Puerto Rico’s electric grid.
The Road to Recovery: Delivering FEMA’s Infrastructure Assistance Programs
Public Assistance in Support of Power Restoration
PREPA and VIWAPA are ultimately responsible for the permanent repair of power generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure. However, FEMA and its federal partners (including USACE and DOE) are closely supporting their efforts.
FEMA is primarily supporting the restoration of the Puerto Rico and USVI power grids through its Public Assistance program. As of April 5, FEMA has approved $1.4 billion in Public Assistance emergency work for Puerto Rico and nearly $450 million for the USVI. These amounts include funding for power restoration efforts in both territories.
FEMA is also working with Puerto Rico and the USVI on the development and execution of Public Assistance permanent work projects, which will include the restoration of utilities— including power. As of February 14, $245 million dollars in federal assistance has been obligated for public works related to electrical utilities in Puerto Rico, and over $180 million in the USVI.
On February 9, the President signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Under authorities given to FEMA in this law, FEMA may provide Public Assistance funding for critical services to replace or restore the function of a facility or system to industry standards without regard to their pre-disaster condition. The law further allows FEMA to provide assistance for critical services to replace or restore components of the facility or system that are not damaged by the disaster when it is necessary to fully effectuate the replacement or restoration of disasterdamaged components to restore the function of the facility or system to industry standards.
FEMA will continue to work with our partners to effectively integrate and implement all of our disaster assistance programs in support of power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico and the USVI to include working with the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on its authority under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 to provide up to $2 billion in funding for enhanced or improved electrical power systems.
Public Assistance Alternative Procedures in Puerto Rico
On October 30, 2017, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico elected to utilize Public Assistance Alternative Procedures for all large project Public Assistance funding for permanent work pursuant to section 428 of the Stafford Act. Under authorities granted to FEMA in the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act (SRIA), Public Assistance Alternative Procedures allow applicants to request and obtain funding based on certified cost estimates to repair, restore, or replace a damaged facility. Once FEMA and the applicant agree on the damage assessment, scope of work, and estimated costs, a Public Assistance grant can be obligated.
The goals of the Public Assistance Alternative Procedures are to reduce costs, increase flexibility in the administration of assistance, expedite the delivery of assistance, and provide financial incentives for the timely and cost-effective completion of Public Assistance projects. The alternative procedures also allow Public Assistance applicants to retain funding when there are cost underruns and utilize those funds for eligible additional hazard mitigation measures and for activities that improve future Public Assistance program permanent work operations.
Pursuant to the Governor’s decision, FEMA will administer Public Assistance permanent work projects in Puerto Rico using the Alternative Procedures. As a condition of receiving funding under these procedures, the President required that the Commonwealth establish a grant oversight authority supported by third-party experts to perform the responsibilities of the grant recipient. On October 23, 2017, the Governor of Puerto Rico ordered the creation of the Central Recovery and Reconstruction Office (CRRO) of Puerto Rico. The CRRO will provide the required grant oversight authority. FEMA will also require that any cost estimate over $5 million be reviewed by a third-party independent expert.
In order to meet the long-term recovery needs of Puerto Rico and the USVI, FEMA has fully implemented the structure and functions of the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) to ensure that federal recovery efforts remain coordinated and effective across all six Recovery Support Functions (RSFs). In particular, FEMA has leveraged the NDRF and the Recovery Support Function Leadership group to support the Infrastructure Systems RSF, which is led by USACE. In Puerto Rico, the Infrastructure Systems RSF has been split into five sectors— including a separate sector for energy—in order to address the magnitude of damage across multiple infrastructure systems.
Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinators (FDRCs) have been named for both Puerto Rico and USVI. These FDRCs will work closely with the governments of the USVI and Puerto Rico to facilitate disaster recovery coordination and collaboration among the territories, federal and municipal governments, private sector entities, and voluntary, faith-based, and other NGOs.
Within one month’s time, FEMA was responding to three major hurricanes, two of which hit the USVI and Puerto Rico within two weeks. By the end of 2017, FEMA registered more than 4.7 million survivors for individual assistance —more registrations than for Hurricanes Rita, Wilma, Katrina, and Sandy combined. The Agency had also distributed more than $2 billion in individual assistance to survivors, processed 133,000 flood insurance claims, and paid out more than $6.3 billion to policyholders across the country.
In addition to providing financial support, FEMA also deployed thousands of our employees, mission assigned nearly 14,000 staff and service members from various offices of the Department of Defense, and—for the first time ever—the Secretary of Homeland Security extended the DHS Surge Capacity Force to all federal agencies in order to deploy an additional 3,800 employees from across 36 federal departments and agencies. We have also welcomed hundreds of new FEMA Local Hire and Reservist employees to assist with recovery efforts. I cannot recall a more challenging hurricane season, nor a more impressive whole community response, in my history of emergency management.
The road to recovery will be a long one, but FEMA will continue to work with its Federal, state, territorial and local partners, as well as Congress, throughout the recovery process. Though the power grids in both Puerto Rico and USVI were significantly damaged, we continue to see progress in power restoration every day. We will also be in the impacted communities for as long as we are needed.
I am grateful for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss this important mission, and I am happy to respond to any questions the Subcommittee may have at this time. Thank you.
Written testimony of FEMA Administrator for a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing titled “ FEMA: Prioritizing a Culture of Preparedness”
Release Date:April 11, 2018
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Good morning, Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member McCaskill, and Members of the Committee. My name is Brock Long, and I am the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to return to this Committee to discuss the historic disaster season of 2017, the lessons we’ve learned, and my plans for the future of FEMA.
I have been in office for just over nine months, and I am proud to be part of an agency that, every day, is helping communities reduce the risks associated with future disasters, as well as assisting disaster survivors all across the country. Shortly after I was sworn in, Hurricane Harvey struck Texas and Louisiana. Then, Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean, striking the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Georgia, South Carolina, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and the entire state of Florida. Hurricane Maria followed, striking a devastating blow to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. These hurricanes were followed by devastating wildfires and mudslides in California.
My team at FEMA has been working around the clock for more than six months to support the needs of the survivors of these disasters. We have worked tirelessly to support state, local, tribal and territorial (SLTT) partners to respond to and recover from disasters, and to mitigate against future disasters. We have faced and overcome many challenges, but we have a long way to go in some areas. In my testimony today, I would like to share with you some of our experiences in recent months, the lessons we are learning in this historic time, my strategic vision for the future of FEMA, as well as the next steps FEMA is taking to prepare for disasters.
2017 Hurricane Season Review
Last year’s historic hurricane season was a true test of the Nation’s ability to respond to and recover from multiple concurrent disasters. Three major hurricanes -- Harvey, Irma, and Maria -- made landfall along the Gulf Coast, in the Southeast, and in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The impacts of these storms, in addition to the California wildfires, cannot be overstated. Roughly 47 million people were affected by these events – roughly fifteen percent of the entire U.S. population.
In order to deliver disaster assistance to such a large and dispersed number of survivors, FEMA worked in concert with our federal partner agencies, SLTT governments, and also non-governmental organizations (NGO) and the private sector to ensure a unity of effort that serves the needs of disaster survivors.
In disaster response operations, FEMA’s sole focus is saving lives and protecting property. We train, exercise, and evaluate our planning assumptions with our SLTT partners. We make plans based on the best information we can gather from the public and private sectors about the impacts that different types of threats may have on a community or region. We know that no disaster ever goes according to our plans, so we must adapt to the circumstances as they develop. It is not possible to successfully respond to the impact of a major hurricane without errors. But our goal is to ensure that any errors that occur are a result of overestimating need, not underestimating it. It is easy to forget that in addition to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, we also had two other major hurricanes threaten our nation – Hurricanes Jose and Nate. While Jose never made landfall, we had to plan and prepare for it in case it did. Nate did make landfall, striking Alabama and Mississippi in the Gulf Coast resulting in Major Disaster Declarations in each state.
At FEMA, we are constantly reviewing our program delivery, decision-making processes, and responses to ensure that we improve, minimize errors, and better serve survivors on their worst day. We also are eager to work with Congress and this Committee in its oversight capacity to determine if legislative changes are required, and to ensure that we are executing our programs consistent with congressional intent. We have learned, and will continue to learn, from this historic disaster season.
Federally Supported, State Managed, Locally Executed
Some lessons we learn are not new to us, but an affirmation of lessons learned in the past. As we’ve discussed in our past visit, the optimal disaster response is federally supported, state managed, and locally executed. This concept is well known throughout the emergency management community, but this season provided a good case study in why this is important.
All disasters are local, and local governments respond to an untold number of disasters every year. When the resources required to respond to a disaster exceed local capacity, the local government will call upon neighboring jurisdictions to bring in the additional resources needed. Local governments can, and periodically do, turn to county or state governments for additional resources.
When a governor or tribal leader turns to the President requesting federal assistance, and the President agrees to activate federal resources to support a disaster-stricken state, tribe, or territory, the governor or tribal leader continues to support the local governments impacted by the disaster. Congress has provided FEMA authorities and resources to support governors and tribal leaders, but not to supplant them or the local leaders.
FEMA’s ability to provide support in disasters builds on, and is subject to, the capacity of state, territorial, tribal and local governments. This is not a new lesson or challenge, but one that we are constantly reminded of. If the state, territorial, tribal and local governments are well resourced, well trained, and well organized, the effectiveness of FEMA’s assistance is great. If, on the other hand, a state, territorial, tribal or local government is not well resourced, well trained, and well organized – either due to ineffective preparations or due to the significance of the disaster itself – FEMA can help, but the response may not be as quick or as effective as we would like it to be.
Survivable and Redundant Communications
In order for FEMA to support the needs of any governor effectively, the capability gaps at all levels of government must be communicated effectively to FEMA. We saw in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria that their communications infrastructure was so completely devastated that assessing the needs and the capability of the Commonwealth and local governments was extremely difficult.
In Puerto Rico, little of the communications infrastructure survived the hurricane. FEMA quickly worked to ensure that each of the 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico got access to satellite phones so that they could communicate with the Commonwealth that was co-located with FEMA. Communication with satellite phones has limitations, so FEMA began placing personnel in each of the municipalities to further enhance communications between the Commonwealth, local governments, and FEMA.
While these communications challenges were the result of a major hurricane, we need to plan for what survivable communications look like in the context of the potential for a Cascadia or New Madrid earthquake scenario, or other catastrophic events. We, as a Nation, have more work to do in this area.
Disaster Sheltering and Housing
The aftermath of the 2017 hurricane season leaves no doubt that survivor housing is a major challenge. Regardless of the readiness of a state, territorial, tribal or local government, when dealing with the displacement of tens of thousands of survivors from their homes, there is no easy or one-size-fits-all solution.
There are many community-based and national non-profit organizations that do outstanding work in providing temporary sheltering options for survivors, in order to help survivors have a safe place to stay while they catch their breath and consider next steps in the recovery process. Additionally, FEMA has authorities to provide for sheltering options including the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program that pays for survivors to stay in hotel rooms, as well as a program that provides for basic and temporary home repairs to make a home safe and habitable while the survivor makes arrangements for more permanent repairs. Any sheltering option is, by design, a temporary, short-term solution, designed to be a bridge to middle- and longer-term solutions.
We have other programs and authorities that assist with temporary housing: rental assistance, multi-family lease program, mobile housing units, and others. Additionally, we provide survivors assistance with repairing a damaged home including financial assistance for repair, and direct assistance for temporary repairs that help return survivors to their homes.
With all of these options, we partner with our SLTT stakeholder to identify the sheltering and housing solutions that make most sense for each state, each event, each community, and each survivor. The State of Texas, for example, is taking a very hands on approach to managing housing solutions for their residents after Hurricane Harvey. States have a much better familiarity with the needs of their residents, the local laws and ordinances that can impact some of the FEMA housing options, and are much better situated to design and administer to the survivors in their communities. The provision of shelter and temporary housing is a complicated and difficult process that needs more work. Regardless of the tools we are able to provide, however, permanent housing solutions are best addressed by insurance. As we know, though, there are too many people in our nation that are underinsured or not insured at all.
Throughout this challenging hurricane and wildfire season, I have seen many practices, programs, and ideas put to test that no intra-agency brainstorming session could accomplish. These experiences have informed my Strategic Plan moving forward, to: 1) Build a Culture of Preparedness; 2) Ready the Nation for Catastrophic Disasters; and 3) Reduce the Complexity of FEMA.
Build a Culture of Preparedness
FEMA is just one part of the team. During a disaster, citizens in the impacted communities also become the “first responders.” We need to empower individuals with life skills to help speed the response and recovery efforts.
Do they know how to shut off water and gas? Do they check on their neighbors? Do they know CPR? Are they financially prepared to deal with the impacts of disasters in their communities, including having the right insurance for the disasters they face – be they flood, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.? Do they have some modest level of savings to allow them to miss a few days of work without ending up in financial ruin?
Developing resilient communities ahead of an incident reduces loss of life and economic disruption. When communities are impacted, they should ensure that they rebuild infrastructure better, tougher, and stronger to protect taxpayer investment and promote economic stability. FEMA is exploring ways to encourage additional investments in mitigation that reduce risk, including pre-disaster mitigation, to help reduce disaster costs at all levels.
While we’ll never be able to eliminate risk, we must mitigate risk. FEMA will work with communities and insurers to close the insurance gap across the nation. Managing risk through insurance, including the National Flood Insurance Program, helps communities to recover faster following disasters and reduces costs for taxpayers.
Ready the Nation for Catastrophic Disasters
We can’t just continue to plan, train and exercise for what’s easy. We need to prepare for catastrophic events that stress our logistics, supply chain, continuity of operations, communications and staffing capacities – just to name a few.
Meanwhile, communities must increase their capacity to respond to smaller-scale disasters - locally. We will continue to work with our state, territorial, tribal, and local partners to increase their capacities to respond and recover from smaller-scale disasters so FEMA and its federal partners can focus some more on readiness for catastrophic events. We need to ensure we’re not just ready for catastrophic hurricanes, but also for other natural disasters and hybrid threats.
I am placing members of the FEMA team in state emergency operations centers to jointly plan with states to build this catastrophic capability.
Reduce the Complexity of FEMA
FEMA is committed to simplifying our processes and putting survivors first. We must look at ways we can streamline our assistance programs to make FEMA’s programs as clear and easy as possible for survivors and grantees to navigate.
I have charged my staff with reducing administrative and bureaucratic burdens, so that survivors and communities receive assistance more quickly. Throughout the federal government, there are a number of programs that offer assistance to survivors. We are working with our partners to streamline and consolidate some of these activities to ensure survivors can better navigate our various programs.
FEMA employees must have transparency and clarity in the processes and resources they deal with. We can’t implement any of these priorities and initiatives without ensuring that they meet the needs of our survivors. We also need to make sure that we continue to capture lessons learned by FEMA and our partners to meet the needs of survivors with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.
These are my priorities, and this is my vision. As we examine and develop these priorities, we will find that some can be accomplished by existing authorities Congress has already provided to us. There will be some challenges, however, that cannot be solved by administrative action alone. As we identify those, we will work closely with this Committee and the rest of Congress to ensure we move forward in close partnership. All of you have constituents that may one day need FEMA assistance. I look forward to working with you on our shared goal to help people before, during, and after disasters.
As we continue with recovery operations resulting from recent disasters, FEMA is also focused on making sure we are as prepared as possible for the upcoming hurricane season. For example, the National Level Exercise (NLE) 2018 will occur in May. This exercise will examine the ability of all levels of government, private industry, non-governmental organizations, communities, and individuals to respond to and recover from a major hurricane with localized catastrophic impacts. A series of seminars, workshops, and tabletop exercises are being developed to address key functional topics. Recent real-world events will help make NLE 2018 a more realistic, relevant exercise, and help ensure we are well prepared for the 2018 hurricane season, and beyond.
NLE 2018 consists of four overarching exercise objectives: pre-landfall protective actions; sustained response in parallel with recovery planning; continuity in a natural disaster; and power outages and critical interdependencies.
As we do before every hurricane season, we are reviewing our hurricane response plans and procedures, updating our high priority national level contracts, and enhancing our disaster response capabilities (for example, FEMA is adding 300 new emergency generators to our inventory).
Also, thanks to action taken by Congress, FEMA now has new authorities given to us in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 to further support the nation’s response and recovery efforts prior to the upcoming hurricane season.
For example, in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, FEMA may provide Public Assistance funding for critical services to replace or restore systems to industry standards without restrictions based on their pre-disaster condition. The law further allows FEMA to provide assistance for critical services to replace or restore components of the facility or system that are not damaged by the disaster when it is necessary to fully effectuate the replacement or restoration of disaster-damaged components to restore the function of the facility or system to industry standards.
Recognizing the importance of mitigation, Congress also included a provision that directs FEMA to provide hazard mitigation assistance for recipients of Fire Management Assistance Grants in Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018. The law also codified FEMA’s recent policy change to make houses of worship eligible for Public Assistance repair and replacement assistance.
This last year’s hurricane and wildfire season was and is historic, and is shaping the future of FEMA and emergency management. My priorities are to build a culture of preparedness, ready the nation for catastrophic events, and reduce the complexity of FEMA. I ask this Committee and Congress for your continued support as we undertake these efforts.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and I look forward to any questions you may have.Topics: