Overview of Napolitano’s Action Directives

In her first 10 days in office, new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has issued 12 “action directives” focused on specific homeland security areas.  Here’s an overview of all the action directives, including their purpose and a brief look at what they may indicate for Homeland Security policy in the Obama administration.

What is an action directive?

According to the DHS press release, action directives “instruct specific offices and agencies to gather information, review existing strategies and programs, and to provide oral and written reports” by a specified date.  The dates are specified separately for each directive.

So essentially the action directives are reviews of existing programs.  Although the action directives do not direct any changes to the programs under review, the specific areas each directive specifies for review give an indication of programs that may begin seeing changes after the reviews are complete.

List of Action Directives

The list of action directives follows.  I’ve listed all the relevant dates for each directive as [Date issued / date oral presentations due / date written reports due].  I’ve linked each directive in this list to the DHS press release that includes it.

Note: Although the initial press release didn’t give both oral and written dates for the 5 action directives issued on that date, based on the press releases for the other action directives, this appears to be an error, and I’ve made the assumption that all 5 of those directives have the same oral and written response dates.  No date was specified for oral presentations for the last action directive (immigration and border security).

Brief Analysis:

Although immigration and border security was the last action directive issued, it is by far the longest and most specific directive, while at the same time allowing the shortest time between issuance of the directive and due date for the final report.  This may be a reflection of Secretary Napolitano’s experience with immigration, but in any case it indicates a likely increase in emphasis on immigration and border security compared to the previous administration.

The other theme clearly evident in many of the action directives is interoperability and integration, integration, integration.  Napolitano stated during her confirmation hearing that a primary focus under her watch would be integration of DHS agencies into a single cohesive agency, and the action directives reflect that.

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.”

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.

GAO faults agencies for lack of coordination on interoperability

According to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released on December 12, DHS, DOJ, and the Treasury Department are no longer coordinating with each other to develop a nationwide federal wireless communications service for use by first responders.  The report, requested by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-CT)  and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME), found the different departments are now working on individual interoperability projects rather than implementing the Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) program.