Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke Discusses Shared Efforts to Combat Terrorism with Foreign Leaders
Release Date:October 21, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
ISCHIA, ITALY – Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke this week traveled to meet with foreign leaders to advance efforts to combat terrorism. The Acting Secretary traveled first to the United Kingdom for high-level bilateral meetings and then to Italy for a gathering of senior officials from G7 nations. She reached agreements with key partners to step up the fight against terrorists online, to improve information sharing, and to raise the baseline of global aviation security.
In London, Acting Secretary Duke met with UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd and top officials from the UK Home Office to discuss persistent and emerging threats. Acting Secretary Duke and Home Secretary Rudd agreed to enhance transatlantic cooperation in a number of actionable ways. The two leaders vowed to pursue sustained, constructive engagement with technology companies on the frontlines of the digital fight against terrorists, and they agreed to conduct joint threat assessments and briefings to help non-governmental partners better counter terrorist trends and tactics, especially online.
Acting Secretary Duke and UK Home Secretary Rudd also agreed to collaborate on raising the baseline of aviation security worldwide. In July, DHS announced new “seen” and “unseen” security enhancements to protect U.S.-bound flights as part of a wider Global Aviation Security Plan. DHS and the Home Office pledged to work together on additional measures to detect concealed explosive threats, defend against insider attacks, identify known or suspected terrorist travel, and enhance cargo security.
Acting Secretary Duke then traveled to Ischia, Italy, for a G7 Interior Ministers’ Meeting. There, she participated in plenary sessions with her counterparts, focused on information sharing, confronting the challenge of foreign fighters, and stopping terrorist recruitment and radicalization online. Ministers were joined by representatives from leading technology companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter. Acting Secretary Duke and her counterparts conferred with the companies on their recently established Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). The Acting Secretary applauded the progress companies are making in removing terrorist content, urged more forward-leaning action, and welcomed new commitments by the companies that will help make their platforms more hostile to nefarious actors.
In a press conference with the G7 ministers, Acting Secretary Duke said: “We live in a networked world. And this year it has really become clear how much terrorists are exploiting those networks…But I can assure you that we are not standing on the sidelines while dangers gather. Today we discussed concrete efforts to fight back.”
She added: “Our enemies are moving at the speed of a tweet, so we have to counter them just as quickly…While there is no doubt [they] are adapting, terrorist groups should know this: they are no match for the alliances you see here today. We will destroy their safe havens. We will break their networks. And we will expose their hateful ideology for what it really is.”
Acting Secretary Duke also had the opportunity to participate in several bilateral meetings:
- Acting Secretary Duke and Italian Minister of the Interior Marco Minniti signed the Secure Real Time Platform (SRTP) Implementing Arrangement, which enhances the ability of both countries to identify known or suspected terrorists, irregular migrants, and other persons of interest through the exchange of fingerprints. Acting Secretary Duke and Minister Minniti discussed raising global aviation security standards, continued cooperation between the United States and Italy on counterterrorism and migration management, initiating bilateral preclearance negotiations, and the importance of maintaining the flow of passenger screening data between the European Union and the United States in observance of existing international agreements.
- Acting Secretary Duke met with Canadian Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale to discuss the U.S.-Canadian relationship in combatting terrorism, as well as their interests in increased information sharing with European partners. They also addressed joint steps to take to address illegal migration across their shared border. Canada is scheduled to host a G7 meeting in 2018.
- Acting Secretary Duke met with French Minister of the Interior Gérard Collomb and discussed ways to deepen the already close partnership between DHS and the French Ministry of Interior, including the importance of maintaining the flow of passenger screening data between the European Union and the United States in observance of existing international agreements, and working together to raise global aviation security standards.
- At the end of the Summit, Acting Secretary Duke met with European Union Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos and European Union Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King at the meeting of the G7 Interior Ministers. They discussed the value of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) Agreement between the United States and the European Union as an essential law enforcement and counterterrorism tool that must be preserved by all parties.
G7 Interior Ministers in Ischia, Italy. From left: Jurgen Stock, Secretary General, INTERPOL; Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, European Union; Thomas De Maziere, Minister of the Interior, Germany; Elaine Duke, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security; Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety, Canada; Marco Minitti, Minister of the Interior, Italy; Gerard Collomb, Minister of the Interior, France; Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, U.K; Hachiro Okonogi, Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, Japan; Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union, European Union pose for a photo at the beginning of the G7 Interior Ministers meeting in Ischia, Italy Oct. 19, 2017. The G7 Ministerial presents an important opportunity to advance DHS’s counterterrorism, aviation security, law enforcement, and border management priorities. (DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke meets with U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd. (DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and Italian Minister of the Interior Marco Minniti sign the Secure Real Time Platform (SRTP) Implementing Arrangement. (DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke meets with Canadian Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale. (DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke meets with French Minister of the Interior Gérard Collomb. (DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke meets with Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union, European Union and Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship. (DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)
G7 Interior Ministers participate in a press conference in Ischia, Italy. From left, Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union, European Union; Elaine Duke, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security; Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety, Canada; Marco Minitti, Minister of the Interior, Italy; Gerard Collomb, Minister of the Interior, France; Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, U.K; Hachiro Okonogi, Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, Japan; deliver remarks during a press conference to the G7 Ministerial in Ischia, Italy Oct. 20, 2017. The G7 Ministerial presents an important opportunity to advance DHS’s counterterrorism, aviation security, law enforcement, and border management priorities. (DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)
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Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke Meets with Canadian Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale
Release Date:October 20, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
ISCHIA, ITALY – Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke today met with Canadian Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale at the meeting of the G7 Interior Ministers. They discussed the importance of the U.S. - Canadian relationship in combatting terrorism, as well as their interests in increased information sharing with European partners. They also addressed joint steps to take to address illegal migration across their shared border. Canada is scheduled to host a G7 meeting in 2018.
(DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)
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Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke Meets with Italian Minister of the Interior Marco Minniti
Release Date:October 20, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
ISCHIA, ITALY – Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke today met with Italian Minister of the Interior Marco Minniti at the meeting of the G7 Interior Ministers. The Secretary and the Minister signed the Secure Real Time Platform (SRTP) Implementing Arrangement, which enhances the ability of both countries to identify known or suspected terrorists, irregular migrants, and other persons of interest through the automated exchange of fingerprints.
Acting Secretary Duke and Minister Minniti also discussed raising global aviation security standards, continued cooperation between the United States and Italy on counterterrorism and migration management, initiating bilateral preclearance negotiations, and the importance of maintaining the flow of passenger screening data between the European Union and the United States in observance of existing international agreements.
(DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)
Statement by Acting Secretary Elaine Duke on Hawaii Court Ruling Impacting Enhanced Global Security Measures
Release Date:October 17, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
WASHINGTON – “The men and women of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security worked tirelessly with our national security partners to develop baseline information sharing requirements to ensure that our vetting and screening procedures for foreign nationals ensure the safety of the American people from national security threats and public safety concerns. These requirements are essential to securing the homeland. While we will comply with any lawful judicial order, we look forward to prevailing in this matter upon appeal.”
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DHS And Partners Convene First Election Infrastructure Coordinating Council
Release Date:October 14, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
ATLANTA – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) joined the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), and state and local election officials from around the country today to convene the first Government Coordinating Council (GCC) for the Election Infrastructure Subsector. Today’s meeting is part of the department’s ongoing work with state and local officials as we build trusted relationships to help keep the nation’s election systems secure. The 27-member council includes three representatives from the federal government, with the remaining 24 representing state and local governments. The GCC framework provides a well-tested mechanism for sharing threat information between the federal government and council partners, advancing risk management efforts, and prioritizing focus of services available to sector partners in a trusted environment. Participation in the council is entirely voluntary and does not change the fundamental role of state and local jurisdictions in overseeing elections.
“Today’s council meeting shows the seriousness with which federal, state and local officials take the threats to election infrastructure, and the level of cooperation taking place to address it,” said Bob Kolasky, Acting Deputy Under Secretary of the DHS National Protections and Programs Directorate. “State and local officials have already taken a number of steps to improve the security of the nation’s elections, and under the Government Coordinating Council we will be able to further leverage resources and our collective expertise. The security of the nation’s elections are critical to our democracy, and DHS stands ready to support this important mission through exercises, information sharing, and technical cyber analysis and expertise.”
The GCC structure is established under the department’s authority to provide a forum in which the government and private sector entities can jointly engage in a broad spectrum of activities to support and coordinate critical infrastructure security and resilience efforts. It is used in each of the critical infrastructure sectors established under Presidential Policy Directive 21 on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience.
In January, DHS designated election infrastructure as a subsector of the existing Government Facilities critical infrastructure sector. The designation did not create any new regulations or directives, but instead enabled DHS to prioritize cybersecurity assistance to state and local election officials who request it, made clear domestically and internationally that election infrastructure enjoys all the benefits and protections of critical infrastructure that the U.S. government has to offer, and enabled full and frank discussions between DHS and key stakeholders regarding sensitive vulnerability information.
Members of the GCC for the Election Infrastructure Subsector include:
- Lori Augino, Director of Elections, Washington
- Chris H. Chambless, Elections Director, Clay County, Florida
- Judd Choate, Director of Elections, Colorado*
- Jim Condos, Secretary of State, Vermont
- Edgardo Cortes, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Elections
- Bob Giles, Director, Division of Elections, New Jersey
- Mark Goins, Coordinator of Elections, Tennessee
- Ricky Hatch, Clerk/Auditor, Weber County, Utah
- Thomas Hicks, Vice Chairman, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
- Sarah Johnson, City Clerk, Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Neal Kelley, Registrar of Voters, Orange County, California
- Bob Kolasky, Acting Deputy Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security*
- Connie Lawson, Secretary of State, Indiana*
- Linda Lamone, Administer of Elections, Maryland State Board of Elections
- Matthew Masterson, Chairman, U.S. Election Assistance Commission*
- Denise Merrill, Secretary of State, Connecticut
- Paul Pate, Secretary of State, Iowa
- Noah Praetz, Director of Elections, Cook County, Illinois*
- Steve Reed, Probate Judge, Montgomery County, Alabama
- Tom Schedler, Secretary of State, Louisiana
- Steve Simon, Secretary of State, Minnesota
- David Stafford, Supervisor of Elections, Escambia County, Florida
- Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Secretary of State, New Mexico
- Todd Valentine, Co-Executive Director, New York State Board of Elections
- Linda von Nessi, Clerk of the Essex County Board of Elections, New Jersey
- Mac Warner, Secretary of State, West Virginia
- Michael Winn, Director of Elections, Travis County, Texas
*GCC Executive Committee Member
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DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke Visits Puerto Rico
Release Date:October 12, 2017
WASHINGTON - Acting Secretary Elaine Duke today made her third visit to Puerto Rico to meet with local officials and assess the status of ongoing response efforts. She met with the mayors of Ponce, Guayanilla and Santa Isabelto discuss how the federal government can best support the immediate needs of the people of Puerto Rico. Acting Secretary Duke also spoke by phone with Governor Ricardo Rosselló.
During a media availability Acting Secretary Duke remarked on the importance of what she learned during her visit, "I will leave today more dedicated than even before to ensure we continue with the recovery of Puerto Rico."
Acting Secretary Duke and Ponce Mayor Meléndez also delivered food and water to residents of a Ponce neighborhood.
In San Juan, Acting Secretary Duke met with Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne and U.S. military leadership on the island.
DHS, FEMA and its federal and Commonwealth partners remain focused on live-saving and life-sustaining actions, from distribution of food and water to addressing health care needs to power and communication system restoration.
Acting Secretary Duke with Ponce Mayor "Mayita" Meléndez Altieri unloading supplies from a CBP helicopter. (DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)
Acting Secretary Duke meets with residents affected by Hurricane Maria in Ponce, Puerto Rico. (DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)
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DHS Releases Results of 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey
Release Date:October 12, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
WASHINGTON – Today, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released its 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results. This government-wide survey was administered to over one million employees throughout 80 agencies, including a sample of 96,776 DHS employees.
Of the 15 cabinet-level agencies surveyed, DHS achieved the largest increase in both the Employee Engagement Index (EEI) and the Global Satisfaction Index (GSI). The DHS EEI increased four percentage points from 2016-2017 and the GSI increased six percentage points during the same time period.
The EEI is made up of three subcategories in which the survey questions are organized: Leaders Lead, Supervisors, and Intrinsic Work Experience. The GSI measures employee satisfaction with four aspects related to their work: their job, pay, organization, and whether or not they would recommend their organization as a good place to work.
DHS has taken tremendous strides in recent years to ensure that its workforce feels supported, empowered, and equipped to successfully execute the duties and responsibilities necessary to keep our Nation secure. To further these efforts, Acting Secretary Duke launched a Year of Leadership at the beginning of October 2017 to reinforce the culture of leadership excellence that exists at DHS and to promote resources and tools for the Department’s current and future supervisors and managers so that they may receive the training and education required for effective leadership.
DHS is comprised of nearly 240,000 dedicated professionals who have committed themselves to keeping our nation, our people and our way of life safe. Working across the Department, DHS looks forward to continued progress on the FEVS in the years ahead.
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Coordinated Federal Support Continues for U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria
Release Date:October 12, 2017
For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
WASHINGTON – FEMA and the full force of the federal government continue to make progress towards recovery, working hand-in-hand with U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico officials, municipalities, businesses, and voluntary agencies on the islands since Hurricane Irma’s landfall on Sept. 6 and Hurricane Maria’s landfall on Sept. 19.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused catastrophic damage across both the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. After enduring two Category IV hurricanes in less than two weeks, nearly all critical infrastructure was devastated.
While very real challenges to restoring damaged infrastructure remain, more than 19,000 federal civilian personnel and military service members are supporting the islands, working 24 hours a day in support of the hurricane disaster relief mission. These efforts include restoring power and potable water, returning hospitals to operation, increasing fuel supplies, increasing cell phone coverage, and re-opening transportation facilities.
Although it will take time for communities to recover, residents are seeing some services being restored in their communities. FEMA, in coordination and partnership with 36 federal departments and agencies, remains focused on helping the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico with life-sustaining commodities and other essential services. As more businesses open and public services are restored, quality of life will continue to improve for many residents.
Tangible signs of recovery in the U.S. Virgin Islands include full restoration and operation of 911 services in St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. As of Tuesday, some schools reopened on St. Thomas. More schools are scheduled to reopen in St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix in the coming days.
In St. Thomas, 95 percent of roadways are passable and no major roadways are closed. Airports are open for commercial service in St. Thomas and St. Croix. In St. Croix, a Disaster Recovery Center opened Sunday where survivors are receiving one-on-one support. Across the U.S. Virgin Islands, service providers have numerous wi-fi hot spots set up to facilitate internet access for survivors, including several new locations opening this week in St. Croix.
In Puerto Rico, all airports and federally-maintained deep-water ports are open to full operations or operating with restrictions, and power has been restored to 96 percent of hospitals. Additionally, the metropolitan bus service by Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses restarted.
In Puerto Rico, FEMA approved more than $53 million in federal disaster assistance to individuals through the Individuals and Households (IHP) program, for hurricanes Maria and Irma. This federal disaster assistance helps eligible applicants with home repairs, under and uninsured personal property losses and medical, dental and funeral expenses caused by the disaster. It also helps cover other disaster-related expenses and other needs. In addition, to date, FEMA approved more than $169 million in federal funding for emergency work for hurricanes Maria and Irma. This includes $54.6 million awarded to the Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority (PREPA) for the repair of the electrical power system.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, FEMA has approved more than $2.5 million in federal disaster assistance through IHP to individuals affected by hurricanes Maria and Irma. In addition, to date, FEMA approved more than $35 million in federal assistance for emergency protective measures, debris removal, and repair or replacement of damaged facilities to territorial, government, and eligible non-profit organizations, under the Public Assistance program.
Below are updates on where we are today in the efforts to support Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in their ongoing recovery from hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Hospitals and Medical
Federal teams, as well as the private sector, continue supporting the governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, , to restore power and delivery of fuel to hospitals and medical centers so that essential services to disaster survivors continue to return.
In Puerto Rico, 97 percent of hospitals* have power restored or are operating on generator power. Four of seven regional pediatric centers are open. The Veterans Affairs Hospital at San Juan Medical Center has reopened and eight outpatient clinics are seeing patients. Additionally, 46 of the 48 dialysis centers are open*. All hospitals are connected to drinking water service or receive water from water tanker trucks. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is supporting plans for intermediate-term hospitals to meet health care needs. As part of hospital assessments, satellite phones and portable radios are being provided to assist with maintaining critical services and patient support.
Eleven U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) medical teams are stationed across Puerto Rico to support local medical facilities, medical shelters and field medical stations. These teams have cared for more than 1,600 patients. HHS teams are also working with federal and territorial partners to make contact with elder care facilities to ensure they are also being cared for. In partnership with Department of Defense (DoD), HHS is working with private sector heath care systems on sustainment strategies while electricity is being restored. Also, HHS activated the Emergency Prescription Assistance Program to help 500,000 residents who do not have access to health care.
The United States Naval Ship (USNS) Comfort is currently providing additional support to hospitals by treating critical patients. The USNS Comfort has treated more than 78 acute care patients, ranging in age from six months to 89 years.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, HHS and medical teams are in place supporting medical and hospital operations. A 73-person DoD medical company established mobile medical services at the Schneider Regional Medical Center in St. Thomas and another medical company is setting up a full field medical layout in St. Croix; and HHS personnel are augmenting staff at the Gen. Juan Luis Hospital in St. Croix and the Morris F. deCastro Clinic in St. John. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) personnel are conducting health assessments in St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, while a Public Health Service advisory team is in St. Thomas to provide direct support to the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health.
The U.S. Department of Education and numerous federal teams are working with Commonwealth and territory government officials to restore school operations to provide educational services for children.
U.S. Virgin Islands schools have begun to reopen this week; seven schools in St. Thomas opened on Oct. 10, and more schools are scheduled to reopen in St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John in the coming days. The facilities were cleared of debris, and will be operating on alternate power, as required.
The Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) is managing 22 fixed feeding sites at schools. These locations are providing breakfast and lunch for students and survivors seven days a week until further notice. PRDE is working with the Department of Education and its partners to complete assessments of schools.
The distribution of food and water remains a top priority. FEMA, DoD and federal partners have delivered more than 7.6 million meals and 6.4 million liters of water to Puerto Rico, and 4.4 million meals and 2.9 million liters of water to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico established ten Regional Staging Areas around the island to provide commodities to mayors for distribution to citizens, and the National Guard is supporting delivery of supplies to these locations. Points of distribution are also being established for delivering commodities directly to the public. Supplies were dropped from airplanes to isolated communities in remote areas and places where roads are impassable. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided municipalities with hundreds of thousands of meals at fixed facilities.
The Salvation Army, Feeding America, the American Red Cross and other voluntary agencies continue to deliver food and water across the islands through shelters and senior centers. Additional meals and water continue to arrive to the islands regularly via air and sea.
Power Restoration & Generators
Across the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria destroyed most of the power transmission lines that carry electricity from the power plants to the power distribution centers in major population centers, as well as the local power lines that run to residences and businesses.
Electrical power has been restored to 20 percent of customers in St. John, 20 percent of customers in St. Thomas and 10 percent of customers in St. Croix , with 10 percent restoration* in Puerto Rico.
While progress continues to be made on both islands, federal resources continue to provide temporary power support. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers temporary power response teams have been on the ground since before the storm and continue to assess power needs and install generators at critical facilities.
In Puerto Rico, unified efforts among the Department of Energy, USACE, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the private sector continue to restore the power grid. As of Oct. 10, USACE installed 53 generators at critical facilities in Puerto Rico, powering critical infrastructure including hospitals and shelters, and completed 240 generator assessments.
To date, USACE installed 53 generators in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and completed 177 generator assessments.
In Puerto Rico, 53 percent of telecommunications service, wired and wireless, has been restored*, and the U.S. Virgin Islands has 43 percent cell phone coverage.
As more cell towers are being revitalized around the island, communications among disaster survivors, responders, and government municipalities increases. Mayors have satellite phones to facilitate communication with Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency and the federal government.
The private sector is helping lead the communication restoration effort, providing portable cell trucks, known as “Cell on Wheels,” to critical communications areas in Puerto Rico. The trucks are able to provide a two-mile cell phone coverage range on flat terrain. As of Oct. 5, approximately one-third of Puerto Rico’s very high frequency (VHF) radio system is back online, allowing for communication among more than 30 municipalities.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, wi-fi hot spots were deployed through a partnership with industry providers to provide connectivity to the public, and are also being used by the territorial government and responders.
Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams
Disasters Survivor Assistance (DSA) teams are on the ground performing on-the-spot needs assessments, addressing requests for disability-related accommodations, and assisting with referrals to partners offering additional survivor services.
In some locations, they are accepting on-site registrations for individual assistance financial aid. DSA teams have registered more than 3,000 survivors for assistance in the U.S. Virgin Islands; and more than 11,000 in Puerto Rico.
*Data provided by Status.pr
Written testimony of NPPD for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness Response, and Communications hearing titled “Assessing First Responder Communications”
Release Date:October 12, 2017
210 House Capitol Visitor Center
Thank you, Chairman Donovan, Ranking Member Payne, and esteemed members of the subcommittee. It is a pleasure to be here once again to discuss the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts in enhancing the Nation’s interoperable emergency communications. Before my last appearance in front of this Subcommittee, the Department had just released the 2014 National Emergency Communications Plan, which identified the unprecedented change public safety communications will be going through with the deployment of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), Next Generation 911 (NG911), and cellular alerts and warnings systems. The Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) is working with public safety to implement the goals and objectives in the 2014 Plan to ensure these disparate systems work together seamlessly.
Since our formation a decade ago, OEC has partnered with public safety to develop standards and best practices to achieve interoperable communications. In 2008, Land Mobile Radio (LMR) was the main system used by public safety. But soon, just as the average citizen relies on cellular broadband, public safety officials will be able to receive multimedia data with FirstNet capabilities. As a result, OEC has expanded our programs to achieve interoperability in a Land Mobile Radio and cellular broadband environment. OEC continues to strategize how best to ensure that plans and investments keep pace with this ever-changing telecommunications environment. Recent events have shown that the Nation must continue to improve these capabilities, making sure that first responders are ready to get the information that they need to help citizens during a disaster. With citizen-to-citizen communications drastically changing from voice only to texting and other multimedia means, these communications capabilities will revolutionize how citizens engage with public safety and how first responders communicate with one another. However, as I said when I was last before you, emergency communications is largely a people issue. Technology will continue to evolve over time and so our job is to support the effective use of this technology through governance, standard operating procedures, and joint exercises and training. This is the critical work that will ensure interoperability when it is needed most – at the next incident or event.
Update on the Office of Emergency Communications
OEC was established in 2007 as part of the Congressional response to the communications challenges experienced during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and, before that, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Our mandate directs OEC to carry out a range of activities to support policy officials and first responders at all levels of government – Federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal – as they work to achieve, maintain, and enhance operable and interoperable emergency communications capabilities.
Working at the National Level
OEC is the primary driver of strategic planning and coordination to improve emergency communications interoperability nationwide. Through a stakeholder-driven process, OEC authors the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP), which provides strategic guidance for the public safety community and Federal agencies to improve emergency communications capabilities. Since the release of the 2014 Plan, OEC has partnered with public safety officials across the Nation, and at all levels of government, to increase capabilities and address communications interoperability gaps. We put people at the center of all of our work because interoperability can only be achieved when those responsible for emergency and incident communications engage in proper planning, governance, training, and usage initiatives.
OEC is the executive agent of SAFECOM, a public safety advisory board which aims to improve multi-jurisdictional and intergovernmental communications interoperability. The group works with DHS and key emergency response stakeholders across all levels of government and all public safety disciplines to address the need to improve existing communications systems and coordination while developing future tools. SAFECOM is comprised of representatives from associations, such as the International Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of State 911 Administrators, the International Association of Emergency Managers, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, to name a few. SAFECOM develops numerous best practices and guidance documents every year to support its members’ goals and provides input into OEC’s programs, products, and services.
OEC also manages the Communications Unit (COMU) program, which outlines the functions, positions, training, and certification required to support interoperable incident communications. The current COMU program only addresses LMR interoperability. In 2017 and continuing through 2018, SAFECOM, in partnership with the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators, created a working group to update the COMU program to include broadband and data into incident communications. The working group, comprised of communications experts from across the Nation, is identifying the COMU functions required to support data and broadband use, developing COMU positions required to address those functions, creating training curriculum for the new positions, and supporting states and territories in establishing COMU certification programs.
OEC continues to support state and local public safety in their planning efforts, working with SAFECOM to develop two documents related to governance planning and implementation. The first is the SAFECOM Guidance on Emergency Communications Grants. This annual document provides recommendations to grantees seeking funding for interoperable emergency communications projects, including allowable costs, items to consider when funding projects, grants management best practices, and information on standards that ensure greater interoperability.
The second document developed with SAFECOM is the Emergency Communications Governance Guide for State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Officials, released in 2015. This tool lays out governance challenges, best practices, and recommendations on how to establish and maintain effective Statewide Interoperability Governing Bodies (SIGBs) that represent all emergency communications capabilities. This nationally developed resource includes a range of broad approaches, allowing officials to select and apply recommendations at the state, local, tribal, or territorial level that are most appropriate for their specific situation or challenge.
Additionally, OEC is leading the development of the Next Generation Network Priority Services, which will enable National Security and Emergency Preparedness (NS/EP) users to have priority voice, data, and video communications in commercial networks.
Working at the State and Territorial Level
Many have heard me talk about the importance of governance and we continue to see this as an area that we all must pay particular attention to as we move into the future of emergency communications. Anyone that has worked in public safety will tell you that having the greatest technology available cannot, on its own, provide interoperable emergency communications. People and processes must be a major consideration to fully achieve interoperability. OEC has recognized a steady decrease in full-time Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (SWICs) – from years ago, when many states and territories had a full-time SWIC to now, where there are just 12. We have also seen a decline in the activeness of SIGBs, which serve as the primary steering groups for statewide interoperability. Many SIGBs are meeting less frequently or, in some cases, have disbanded all together making interoperability more difficult to achieve. We have heard from many of our partners that this is due to a lack of funding available to emergency communications. This is something that we all must pay more attention to and work together to find ways to help states increase their emergency communications governance capabilities. To address these gaps, OEC works with all 56 states and territories to establish and improve their SIGB, support their SWIC, and update their Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan (SCIP) through direct technical assistance.
Additionally, in 2016 OEC partnered with the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices to launch a policy academy to identify challenges and potential solutions towards further enhancing governance structures, planning for new technologies and securing sustainable funding. Five states participated in the policy academy - Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Utah, and West Virginia. Findings from the NGA Policy Academy are critical to our efforts to help States look at their emergency communications systems together to pass information seamlessly. Right now, funding and staffing for a new system is sometimes done without considering the systems related to the proposed new tool. States must approach these systems’ funding and staffing in an integrated way to better allocate resources.
One result that has come out of this project is OEC’s development of the Enhanced SCIP Pilot, which launched earlier this year. The new plans that are being developed during this project will provide a more intensive review of governance, technology and funding sustainment. OEC is currently working with nine states to deliver the Enhanced SCIP Pilot and will evaluate the results to inform strategic planning support in FY 2018.
Working at the Local Level
In addition to engaging our partners through stakeholder groups, we also work directly with public safety officials to further the Nation’s interoperable emergency communications. Through technical assistance offerings, provided at no cost, we assist public safety with the planning, governance, operational, and technical aspects of developing and implementing interoperable communications initiatives. To date, OEC has provided more than 1,500 technical assistance visits. In response to changing technology and stakeholder feedback, OEC has expanded technical assistance offerings to cover broadband and cybersecurity initiatives.
OEC also works with public safety to identify capability gaps at the local level. One such example is the Interoperable Communications Capabilities Analysis Program (ICCAP). ICCAP is designed to help local, state, and Federal agencies enhance their overall capacity to communicate with one another, using both voice and data, focusing on interoperability across the public safety communications ecosystem and preparing for the unexpected emergency or incident during a planned event. OEC has conducted 16 ICCAP events over the past year. For each event, OEC has developed After Action Reports for the organizing agencies to understand strengths and areas of improvement. OEC is currently analyzing the capability data across all observations to identify the changes in incident communications which will inform future technical assistance offerings and products.
Also at the local level, OEC provides priority telecommunications and restoration services to ensure that the NS/EP community can communicate under all circumstances. The priority services portfolio includes Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) to connect calls during landline congestion, Wireless Priority Service (WPS) to connect calls during wireless network congestion, and Telecommunications Service Priority (TSP) providing priority treatment for vital voice and data circuits or other telecommunications services.
Working at the Federal Level
On the Federal side, OEC manages the Emergency Communications Preparedness Center (ECPC), a group of 14 Federal agencies with a significant role in emergency communications. Its members represent the Federal Government’s broad role in emergency communications, including regulation, policy, operations, grants, and technical assistance. Together, SAFECOM and the ECPC coordinate activities, such as grant funding guidance, 911 initiatives, and emergency communications strategic planning. The ECPC Grant Focus Group Chair is a FirstNet staff member, ensuring that the annual grant guidance supports efforts to integrate LMR and broadband.
We are seeing remarkable coordination between Federal and state public safety as they begin to allow each other to operate on existing communications systems. OEC currently supports efforts to develop Memorandums of Understanding between the Federal Government and states to allow non-Federal agencies to access the Federal Enforcement and Incident Response Interoperability Channels. We are also supporting similar coordination where Federal agencies are granted access to statewide systems. This cooperation leads to improved coordination between Federal and state officials and an enhanced ability to manage incidents.
OEC employs subject matter experts located across the country to engage state, local, tribal, and territorial officials as they address the complex issues facing the emergency communications ecosystem. These OEC Coordinators have extensive experience in public safety, many previously serving as first responders. Leveraging their real-world experiences, they are able to build trusted relationships, enhance collaboration, stimulate comprehensive planning, and encourage the sharing of best practices and information between public safety organizations, appointed and elected officials, critical infrastructure owners and operators, and key non-government organizations. Coordinators provide event support and coordination, conduct training and technical assistance, coordinate and participate in capability assessments, advise on and support statewide governance activities, and provide a link to additional Federal resources.
OEC Response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, & Maria
When I last appeared before this Subcommittee, I explained about OEC’s assistance to Boston to assess and improve its emergency communications capabilities and how that enabled the city’s response when two improvised explosive devices detonated near the Boston Marathon’s finish line in 2013. Recent events have shown the continued importance of emergency communications to support public safety as they prepare for and respond to a major event. During Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we saw wireless communications degraded in the affected areas due to damaged infrastructure. And while few public safety answering points (PSAP) went down, some had to be rerouted for various reasons. OEC supported public safety at all levels as they responded to these storms, providing on-the-ground support, as well as assistance from the National Capital Region. During an event, the National Coordinating Center for Communications (NCC), part of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, leads emergency communications response and recovery efforts under Emergency Support Function #2 of the National Response Framework. As part of DHS’ response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, fourteen members of the OEC team supplemented the efforts of the NCC, providing emergency communications assistance, including emergency operations center staffing, priority communications support, and regional communications knowledge at the Federal, state, and local levels.
The extensive damage from Hurricane Maria shows the importance of rapid restoration of communications to enable information collection, dissemination, and coordination in response to the incident. The rebuilding of the communications infrastructure is taking a coordinated effort between the government and commercial carriers.
During an event, the National Coordinating Center for Communications (NCC), part of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, leads emergency communications response and recovery efforts under Emergency Support Function #2 of the National Response Framework. As part of DHS’ response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, fourteen members of the OEC team supplemented the efforts of the NCC, providing emergency communications assistance, including emergency operations center staffing, priority communications support, and regional communications knowledge at the Federal, state, and local levels.
OEC’s Priority Services programs remained fully functional throughout the storms where communications infrastructure was still working. GETS and WPS provide essential personnel priority access and prioritized processing, greatly increasing the probability of call completion. GETS focuses on the local and long distance segments of the landline networks, while WPS targets all nationwide cellular networks. OEC also manages TSP, which provides service vendors a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate to prioritize requests by identifying those services critical to national security and emergency preparedness. A TSP assignment ensures that it will receive priority attention by the service vendor before any non-TSP service. These services processed thousands of calls from first responders and government officials as they worked to respond to the aftermath of the recent storms.
Supporting Interoperable Emergency Communications into the Future
Not long ago, the emergency communications ecosystem consisted of a citizen calling a PSAP for help, a call operator radioing the information to fire or police, and public safety officials and responders speaking to each other on LMR. However, new technologies are drastically changing the emergency communications ecosystem, not only transforming how citizens talk to each other, but also how public safety works together and engages with citizens. We cannot ignore the transition to these new communications technologies and the advantages they bring. However, we must ensure we continue to support our partners through training, technical assistance, and best practices as long as LMR remains a communications tool for public safety.
Integrating LMR and Broadband Communications
Although LMR remains essential in emergency communications, the benefits and opportunities broadband offers to public safety are undeniable. Citizens will be able to send a picture of a suspicious package or videos of an event as it is happening to PSAPs that can then share those files with first responders. This capability provides critical information in determining how to respond and what resources will be needed. It is hard to speak of these advancements without also mentioning the progress toward implementing the newest tool in the emergency communications toolbox – the NPSBN. FirstNet, an independent authority within the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, recently awarded its contract to build the broadband network and we at the DHS Office of Emergency Communications applaud them in doing so. Until broadband can support mission critical voice to public safety, LMR will continue to be the primary method of communication for the near future. However, this is clearly a major step towards full implementation of a capability that will greatly improve interoperable communications across the country.
From the early days of envisioning this new network, OEC has supported both the FirstNet team and state and local public safety as they prepare for full implementation of the system. OEC provided support in developing the FirstNet Request for Proposal, as well as assistance with identity, credentialing and access management responsibilities. The ECPC was designated by FirstNet to coordinate the needs for Federal users of the network, collecting network requirements and security standards from all departments and agencies. In response to feedback from our state and local partners, we have recently added technical assistance offerings specifically focused on assisting with preparation and planning for deployment of broadband, including FirstNet. These offerings focus on broadband education, governance, planning, engineering, and data collection. OEC also worked with FirstNet to develop Roadmap to 2020, which outlines key considerations and resources impacting the emergency communications grants community and enables coordination across Federal agencies to understand how grant programs can support the deployment of broadband systems. In September, I assumed the DHS FirstNet board member duties and look forward to continuing to support the implementation of the NPSBN in this new capacity.
As communications move toward broadband networks like FirstNet, there are new issues and risks that must be considered – not least of them, cybersecurity. Many of the concerns that the Full Committee has studied in hearings and briefings related to cybersecurity are the same issues that must be considered during this transition. Emergency communications networks are only as secure as its weakest connection; vulnerabilities at any point have the potential to affect the entire network. In addition to our technical assistance offerings related to cybersecurity, OEC assists our stakeholders through various programs and activities. Through the Cyber and Physical Threat and Risk Analysis to Improve Networks (CAPTAIN) program, DHS collaborates with public and private emergency communications stakeholders to increase understanding and awareness about critical cyber and physical risks that could threaten the mission of first responders and public safety agencies. And last year, OEC, in coordination with the Department of Transportation’s 911 Office, developed the NG911 Cybersecurity Primer, which helps PSAP operators improve the cybersecurity posture of relevant systems nationwide and provides an overview of the cyber risks that will be faced by NG911 systems. The Primer serves as an informational tool for system administrators to better understand the full scope and range of potential risks, as well as recommend mitigations to these risks. Finally, OEC supported the FCC’s Task Force on Optimal Public Safety Answering Point Architecture, a comprehensive study of the future of PSAPs, the integration of NG911, the cybersecurity risks and proposed solutions to address the risks.
The Department has provided multiple grants to public safety to enhance their emergency communications capabilities. Starting in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007, the Department provided two emergency communications-related grants to States and territories, the first of which was the Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) Grant Program. PSIC was a one-time grant program of the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which provided a total of $1 billion, with each state and territory receiving funds to support the development of statewide, regional, and local systems. FEMA administered the grant program on behalf of NTIA. About 90% of the funds were spent on equipment. Also, from FY2008 – FY2010, FEMA and OEC partnered to administer the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program (IECGP). Over these three years, IECGP provided more than $145 million to public safety to improve their governance, planning, training, exercise and equipment. This included updating a state’s SCIP and funding their SWIC and SIGB. These programs helped states lay a great foundation for their emergency communication capabilities. Emergency communication equipment costs are allowable expenses under FEMA’s Homeland Security Grant Program.
The OEC-administered Border Interoperability Demonstration Project (BIDP) just recently released its closeout report. BIDP was a $25.5 million one-time, competitive program to provide funding and technical assistance to U.S. communities along the Canadian and Mexican borders. OEC recently published its closeout report and is in the process of developing tools, templates, and studies based off of the best practices, lessons learned, and processes successfully demonstrated by BIDP award recipients. Additionally, last year, OEC established the Rural Emergency Medical Communications Demonstration Project (REMCDP), a one-time $2 million project to work with a public and state controlled institution of higher education to examine communications barriers and identify solutions that enhance existing emergency communications infrastructure. Through a competitive process, OEC awarded the funds to the University of Mississippi Medical Center to support the First Hands Project, which will test an innovative approach to communications governance, planning, coordination, training and exercises. We are in the middle of the period of performance and are already seeing significant accomplishments in meeting the program’s objectives. We look forward to briefing you on what we learn at the end of the REMCDP.
SAFECOM Nationwide Survey
The SAFECOM Nationwide Survey (SNS) will be a nationwide data collection effort to obtain actionable and critical data that drives our Nation’s emergency communication policies, programs, and funding. OEC and SAFECOM will distribute the survey to Federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal emergency response provider organizations with a) a public safety-related mission and b) users of public safety communications technology. Questions will be organized by the five critical success elements of the SAFECOM Interoperability Continuum – Governance, Standard Operating Procedures, Technology, Training & Exercises, and Usage – with the addition of a Security element, which will touch on cybersecurity. Results of the survey will help government officials and emergency responders better understand emergency communications needs so that they can make data-driven funding, policy, and programmatic decisions to strengthen capabilities. We look forward to receiving and analyzing SNS survey results, which will be published in the upcoming Nationwide Communications Baseline Assessment (NCBA).
The Next National Emergency Communication Plan
OEC is in the early planning phase for the next update of the National Emergency Communications Plan. Later this year, we will begin working with our public safety partners to solicit their critical feedback and participation in Plan development. The most important inputs to this document, as was true with the 2014 NECP, will be from the public safety practitioners in the field who are charged with protecting and saving lives. The next NECP will further expand on the communications ecosystem concept developed in 2014 and will be informed by more current efforts including the previously mentioned NGA Policy Academy, the ICCAP analysis, and results from the SNS.
Thank you, Chairman Donovan, Ranking Member Payne, and the Members of this Committee. Ten years ago, Congress set up the Office of Emergency Communications to support our stakeholders as they coordinate activities and share information to improve their interoperable emergency communications capabilities. We have seen tremendous changes since then and, as emergency communications evolves, we stand ready to continue our strong coordination efforts with public safety ensuring they are well prepared for the future, leveraging the various tools available – NG911, broadband, and LMR. I look forward to our discussion this morning and I am pleased to answer any questions that you may have.
FEMA Approves More Than $140 Million in Assistance to Puerto Rico
Release Date:October 11, 2017
For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved more than $44 million for assistance to individuals and more than $96 million for emergency work in response to hurricanes Irma and Maria.
FEMA continues to take registrations from residents of Puerto Rico who incurred damages to their homes and personal property as a result of hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Individuals and households in Puerto Rico can register online at www.disasterassistance.gov, or by calling 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 1-800-462-7585. FEMA teams are also on the ground meeting face-to-face with disaster survivors and helping with registrations.
FEMA awarded the Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority (PREPA) $54.6 million for emergency work.
PREPA is an autonomous agency of the Government of Puerto Rico that produces and distributes electricity to more than 1.5 million customers and is a not-for-profit public corporation. During the incident period that began on September 17, strong winds, storms, floods, debris and fallen trees associated with Hurricane Maria caused severe damages and the collapse of the electrical power system throughout Puerto Rico.
These funds are in addition to the more than $41.6 million awarded for other emergency work.