How DHS plans to use stimulus funds

A good summary of DHS stimulus spending from HS Daily Wire:

St. Elizabeths/DHS headquarters consolidation: $200 million, $450 million to GSA

  • $650 million ($200 million to DHS; $450 million to GSA)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): $680 million direct, $300 million to GSA

  • $720 million for construction at land ports of entry ($300 million GSA; $420 million CBP)
  • $100 million for Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) technology
  • $100 million for border technology on the southwest border
  • $60 million for tactical communications equipment and radios

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): $20 million

  • $20 million for ICE automation modernization and tactical communications

Transportation Security Administration: $1 billion

  • $1 billion for explosives detection systems and checkpoint screening equipment

U.S. Coast Guard: $240 million

  • $142 million for alteration of bridges program
  • $98 million for construction, which may include the following:
    • Shore facilities and aids to navigation facilities
    • Vessel repair/acquisition (includes High Endurance Cutter, National Security Cutter)

Federal Emergency Management Agency: $615 million+

  • $100 million for Emergency Food and Shelter Program
  • $150 million for transit and rail security grants
  • $150 million for port security grants, no non-federal match required
  • $210 million for Assistance to Firefighter (AFG) grants for firehouse construction; maximum grant is $15.0 million
  • $5 million expansion in authority for FEMA Community Disaster Loans
  • Requires the establishment of an arbitration panel to resolve Katrina/Rita public assistance disputes
  • Requires FEMA to accept additional applications for Katrina/Rita public assistance
  • All non-federal matching requirements for SAFER grants waived for FY 2009-2010

DHS Office of Inspector General: $5 million

  • $5 million to conduct related oversight and audits

Total: Based on these numbers, here are the totals:

  • $2.76 billion direct to DHS & components
  • $750 million to GSA
  • $3.5 billion total

New bill calls for quarterly reports from DHS grant recipients

From Government Security News:

A bill that would require recipients of homeland security grants to file quarterly reports to Congress on precisely how they spent those funds has been filed by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and co-sponsored by five other congressmen.

The measure, H.R. 625, was introduced on Jan. 21 and referred to the House Homeland Security Committee. It is intended to provide greater transparency on how DHS grant monies are actually expended.

I’ll update this post when the status changes.

DHS announces voluntary private sector preparedness program

From HSToday:

On Dec. 24, DHS announced a new voluntary preparedness accreditation and certification program for the private sector known as “PS-Prep.”  Through the program, DHS will adopt a series of voluntary preparedness standards, and then assess and certify the compliance of individual companies or organizations with those standards.  Congress authorized DHS to establish the program in the Implementing the Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act (Public Law 110-53).

DHS stressed that although certification in compliance with the standards is completely voluntary, companies would benefit from adopting the standards and from developing standards for DHS to consider including in its guidelines.

DHS called for comments on its proposal by Jan 23, 2009, and DHS intends to hold public meetings in January and February to solicit feedback on the program.  FEMA has set up a Web site to take comments.

I’ll write a new post (filed under the Upcoming Events category) when FEMA posts the dates of the public meetings.

FEMA’s relationship to DHS drawing attention and debate

One of the most important decisions President-elect Obama will face when his administration takes over DHS is whether to leave FEMA as a part of DHS, or remove it from DHS and make it a cabinet-level agency, as it was before DHS was formed.  Members of Congress, stakeholders, and prominent organizations are taking sides on the issue, but it’s not clear yet what stance the Obama administration will take.

[UPDATE 05/15: CQ Politics reports that on Wednesday 5/13, Secretary Napolitano stated that the Obama administration supports keeping FEMA within DHS; but one day later, Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) said that he will continue his push to remove FEMA from DHS, despite opposition from the administration.  Give some credit to the dedicated folks at FEMA who’ve had to endure the uncertainty of this long-running debate, because apparently it’s not over yet.]

House: Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee wrote to President-elect Obama on Dec. 17 to demand the removal of FEMA from DHS, declaring that its placement in the larger agency impedes its ability to serve as a “quick response” agency.  In response, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Rep. wrote to Obama Dec. 19 strongly disagreeing with Oberstar, saying that FEMA should remain in DHS, but that Obama should appoint someone to lead FEMA who has a strong relationship with Obama.

Senate: Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Disaster Recovery Subcommittee, has stated that she doesn’t recommend removing FEMA from DHS at this point, but she’s open to the concept and wouldn’t resist it if the new administration made the decision to make the change.  Landrieu told Homeland Security Secretary-designate Janet Napolitano that “there were still some senators that felt strongly about it staying where it is, some that were kind of open to change and others that would really recommend that it be made independent”, and that “it should be open to discussion.”

Update 01/15/09: Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the ranking Republican member, urged Janet Napolitano at her confirmation hearing not to remove FEMA from DHS.

Bush Administration: The Bush administration made the decision to include FEMA in DHS, and still supports that decision.  Michael Chertoff has publicly stated that he opposes removing FEMA from DHS, and has cautioned his successor from making any major changes to DHS.

Obama Administration: The Obama administration has not taken a public stance on either side of the issue.  Senator Landrieu said Napolitano is “testing the waters” with Congress to find out how members of Congress feel about the issue.  Landrieu emphasized that Napolitano didn’t say removing FEMA from DHS is something the Obama team is considering.

Update 01/15/09: At Janet Napolitano’s confirmation hearing, she didn’t take a stance on either side of the issue, instead promising to actively look into the issue.  But her other testimony about FEMA indicated strong support both for FEMA and for increasing FEMA’s cooperation with the rest of DHS, regardless of where FEMA ends up.

Update 02/25/09: The DHS Inspector General weighed in with a report titled “FEMA: In or Out?“, in which the ID recommends keeping FEMA in DHS.

Other Organizations and Stakeholders: A month ago the International Association of Emergency Managers officially endorsed removing FEMA from DHS (Representatives Oberstar and Thompson publicly disagreed on the issue at that time as well).  In addition, the Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative think tank, weighed in on December 4 with a memo supporting Thompson’s position to leave FEMA as part of DHS.  A number of other organizations and stakeholders have cautioned more generally against any major reorganizations at DHS, even though they may not have addressed FEMA specifically.

Update 01/08/2009: 3 fire service organizations – the IAFC (International Association of Fire Chiefs),  IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters), and Congressional Fire Services Instituteweigh in against removing FEMA from DHS.

  • The IAFF is affiliated with the AFL-CIO (labor is expected to have some influence in the strongly Democratic Congress), and according to the IAFF web site, “The IAFF is one of the most active lobbying organizations in Washington; its Political Action Committee, FIREPAC, is among the top one percent of the more than 4,000 federal PACs in the country.”
  • So expect these 3 organizations to carry some weight, and for Congress to resist if the Obama administration pushes to separate FEMA from DHS.

Potential Conflicts: In Oberstar’s letter to Obama he declared that his committee has jurisdiction over FEMA and that making FEMA independent would have strong support in Congress.  However, the overlapping nature of Congressional oversight of DHS makes it likely that other Congressional Committees, including the House Committee on Homeland Security that Thompson chairs, will lay some claim to FEMA oversight as well.

Expectations (My Take): Expect continued public discussion and debate, but expect Obama to take some time before making a decision.  And regardless of what his final decision is, don’t expect a change to FEMA any time soon.  Obama tends to be a consensus builder, and feelings are strong enough on this issue that even if Obama decides to remove FEMA from DHS, he’ll probably go slow, taking time to build a broader base of support for the change before implementing it.

UPDATE 12/24/08: It’s important to note that one of the reasons there is resistance to making FEMA independent of DHS again is that some important entanglements between FEMA and DHS have already been established in terms of politics, funding, and already enacted legislation (which was written to apply to DHS as a whole).  It could get pretty messy to separate them at this point.  For example, allocation of funds for the DHS Homeland Security Grants Program (HSGP) is performed by the FEMA Grants Directorate, and moving that function to DHS could cause confusion and funding changes all the way down to the state and local level.  So if FEMA is ultimately pulled out of DHS, expect some ripples and unintended consequences in unexpected areas.

Update 02/25/09: At this point, I’d say the momentum is clearly on the side of keeping FEMA in DHS, and I’m going to stop updating this post.  If this changes and the momentum seems to swing the other way, I’ll publish a new post.

Expect changes in U.S. approach to cybersecurity

The U.S. approach to cybersecurity is likely to change significantly under the Obama administration.  Although it’s not clear yet exactly what priorities will be sacrificed to make room for the increased focus, or how the changes will all play out, here are some highlights of recent activities in this area:

  • Reports: A recent report highlighted weaknesses in U.S. cybersecurity efforts, and recommended changes to U.S. cybersecurity leadership and policy, including the White House taking over the lead for cybersecurity efforts from DHS.
  • Obama Administration: President-elect Obama’s statements during the campaign, and his relationships with the authors of the reports (several of whom are advisors to his campaign), suggest that he’ll probably appoint a “cybersecurity czar” at the White House to coordinate national cybersecurity efforts.  Speculation is rising about who he’ll appoint to the post.
  • Congress: Key members of Congress have stated concerns about our lack of preparedness and inability to protect from and respond to cyber attacks.
    • Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), chair of the House Intelligence subcommittee on Technical Intelligence, says billions of dollars need to be invested by both government and the private sector.  Rep. Ruppersberger also supports appointment of a “cybersecurity czar” at the White House.
    • Rep. James Langevin (D-RI), chair of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Cybersecurity, said “We’re way behind where we need to be now.”  Rep. Langevin has also called for leadership of cybersecurity efforts to be removed from DHS, and for increases in our offensive cyber warfare capabilities to use as a deterrent (much as our offensive conventional and nuclear capabilities are used as a deterrents to conventional and WMD attacks).
  • DHS: Although DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff agrees we have significant vulnerabilities, he cautions against changing leadershipof cybersecurity efforts at this stage.  But incoming Secretary Janet Napolitano may have a different view, especially if changes are supported by President-elect Obama.
  • Front-Line Stakeholders: Many key participants in a recent cyberwar simulation exercise reported that we’re not prepared for a real cyberwar.
  • Recent Precedents: Cyber attacks aimed at Estonia earliet this year, and aimed at Georgia during the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia in South Ossetia underscored both the likelihood and effectiveness of cyber-attacks during a conflict of any kind.  These attacks were effective, even though they are widely believed to have come from non-state actors (Russian sympathizers).

Summary:

With agreement about our vulnerability all the way from the front line to Congress and the White House, expect some major changes in both leadership and policy.  Increases in funding should also be expected, though whether funding comes as new expenditures or shifting of funding from other areas remains to be seen.

For more information:

DHS opens $3B in FY2009 grants with less restrictions

From the Washington Post:

The Department of Homeland Security announced plans yesterday to dole out $3 billion in counterterrorism grants next year to state and local agencies with far-fewer strings attached than in past years.

The DHS move marks a response to criticism from a Democratic Congress and increasingly restive state and local leaders. They have complained that the Bush administration’s domestic security officials have focused on terrorism at the expense of other law enforcement priorities, such as fighting drugs, gangs and violent crime.

Among other changes, DHS loosened rules to allow recipients to spend up to 50 percent of homeland security grants for personnel expenses, up from 25 percent; ease a 25 percent local-match requirement for rail, transit and port security aid; lift a three-year limit on funding for intelligence analysts in law enforcement “fusion” centers, which police chiefs nationwide have requested.

The department also agreed to spread aid for immigration law enforcement to states with international water as well as land borders, and to let grants be used to store — not just purchase — emergency supplies such as prepackaged food, water and medicines.

History and tips on the DHS grant award process

From HSToday:

A founder of the key homeland security grant program looks back at his handiwork and provides tips on grants and getting the most out of procurement dollars.

A few excerpts:

This year marks the fifth year of existence of DHS, as well as of the UASI program. To this day, the program undergoes changes and sometimes withering criticism concerning DHS’ application of the risk-based funding formula and funding decisions. As I look back now from the perspective of the private sector, I see that, while many UASI jurisdictions, in partnership with their states, do an excellent job of running their programs, there are always lessons learned and best practices to be conveyed.

The three core issues

To develop and run a productive UASI program, state and local leaders must focus on three main issues: establishing a governance and management structure; developing a homeland security strategy and implementation plan based on risk and need; and creating a process to develop, track and measure specific investments to enhance homeland security based upon that strategy and implementation plan.

Governance and management

We decided upon a system of checks and balances that would require the cities, counties and state agencies to work together in order to actually spend the grant money.

Procurement

A key functional area that often gets overlooked by most UASI jurisdictions and state and local governments is procurement.

For some UASI jurisdictions, the inability to quickly, efficiently and effectively spend grant funds results in serious delays in building the capabilities needed to increase homeland security. Most often, the delays have little to do with federal or state government rules. Rather, they are the result of antiquated local procurement laws and regulations that require time consuming and bureaucratic procedures to be followed that often add little value to the process.

Investment justifications

During my time at DHS, we didn’t require written and specific investment justifications to be submitted prior to awarding UASI funding (or any other funding) to states and urban areas. Beginning in 2005, DHS created this process and made it quasi-competitive, awarding funds based on an urban area’s terrorism risk profile and the quality of its investment justifications as scored by state and local peer review panels.

While I’ve taken issue with some of the specifics of how DHS manages this process, in total, I agree with its overall purpose of requiring significant pre-planning by states and urban areas consistent with their strategies and implementation plans before they get access to federal funds.

The lesson from all this: The investment justification process must be viewed as the culmination of a comprehensive, year-long, homeland security planning and implementation process and not simply as a 90-day event in order to ask for money from the federal government.

Perfecting procurement

Most homeland security operators don’t want to even try to fully understand their procurement process. The rules are often a cumbersome morass built incongruently atop each other, with many rules written because someone did something foolish in the past that must be prohibited in the future. Despite the unpleasantries of procurement, designing an effective procurement strategy is essential to acquiring the products and services needed to protect the homeland.