Government - federal, state, local

  • DHS grantsAlabama did not share enough DHS funds with local governments

    An audit by the DHS inspector general’s office found that Alabama’s Homeland Securityprogram has not met the conditions of receiving DHS grants, as it fails to share adequate grant money with local governments. The audit, completed in May, found that of the $20.5 million awarded to Alabama for homeland security projects between 2010 and 2012, the state agency gave less than the required 80 percent of funds to local governments.

  • ImmigrationDHS IG: manual processing faster than Electronic Immigration System (ELIS)

    A new reportby DHS Office of Inspector Generalconcludes that the department’s $1.7 billion Electronic Immigration System(ELIS), used to process forms for benefits, VISAs, and refugee requests, is inefficient as it takes twice as long as processing the applications manually.Currently, workers spend roughly 125 clicks per application, a more time-consuming process than processing the forms manually.

  • DHSDHS top priorities: addressing terrorism, cyberthreats, and extreme weather risks

    In its second quadrennial review, DHS outlined the department’s efforts to enhance the five homeland security objectives detailed in the first review, issued in 2010. Combating terrorism remains DHS’s primary mission, but recent disasters, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and domestic terrorism events such as the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, along with cyberthreats against the nation’s infrastructure, have led the agency to adopt a risk-based approach to significant threats from both terrorism and natural disasters.

  • Combat zoneProposed bill would extend tax exemption to civilians in combat zones

    A bipartisan bill introduced in May would extend the same tax credit available to military personnel serving overseas to civilian federal employees serving in combat zones. Most civilians working abroad in combat zones are employees of the Defense and State departments, the intelligence community, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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  • Border security1.6%: CBP data show dysfunctional Internal Affairs

    By Robert Lee Maril

    The good news is that James F. Tomscheck, the head of internal affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol since 2006, was reassigned last week to another job within his agency. The bad news is that CBP internal affairs supports a decades-old culture mired in cronyism and secrecy. Last month, for example, CBP finally disclose data about internal affairs investigations into allegations of abuse by its own agents. Even so, the numbers are so out of whack that this federal report easily might be confused with the Chinese government’s recent version of the violence at Tiananmen Square in 1989: out of 809 complaints of abuse by CBP agents from January of 2009 to January of 2012, only an astounding thirteen required disciplinary action against CBP agents. The public is supposed to believe, in other words, that under Tomscheck’s leadership, a mere 1.6 percent of the charges against his agents over a three-year period had merit.

  • Information sharingDHS’s intelligence framework and analytic planning process ineffective: GAO

    A new Government Accountability Office(GAO) reportsays DHS’s intelligence framework and analytic planning process are ineffective, raising concerns about the department’s ability to coordinate and prioritize intelligence strategies despite having systems put in place for integrating intelligence and analytic activities.

  • ImmigrationU.S. recalibrating Secure Communities

    The number of municipalities cooperating with Secure Communities has grown from fourteen in 2008 to more than 3,000 today, and about 283,000 immigrants have been deported under the program between 2008 and April of this year. More and more municipalities, however, refuse to hold undocumented immigrants in jail on behalf of Secure Communities.DHS chief Jeh Johnsonsays Secure Communities needs a “fresh start,”and President Barack Obama is planning to limit deportations to undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of violent crimes.

  • DHSDHS HQ: Doubts grow about trouble-plagued St. Elizabeths complex

    DHS was supposed to move into its new, centralized headquarters on the grounds of the historic St. Elizabeths, in 2015, at a cost estimated to be about $3 billion. Today the project is $1.5 billion over budget, eleven years behind schedule, with thousands of DHS employees working at more than fifty scattered, expensively leased office buildings. Some lawmakers doubt whether the complex will ever be completed. A congressional aide familiar with sentiments on the Hill says: “It’s [the original St. Elizabeths complex plan] just not going to happen. The money doesn’t exist.”

  • DHSFormer DHS secretary: DHS has lost its way

    Former DHS secretary Tom Ridge recently said that, “[DHS has] kind of lost [its] way…The focus – the primary focus – has been substantially diminished.” Others echo Ridge’s concern, noting that the department, the budget of which has more than doubled since its inception, from $29 billion in 2003 to $61 billion next year, has been suffering from mission creep.

  • DHSFormer DHS IG altered oversight reports, shared information

    Charles Edwards, the acting DHS inspector general from 2011 through 2013, has been found to have routinely shared insider information with other department leaders, according to a new report from a the Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee published last week.

  • Nuclear securityLt. Gen. Frank Klotz (Ret) confirmed as DoE undersecretary for nuclear security, NNSA administrator

    Lieutenant General Frank G. Klotz, United States Air Force (Ret.), was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday, 8 April 2014, as the Department of Energy’s undersecretary for nuclear security and administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

  • DHSJohnson makes his presence known at DHS

    DHS spent much of 2013 operating with forty-eight vacancies in top management positions, but since Congress approved Jeh Johnson as head of DHS in December 2013, the department has successfully filled seventeen positions.The appointment of former chief technology officer for McAfee, Phyllis Schneck, as deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity,reflects Johnson’s attempt to bridge the gap between DHS and the private sector. Johnson has pushed for other changes in the 22-agency, 240,000-employee organization by introducing some operational philosophies gained from his time as General Counsel for the Defense Department. “Meetings at DHS are already starting about two hours earlier, like they did at DoD,” says one person with multiple contacts at the department.

  • DHS acquisition accountabilityTwo politicians insisting on more congressional oversight of DHS

    By Robert Lee Maril

    The lawmakers who support the proposed DHS Acquisition Accountability and Efficiency Act, authored by Representative Jeff Duncan (R-South Carolina), are doing exactly what they were sent to Washington to do: they are attempting to provide fiscal oversight over one of our largest federal agencies. Hopefully, politicians on both sides of the aisle will join Representatives Duncan and Michael McCaul (R-Texas) in passing legislation forcing DHS to use tax payer money in the most efficient ways possible, including demanding contractors meet the terms of their contracts, not rewarding contractors who have a record of poor performance, and completing their security-related projects in a timely manner.

  • Insider threatIdentifying, thwarting insider threats before they do damage

    Researchers argue that one way to identify and predict potential insider threats even before these individuals begin to do damage like stealing and leaking sensitive information, is by using Big Data to monitor changes in behavior patterns. Researchers at PARC, for example, found that individuals who exhibit sudden decrease in participation in group activity, whether in a game like World of Warcraft or corporate e-mail communications, are likely to withdraw from the organization. A withdrawal represents dissatisfaction with the organization, a common trait of individuals who are likely to engage in insider security breaches.

  • DHSJohn Sandweg, acting ICE director, leaves post after five months

    John Sandweg, the acting head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), on Friday informed agency employees hat he was leaving his post, to which he was appointed by Janet Napolitano last August. Sandweg, an Arizona criminal defense attorney who knew Napolitano from her days in Arizona politics, came to Washington with her when she was became DHS secretary. His appointment to head ICE, the country’s second-largest law enforcement agency, was received with some surprise because his lack of law enforcement experience.