Government - federal, state, local

  • DHSDepartures, vacancies continue to hobble DHS

    The rate of senior level departures at DHS has increased in recent years, and some say that as a result, the department is unable to stay ahead of emerging threats, including potential terrorist and cyber incidents. According to the FedScope database of federal employees administered by OMB, between 2010 and 2013, departures of permanent DHS employees increased by 31 percent, compared to a 17 percent increase for the entire federal workforce.

  • DHS HQDebate continues over DHS’s St. Elizabeths project

    A Government Accountability Office(GAO) report released at a House hearing last Friday says that Congress should make future funding available for the consolidation of DHS offices at the St. Elizabeths campus in Washington, D.C. Those in favor of continuing the over-budget, behind-schedule DHS project at St. Elizabeths received support from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, when the committee released its report on the subject last Friday. Not everyone agreed. “It’s been three years since construction began with some funds from the 2009 Stimulus Act,” said Jeff Duncan (R-South Carolina). “What we got were cushy offices for Washington bureaucrats, courtyards with Brazilian ivywood, a living roof and rainwater-flush toilets — driven by a political agenda. We could have used normal plumbing.”

  • DHS R&DR&D at DHS is “inherently fragmented”: GAO

    The GAO says that DHS does not know how much it spends on R&D, making it difficult for the sprawling agency to oversee and coordinate those efforts. David Maurer, GAO’s director of Homeland Security and Justice, told a House hearing that R&D at DHS is “inherently fragmented.” The reason is that each of several components of the agency — the Science and Technology Directorate, the Coast Guard, and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office — are given R&D responsibilities by law. At the same time, other DHS components conduct their own R&D efforts as long as those activities are coordinated through the S&T office, Maurer said.

  • Border securityFormer head of Internal Affairs at CBP: Agency suffers from “institutional narcissism”; conducting its affairs beyond “constitutional constraints”

    By Robert Lee Maril

    In what may become the most explosive scandal in the history of the U.S. Border Patrol, James F. Tomsheck, former head of Internal Affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), accused his own agency of protecting its agents from criminal charges, including murder, corruption, and graft. Tomsheck also directly pointed the finger at CBP senior management, including former Commissioner Alan Bersin and Chief David Aguilar. Tomsheck, who served until June of this year as the head of internal affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, characterized his agency as suffering from “institutional narcissism” and maintaining a culture which allowed its agents to act beyond “constitutional constraints”

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  • 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.

  • 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).