Apologies…

If you have posted any comments that I didn’t respond to or approve, please accept my apologies – the blog software often marks legitimate comments as spam, and I just realized that my spam settings were causing many comments to be deleted without me getting a chance to check them.

So if you have posted a comment and haven’t either had it approved or gotten a response from me, please re-post it, and I’ll respond or approve them.

Thanks!

Obama pushes security upgrades for seaports & emergency communications

From Government Security News:

As President Obama put some meat on the bones of his promised infrastructure revitalization plan, it became clear yesterday that strengthening security at the nation’s seaports and improving first responder communications networks are two areas likely to receive federal funding in the short term.

In his Saturday radio and Internet address on Jan. 24, Obama provided more details than ever on his “American Reinvestment Plan,” aimed at creating or saving three to four million jobs.

In addition to repairing traditional roadways and mass transit systems, said Obama, infrastructure revitalization “means protecting America by securing 90 major ports and creating a better communications network for local law enforcement and public safety officials in the event of an emergency.”

Introduction: Lobbying 101

Some of you may have some interest in a new blog I started, Lobbying 101.

The purpose is to share some of my experience and advice on working with lobbyists, including understanding what they do, the value they add to our government (yes, they actually can help), deciding if you should hire one, finding and hiring a good lobbying firm, and working with lobbyists effectively.

While Washington D.C. insiders are very familiar with lobbyists, when someone first suggested to me that my company should hire a lobbyist, I found it very difficult to find good information on them – even a good description of what they do.  Finding the names of appropriate firms proved even more difficult (Google wasn’t much help).  And then when I did finally find some firms, since I didn’t really know what they did, it was hard to even know what questions to ask them.

I eventually found my way through, and found several very good lobbying firms, but it took a while.  So hopefully, if you’re facing similar questions and decisions, Lobbying 101 will help make it a little easier for you.

Napolitano sails through confirmation hearing

Updated 01/16 21:00 EST

Janet Napolitano completed her confirmation before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Thursday without any real challenges, garnering praise and vows of support from every member of the committee, including both Republican members.  Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) said that he will move to have Napolitano confirmed by the full Senate as soon as possible after President-elect Obama’s inauguration next week, and said that seating Napolitano was “as important as seating the secretary of defense to the security of our country.”

When asked what her top priorities for DHS are, Napolitano gave three:

  1. Create a unified vision and culture for the department.
    • Give the departments people and offices the sense that it’s a single agency rather than an agglomeration of organizations.
  2. Bring together the “best and brightest” personnel.
    • She also touched on DHS’ low morale, and said she wanted to create “real career paths” that will allow people to rise in the ranks.
  3. “Complete the work of the transition.”
    • Basically, complete the hand-offs, and get people up-to-speed and down to business quickly.

Some other areas emphasized during her testimony included interoperability, border security and immigration, and FEMA’s relationship with DHS.  She also said she was committed to ensuring that DHS communicate better with the public.

Regarding FEMA, both Lieberman and Susan Collins (R-ME), the ranking Republican member of the committee, urged Napolitano not to reorganize DHS and not to remove FEMA from DHS.  Napolitano hasn’t publicly taken a position on FEMA’s relationship wtih DHS, but she has reportedly been asking members of Congress for their views on it, and she pledged to actively study it.

Summary: She’ll get confirmed easily, possibly as early as January 21st.  She appears to have a good working relationship with the member of the committee, which may enable her to be more effective, at least as long as the honeymoon lasts.  Expect interoperability and border security to get increased focus and resources, and expect some changes in immigration enforcement.

HSPD 25 & NSPD 66: Arctic Region Policy

On Friday, President Bush issued a presidential directive, designated as both Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) 25 and a National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 66, which “establishes the policy of the United States with respect to the Arctic region and directs related implementation actions.”

Although the directive mentions national security and homeland security needs first in all areas, the majority of the implementation actions relate to international relations, the economy, and protection of the environment and natural resources.  And as such, the directive is likely to have a greater impact on the Department of State (designated in all 7 policy areas outlined – see below for details) than on DHS (designated in 3 of the 7) or DoD (designated in 2 of the 7).

Here’s a quick summary of the major sections, and a few highlights.

In the “Background” section, the directive states that it “takes into account several developments, including, among others:

  1. Altered national policies on homeland security and defense;
  2. The effects of climate change and increasing human activity in the Arctic region;
  3. The establishment and ongoing work of the Arctic Council; and
  4. A growing awareness that the Arctic region is both fragile and rich in resources.”

The “Policy” section is divided into 7 areas (with designated agencies) as follows:

  • National Security and Homeland Security Interests in the Arctic (Depts of State, Defense, and Homeland Security),
  • International Governance (State),
  • Extended Continental Shelf and Boundary Issues (State),
  • Promoting International Scientific Cooperation (State, Interior, Commerce, and NSF),
  • Maritime Transportation in the Arctic Region (State, DoD, Transportation, Commerce, and DHS),
  • Economic Issues, Including Energy (State, Interior, Commerce, and Energy), and
  • Environmental Protection and Conservation of Natural Resources (State, Interior, Commerce, DHS, and EPA).

Each of these 7 policy areas includes both statements about policy and specific implementation directives.  Although only a handful of the implementation directives directly address national security and homeland security, several of the other directives have some dual-use, with some application to homeland security and defense, even though that’s not the primary stated purpose.

There is a single paragraph at the end discussing the need for additional resources to achieve the implementation directives. However, it’s not specific about funding sources, instead simply stating that “The heads of executive departments and agencies with responsibilities relating to the Arctic region shall work to identify future budget, administrative, personnel, or legislative proposal requirements to implement the elements of this directive.”

In terms of DHS, the Coast Guard is likely to be most impacted by this directive, so it’s likely that the Coast Guard will request more funds for operations in the Arctic region in coming years.  Whether they get them is far too early to tell.

DHS IG Report: DHS’ role in fusion centers

The DHS Office of Inspector General issued a report last week on “DHS’ Role in
State and Local Fusion Centers”.  The report was issued in response to a request from U.S. Representative Bennie G. Thompson, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

The report reviews successes and challenges in detail, and makes 7 recommendations.  The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (DHS I&A) is the organization in DHS responsible for fusion centers, and the report states that I&A agreed with all 7 recommendations, and “has proposed plans and taken action that, once fully implemented, will reduce a number of the deficiencies…identified.”

Here’s a summary of the recommendations:

  1. Improve responses to Requests for Information, and identify designated points-of-contact between I&A and fusion centers for information needs.
  2. Expand training courses, including adding additional course locations (not just Washington D.C.), and exploring online training.
  3. Integrate all relevant I&A division roles and responsibilities into the fusion center program.
  4. Review and increase assignments of DHS staff to fusion centers.
  5. Develop measurable performance standards for the fusion center program, and justify continued costs.
  6. Improve interconnectivity among the multiple unclassified and classified information systems used to share and obtain information from fusion centers.
  7. Explore funding options and identify sufficient resources for the fusion center program.  This includes providing staff to the State and Local Program Office to oversee and manage the program.

Regardless of intent, whether or not any of these recommendations are implemented will ultimately come down to funding.  To this end, recommendations #4 (increase DHS staff assigned to fusion centers), #6 (improve interconnectivity among systems), and the 2nd half of #7 (providing staff to oversee and manage the program) are probably the least likely to be implemented in the near future.  But expect funds for some or all of these to be requested in the DHS FY2010 budget.

Executive order on lab biosecurity

President Bush issued an executive order last week establishing a working group to review biosecurity at U.S. labs and issue a report to the President within 180 days with “recommendations for any new legislation, regulations, guidance, or practices for security and personnel assurance” and “options for establishing oversight mechanisms.”  The order covers “federal and nonfederal facilities that conduct research on, manage clinical or environmental laboratory operations involving, or handle, store, or transport biological select agents and toxins.”

Insufficient biosecurity at U.S. labs was highlighted in the report from the Commission on the Prevention of  WMD Proliferation and Terrorism released last month.  In response to that report, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs indicated it may introduce legislation to strengthen lab security as well.

There is considerable overlap in purpose between the new working group and the Senate committee efforts, and the Commission has undoubtedly done some of the investigative work outlined in the executive order.  So the new working group may serve more as a platform to ensure executive branch agency cooperation and input into new legislation than as an actual investigative body.