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DHS And Partners Convene First Election Infrastructure Coordinating Council

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 19:03
Release Date: October 14, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

ATLANTA – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) joined the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), and state and local election officials from around the country today to convene the first Government Coordinating Council (GCC) for the Election Infrastructure Subsector. Today’s meeting is part of the department’s ongoing work with state and local officials as we build trusted relationships to help keep the nation’s election systems secure. The 27-member council includes three representatives from the federal government, with the remaining 24 representing state and local governments. The GCC framework provides a well-tested mechanism for sharing threat information between the federal government and council partners, advancing risk management efforts, and prioritizing focus of services available to sector partners in a trusted environment. Participation in the council is entirely voluntary and does not change the fundamental role of state and local jurisdictions in overseeing elections.

“Today’s council meeting shows the seriousness with which federal, state and local officials take the threats to election infrastructure, and the level of cooperation taking place to address it,” said Bob Kolasky, Acting Deputy Under Secretary of the DHS National Protections and Programs Directorate. “State and local officials have already taken a number of steps to improve the security of the nation’s elections, and under the Government Coordinating Council we will be able to further leverage resources and our collective expertise. The security of the nation’s elections are critical to our democracy, and DHS stands ready to support this important mission through exercises, information sharing, and technical cyber analysis and expertise.”

The GCC structure is established under the department’s authority to provide a forum in which the government and private sector entities can jointly engage in a broad spectrum of activities to support and coordinate critical infrastructure security and resilience efforts. It is used in each of the critical infrastructure sectors established under Presidential Policy Directive 21 on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience.

In January, DHS designated election infrastructure as a subsector of the existing Government Facilities critical infrastructure sector. The designation did not create any new regulations or directives, but instead enabled DHS to prioritize cybersecurity assistance to state and local election officials who request it, made clear domestically and internationally that election infrastructure enjoys all the benefits and protections of critical infrastructure that the U.S. government has to offer, and enabled full and frank discussions between DHS and key stakeholders regarding sensitive vulnerability information.

Members of the GCC for the Election Infrastructure Subsector include:

  • Lori Augino, Director of Elections, Washington
  • Chris H. Chambless, Elections Director, Clay County, Florida
  • Judd Choate, Director of Elections, Colorado*
  • Jim Condos, Secretary of State, Vermont
  • Edgardo Cortes, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Elections
  • Bob Giles, Director, Division of Elections, New Jersey
  • Mark Goins, Coordinator of Elections, Tennessee
  • Ricky Hatch, Clerk/Auditor, Weber County, Utah
  • Thomas Hicks, Vice Chairman, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
  • Sarah Johnson, City Clerk, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Neal Kelley, Registrar of Voters, Orange County, California
  • Bob Kolasky, Acting Deputy Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security*
  • Connie Lawson, Secretary of State, Indiana
  • Linda Lamone, Administer of Elections, Maryland State Board of Elections
  • Matthew Masterson, Chairman, U.S. Election Assistance Commission*
  • Denise Merrill, Secretary of State, Connecticut
  • Paul Pate, Secretary of State, Iowa
  • Noah Praetz, Director of Elections, Cook County, Illinois*
  • Steve Reed, Probate Judge, Montgomery County, Alabama
  • Tom Schedler, Secretary of State, Louisiana
  • Jake Spano, Chief of Staff/Deputy Secretary of State, Minnesota
  • David Stafford, Supervisor of Elections, Escambia County, Florida
  • Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Secretary of State, New Mexico
  • Todd Valentine, Co-Executive Director, New York State Board of Elections
  • Linda von Nessi, Clerk of the Essex County Board of Elections, New Jersey
  • Mac Warner, Secretary of State, West Virginia
  • Michael Winn, Director of Elections, Travis County, Texas 

*GCC Executive Committee Member

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Keywords:  Election infrastructure

DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke Visits Puerto Rico

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 19:47
Release Date: October 12, 2017

WASHINGTON - Acting Secretary Elaine Duke today made her third visit to Puerto Rico to meet with local officials and assess the status of ongoing response efforts. She met with the mayors of Ponce, Guayanilla and Santa Isabelto discuss how the federal government can best support the immediate needs of the people of Puerto Rico. Acting Secretary Duke also spoke by phone with Governor Ricardo Rosselló.

During a media availability Acting Secretary Duke remarked on the importance of what she learned during her visit, "I will leave today more dedicated than even before to ensure we continue with the recovery of Puerto Rico."

Acting Secretary Duke and Ponce Mayor Meléndez also delivered food and water to residents of a Ponce neighborhood.

In San Juan, Acting Secretary Duke met with Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne and U.S. military leadership on the island.

DHS, FEMA and its federal and Commonwealth partners remain focused on live-saving and life-sustaining actions, from distribution of food and water to addressing health care needs to power and communication system restoration.

Acting Secretary Duke with Ponce Mayor "Mayita" Meléndez Altieri unloading supplies from a CBP helicopter. (DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)

Acting Secretary Duke meets with residents affected by Hurricane Maria in Ponce, Puerto Rico. (DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)

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Keywords:  disaster relief, federal response, Hurricane, Hurricane Maria, natural disasters

DHS Releases Results of 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 16:08
Release Date: October 12, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – Today, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released its 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results. This government-wide survey was administered to over one million employees throughout 80 agencies, including a sample of 96,776 DHS employees.

Of the 15 cabinet-level agencies surveyed, DHS achieved the largest increase in both the Employee Engagement Index (EEI) and the Global Satisfaction Index (GSI). The DHS EEI increased four percentage points from 2016-2017 and the GSI increased six percentage points during the same time period.

The EEI is made up of three subcategories in which the survey questions are organized: Leaders Lead, Supervisors, and Intrinsic Work Experience. The GSI measures employee satisfaction with four aspects related to their work: their job, pay, organization, and whether or not they would recommend their organization as a good place to work.

DHS has taken tremendous strides in recent years to ensure that its workforce feels supported, empowered, and equipped to successfully execute the duties and responsibilities necessary to keep our Nation secure. To further these efforts, Acting Secretary Duke launched a Year of Leadership at the beginning of October 2017 to reinforce the culture of leadership excellence that exists at DHS and to promote resources and tools for the Department’s current and future supervisors and managers so that they may receive the training and education required for effective leadership.

DHS is comprised of nearly 240,000 dedicated professionals who have committed themselves to keeping our nation, our people and our way of life safe.  Working across the Department, DHS looks forward to continued progress on the FEVS in the years ahead.

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Topics:  Homeland Security Enterprise Keywords:  Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey

Coordinated Federal Support Continues for U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 08:45
Release Date: October 12, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON – FEMA and the full force of the federal government continue to make progress towards recovery, working hand-in-hand with U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico officials, municipalities, businesses, and voluntary agencies on the islands since Hurricane Irma’s landfall on Sept. 6 and Hurricane Maria’s landfall on Sept. 19.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused catastrophic damage across both the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. After enduring two Category IV hurricanes in less than two weeks, nearly all critical infrastructure was devastated. 

While very real challenges to restoring damaged infrastructure remain, more than 19,000 federal civilian personnel and military service members are supporting the islands, working 24 hours a day in support of the hurricane disaster relief mission. These efforts include restoring power and potable water, returning hospitals to operation, increasing fuel supplies, increasing cell phone coverage, and re-opening transportation facilities.

Although it will take time for communities to recover, residents are seeing some services being restored in their communities. FEMA, in coordination and partnership with 36 federal departments and agencies, remains focused on helping the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico with life-sustaining commodities and other essential services. As more businesses open and public services are restored, quality of life will continue to improve for many residents. 

Tangible signs of recovery in the U.S. Virgin Islands include full restoration and operation of 911 services in St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. As of Tuesday, some schools reopened on St. Thomas. More schools are scheduled to reopen in St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix in the coming days. 

In St. Thomas, 95 percent of roadways are passable and no major roadways are closed. Airports are open for commercial service in St. Thomas and St. Croix. In St. Croix, a Disaster Recovery Center opened Sunday where survivors are receiving one-on-one support. Across the U.S. Virgin Islands, service providers have numerous wi-fi hot spots set up to facilitate internet access for survivors, including several new locations opening this week in St. Croix.

In Puerto Rico, all airports and federally-maintained deep-water ports are open to full operations or operating with restrictions, and power has been restored to 96 percent of hospitals. Additionally, the metropolitan bus service by Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses restarted. 

In Puerto Rico, FEMA approved more than $53 million in federal disaster assistance to individuals through the Individuals and Households (IHP) program, for hurricanes Maria and Irma. This federal disaster assistance helps eligible applicants with home repairs, under and uninsured personal property losses and medical, dental and funeral expenses caused by the disaster. It also helps cover other disaster-related expenses and other needs. In addition, to date, FEMA approved more than $169 million in federal funding for emergency work for hurricanes Maria and Irma.  This includes $54.6 million awarded to the Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority (PREPA) for the repair of the electrical power system. 

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, FEMA has approved more than $2.5 million in federal disaster assistance through IHP to individuals affected by hurricanes Maria and Irma. In addition, to date, FEMA approved more than $35 million in federal assistance for emergency protective measures, debris removal, and repair or replacement of damaged facilities to territorial, government, and eligible non-profit organizations, under the Public Assistance program.

Below are updates on where we are today in the efforts to support Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in their ongoing recovery from hurricanes Irma and Maria.

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Hospitals and Medical

Federal teams, as well as the private sector, continue supporting the governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, , to restore power and delivery of fuel to hospitals and medical centers so that essential services to disaster survivors continue to return.

In Puerto Rico, 97 percent of hospitals* have power restored or are operating on generator power.  Four of seven regional pediatric centers are open.  The Veterans Affairs Hospital at San Juan Medical Center has reopened and eight outpatient clinics are seeing patients. Additionally, 46 of the 48 dialysis centers are open*. All hospitals are connected to drinking water service or receive water from water tanker trucks.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is supporting plans for intermediate-term hospitals to meet health care needs. As part of hospital assessments, satellite phones and portable radios are being provided to assist with maintaining critical services and patient support.

Eleven U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) medical teams are stationed across Puerto Rico to support local medical facilities, medical shelters and field medical stations. These teams have cared for more than 1,600 patients.  HHS teams are also working with federal and territorial partners to make contact with elder care facilities to ensure they are also being cared for.  In partnership with Department of Defense (DoD), HHS is working with private sector heath care systems on sustainment strategies while electricity is being restored. Also, HHS activated the Emergency Prescription Assistance Program to help 500,000 residents who do not have access to health care.

The United States Naval Ship (USNS) Comfort is currently providing additional support to hospitals by treating critical patients. The USNS Comfort has treated more than 78 acute care patients, ranging in age from six months to 89 years.

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, HHS and medical teams are in place supporting medical and hospital operations. A 73-person DoD medical company established mobile medical services at the Schneider Regional Medical Center in St. Thomas and another medical company is setting up a full field medical layout in St. Croix; and HHS personnel are augmenting staff at the Gen. Juan Luis Hospital in St. Croix and the Morris F. deCastro Clinic in St. John. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) personnel are conducting health assessments in St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, while a Public Health Service advisory team is in St. Thomas to provide direct support to the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health.

Schools

The U.S. Department of Education and numerous federal teams are working with Commonwealth and territory government officials to restore school operations to provide educational services for children.

U.S. Virgin Islands schools have begun to reopen this week; seven schools in St. Thomas opened on Oct. 10, and more schools are scheduled to reopen in St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John in the coming days. The facilities were cleared of debris, and will be operating on alternate power, as required.

The Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) is managing 22 fixed feeding sites at schools. These locations are providing breakfast and lunch for students and survivors seven days a week until further notice. PRDE is working with the Department of Education and its partners to complete assessments of schools.

Commodity Distribution

The distribution of food and water remains a top priority. FEMA, DoD and federal partners have delivered more than 7.6 million meals and 6.4 million liters of water to Puerto Rico, and 4.4 million meals and 2.9 million liters of water to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Puerto Rico established ten Regional Staging Areas around the island to provide commodities to mayors for distribution to citizens, and the National Guard is supporting delivery of supplies to these locations. Points of distribution are also being established for delivering commodities directly to the public. Supplies were dropped from airplanes to isolated communities in remote areas and places where roads are impassable. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided municipalities with hundreds of thousands of meals at fixed facilities. 

The Salvation Army, Feeding America, the American Red Cross and other voluntary agencies continue to deliver food and water across the islands through shelters and senior centers. Additional meals and water continue to arrive to the islands regularly via air and sea.

Power Restoration & Generators

Across the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria destroyed most of the power transmission lines that carry electricity from the power plants to the power distribution centers in major population centers, as well as the local power lines that run to residences and businesses.

Electrical power has been restored to 20 percent of customers in St. John, 20 percent of customers in St. Thomas and 10 percent of customers in St. Croix , with 10 percent restoration* in Puerto Rico.

While progress continues to be made on both islands, federal resources continue to provide temporary power support. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers temporary power response teams have been on the ground since before the storm and continue to assess power needs and install generators at critical facilities.

In Puerto Rico, unified efforts among the Department of Energy, USACE, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the private sector continue to restore the power grid. As of Oct. 10, USACE installed 53 generators at critical facilities in Puerto Rico, powering critical infrastructure including hospitals and shelters, and completed 240 generator assessments. 

To date, USACE installed 53 generators in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and completed 177 generator assessments.

Communications

In Puerto Rico, 53 percent of telecommunications service, wired and wireless, has been restored*, and the U.S. Virgin Islands has 43 percent cell phone coverage.

As more cell towers are being revitalized around the island, communications among disaster survivors, responders, and government municipalities increases. Mayors have satellite phones to facilitate communication with Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency and the federal government.

The private sector is helping lead the communication restoration effort, providing portable cell trucks, known as “Cell on Wheels,” to critical communications areas in Puerto Rico. The trucks are able to provide a two-mile cell phone coverage range on flat terrain.  As of Oct. 5, approximately one-third of Puerto Rico’s very high frequency (VHF) radio system is back online, allowing for communication among more than 30 municipalities.

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, wi-fi hot spots were deployed through a partnership with industry providers to provide connectivity to the public, and are also being used by the territorial government and responders. 

Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams

Disasters Survivor Assistance (DSA) teams are on the ground performing on-the-spot needs assessments, addressing requests for disability-related accommodations, and assisting with referrals to partners offering additional survivor services. 

In some locations, they are accepting on-site registrations for individual assistance financial aid.  DSA teams have registered more than 3,000 survivors for assistance in the U.S. Virgin Islands; and more than 11,000 in Puerto Rico.

*Data provided by Status.pr

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, emergency response, federal response, FEMA, Hurricane, Hurricane Maria, natural disasters

Written testimony of NPPD for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness Response, and Communications hearing titled “Assessing First Responder Communications”

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: October 12, 2017

210 House Capitol Visitor Center

Thank you, Chairman Donovan, Ranking Member Payne, and esteemed members of the subcommittee. It is a pleasure to be here once again to discuss the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts in enhancing the Nation’s interoperable emergency communications. Before my last appearance in front of this Subcommittee, the Department had just released the 2014 National Emergency Communications Plan, which identified the unprecedented change public safety communications will be going through with the deployment of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), Next Generation 911 (NG911), and cellular alerts and warnings systems. The Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) is working with public safety to implement the goals and objectives in the 2014 Plan to ensure these disparate systems work together seamlessly.

Since our formation a decade ago, OEC has partnered with public safety to develop standards and best practices to achieve interoperable communications. In 2008, Land Mobile Radio (LMR) was the main system used by public safety. But soon, just as the average citizen relies on cellular broadband, public safety officials will be able to receive multimedia data with FirstNet capabilities. As a result, OEC has expanded our programs to achieve interoperability in a Land Mobile Radio and cellular broadband environment. OEC continues to strategize how best to ensure that plans and investments keep pace with this ever-changing telecommunications environment. Recent events have shown that the Nation must continue to improve these capabilities, making sure that first responders are ready to get the information that they need to help citizens during a disaster. With citizen-to-citizen communications drastically changing from voice only to texting and other multimedia means, these communications capabilities will revolutionize how citizens engage with public safety and how first responders communicate with one another. However, as I said when I was last before you, emergency communications is largely a people issue. Technology will continue to evolve over time and so our job is to support the effective use of this technology through governance, standard operating procedures, and joint exercises and training. This is the critical work that will ensure interoperability when it is needed most – at the next incident or event.

Update on the Office of Emergency Communications

OEC was established in 2007 as part of the Congressional response to the communications challenges experienced during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and, before that, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Our mandate directs OEC to carry out a range of activities to support policy officials and first responders at all levels of government – Federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal – as they work to achieve, maintain, and enhance operable and interoperable emergency communications capabilities.

Working at the National Level

OEC is the primary driver of strategic planning and coordination to improve emergency communications interoperability nationwide. Through a stakeholder-driven process, OEC authors the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP), which provides strategic guidance for the public safety community and Federal agencies to improve emergency communications capabilities. Since the release of the 2014 Plan, OEC has partnered with public safety officials across the Nation, and at all levels of government, to increase capabilities and address communications interoperability gaps. We put people at the center of all of our work because interoperability can only be achieved when those responsible for emergency and incident communications engage in proper planning, governance, training, and usage initiatives.

OEC is the executive agent of SAFECOM, a public safety advisory board which aims to improve multi-jurisdictional and intergovernmental communications interoperability. The group works with DHS and key emergency response stakeholders across all levels of government and all public safety disciplines to address the need to improve existing communications systems and coordination while developing future tools. SAFECOM is comprised of representatives from associations, such as the International Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of State 911 Administrators, the International Association of Emergency Managers, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, to name a few. SAFECOM develops numerous best practices and guidance documents every year to support its members’ goals and provides input into OEC’s programs, products, and services.

OEC also manages the Communications Unit (COMU) program, which outlines the functions, positions, training, and certification required to support interoperable incident communications. The current COMU program only addresses LMR interoperability. In 2017 and continuing through 2018, SAFECOM, in partnership with the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators, created a working group to update the COMU program to include broadband and data into incident communications. The working group, comprised of communications experts from across the Nation, is identifying the COMU functions required to support data and broadband use, developing COMU positions required to address those functions, creating training curriculum for the new positions, and supporting states and territories in establishing COMU certification programs.

OEC continues to support state and local public safety in their planning efforts, working with SAFECOM to develop two documents related to governance planning and implementation. The first is the SAFECOM Guidance on Emergency Communications Grants. This annual document provides recommendations to grantees seeking funding for interoperable emergency communications projects, including allowable costs, items to consider when funding projects, grants management best practices, and information on standards that ensure greater interoperability.

The second document developed with SAFECOM is the Emergency Communications Governance Guide for State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Officials, released in 2015. This tool lays out governance challenges, best practices, and recommendations on how to establish and maintain effective Statewide Interoperability Governing Bodies (SIGBs) that represent all emergency communications capabilities. This nationally developed resource includes a range of broad approaches, allowing officials to select and apply recommendations at the state, local, tribal, or territorial level that are most appropriate for their specific situation or challenge.

Additionally, OEC is leading the development of the Next Generation Network Priority Services, which will enable National Security and Emergency Preparedness (NS/EP) users to have priority voice, data, and video communications in commercial networks.

Working at the State and Territorial Level

Many have heard me talk about the importance of governance and we continue to see this as an area that we all must pay particular attention to as we move into the future of emergency communications. Anyone that has worked in public safety will tell you that having the greatest technology available cannot, on its own, provide interoperable emergency communications. People and processes must be a major consideration to fully achieve interoperability. OEC has recognized a steady decrease in full-time Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (SWICs) – from years ago, when many states and territories had a full-time SWIC to now, where there are just 12. We have also seen a decline in the activeness of SIGBs, which serve as the primary steering groups for statewide interoperability. Many SIGBs are meeting less frequently or, in some cases, have disbanded all together making interoperability more difficult to achieve. We have heard from many of our partners that this is due to a lack of funding available to emergency communications. This is something that we all must pay more attention to and work together to find ways to help states increase their emergency communications governance capabilities. To address these gaps, OEC works with all 56 states and territories to establish and improve their SIGB, support their SWIC, and update their Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan (SCIP) through direct technical assistance.

Additionally, in 2016 OEC partnered with the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices to launch a policy academy to identify challenges and potential solutions towards further enhancing governance structures, planning for new technologies and securing sustainable funding. Five states participated in the policy academy - Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Utah, and West Virginia. Findings from the NGA Policy Academy are critical to our efforts to help States look at their emergency communications systems together to pass information seamlessly. Right now, funding and staffing for a new system is sometimes done without considering the systems related to the proposed new tool. States must approach these systems’ funding and staffing in an integrated way to better allocate resources.

One result that has come out of this project is OEC’s development of the Enhanced SCIP Pilot, which launched earlier this year. The new plans that are being developed during this project will provide a more intensive review of governance, technology and funding sustainment. OEC is currently working with nine states to deliver the Enhanced SCIP Pilot and will evaluate the results to inform strategic planning support in FY 2018.

Working at the Local Level

In addition to engaging our partners through stakeholder groups, we also work directly with public safety officials to further the Nation’s interoperable emergency communications. Through technical assistance offerings, provided at no cost, we assist public safety with the planning, governance, operational, and technical aspects of developing and implementing interoperable communications initiatives. To date, OEC has provided more than 1,500 technical assistance visits. In response to changing technology and stakeholder feedback, OEC has expanded technical assistance offerings to cover broadband and cybersecurity initiatives.

OEC also works with public safety to identify capability gaps at the local level. One such example is the Interoperable Communications Capabilities Analysis Program (ICCAP). ICCAP is designed to help local, state, and Federal agencies enhance their overall capacity to communicate with one another, using both voice and data, focusing on interoperability across the public safety communications ecosystem and preparing for the unexpected emergency or incident during a planned event. OEC has conducted 16 ICCAP events over the past year. For each event, OEC has developed After Action Reports for the organizing agencies to understand strengths and areas of improvement. OEC is currently analyzing the capability data across all observations to identify the changes in incident communications which will inform future technical assistance offerings and products.

Also at the local level, OEC provides priority telecommunications and restoration services to ensure that the NS/EP community can communicate under all circumstances. The priority services portfolio includes Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) to connect calls during landline congestion, Wireless Priority Service (WPS) to connect calls during wireless network congestion, and Telecommunications Service Priority (TSP) providing priority treatment for vital voice and data circuits or other telecommunications services.

Working at the Federal Level

On the Federal side, OEC manages the Emergency Communications Preparedness Center (ECPC), a group of 14 Federal agencies with a significant role in emergency communications. Its members represent the Federal Government’s broad role in emergency communications, including regulation, policy, operations, grants, and technical assistance. Together, SAFECOM and the ECPC coordinate activities, such as grant funding guidance, 911 initiatives, and emergency communications strategic planning. The ECPC Grant Focus Group Chair is a FirstNet staff member, ensuring that the annual grant guidance supports efforts to integrate LMR and broadband.

We are seeing remarkable coordination between Federal and state public safety as they begin to allow each other to operate on existing communications systems. OEC currently supports efforts to develop Memorandums of Understanding between the Federal Government and states to allow non-Federal agencies to access the Federal Enforcement and Incident Response Interoperability Channels. We are also supporting similar coordination where Federal agencies are granted access to statewide systems. This cooperation leads to improved coordination between Federal and state officials and an enhanced ability to manage incidents.

OEC Coordinators

OEC employs subject matter experts located across the country to engage state, local, tribal, and territorial officials as they address the complex issues facing the emergency communications ecosystem. These OEC Coordinators have extensive experience in public safety, many previously serving as first responders. Leveraging their real-world experiences, they are able to build trusted relationships, enhance collaboration, stimulate comprehensive planning, and encourage the sharing of best practices and information between public safety organizations, appointed and elected officials, critical infrastructure owners and operators, and key non-government organizations. Coordinators provide event support and coordination, conduct training and technical assistance, coordinate and participate in capability assessments, advise on and support statewide governance activities, and provide a link to additional Federal resources.

OEC Response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, & Maria

When I last appeared before this Subcommittee, I explained about OEC’s assistance to Boston to assess and improve its emergency communications capabilities and how that enabled the city’s response when two improvised explosive devices detonated near the Boston Marathon’s finish line in 2013. Recent events have shown the continued importance of emergency communications to support public safety as they prepare for and respond to a major event. During Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we saw wireless communications degraded in the affected areas due to damaged infrastructure. And while few public safety answering points (PSAP) went down, some had to be rerouted for various reasons. OEC supported public safety at all levels as they responded to these storms, providing on-the-ground support, as well as assistance from the National Capital Region. During an event, the National Coordinating Center for Communications (NCC), part of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, leads emergency communications response and recovery efforts under Emergency Support Function #2 of the National Response Framework. As part of DHS’ response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, fourteen members of the OEC team supplemented the efforts of the NCC, providing emergency communications assistance, including emergency operations center staffing, priority communications support, and regional communications knowledge at the Federal, state, and local levels.

The extensive damage from Hurricane Maria shows the importance of rapid restoration of communications to enable information collection, dissemination, and coordination in response to the incident. The rebuilding of the communications infrastructure is taking a coordinated effort between the government and commercial carriers.

During an event, the National Coordinating Center for Communications (NCC), part of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, leads emergency communications response and recovery efforts under Emergency Support Function #2 of the National Response Framework. As part of DHS’ response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, fourteen members of the OEC team supplemented the efforts of the NCC, providing emergency communications assistance, including emergency operations center staffing, priority communications support, and regional communications knowledge at the Federal, state, and local levels.

OEC’s Priority Services programs remained fully functional throughout the storms where communications infrastructure was still working. GETS and WPS provide essential personnel priority access and prioritized processing, greatly increasing the probability of call completion. GETS focuses on the local and long distance segments of the landline networks, while WPS targets all nationwide cellular networks. OEC also manages TSP, which provides service vendors a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate to prioritize requests by identifying those services critical to national security and emergency preparedness. A TSP assignment ensures that it will receive priority attention by the service vendor before any non-TSP service. These services processed thousands of calls from first responders and government officials as they worked to respond to the aftermath of the recent storms.

Supporting Interoperable Emergency Communications into the Future

Not long ago, the emergency communications ecosystem consisted of a citizen calling a PSAP for help, a call operator radioing the information to fire or police, and public safety officials and responders speaking to each other on LMR. However, new technologies are drastically changing the emergency communications ecosystem, not only transforming how citizens talk to each other, but also how public safety works together and engages with citizens. We cannot ignore the transition to these new communications technologies and the advantages they bring. However, we must ensure we continue to support our partners through training, technical assistance, and best practices as long as LMR remains a communications tool for public safety.

Integrating LMR and Broadband Communications

Although LMR remains essential in emergency communications, the benefits and opportunities broadband offers to public safety are undeniable. Citizens will be able to send a picture of a suspicious package or videos of an event as it is happening to PSAPs that can then share those files with first responders. This capability provides critical information in determining how to respond and what resources will be needed. It is hard to speak of these advancements without also mentioning the progress toward implementing the newest tool in the emergency communications toolbox – the NPSBN. FirstNet, an independent authority within the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, recently awarded its contract to build the broadband network and we at the DHS Office of Emergency Communications applaud them in doing so. Until broadband can support mission critical voice to public safety, LMR will continue to be the primary method of communication for the near future. However, this is clearly a major step towards full implementation of a capability that will greatly improve interoperable communications across the country.

From the early days of envisioning this new network, OEC has supported both the FirstNet team and state and local public safety as they prepare for full implementation of the system. OEC provided support in developing the FirstNet Request for Proposal, as well as assistance with identity, credentialing and access management responsibilities. The ECPC was designated by FirstNet to coordinate the needs for Federal users of the network, collecting network requirements and security standards from all departments and agencies. In response to feedback from our state and local partners, we have recently added technical assistance offerings specifically focused on assisting with preparation and planning for deployment of broadband, including FirstNet. These offerings focus on broadband education, governance, planning, engineering, and data collection. OEC also worked with FirstNet to develop Roadmap to 2020, which outlines key considerations and resources impacting the emergency communications grants community and enables coordination across Federal agencies to understand how grant programs can support the deployment of broadband systems. In September, I assumed the DHS FirstNet board member duties and look forward to continuing to support the implementation of the NPSBN in this new capacity.

Cybersecurity

As communications move toward broadband networks like FirstNet, there are new issues and risks that must be considered – not least of them, cybersecurity. Many of the concerns that the Full Committee has studied in hearings and briefings related to cybersecurity are the same issues that must be considered during this transition. Emergency communications networks are only as secure as its weakest connection; vulnerabilities at any point have the potential to affect the entire network. In addition to our technical assistance offerings related to cybersecurity, OEC assists our stakeholders through various programs and activities. Through the Cyber and Physical Threat and Risk Analysis to Improve Networks (CAPTAIN) program, DHS collaborates with public and private emergency communications stakeholders to increase understanding and awareness about critical cyber and physical risks that could threaten the mission of first responders and public safety agencies. And last year, OEC, in coordination with the Department of Transportation’s 911 Office, developed the NG911 Cybersecurity Primer, which helps PSAP operators improve the cybersecurity posture of relevant systems nationwide and provides an overview of the cyber risks that will be faced by NG911 systems. The Primer serves as an informational tool for system administrators to better understand the full scope and range of potential risks, as well as recommend mitigations to these risks. Finally, OEC supported the FCC’s Task Force on Optimal Public Safety Answering Point Architecture, a comprehensive study of the future of PSAPs, the integration of NG911, the cybersecurity risks and proposed solutions to address the risks.

Grants

The Department has provided multiple grants to public safety to enhance their emergency communications capabilities. Starting in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007, the Department provided two emergency communications-related grants to States and territories, the first of which was the Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) Grant Program. PSIC was a one-time grant program of the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which provided a total of $1 billion, with each state and territory receiving funds to support the development of statewide, regional, and local systems. FEMA administered the grant program on behalf of NTIA. About 90% of the funds were spent on equipment. Also, from FY2008 – FY2010, FEMA and OEC partnered to administer the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program (IECGP). Over these three years, IECGP provided more than $145 million to public safety to improve their governance, planning, training, exercise and equipment. This included updating a state’s SCIP and funding their SWIC and SIGB. These programs helped states lay a great foundation for their emergency communication capabilities. Emergency communication equipment costs are allowable expenses under FEMA’s Homeland Security Grant Program.

The OEC-administered Border Interoperability Demonstration Project (BIDP) just recently released its closeout report. BIDP was a $25.5 million one-time, competitive program to provide funding and technical assistance to U.S. communities along the Canadian and Mexican borders. OEC recently published its closeout report and is in the process of developing tools, templates, and studies based off of the best practices, lessons learned, and processes successfully demonstrated by BIDP award recipients. Additionally, last year, OEC established the Rural Emergency Medical Communications Demonstration Project (REMCDP), a one-time $2 million project to work with a public and state controlled institution of higher education to examine communications barriers and identify solutions that enhance existing emergency communications infrastructure. Through a competitive process, OEC awarded the funds to the University of Mississippi Medical Center to support the First Hands Project, which will test an innovative approach to communications governance, planning, coordination, training and exercises. We are in the middle of the period of performance and are already seeing significant accomplishments in meeting the program’s objectives. We look forward to briefing you on what we learn at the end of the REMCDP.

SAFECOM Nationwide Survey

The SAFECOM Nationwide Survey (SNS) will be a nationwide data collection effort to obtain actionable and critical data that drives our Nation’s emergency communication policies, programs, and funding. OEC and SAFECOM will distribute the survey to Federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal emergency response provider organizations with a) a public safety-related mission and b) users of public safety communications technology. Questions will be organized by the five critical success elements of the SAFECOM Interoperability Continuum – Governance, Standard Operating Procedures, Technology, Training & Exercises, and Usage – with the addition of a Security element, which will touch on cybersecurity. Results of the survey will help government officials and emergency responders better understand emergency communications needs so that they can make data-driven funding, policy, and programmatic decisions to strengthen capabilities. We look forward to receiving and analyzing SNS survey results, which will be published in the upcoming Nationwide Communications Baseline Assessment (NCBA).

The Next National Emergency Communication Plan

OEC is in the early planning phase for the next update of the National Emergency Communications Plan. Later this year, we will begin working with our public safety partners to solicit their critical feedback and participation in Plan development. The most important inputs to this document, as was true with the 2014 NECP, will be from the public safety practitioners in the field who are charged with protecting and saving lives. The next NECP will further expand on the communications ecosystem concept developed in 2014 and will be informed by more current efforts including the previously mentioned NGA Policy Academy, the ICCAP analysis, and results from the SNS.

Conclusion

Thank you, Chairman Donovan, Ranking Member Payne, and the Members of this Committee. Ten years ago, Congress set up the Office of Emergency Communications to support our stakeholders as they coordinate activities and share information to improve their interoperable emergency communications capabilities. We have seen tremendous changes since then and, as emergency communications evolves, we stand ready to continue our strong coordination efforts with public safety ensuring they are well prepared for the future, leveraging the various tools available – NG911, broadband, and LMR. I look forward to our discussion this morning and I am pleased to answer any questions that you may have.

Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, First Responders Keywords:  ECPC, Emergency Communications Preparedness Center, FirstNet, interoperability, interoperable communications, National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators, National Emergency Communications Plan, NECP, SAFECOM, Statewide Interoperability Coordinators, SWIC

FEMA Approves More Than $140 Million in Assistance to Puerto Rico

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 09:08
Release Date: October 11, 2017

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved more than $44 million for assistance to individuals and more than $96 million for emergency work in response to hurricanes Irma and Maria.

FEMA continues to take registrations from residents of Puerto Rico who incurred damages to their homes and personal property as a result of hurricanes Irma and Maria. 

Individuals and households in Puerto Rico can register online at www.disasterassistance.gov, or by calling 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 1-800-462-7585.  FEMA teams are also on the ground meeting face-to-face with disaster survivors and helping with registrations. 

FEMA awarded the Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority (PREPA) $54.6 million for emergency work.

PREPA is an autonomous agency of the Government of Puerto Rico that produces and distributes electricity to more than 1.5 million customers and is a not-for-profit public corporation. During the incident period that began on September 17, strong winds, storms, floods, debris and fallen trees associated with Hurricane Maria caused severe damages and the collapse of the electrical power system throughout Puerto Rico.

These funds are in addition to the more than $41.6 million awarded for other emergency work.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, emergency response, federal response, FEMA, Hurricane, Hurricane Maria, natural disasters

From Devastation to Recovery: One Month After Hurricane Irma

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 09:02
Release Date: October 11, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

ORLANDO, Fla. – From Pensacola on the west end of the Panhandle to Key West, Hurricane Irma has had a severe impact across the state of Florida.

A combined federal, state, local, and private sector response resulted in restoration of power to 99.9% of the population within 10 days of landfall. At peak, there were some 60,000 utility linemen in the state. Fuel depots were established around the state that provided gas to first responders and utility workers, allowing them to continue working uninterrupted.

As we move into recovery, FEMA, state and local governments are committed to assisting Floridians in rebuilding their lives after the storm. Registering with FEMA is the first step in beginning the recovery process. Nearly 2.4 million homeowners and renters who suffered damage as a result of Hurricane Irma have already registered. The deadline to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for possible federal disaster assistance is Nov. 9.

In the one month since the major disaster declaration in Florida, the recovery continues. Here is a look at whole community progress made through the efforts of tireless emergency workers, volunteers and community organizers.

$847 million

More than $847 million in state and federal disaster assistance funding has been approved for Hurricane Irma survivors and their communities.

$494 million for housing, $245 million for other needs

Individuals eligible for assistance received more than $494 million for housing assistance and more than $245 million for other needs.


Survivors of Hurricane Irma in Immokalee, Florida line up at the Immokalee High School Red Cross Shelter to donate needed supplies for their community. As donations are made, distribution of those products also takes place.

4,536 roofs

Operation Blue Roof, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers program FEMA tasks in disasters, placed plastic sheeting over the damaged area of 4,536 home roofs to help prevent further damage.


Contracted workers install a blue tarp on a roof damaged by Hurricane Irma as a part of FEMA / The Corps of Engineers "Operation Blue Roof" program in Monroe County (Cudjoe Key), Florida on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. Photo by J.T. Blatty / FEMA

18,000 referrals

FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance crews made nearly 18,000 referrals to non-profit programs serving individuals and communities of Florida, including the 211 telephone-based service, faith-based and affiliated charities, American Red Cross, aging services, crisis counseling and veteran’s services.


Hearts with Hands is one of many voluntary groups providing disaster assistance in response to Hurricane Irma. They are giving food and supplies to survivors that drive through their distribution site in Naples, Florida.

6.7 million total meals

More than 6.7 million meals have been provided by volunteers. Among them were American Red Cross members who provided nearly 1.2 million meals and snacks.


Shane Vansant (right) and Joshua Howard hand out food to Hurricane Irma survivors at a supply distribution point in Key West, Florida on Monday, September 18, 2017. Photo by J.T. Blatty / FEMA

65,654 survivors

Disaster Survivor Assistance teams met face-to-face with 65,654 survivors to assist them in registering and obtaining information about resources and assistance.


FEMA disaster survivor assistant Paul Balsam (center) on foot in Big Pine Key, Florida, helping Hurricane Irma survivors register for assistance on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.

2.4 million

Nearly 2.4 million survivors have applied to FEMA for disaster assistance.


FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistants provided help in registering survivors of Hurricane Irma with FEMA at Senator Rubio's Recovery Assistance Center in Immokalee, Florida.

216,528 housing inspections

216,528 FEMA housing inspections, an essential part of the recovery process, have been completed.


Kissimmee, Fla, Oct. 9, 2017-- FEMA Inspector, Christopher Caso, performing an inspection on a home damaged during Hurricane Irma.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, emergency response, federal response, FEMA, Hurricane, Hurricane Irma, natural disasters

Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke's Statement on Immigration Legislation: Priorities and Principles

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 20:50
Release Date: October 8, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke’s statement on the President’s Immigration Legislation: Priorities and Principles sent today to the U.S. Congress:

"When crafting the Administration's immigration principles, the President asked us to focus on measures that will assist the Department of Homeland Security’s law enforcement personnel with what they need to enforce our immigration laws, secure our border, and protect American communities across this country.

"DHS frontline personnel identified many of the principles outlined today, including closing loopholes in our ability to enforce immigration laws and eliminating the magnets for illegal immigration.  I look forward to working with Congress on legislation that will enact many of these common sense and necessary reforms that will inevitably better secure our nation.”

 

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Topics:  Immigration Enforcement Keywords:  Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, immigration, immigration enforcement

Island-Wide Radio System Coming Back Online

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 09:44
Release Date: October 6, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Approximately one-third of the island’s VHF radio system is back on-line allowing for communication between more than 30 municipalities. The system is expected to be fully functional throughout the island by early next week.  The repair and energizing of the system will now allow for communication between municipalities and with the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency. 

Since Hurricane Maria, communication has been out across the island, hampering the ability of mayors to communicate their needs. The restoration is joined by more and more cell towers being re-energized around the periphery of the island, increasing communications of government municipalities and Puerto Ricans.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, federal response, FEMA, Hurricane, Hurricane Maria, natural disasters

U.S. Virgin Islanders Displaced from HUD Housing May Be Eligible for FEMA Help

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 09:37
Release Date: October 6, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

ST. CROIX, Virgin Islands – U.S. Virgin Islanders who were directly impacted by hurricanes Irma or Maria and were receiving rental assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) before the storms should register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas (including Water Island) have all been designated for FEMA Individual Assistance as a result of major disaster declarations for hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Virgin Islands.

Affected residents can apply for FEMA help if they were displaced from their HUD-assisted housing because of the hurricanes. This includes those who were:

  • Living in HUD-assisted public housing, or
  • Living in a privately owned apartment that provides rental assistance from HUD, or
  • Living in a private home or apartment using a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher from a housing authority.

Survivors may be eligible for temporary assistance to pay for a place to live, or for grants to replace essential contents such as clothing and essential household items, as well as medical, dental and burial expenses.

Those who have HUD rental assistance may receive FEMA help to pay for a place to live until they relocate to public housing, relocate to private housing that provides HUD assistance, or they sign a lease with a private property owner using a Section 8 voucher.

Federal law prevents FEMA from duplicating benefits provided by another agency. When a HUD-assisted resident’s home becomes unlivable, HUD stops paying rental assistance for that residence. The survivor may then apply for FEMA Individual Assistance. There is no duplication of benefits because HUD is not paying rental assistance.

When the survivor moves back into a HUD-assisted residence, or signs a new lease for rental housing under the Section 8 program, HUD assistance resumes. At that point, the survivor may no longer receive FEMA assistance.

Virgin Islanders who have not yet registered with FEMA can do so online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, in Spanish at www.DisasterAssistance.gov/es, or by phone at

800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services may call 800-621-3362.

The toll-free telephone numbers operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice. Operators are standing by to assist survivors in English, Spanish and many other languages.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, federal response, FEMA, Hurricane, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, natural disasters

First U.S.-China Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Dialogue

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 09:35
Release Date: October 6, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

Summary of Outcomes

On October 4, 2017, Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, together with Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun, co-chaired the first U.S.-China Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Dialogue (LECD).  The LECD is one of four dialogues agreed to by President Trump and President Xi during their first meeting in Mar-a-Lago in April 2017 and is an important forum for advancing bilateral law enforcement and cyber priorities between our two governments.

The following topics were discussed:

  1. Repatriation. Both sides acknowledged the need to make continued progress in the area of repatriation of foreign nationals with final orders of removal. The United States and China committed to develop a repeatable process whereby the identities of individuals with final orders of removal are verified in a timely manner and travel documents are issued within 30 days of verification. This process should be finalized within three months following the LECD.
  2. Counter-narcotics. Both sides intend to continue to enhance cooperation on narcotics control and enforcement. Such cooperation may include: exchanging intelligence and operational information on trafficking of new psychoactive substances and other synthetic drugs, opioids, and cocaine; combatting the illicit production and trafficking of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances and precursor chemicals, with attention to applicable laws, scheduling actions, and use of express mail and consignment services; exchanging technical information on the relevant science and law; demand reduction cooperation; exchanging views on international narcotics control issues through UN-based and other multilateral forums; and sharing tracking information for packages between the two countries so as to identify individuals and criminal networks responsible for narcotics trafficking.  
  3. Cybercrime and Cybersecurity. Both sides will continue their implementation of the consensus reached by the Chinese and American Presidents in 2015 on U.S.-China cybersecurity cooperation, consisting of the five following points: (1) that timely responses should be provided to requests for information and assistance concerning malicious cyber activities; (2) that neither country’s government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors; (3) to make common effort to further identify and promote appropriate norms of state behavior in cyberspace within the international community; (4) to maintain a high-level joint dialogue mechanism on fighting cybercrime and related issues; and (5) to enhance law enforcement communication on cyber security incidents and to mutually provide timely responses.

    Both sides reiterated that all consensus and cooperative documents achieved at the three rounds of the China-U.S. High-Level Joint Dialogue on Combating Cyber Crimes and Related Issues since 2015 remain valid.

    Both sides intend to improve cooperation with each other on cybercrime, including sharing cybercrime-related leads and information, and responding to Mutual Legal Assistance requests, in a timely manner, including with regard to cyber fraud (including business email compromises), hacking crimes, abuse of internet for terrorist purposes, and internet dissemination of child pornography.

    Both sides will continue to cooperate on network protection, including maintaining and enhancing cybersecurity information sharing, as well as considering future efforts on cybersecurity of critical infrastructure.

    Both sides intend to maintain and make full use of the established hotline mechanism for addressing urgent cybercrime and network protection issues pertaining to significant cybersecurity incidents, and to communicate in a timely way at the leadership level or working level, as needed.

  4. Fugitives. Both sides will continue to cooperate to prevent each country from becoming a safe haven for fugitives and will identify viable fugitive cases for cooperation. Both sides plan to continue regular meetings and working groups to identify priority cases. Both sides commit to take actions involving fugitives only on the basis of respect for each other’s sovereignty and laws, and any violation of the above mentioned principles will be addressed in accordance with law. 

While differences remain, both sides intend to make actual progress on all of the above matters, to make possible another Dialogue in 2018 to measure that progress.

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Topics:  Cybersecurity Keywords:  cyber security

Commodities Flow to Disaster Survivors

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 09:18
Release Date: October 6, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been providing critical life-saving and life-sustaining commodities to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, in response to Hurricane Maria, as part of a broad federal response to assist the islands.

To date, more than 11.5 million meals, 8 million liters of water, and 30,000 tarps have been transported and delivered to the islands as part of the federal response to Hurricane Maria.   

Through a coordinated and phased delivery process, FEMA is continuing to supply meals, water and tarps to Puerto Rico for local leadership to disperse to the survivors. The commodities are transported by the National Guard and FEMA contractors from the ports and delivered to federal incident support bases (ISB) and staging areas, located throughout Puerto Rico. From the ISB, commodities are delivered to regional staging areas serving all 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico, and using points of distribution in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The government of Puerto Rico is working with Mayors to arrange pickup of supplies from the staging areas whereupon they distribute the commodities to the public.

In addition to these commodities, many voluntary agencies are operating shelters and providing meals and cleaning supplies to disaster survivors. National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster members including voluntary, non-profit, and faith-based organizations also are working closely with the affected communities to assist.  The American Red Cross is working with volunteer organizations and federal partners to ensure that fixed feeding kitchens are opened in numerous locations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. 

While the catastrophic impact from Hurricanes Irma and Maria led to serious logistical challenges, we’re working closely with our federal partners and Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands officials to continue to sustain lives and restore routine. Through focused efforts, and this whole community unified response from federal, local, and territory governments, along with local officials and volunteer agencies, progress is underway for the residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

 

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, federal response, FEMA, Hurricane, Hurricane Maria, natural disasters

FEMA Encourages Gulf Coast Residents to Monitor Status of Tropical Depression

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 16:45
Release Date: October 4, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), through its national headquarters in Washington, D.C., regional offices in Denton, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia, and liaisons at the National Hurricane Center in Florida, is monitoring the track of Tropical Depression 16 that has formed in the Gulf of Mexico.  While it is too early to specify the timing or magnitude of the possible impacts of the storm, FEMA is encouraging residents and visitors in areas along the Gulf Coast to monitor weather reports, and follow directions from local officials.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the depression is forecast to strengthen and bring tropical storm conditions and heavy rainfall to portions of Nicaragua and Honduras tonight through Thursday. The system is forecast to continue strengthening over the Gulf of Mexico and could affect portions of the northern Gulf Coast of the Unites States as a hurricane this weekend, with direct impacts from wind, storm surge, and heavy rainfall. 

As of 11 a.m. EDT, the center of Tropical Depression 16 was located about 210 miles south southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Nicaragua/Honduras border.  The depression is moving toward the northwest near 7 miles per hours and this motion is expected to continue today.  On the forecast track, the depression should be nearing the coast of Nicaragua early Thursday, move across northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras late Thursday, and emerge into the northwestern Caribbean Sea on Friday.

History shows that storm tracks can change quickly and unexpectedly. Residents and visitors in areas potentially affected by the severe weather, should continue to monitor local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information, and follow the instructions of state, local, and tribal officials. 

The FEMA app (available in English and Spanish) provides a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, directions to open shelters and recovery centers, disaster survival tips, and weather alerts from the National Weather Service. The app also enables users to receive push notifications reminding them to take important steps to prepare their homes and families for disasters.

Safety and Preparedness Tips:

FEMA recommends residents along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida should monitor the progress of this system for the next several days, heed instructions from local officials and follow the below preparedness and safety tips:

  • Be familiar with evacuation routes, have a communications plan, keep a battery-powered radio handy and have a plan for pets. Visit www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov to learn these and other preparedness tips for tropical storms.
  • If local or tribal officials order evacuations, evacuate.
  • Get to know the terms that are used to identify severe weather and discuss with your family what to do if a watch or warning is issued.

For a tropical storm:

  • A Tropical Storm Watch is issued when tropical cyclone containing winds of at least 39 MPH or higher poses a possible threat, generally within 48 hours.
  • A Tropical Storm Warning is issued when sustained winds of 39 MPH or higher associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in 36 hours or less.

For a hurricane:

  • A Hurricane Watch is issued when a tropical cyclone containing winds of at least 74 MPH poses a possible threat, generally within 48 hours.
  • A Hurricane Warning is issued when sustained winds of 74 MPH or higher associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in 36 hours or less. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.

Businesses of all sizes should prepare in advance for the approaching storm to prevent loss of life, property, or disruption to operations. Businesses can review and update their business continuity plans and ensure their workforce knows what to do before and during the storm. Resources are available on web sites such as Ready.gov/business and the SBA.gov/disaster-planning.

Topics:  Disasters, Plan and Prepare for Disasters Keywords:  FEMA, Hurricane, Mexico, natural disasters, preparedness

FEMA and its Federal Partners Provide Unified Response to Support Commonwealth Stabilization Efforts in Puerto Rico

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 15:13
Release Date: October 4, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON – As Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long visits Puerto Rico for the third time since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the islands, focus remains on making roads accessible, and providing emergency power for the purposes of life sustaining activities. The entire federal family, working in tandem with partners from the Commonwealth, are engaging in a unified effort for stabilization and recovery.

Federal Coordinating Officer Alejandro de La Campa is supported by U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, who is leading all military forces in the response effort in Puerto Rico.

Federal departments and agencies have more than 12,000 federal responders on the ground, working around the clock with Commonwealth and local officials to stabilize and aid Puerto Rico in their recovery. Recent progress includes:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is working with Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and representatives from Department of Energy on power restoration, and the installation of emergency generators throughout the island. USACE is also undertaking debris clearance efforts and bolstering dams weakened by the storms. USACE CommanderLt. Gen. Todd Semonite is on the ground coordinating all USACE efforts. Today, power is restored to the business district in San Juan, and 14 hospitals are on grid power.

The Department of Health and Human Services continues working with volunteers, FEMA Urban Search and Rescue, and Department of Defense (DoD) on hospital stabilization, inspection, and patient care. The National Guard continues to distribute commodities to 10 Commonwealth Regional Staging Areas and directly to municipalities. 

The United States Forest Service is conducting road clearance operations with contracted partners in the area, and with members from DoD, while Customs and Border Patrol continues to make targeted flights over the island to check on the well-being of survivors, and providing security to responders on the ground. 12 major highways and three state roads are now open.

The private sector plays a key role in helping to stabilize commodities. More than 65 percent of grocery and big box stores are open, and more than 65 percent of Puerto Rico’s gas stations are open. Ten airports are open, and commercial air traffic resumed last week. 

While the catastrophic impact from Hurricanes Irma and Maria led to serious logistical challenges, we’re working closely with our federal partners and Commonwealth officials to continue to sustain lives and restore routine. Through focused efforts, and a unified response from various U.S. government agencies, along with partners from local and state governments, as well as numerous volunteer agencies, progress is underway for the residents of Puerto Rico.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, emergency response, federal response, FEMA, Hurricane, Hurricane Maria, natural disasters

Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke Reminds Eligible DACA Recipients to File Renewal Requests

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 09:58
Release Date: October 3, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – Based on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) parameters for an orderly wind-down of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, eligible DACA recipients have until this Thursday, October 5th to properly file their renewal request and associated application for employment authorization to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Eligible individuals are DACA recipients whose DACA and work authorization expire between Sept. 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, inclusive. Of the approximately 154,200 individuals whose DACA is set to expire between Sept. 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, just over 100,000 either have renewal requests currently pending with USCIS, or have already had USCIS adjudicate their renewal request.       

“For individuals who are still eligible to request renewal of their deferred action under DACA, but have not yet done so, I urge you to make this a priority. The renewal process is quicker than an initial request and requires minimal documentation, so take the time now to fill out and properly file your renewal request.  It is imperative that USCIS physically receives your request by October 5th, ” said Acting Secretary Duke. “With respect to the devastation of Hurricane Maria and the lack of communications and infrastructure for a prolonged period of time, I have directed USCIS to consider on a case-by-case basis DACA requests received from U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico residents.  As of today, fewer than 20 current recipients from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have yet to renew with USCIS.”     

DACA recipients wanting to renew should complete and sign the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Form I-821D) and the Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765).  Renewal requestors do not need to submit additional evidence at the time they request a renewal unless the requestor has new documents involving removal proceedings or criminal history that they did not already submit to USCIS in a previously approved DACA request.  USCIS also has a call center and detailed online resources to help submit requests successfully. For additional information, see the USCIS DACA Renewal Tip Sheet.           

As previously announced, USCIS will accept renewal requests from eligible individuals through Oct. 5, 2017. These requests must be properly filed and physically received by the agency at the proper filing location no later than Oct. 5.

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Topics:  Deferred Action, Immigration and Citizenship Services Keywords:  Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, USCIS

Written testimony of USCG for a House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation hearing titled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Coast Guard Stakeholders' Perspectives”

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: October 3, 2017

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. We appreciate the opportunity to testify today and thank you for your steadfast support of the United States Coast Guard.

As the world’s premier, multi-mission, maritime service, the Coast Guard offers a unique and enduring value to the Nation. The only branch of the U.S. Armed Forces within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a federal law enforcement agency, a regulatory body, a first responder, and a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community – the Coast Guard is positioned to help secure the maritime border, combat transnational criminal organizations (TCO), and safeguard commerce on America’s waterways. Moreover, we play an important part of the modern Joint Force1 and act as a force multiplier for the Department of Defense (DoD). We are proud of our enduring defense contributions to Combatant Commanders around the globe. Indeed, the Coast Guard’s combination of broad authorities and complementary capabilities squarely align with the President’s national security and economic prosperity priorities. We are proud of the return on investment your Coast Guard delivers on an annual basis.

Most recently, the Coast Guard provided response efforts to Hurricane Harvey wherein our air crews and action teams from around the nation assisted in rescue efforts and saved or assisted more than 11,000 people from flooded homes and streets.2 The Coast Guard continues to work with federal, state, and local agencies in rescue operations and remains focused on the safety of personnel, protecting and positioning Coast Guard assets, search and rescue, and reconstitution.

As a force multiplier and defender of the border, the U.S. Coast Guard has performed increasingly complex missions in the most challenging marine environments. We protect those on the sea, protect the Nation from threats delivered by the sea, and protect the sea itself. Across the Coast Guard’s diverse mission set, on all our platforms and in every location, it is our people who get the job done.

Grounded in the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty, more than 80,000 talented men and women perform and support Coast Guard missions day and night, at home and abroad. As missions evolve, the Coast Guard must continually address externally driven workforce challenges. In fact, just as our Commandant formalized operational strategies to chart the Service’s course in the Arctic, West Hemisphere, and Cyber realms, so too have we formally plotted the Service’s course with our Human Capital Strategy3. That long-term human capital focus will ensure that we tackle an increasingly competitive labor market, generational and demographic changes, and new personnel processes across the Federal Government. Moreover, the cost of human capital is also driving the demand for new and innovative human capital management approaches. Personnel costs, in the form of military and civilian pay and allowances, consume approximately 60 percent of the Coast Guard operating base. Our human capital system must be agile, flexible, and adaptive to successfully recruit, train, and retain the workforce of tomorrow. Without question, our ultimate goal is to provide the right people, with the right competencies and experience, to the right place, at the right time in order to accomplish Coast Guard missions and serve the nation.

Many organizations assert that people are their most important resource, but for the U.S. Coast Guard, this part of our culture is the key to the Service’s success. Our cutters, boats, aircraft, facilities, and supporting systems play a critical role in mission accomplishment; however, our people deliver success. Developing and maintaining that important resource requires three strategic priorities: meeting the mission needs, meeting the Service needs, and meeting people needs.

To meet mission needs, we must ensure the Coast Guard has a force that can meet steady-state demands while simultaneously maintaining surge capacity for incidents of national significance. These incidents include hurricanes, mass migration, pollution, and other major surge operations. Our Service’s recent response to Hurricane Harvey is just one example of our members responding to the Nation’s call. To meet service needs, we must foster positive, cohesive, inclusive, and respectful workplace environments that value each element of the Coast Guard workforce–active duty, reserve, civil service, and auxiliary. Recruiting, retaining, and rewarding excellence are essential to meeting this need. Finally, to meet people needs we must cultivate the resiliency of our members and their families and nurture the professional development of our workforce. Morale, well-being, and recreation (MWR) programs; employee assistance services; religious support services; work-life arrangements; and other support services all contribute to this process. Our enduring commitment to the needs of our people sets us apart from other organizations – building the Coast Guard’s reputation as a positive organization, a Service of choice in the Armed Forces, and an employer of choice within the Federal government.

Shore facilities support all Coast Guard operations and personnel, as well as provide required infrastructure to support the needs of the Service’s operational communities. Investments in shore infrastructure are critical to modernizing the Coast Guard and equipping our workforce with the facilities required to meet mission. In some cases, aging infrastructure adversely affects operational efficiency and readiness across mission areas.

The Coast Guard currently has a $1.6 billion shore infrastructure construction backlog comprised of over 95 projects that include piers, Sectors, stations, aviation facilities, Base facilities, training centers, and housing facilities. The Coast Guard has made difficult decisions to postpone necessary facility construction projects in order to recapitalize our aging surface and air fleets. In June, the Coast Guard submitted its FY2018 Unfunded Priorities List, which included over $430 million to address critical shore infrastructure requirements. This included $77 million in damaged critical waterfront and station infrastructure that remains unrepaired as a result of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Despite these shortfalls, your support has helped us make tremendous progress, and it is critical we build upon our successes. We are excited and encouraged by our progress to date. In 2016, the Coast Guard executed over $77 million in recapitalization projects, which are crucial for longer-term mission sustainment. Examples of these projects include construction efforts at Stations Sandy Hook, Manasquan, and New York which provided critical infrastructure upgrades to boat maintenance facilities and multi-mission spaces. New family housing was added to the Coast Guard inventory in Astoria, Oregon and Kodiak, Alaska to alleviate a critical housing shortfall in areas where adequate housing is normally unavailable.

In addition to our physical infrastructure, the success of our workforce is dependent on the connectivity built into our network and cyber infrastructure. Our achievements depend on connectivity internal to the Coast Guard, between units and members, as well as connectivity with the American public. The events of Hurricane Harvey have highlighted the critical nature of this infrastructure relationship. Our ability to communicate with one another during the response proved critical and the mission of search and rescue hinged on the ability to hear the distress call.

We also find ourselves challenging the model of how we communicate with the American public as technology rapidly advances. Social media became an essential tool during the recent recovery as telephone lines became overwhelmed. Having the ability to rapidly adjust to new technology and balance the risk presented in the cyber domain requires the underlying Coast Guard network and cyber infrastructure to flex in a way that it was previously unable.

Coast Guard operations require a capable, proficient, and resilient workforce that draws upon the broad range of skills, talents, and experiences found in the American population. Together, modern platforms rooted on a sound, robust infrastructure and a strong, resilient workforce will maximize the Coast Guard’s capacity to meet future challenges.

History has proven that a responsive, capable, and agile Coast Guard is an indispensable instrument of national security. With the continued support of the Administration and Congress, the Coast Guard will continue to live up to our motto. We will be Semper Paratus – Always Ready. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today and for all you do for the men and women of the Coast Guard. We look forward to your questions.

1 In addition to the Coast Guard’s status as an Armed Force (10 U.S.C. § 101), see also Memorandum of Agreement Between the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security on the Use of Coast Guard Capabilities and Resources in Support of the National Military Strategy, 02 May 2008, as amended 18 May 2010.
2 Response efforts as of 29 August 2017.
3 United States Coast Guard Human Capital Strategy published January 2016.

 

Topics:  Air, Border Security, Maritime Keywords:  Joint Force, Mission, national security, Workforce

Written testimony of NPPD for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection hearing titled “Examining DHS’s Cybersecurity Mission”

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: October 3, 2017

210 House Capitol Visitor Center

Chairman Ratcliffe, Ranking Member Richmond, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to be here today. In this month of October, we recognize National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a time to focus on how cybersecurity is a shared responsibility that affects all Americans. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) serves a critical role in safeguarding and securing cyberspace, a core homeland security mission. The Administration recognizes the Committee’s work to provide DHS with the authorities necessary to carry out this mission. The National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) at DHS leads the Nation’s efforts to ensure the security and resilience of our cyber and physical infrastructure. Earlier this year, this Committee voted favorably on H.R. 3359, the “Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act of 2017” If enacted, this bill would mature and streamline NPPD, and rename our organization to clearly reflect our essential mission and our role in securing cyberspace. The Department strongly supports this much-needed effort and encourages swift action by the full House and the Senate.

NPPD is responsible for protecting civilian federal government networks and collaborating with other Federal agencies, as well as State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, and the private sector to defend against cyber threats. We endeavor to enhance cyber threat information-sharing across the globe to stop cyber incidents before they start and help businesses and government agencies to protect their cyber systems and quickly recover should such an attack occur. By bringing together all levels of government, the private sector, international partners, and the public, we are taking action to protect against cybersecurity risks, improve our whole-of-government incident response capabilities, enhance information sharing on best practices and cyber threats, and to strengthen resilience.

Threats

Cyber threats remain one of the most significant strategic risks for the United States, threatening our national security, economic prosperity, and public health and safety. The past year has marked a turning point in the cyber domain, at least in the public consciousness. We have long been confronted with a myriad of attacks against our digital networks. But over the past year, Americans saw advanced persistent threat actors, including hackers, cyber criminals, and nation states, increase the frequency and sophistication of these attacks. Our adversaries have been developing and using advanced cyber capabilities to undermine critical infrastructure, target our livelihoods and innovation, steal our national security secrets, and threaten our democracy through attempts to manipulate elections.

Global cyber incidents, such as the “WannaCry” ransomware incident in May of this year and the “NotPetya” malware incident in June, are examples of malicious actors leveraging cyberspace to create disruptive effects and cause economic loss. These incidents exploited known vulnerabilities in software commonly used across the globe. Prior to these events, NPPD had already taken actions to help protect networks from similar types of attacks. Through requested vulnerability scanning, NPPD helped stakeholders identify vulnerabilities on their networks so they could be patched before incidents and attacks occur. Recognizing that not all users are able to install patches immediately, NPPD shared additional mitigation guidance to assist network defenders. As the incidents unfolded, NPPD led the Federal government’s incident response efforts, working with our interagency partners, including providing situational awareness, information sharing, malware analysis, and technical assistance to affected entities.

Historically, cyber actors have strategically targeted critical infrastructure sectors including energy, financial services, critical manufacturing, water and wastewater, and others with various goals ranging from cyber espionage to developing the ability to disrupt critical services. In recent years, DHS has identified and responded to malware such as “Black Energy” and “Havex,” which were specifically created to target industrial-control systems, associated with critical infrastructure such as power plants and critical manufacturing. More recently, the discovery of “CrashOverride” malware, reportedly used against Ukrainian power infrastructure in 2016, highlights the increasing cyber threat to our infrastructure.

In one recent campaign, advanced persistent threat actors targeted the cyber infrastructure of entities within the energy, nuclear, critical manufacturing, and other critical infrastructure sectors since at least May 2017. In response, NPPD led the asset response, providing on-site and remote assistance to impacted entities, help them evaluate the risk, and remediate the malicious actor presence. In addition, NPPD, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Energy (DOE) shared actionable analytic products with critical infrastructure owners and operators regarding this activity. This information provides network defenders with the information necessary to understand the adversary campaign and allows them to identify and reduce exposure to malicious activity. In addition, DHS has been working together with DOE to assess the preparedness of our electricity sector and strengthen our ability to respond to and recover from a prolonged power outage caused by a cyber incident.

Cybersecurity Priorities

Earlier this year, the President signed Executive Order (EO) 13800, on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure. This Executive Order set in motion a series of assessments and deliverables to understand how to improve our defenses and lower our risk to cyber threats. DHS has organized around these deliverables, working with federal and private sector partners to work through the range of actions included in the Executive Order.

We are emphasizing the security of federal networks. Across the Federal government, agencies have been implementing action plans to use the industry-standard Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework. Agencies are reporting to DHS and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on their cybersecurity risk mitigation and acceptance choices. In coordination with OMB, DHS is evaluating the totality of these Agency reports in order to comprehensively assess the adequacy of the Federal government’s overall cybersecurity risk management posture.

Although Federal Agencies have primary responsibility for their own cybersecurity, DHS, pursuant to its various authorities, provides a common set of security tools across the civilian executive branch and helps Federal Agencies manage their cyber risk. NPPD’s assistance to federal agencies includes (1) providing tools to safeguard civilian executive branch networks through the National Cybersecurity Protection System (NCPS), which includes “EINSTEIN”, and the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) programs, (2) measuring and motivating agencies to implement policies, directives, standards, and guidelines, (3) serving as a hub for information sharing and incident reporting, and (4) providing operational and technical assistance, including threat information dissemination and risk and vulnerability assessments, as well as incident response services. NPPD’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) is the civilian government’s hub for cybersecurity information sharing, asset incident response, and coordination for both critical infrastructure and the federal government.

EINSTEIN refers to the Federal Government’s suite of intrusion detection and prevention capabilities that protects agencies’ unclassified networks at the perimeter of each agency. EINSTEIN provides situational awareness of civilian executive branch network traffic, so threats detected at one agency are shared with all others providing agencies with information and capabilities to more effectively manage their cyber risk. The U.S. Government could not achieve such situational awareness through individual agency efforts alone.

Today, EINSTEIN is a signature-based intrusion detection and prevention capability that takes action on known malicious activity. Leveraging existing investments in the Internet Service Provider “ISP” infrastructure, our non-signature based pilot efforts to move beyond current reliance on signatures are yielding positive results in the discovery of previously unidentified malicious activity. DHS is demonstrating the ability to capture data that can be rapidly analyzed for anomalous activity using technologies from commercial, government, and open sources. The pilot efforts are also defining the future operational needs for tactics, techniques, and procedures as well as the skill sets and personnel required to operationalize the non-signature based approach to cybersecurity.

State, local, tribal, and territorial governments are able to access intrusion detection and analysis services through the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC). MS-ISAC’s service, called “Albert,” closely resembles some EINSTEIN capabilities. While the current version of Albert cannot actively block known cyber threats, it does alert cybersecurity officials to an issue for further investigation. DHS worked closely with MS-ISAC to develop the program and considers MS-ISAC to be a principal conduit for sharing cybersecurity information with state and local governments.

EINSTEIN, the Federal Government’s tool to address perimeter security will not block every threat; therefore, it must be complemented with systems and tools working inside agency networks—as effective cybersecurity risk management requires a defense-in-depth strategy that cannot be achieved through only one type of tool. NPPD’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program provides cybersecurity tools and integration services to all participating agencies to enable them to improve their respective security postures by reducing the attack surface of their networks as well as providing DHS with enterprise-wide visibility through a common federal dashboard.

CDM is helping us achieve two major advances for federal cybersecurity. First, agencies are gaining visibility, often for the first time, into the extent of cybersecurity risks across their entire network. With enhanced visibility, they can prioritize the mitigation of identified issues based upon their relative importance. Second, with the summary-level agency-to-federal dashboard feeds, the NCCIC will be able to identify systemic risks across the civilian executive branch more effectively and closer to real-time. For example, the NCCIC currently tracks government-wide progress in implementing critical patches via agency self-reporting and manual data calls. CDM will transform this, enabling the NCCIC to immediately view the prevalence of a given software product or vulnerability across the federal government so that the NCCIC can provide agencies with timely guidance on their risk exposure and recommended mitigation steps. Effective cybersecurity requires a robust measurement regime, and robust measurement requires valid and timely data. CDM will provide this baseline of cybersecurity risk data to drive improvement across the civilian executive branch.

DHS conducts a number of activities to measure agencies’ cybersecurity practices and works with agencies to improve risk management practices. The Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA) provided the Secretary of Homeland Security with the authority to develop and oversee implementation of Binding Operational Directives (BOD) to agencies. In 2016, the Secretary issued a BOD on securing High Value Assets (HVA), or those assets, federal information systems, information, and data for which unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction could cause a significant impact to the United States’ national security interests, foreign relations, economy, or to the public confidence, civil liberties, or public health and safety of the American people. NPPD works with interagency partners to prioritize HVAs for assessment and remediation activities across the federal government. For instance, NPPD conducts security architecture reviews on these HVAs to help agencies assess their network architecture and configurations.

As part of the effort to secure HVAs, DHS conducts in-depth vulnerability assessments of prioritized agency HVAs to determine how an adversary could penetrate a system, move around an agency’s network to access sensitive data, and exfiltrate such data without being detected. These assessments include services such as penetration testing, wireless security analysis, and “phishing” evaluations in which DHS hackers send emails to agency personnel and test whether recipients click on potentially malicious links. DHS has focused these assessments on federal systems that may be of particular interest to adversaries or support uniquely significant data or services. These assessments provide system owners with recommendations to address identified vulnerabilities. DHS provides these same assessments, on a voluntary basis upon request, to private sector and State, local, Territorial, and Tribal (SLTT) partners. DHS also works with the General Services Administration to ensure that contractors can provide assessments that align with our HVA initiative to agencies.

Another BOD issued by the Secretary directs civilian agencies to promptly patch known vulnerabilities on their Internet-facing systems that are most at risk from their exposure. The NCCIC conducts Cyber Hygiene scans to identify vulnerabilities in agencies’ internet-accessible devices and provides mitigation recommendations. Agencies have responded quickly in implementing the Secretary’s BOD and have sustained this progress. When the Secretary issued this directive, NPPD identified more than 360 “stale” critical vulnerabilities across federal civilian agencies, which means the vulnerabilities had been known for at least 30 days and remained unpatched. Since December 2015, NPPD has identified an average of less than 40 critical vulnerabilities at any given time, and agencies have addressed those vulnerabilities rapidly once they were identified. By conducting vulnerability assessments and security architecture reviews, NPPD is helping agencies find and fix vulnerabilities and secure their networks before an incident occurs.

In addition to efforts to protect government networks, EO 13800 continues to examine how the government and industry work together to protect our nation’s critical infrastructure, prioritizing deeper, more collaborative public-private partnerships in threat assessment, detection, protection, and mitigation. In collaboration with civilian, defense, and intelligence agencies, we are identifying authorities and capabilities that agencies could employ, soliciting input from the private sector, and developing recommendations to support the cybersecurity efforts of those critical infrastructure entities at greatest risk of attacks that could result in catastrophic impacts.

For instance, by sharing information quickly and widely, we help all partners block cyber threats before damaging incidents occur. Equally important, the information we receive from partners helps us identify emerging risks and develop effective protective measures.

Congress authorized the NCCIC as the civilian hub for sharing cyber threat indicators and defensive measures with and among federal and non-federal entities, including the private sector. As required by the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, we established a capability, known as Automated Indicator Sharing (AIS), to automate our sharing of cyber threat indicators in real-time. AIS protects the privacy and civil liberties of individuals by narrowly tailoring the information shared to that which is necessary to characterize identified cyber threats, consistent with longstanding DHS policy and the requirements of the Act. AIS is a part of the Department’s effort to create an environment in which as soon as a company or federal agency observes an attempted compromise, the indicator is shared in real time with all of our partners, enabling them to protect themselves from that particular threat. This real-time sharing capability can limit the scalability of many attack techniques, thereby increasing the costs for adversaries and reducing the impact of malicious cyber activity. An ecosystem built around automated sharing and network defense-in-depth should enable organizations to detect and thwart the most common cyber-attacks, freeing their cybersecurity staff to concentrate on the novel and sophisticated attacks. More than 129 agencies and private sector partners have connected to the AIS capability. Notably, partners such as information sharing and analysis organizations (ISAOs) and computer emergency response teams further share with or protect their customers and stakeholders, significantly expanding the impact of this capability. AIS is still a new capability and we expect the volume of threat indicators shared through this system to substantially increase as the technical standards, software, and hardware supporting the system continue to be refined and put into full production. As more indictors are shared from other federal agencies, SLTT governments, and the private sector, this information sharing environment will become more robust and effective.

Another part of the Department’s overall information sharing effort is to provide federal network defenders with the necessary context regarding cyber threats to prioritize their efforts and inform their decision making. DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has collocated analysts within the NCCIC responsible for continuously assessing the specific threats to federal networks using traditional all source methods and indicators of malicious activity so that the NCCIC can share with federal network defenders in collaboration with I&A. Analysts and personnel from the Department of Energy, Treasury, Health and Human Services, FBI, DoD and others are also collocated within the NCCIC and working together to understand the threats and share information with their sector stakeholders.

Mitigating Cyber Risks

We also continue to adapt to the evolving risks to critical infrastructure, and prioritize our services to mitigate those risks. Facing the threat of cyber-enabled operations by a foreign government during the 2016 elections, DHS and our interagency partners conducted unprecedented outreach and provided cybersecurity assistance to state and local election officials. Information shared with election officials included indicators of compromise, technical data, and best practices that have assisted officials with addressing threats and vulnerabilities related to election infrastructure. Through numerous efforts before and after Election Day, DHS and our interagency partners have declassified and publicly shared significant information related to the Russian malicious cyber activity. These steps have been critical to protecting our elections, enhancing awareness among election officials, and educating the American public. The designation of election infrastructure as critical infrastructure serves to institutionalize prioritized services, support, and provide data protections and does not subject any additional regulatory oversight or burdens.

As the Sector-Specific Agency, NPPD is providing overall coordination guidance on election infrastructure matters to subsector stakeholders. As part of this process, the Election Infrastructure Subsector Government Coordinating Council (GCC) is being established. The Election Infrastructure Subsector GCC will be a representative council of federal, state, and local partners with the mission of focusing on sector-specific strategies and planning. This will include development of information sharing protocols and establishment of key working groups, among other priorities.

The Department also recently took action against specific products which present a risk to federal information systems. After careful consideration of available information and consultation with interagency partners, last month the Acting Secretary issued a BOD directing Federal Executive Branch departments and agencies to take actions related to the use or presence of information security products, solutions, and services supplied directly or indirectly by AO Kaspersky Lab or related entities. The BOD calls on departments and agencies to identify any use or presence of Kaspersky products on their information systems in the next 30 days, to develop detailed plans to remove and discontinue present and future use of the products in the next 60 days, and at 90 days from the date of this directive, unless directed otherwise by DHS based on new information, to begin to implement the agency plans to discontinue use and remove the products from information systems. This action is based on the information security risks presented by the use of Kaspersky products on federal information systems.

The Department is providing an opportunity for Kaspersky to submit a written response addressing the Department’s concerns or to mitigate those concerns. The Department wants to ensure that the company has a full opportunity to inform the Acting Secretary of any evidence, materials, or data that may be relevant. This opportunity is also available to any other entity that claims its commercial interests will be directly impacted by the directive.

Conclusion

In the face of increasingly sophisticated threats, NPPD stands on the front lines of the federal government’s efforts to defend our nation’s critical infrastructure from natural disasters, terrorism and adversarial threats, and technological risk such as those caused by cyber threats. Our infrastructure environment today is complex and dynamic with interdependencies that add to the challenge of securing and making it more resilient. Technological advances have introduced the “Internet of Things” (IoT) and cloud computing, offering increased access and streamlined efficiencies, while increasing our footprint of access points that could be leveraged by adversaries to gain unauthorized access to networks. As our nation continues to evolve and new threats emerge, we must integrate cyber and physical risk in order to understand how to effectively secure it. Expertise around cyber-physical risk and cross-sector critical infrastructure interdependencies is where NPPD brings unique expertise and capabilities.

We must ensure that NPPD is appropriately organized to address cybersecurity threats both now and in the future, and we appreciate this Committee’s leadership in working to establish the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. As the Committee considers these issues, we are committed to working with Congress to ensure that this effort is done in a way that cultivates a safer, more secure and resilient Homeland.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and we look forward to any questions you may have.

Topics:  Cybersecurity, Information Sharing Keywords:  continuous diagnostics and mitigation, critical infrastructure, EINSTEIN, NCCIC

Written testimony of PLCY and USCIS for a Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing titled “Oversight of the Administration’s Decision to End Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: October 3, 2017

216 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, and distinguished Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear today to discuss Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA, and more generally, concern over the status of individuals illegally brought to the United States as minors, has been a subject of debate for well over a decade.

In the absence of new legislation to remedy the problem, officials within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have sought to deal humanely with minors while trying to avoid the creation of “pull” factors that would induce further illegal and dangerous migration of vulnerable youth and children. No other institution in the Federal Government encounters as many legal and illegal immigrants as does DHS. On any given day, our Department is both naturalizing new citizens and deporting aliens who are not legally entitled to remain in the United States.

DHS understands immigrants and their aspirations, but also understands the expectations of the American public that we will faithfully execute the laws. As we provide our testimony before this Committee, we recognize DACA is in active litigation and discovery is now taking place. Within these necessary limitations, we appreciate the opportunity to discuss the practical and operational dimensions of how the DACA policy is being phased out by DHS.

It is within this context that our statement will focus on the timeline of DACA, including how it is being moved toward an orderly phase out by the Administration.

DACA History

On June 15, 2012, then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a memorandum entitled “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children.” This memorandum created the policy known as DACA. Under the DACA memorandum and implementing guidance, individuals without lawful status could request a two-year period of deferred action and apply for employment authorization (with the possibility of renewal) if they met certain age requirements, continuously resided in the United States for a period of five years, met certain educational or service requirements with the U.S. Coast Guard or Armed Forces, and had not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and did not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

The 2012 memorandum also made clear that individuals could be considered for DACA even if they were already in removal proceedings or were subject to a final removal order.

The memorandum directed DHS to conduct background checks on DACA requestors. It also ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to exercise prosecutorial discretion, on an individual basis, to prevent low priority individuals from being placed into removal proceedings or removed from the United States. In essence, the memorandum provided guidance on immigration officers’ exercise of discretion on an individual basis to defer the removal of individuals who met the DACA guidelines, even if they did not request and receive DACA formally. Once an individual was granted deferred action, the 2012 memorandum allowed USCIS to determine whether or not the DACA recipient qualified for work authorization during the deferred action period.

On November 20, 2014, then DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a memorandum entitled “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children and with Respect to Certain Individuals Who Are the Parents of U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents.” Among other things, this memorandum expanded DACA and created the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) policy.

This expansion of DACA and creation of DAPA was subject to a preliminary injunction issued by the District Court for the Southern District of Texas on February 16, 2015. The preliminary injunction was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on November 9, 2015, and an equally divided Supreme Court decision led to the Fifth Circuit opinion being upheld on June 15, 2016.

In light of those decisions, then DHS-Secretary Kelly rescinded DAPA and the expansion of DACA on June 15, 2017. Original DACA recipients were unaffected, and individuals who had received three year validity periods for DACA and the associated work authorization under the November 2014 memorandum prior to the district court injunction were allowed to maintain those approvals through their expiration, unless terminated or revoked for case specific reasons.

Orderly Phase Out of DACA

On June 29, 2017, the State of Texas and several other states sent a letter to Attorney General Sessions asserting that the original 2012 DACA memorandum is unlawful for the same reasons stated in the Fifth Circuit and district court opinions regarding DAPA and expanded DACA. The letter noted that if DHS did not rescind the DACA memorandum by September 5, 2017, the states would seek to amend the DAPA lawsuit to include a challenge to DACA.

The Attorney General sent a letter to DHS on September 4, 2017, that stated DACA “was effectuated by the previous administration through executive action, without proper statutory authority and with no established end-date, after Congress’ repeated rejection of proposed legislation that would have accomplished a similar result. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.” The letter further stated that DACA possessed the same legal and constitutional defects identified by the courts as DAPA. As such, the potential outcome of a legal challenge to DACA would likely yield a similar result as the legal challenge to DAPA.

Taking into consideration the federal court rulings in ongoing litigation and the September 4, 2017 letter from the Attorney General, it became clear that the policy should be terminated in a humane and orderly fashion. On September 5, 2017, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security rescinded the June 15, 2012 memorandum establishing DACA, and provided for its orderly wind down. This plan permits current DACA recipients to retain the periods of both deferred action and their employment authorization documents (EADs) until they expire, unless terminated or revoked for case specific reasons. Periods of deferred action under DACA and the accompanying work authorization were generally valid for two years from the date of approval.

The Administration’s decision to terminate DACA was not taken lightly. We were faced with two options: wind-down DACA in an orderly fashion that protects recipients in the near-term while allowing Congress time to work to pass legislation to address this issue; or allow the judiciary to potentially shut down DACA completely and immediately. We chose the least disruptive option. This option will limit disruption to current DACA recipients while providing time for Congress to seek a legislative solution.

To implement the orderly wind down under this process, USCIS will consider, on an individual, case-by-case basis: 1) Properly filed, pending DACA initial requests and associated applications for EADs that have been received as of September 5, 2017; and 2) Properly filed pending DACA renewal requests and associated applications for EADs from DACA recipients that have been received as of September 5, 2017, and from DACA recipients whose DACA has or will expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018, inclusive, that have been received as of October 5, 2017. DACA recipients eligible to renew under these parameters must file the Form I-821D to request consideration, along with their Form I-765, and required fee, to apply for employment authorization. DACA renewal requestors do not need to submit any additional documents at the time of the request for renewal unless the requestor has new documents involving removal proceedings or criminal history that were not already submitted to USCIS in a previously approved DACA request. Individuals who did not request initial DACA on or before September 5, 2017, may no longer do so. USCIS will reject all initial requests received after September 5, 2017.

Conclusion

The Executive Branch should not create “pull” factors for illegal immigration into the United States. Illegal immigration is dangerous for aliens, especially children, and for the United States. The 2014 surge of unaccompanied alien children at the Southwest border involved treacherous journeys by vulnerable populations. This surge also placed overwhelming pressure on the government to process and provide care for those flooding the border. There is a moral hazard when we reward and incentivize illegal behavior. We must avoid sending any message to people outside the United States that illegal entry will benefit them, either immediately or in the future. DHS stands ready to provide technical assistance requested by Congress to support the effort to achieve a reasonable legislative solution for DACA that is in line with the Administration’s priorities.

Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, and distinguished Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today and we look forward to your questions.

Topics:  Deferred Action, Immigration and Citizenship Services Keywords:  DACA, Prosecutorial discretion

DHS Statement on Las Vegas Shooting

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 08:39
Release Date: October 2, 2017

WASHINGTON – Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke has been briefed on the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada last night. The Department is closely monitoring the situation and working with our federal, state and local partners in responding to and investigating this tragedy.

At this time, we have no information to indicate a specific credible threat involving other public venues in the country. However, increased security in and around public places and events may be experienced as officials take additional precautions.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this incident as we work to support the Las Vegas community.

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Topics:  Countering Violent Extremism Keywords:  Acting Secretary Duke, Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, Active Shooter, Elaine Duke, terrorism prevention

Update on Federal Partners Supporting Survivors in Puerto Rico

Sat, 09/30/2017 - 19:20
Release Date: September 30, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON – Thousands of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel and partners continue to provide life-sustaining resources to Puerto Rico while aggressively working 24-hours to restore power and return daily routine.

Despite the complex challenges posed by damage from Hurricane Maria, FEMA and its federal partners are supporting Puerto Rico in gaining and restoring access to ports, airports and roadways, rescuing lives during search and rescue operations, assessing all hospitals, and moving commodities into all 78 municipalities.

Ten days ago, Hurricane Maria made landfall.  To date, FEMA and our federal partners have worked side-by-side with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to support their response efforts.  Here are some examples of actions underway:

  • Urban Search and Rescue teams, working alongside local law enforcement, covered 100 percent of Puerto Rico and rescued 843 individuals.
  • Power was restored to 59 hospitals in Puerto Rico -- these hospitals are operationally able to care for the patients they have or are receiving new patients. Efforts to restore the power grid on the island are on-going among the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Energy, and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.
  • Drinking water is being restored; 45 percent of customers now have potable water following testing by the Environmental Protection Agency and local officials.
  • Stores are opening with more than 60 percent of gas stations operating and providing fuel, and 49 percent of grocery and big box stores on the island now open.
  • Commodities, such as food and water, are being delivered and distributed daily to the municipality leadership.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard continues to assess ports, with 70 percent of ports open and conducting operations.
  • Efforts by the Federal Aviation Administration, along with the Department of Defense, enabled the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU) to accommodate daily commercial flights.
  • Work to clear debris continues; so far11 highways are cleared of debris and open.
  • There are now over 4,000 National Guard members on the ground, from 21 states and territories across the nation.

Relentless hours and continuous efforts from Puerto Rico, FEMA, and its federal partners are building Puerto Rico’s road to recovery. Return to daily routine won’t be accomplished overnight, but progress continues to be made.  FEMA and the federal partners were there when the storm hit, and we will be there throughout the recovery.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, emergency response, federal response, FEMA, Flooding, Hurricane, Hurricane Maria, natural disasters

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