State / Local

  • Border securityEffectiveness of Texas National Guard border troop surge questioned

    Texas governor Rick Perry’s plan to send nearly 1,000 Texas National Guardtroops to the Rio Grande Valley has been applauded by the governor’s supporters, but critics question its effectiveness. Gov. Perry’s decision to send nearly 1,000 guardsmen to the Rio Grande Valley is described as “symbolic,” and top officials in border counties agree that sending more guardsmen to the border would bring little change to the current situation.

  • ImmigrationNYC forms a task force to coordinate accommodation for migrant children

    New York City officials have formed a task force to help coordinate accommodation for Central American children who have arrived in the city in recent months after weeks and months of living under the care of immigration and border officials near the Southwest border. Since October 2013, federal officials have sent more than 3,200 children to New York City and elsewhere in the state to live with relatives or guardians, and about 7,000 more are expected to arrive in the coming months, according to officials who have been briefed by federal authorities.

  • DronesUsing drones in law enforcement work

    Using unmanned flight systems for domestic surveillance can provide emergency responders information during fires, earthquakes, storms, and man-made disasters, said John Hill, director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.He said that the general public is open to the use of unmanned systems when informed about their use.

  • Infrastructure protectionSilicon Valley braces for floods, storm surges caused by sea level rise

    A new analysis found that $36.5 billion in property and at least 145,000 California residents could be directly affected in the next thirty years from flooding caused by sea level rise. San Mateo County, home to major corporations including Facebook, Oracle, and Genentechin Palo Alto, and the low-income population of East Palo Alto, would be the most affected.

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  • ImmigrationAppeals Court blocks Arizona’s order denying driver’s licenses to “dreamers”

    A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked an August 2012 executive order issued by Arizona’s Republican governor Jan Brewer which denies driver’s licenses and other public benefits to young immigrants who are allowed to remain in the United States under a 2012 Obama administration policy.

  • ResilienceSeattle builds resiliency in the face of changing climate

    The federal government’s National Climate Assessment, released in May, detailed the region-by-region effects which includes water shortages, sea-level rise, and more frequent wildfires. Most American cities fall short on climate change preparation when compared to several major cities around the world. A survey conducted by MIT reported that globally, “the U.S. has the lowest percentage of cities engaged in (climate change) assessments and planning.” Seattle has decided it needs to act, and act now, to make itself more resilient in the face of a changing climate.

  • Infrastructure protectionN.C. “rolling” 30-year sea level rise report gaining support from both sides

    In 2010, coastal developers and Republican legislators in North Carolina were alarmed when a state science panel warned that the Atlantic Ocean is expected to increase by thirty-nine inches along the state’s shores by the end of the century. The state legislature soon ordered a four-year moratorium on official sea-level predictions and gave the Coastal Resources Commission(CRC) guidelines for developing a new official state forecast. In May, Frank Gorham III, chairman of the commission, announced that the next forecast will only predict sea-level rise for the next thirty years, a time span during which model-based predictions about sea level rise along the North Carolina coast – about eight inches — are largely accepted by both sides to the climate change debate. Gorham stresses, however, that he wants a “rolling” 30-year forecast to be updated every five years.

  • TerrorismExperts debate the vulnerability of Midwest cities to terrorist attacks

    The crises in Syria and Iraq have increased worries about terror cells taking aim at American targets, specifically New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. As larger cities step up their counterterrorism efforts, however, analysts debate whether less populated cities in the Midwest are safe or just as vulnerable to terror attacks.

  • Seismic risksL.A. to catalog buildings at risk of collapse during a major earthquake

    After years of efforts to get officials to catalog buildings at risk of collapse during a major earthquake, Los Angeles City Council late last month instructed building officials to establish a database of such buildings. About 29,226 buildings built before 1978 are subject to survey, but city officials would use mapping programs to narrow down which structures need further field inspection. The city estimates roughly 5,800 buildings are at risk, and an additional 11,690 buildings will need inspection on site to determine whether they are soft-story buildings or not. Los Angeles has yet to decide what to do once it compiles the list, and whether to require retrofitting of vulnerable buildings, but seismic experts and policymakers insist that finding out which buildings are vulnerable is a necessary first step.

  • Law enforcementPentagon’s excess equipment makes local police resemble military units

    In the early 1990s, Congress authorized the Pentagon to transfer excess military equipment to law enforcement agencies across the country for use in counter-drug activities. Since the program’s inception, the Pentagon has transferred $4.3 billion worth of military equipment to local and state agencies. In 2013 alone, $449,309,003 worth of military property was transferred to law enforcement. Critics say that more and more police departments now resemble military units, and that military gear is used in cases where it should not – as was the case in a small Florida town in 2010, when officers in SWAT gear drew out their guns on raids on barbershops that mostly led to charges of “barbering without a license.”

  • CybersecurityA first: San Francisco to feature encrypted Wi-Fi service

    The Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the city of San Francisco has announced that the city will implement a small, free Wi-Fi spot within the city which will offer encrypted service and, it is hoped, usher in a new standard for other urban centers.

  • InfrastructureNumber of structurally deficient bridges in U.S. declines

    The number of structurally deficient bridges in the United States has declined by 14 percent in the last six years, but despite the improvement, 10 percent of American bridges are in need of maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement. The average age of bridges in the country is forty-three years old, and most bridges were built to last for fifty-years, so eventually all bridges will become structurally deficient unless they are repaired or replaced.

  • BudgetS.D. high on the list of recipients of DHS funds, even as it faces “no specific or domestic terrorist threat”

    Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, DHS has established an office in each state which oversees millions of dollars in federal grant and aid money for security related measures. Groups monitoring the DHS allocation of funds to states note the large amount of money allocated to South Dakota, despite the fact that the state is considered by intelligence agencies and officials to be one of fifteen states that have “no specific or domestic terrorist threat.”

  • InfrastructureDebate continues over controversial lawsuit-killing Louisiana oil bill

    Governor Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana) is facing a difficult decision over whether or not to veto a measure which would kill a contentious lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) against ninety-seven different oil and gas companies regarding long-term environmental damage claims, including those of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion.

  • InfrastructureRecession-related cost measures blamed for U.S. infrastructure lagging development

    In an alarming fall, the United States is currently ranked 19th in the quality of its infrastructure, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. Additionally, the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given the country a D+ on its annual Infrastructure Report Card, arguing that $3.6 trillion is needed by 2020 for maintenance and upgrades.