• Better FEMA options for increasing the affordability of flood insurance

    FEMA currently does not have the policy analysis capacity or necessary data to comprehensively analyze different options for making flood insurance more affordable. A new report identifies an approach for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to evaluate policy options for making premiums through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) more affordable for those who have limited ability to pay.

  • 72 DHS employees were found to be on the terrorist watch-list

    Representative Stephen Lynch (D-Massachusetts) was among the forty-seven Democrats who supported a GOP bill to tighten screening requirements for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. He explains: “I have very low confidence [in DHS’s ability to vet refugees] based on empirical data that we’ve got on the Department of Homeland Security. I think we desperately need another set of eyeballs looking at the vetting process.” He also revealed that a DHS IG investigation found that seventy-two DHS employees were on the terrorist watch list.

  • Major reorganization at CBP: Two new offices created

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been significantly reorganized, according to a recent internal agency memo. CBP’s current four Operations Offices, however, will not be a part of the reorganization. These four offices, which employ 75 percent of CBP’s total workforce, include the Office of Field Operations, the U.S. Border Patrol, Air and Marine Operations, and the Office of International Trade. New offices in the proposed reorganization include Operations Support and Enterprise Services. The CBP reorganization comes in the wake of an unprecedented CBP scandal.

  • DHS’ RFP could do away with competition: PSC

    The Professional Services Council (PSC) is concerned that a proposed DHS research and development center could eliminate contractor competition. DHS issued an RFP on 14 September for a contract to operate the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center, meant to be a replacement for the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute (HSSAI), which provides independent analysis of policy issues.

  • Chemical safety board may put new investigations on hold while it reboots

    Under new leadership, the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is hitting the reset button to put its embattled past behind it. The federal agency charged with investigating and issuing recommendations on chemical accidents wants to set an ambitious timeline for completing reports, but doing so will require a hold on new cases.

  • DHS seeking faculty, students for summer 2016 research programs

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is seeking faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students interested in participating in one of its 10-week programs in summer 2016, including its Summer Research Team Program for Minority Serving Institutions and its Homeland Security — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (HS-STEM) Summer Internship Program. The deadlines for applying for both programs occur in December 2015.

  • IRS employed cellphone-surveillance technology

    The IRS spent $65,652 on surveillance technology which tracks people by capturing their cellphone calls through StingRays – devices which mimic legitimate cell towers. The devices are also known as IMSI-catchers or cell-tower simulators. In addition to locating cellphone users, StingRays also use the signals to identify the owner of the phone, and may also be able to capture the phone owner’s contacts, messages, and other content off the phone. More than a dozen federal agencies, and local police in twenty-two states, have also employed the technology.

  • Justice Department created new office to focus on domestic terrorists

    The Justice Department said this week that it has created a new office which would on homegrown extremists. Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin announced the move on Wednesday. He said the new office, the Domestic Terrorism Counsel, will be the main point of contact for federal prosecutors working on domestic terrorism cases. Carlin said the new office was created “in recognition of a growing number of potential domestic terrorism matters around the United States.” Following the 9/11 attacks, U.S. law enforcement had shifted its attention, and the allocation of law enforcement and intelligence resources, from domestic to foreign terrorism. The result, security experts say, was that federal authorities had lost sight of domestic extremists. “Looking back over the past few years, it is clear that domestic terrorists and homegrown violent extremists remain a real and present danger to the United States. We recognize that, over the past few years, more people have died in this country in attacks by domestic extremists than in attacks associated with international terrorist groups,” Carlin said.

  • Experts are often fallible, so expert advice should be examined carefully

    Evidence shows that experts are frequently fallible, say leading risk researchers, and policy makers should not act on expert advice without using rigorous methods that balance subjective distortions inherent in expert estimates. Many governments aspire to evidence-based policy, but the researchers say the evidence on experts themselves actually shows that they are highly susceptible to “subjective influences” — from individual values and mood, to whether they stand to gain or lose from a decision — and, while highly credible, experts often vastly overestimate their objectivity and the reliability of peers. 

  • How many times does CBP’s Mark Borkowski get to fail?

    Once again Mark Borkowski has testified before Congress in recent months, detailing the status of the Arizona Technology Plan, or what he calls the “Plan.” According to Borkowski’s testimony, new border wall surveillance infrastructure and technology are already failing to meet management deadlines; he also acknowledges a highly critical GAO report on the status of his newest border security plan. The Plan is the lynchpin of the Southern Border and Approaches Campaign – previously called the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet). SBInet never worked and fell hopelessly behind schedule, and in 2011 DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano pulled the plug on it. SBInet was preceded by other costly border-security technology failure – for example, the Intelligent Computer-Aided Detection system (ICAD11 and ICAD 111), the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System (ISIS), the American Shield Initiative (ASI),the Secure Border Initiative Tactical Initiative (SBI TI), and Project 28. Despite these failures, the CBP has not constructed a reasonable way in which to measure the success or failure of its new $1 billion dollar Plan. How many times does CBP’s Borkowski get to fail?

  • More significant CBP leadership changes: Possible reorganization

    Recently rocked by the largest scandal in its history, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) appears to be making significant personnel changes in recent months. There are also rumors of a major agency reorganization, rumors which have not been denied by agency leadership. Presumably such changes at CBP would be grounded in and address James F. Tomsheck’s allegations which find support in a number of government reports about significant problems at CBP. These institutional problems include increased employee violence, graft, and corruption as well as an institutional failure at CBP IA to investigate charges against its own employees.

  • Einstein 3 Accelerated (E3A) deployment gets a push forward

    The two recent network breaches at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which allowed the pilfering of sensitive personal information of millions of federal employees, their families, clearance applicants, and contractors, has drawn attention to the Department of Homeland Security’s $3 billion network monitoring program called Einstein. The question now is whether that program is the capable of preventing another intrusion in the future.

  • D.C. security gaps exposed by gyrocopter landing on Capitol grounds: Senate panel

    A Senate committee has concluded that the Florida man who flew a one-man gyrocopter and landed it on the U.S. Capitol grounds, had exposed security gaps and inadequate coordination among the agencies charged with protecting the Capitol, the White House, and other Washington landmarks. In addition to calling for better coordination among the different agencies responsible for securing important sites in Washington, D.C., the committee strongly recommends seeking new “technological solutions” to spot similar flights in the future, suggesting that Congress should also consider increasing penalties for those who breach the restricted airspace.

  • CBP violated rules in deporting thousands of unaccompanied children

    A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit says U.S. Border Patrol agents were in violation of agency rules when, between 2009 and 2014, they deported thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children. The GAO said that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) repatriated 93 percent of unaccompanied children under age 14 from Mexico and Canada – and did so without documenting what procedures they followed to ascertain that the children would be safe when they return to their home countries.

  • Questions arise over ammunition purchases at Hoover Dam

    Periodically, questions arise regarding the amount of ammunition purchased by the federal government’s non-military agencies. One must take into account the nature of an agency’s mission and the number of armed personnel included in its ranks. Factor in the number of rounds expended in training and practice, and it becomes clear that the large ammunition purchases make sense. One such instanced surfaced late last week, when it was disclosed that the federal Bureau of Reclamation has requested a purchase of 52,000 rounds of ammunition for law enforcement personnel at Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.