• DHSThe Role of Congressional Oversight in Department Reform

    By Julia Siegel

    The Scowcroft Center’s Forward Defense project and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) hosted a panel of former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials to discuss why now is the time to streamline congressional oversight of DHS. The goal of the Forward Defense project is to craft sustainable, nonpartisan strategies that meet the complex security challenges of today and tomorrow, and the panel explored how fragmented congressional oversight impacts DHS and charted a path forward.

  • ARGUMENT: DHS modernizationModernizing the Department of Homeland Security

    DHS was born out of the horror of 9/11, but it is no longer clear that counterterrorism and immigration enforcement need to be the department’s dominant missions in the future. Carrie Cordero and Katrina Mulligan write that, instead, Congress and the new administration should evaluate how to keep Americans safe and secure in a world where pandemics, climate change and cybersecurity pose threats to the country’s way of life on a scale that was once the primary domain of terrorism.

  • Critical infrastructureGuidance Will Improve Critical Infrastructure Resilience

    It is easy to understand the importance of our “critical infrastructure,” such as telecommunications, energy, transportation, and emergency services, but what’s often overlooked are the underlying technologies that enable them. DHS S&T is doing something about it.

  • Election securityTrump Fires Security Chief Who Said 2020 Vote Was “Most Secure” in U.S. History

    By Jeff Seldin

    Barely two weeks after the polls closed in an election he is now projected to lose, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to fire CISA’s director Christopher Krebs, the official responsible for spearheading efforts to secure the vote. Since the 3 November election, Trump, his campaign, and some of his supporters have issued a continuous stream of allegations about the integrity of the election, but evidence of massive voter fraud or other irregularities on a scale necessary to swing the election in Trump’s favor has not materialized. Late last Thursday, a coalition of federal and state officials, including CISA, further rejected the allegations as baseless. Krebs himself had also taken an active role in debunking rumors and unfounded allegations in the days and weeks following the election, taking to Twitter to dismiss some conspiracy theories as “nonsense.”

  • ImmigrationU.S. Immigration Policy Changes Expected Under Biden

    By Aline Barros

    The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden could swiftly reverse an array of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, many of which remain among the most contentious initiatives of his administration.

  • DHSFederal Judge: Chad Wolf Serving Unlawfully as Acting DHS Secretary

    Judge Paula Xinis, a federal judge in Maryland, has ruled that Chad Wolf is likely unlawfully serving as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The judge also temporarily barred the Trump administration from enforcing new asylum restrictions on members of two immigration advocacy groups. The judge said that since it is likely Wolf is serving illegally as acting DHS secretary, then the asylum restriction orders he signed may have been “promulgated without authority” and “must be set aside.” Legal experts say that if we apply Judge Xinis’s interpretation of the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) to other serving officials in the administration, there are definitely 15 who are occupying their positions illegally — and possibly 21 more, for a total of 36 officials with questionable legal authority to serve in their posts.

  • DHSRefocusing DHS to Address Today’s Threats to the Homeland

    DHS was created in 2003 to make sure that the United States does not again experience 9/11-like attack, in which nonmilitary means—four passenger aircraft— killed more Americans than died in the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The security challenges have changed since 2001. One example: As of August 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was killing as many Americans as died on 9/11— every four days. In addition to pandemics, the long-term threat to U.S. infrastructure from climate and weather changes and the increasing non-kinetic actions by nation-state adversaries seeking to undermine U.S. power, “all point to the need for the United States to make another fundamental change in how the U.S. government defends the nation and keeps the American people safe,” the authors on a new report say.

  • DHSReforming DHS

    The arrests of U.S. citizens on the streets of Portland, Oregon, by unidentified DHS personnel have raised concerns about the department, its mission, and its focus. These concerns were expressed, among others, by former DHS secretaries. Michael Chertoff, Tom Ridge, and Jeh Johnson. A new report published the Center for American Progress (CAP) recommends five immediate steps that the next administration and Congress should take to begin to refocus the department and prevent its personnel from being used in the future as federal police force.

  • Politicizing intelligenceDHS Intelligence Official Says He Was Pressured to Stop Providing Assessments of Russia’s Threat to U.S. Election

    Brian Murphy, the former head of DHS’s intelligence and analysis unit, said in a whistle-blower complaint  made public on Wednesday that he was pressured by acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf to stop providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the upcoming U.S. election. In his complaint, Murphy also says that acting DHS secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli directed agency analysts to downplay threats from violent white supremacy to make the threat “appear less severe,” and include information on violent “left-wing” groups and antifa. Murphy says that Wolf and Cuccinelli — both Trump appointees not yet confirmed by the Senate — appeared to want to shape DHS’s public announcements so they accord with the president’s language and political interests, even if modifying the department’s public announcements in this way contradicted the department’s own intelligence analysis.

  • EMP attacksCombatting Potential Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack

    Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapons have the potential to disrupt unprotected critical infrastructure within the United States and could impact millions over large parts of the country. DHS says it continues to prepare against evolving threats against the American homeland, most recently highlighting efforts to combat an EMP attack.

  • PERSPECTIVE: Domestic terrorismDHS Draft Document: White Supremacists Are Greatest Terror Threat

    White supremacists present the gravest terror threat to the United States, according to a draft report from the Department of Homeland Security. Betsy Woodruff Swan writes in Politico that two later draft versions of the same document — DHS’s State of the Homeland Threat Assessment 2020 — describe the threat from white supremacists in slightly different language. “But all three drafts describe the threat from white supremacists as the deadliest domestic terror threat facing the U.S., listed above the immediate danger from foreign terrorist groups.” Woodruff Swan notes that “None of the drafts Politico reviewed referred to a threat from Antifa, the loose cohort of militant left-leaning agitators who senior Trump administration officials have described as domestic terrorists.”

  • PERSPECTIVE: Countering violent extremism (CVE)To Prevent Extremist Violence in the United States, Think Beyond the Homeland Security Box

    Over the past decade, with the FBI focused on surveilling and otherwise investigating suspected terrorists, the United States has relied on the Department of Homeland Security to work with local law enforcement, municipalities and communities to strengthen their capacity to prevent violent extremism. “Our research and experience shows that the department’s emphasis on security can be counterproductive and that the most promising strategies can be found in models and partnerships led by actors not involved in security,” Eric Rosand, and Stevan Weine write.

  • CoronavirusHealth Officials Call on U.S. Government to Reverse COVID-19 Test Guidelines

    Public health departments throughout the United States are calling on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reverse changes the federal agency recently made to its public coronavirus testing guidelines. Earlier in the CDC announced that it would recommend stopping testing people who have been exposed to the virus but are asymptomatic.

  • Election securityPandemic Concerns and 2020 Election: Concerns Vary by Race, Education, Party Affiliation

    Although most voters say they believe that voting will be safe and that their ballot will be counted despite the coronavirus pandemic, those who question election safety and some who question election integrity appear less likely to vote, according to a new RAND survey. In addition, people who identify as Republicans are more likely to express concerns about the integrity of the 2020 elections, while Democrats are more likely to be concerned about safety—underscoring the need for election officials to communicate to the public about both issues.

  • Gender gapCOVID-19 Outcomes in Female-Led Countries “Systematically and Significantly Better”

    Female national leaders locked down earlier and suffered half as many COVID deaths on average as male leaders, according to analysis across 194 countries. The researchers say that the analysis holds even if outliers – the effective responses by Angela Merkel-led Germany and Jacinda Arden-led New Zealand, and the botched, inompetent response by the Trump administration – are removed from the statistics. The researchers note that “While this [early lockdown] may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives, as evidenced by the significantly lower number of deaths in these countries.”