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DHS Director Janet Napolitano on Border Security, National Security


DHS Director Janet Napolitano on Border Security, National Security

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Testimony of Secretary Janet Napolitano
House Committee on Homeland Security on DHS

February 25, 2009

(Also see Profile of Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Director.)

Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member King, and members of the Committee: I am pleased to appear before the Committee for the first time as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and I thank you for this opportunity to discuss how DHS will work in the future to keep Americans safe.

At its core, I believe DHS has a straightforward mission: to protect the American people from threats both foreign and domestic, both natural and manmade – to do all that we can to prevent threats from materializing, respond to them if they do, and recover with resiliency. Government does nothing more fundamental than protecting its citizens. But the execution of this mission can be very complex.

In a little more than a month as Secretary, I have found a Department facing a number of challenges, many of which have been documented by the Committee.

But I have also found a Department filled with committed public servants. DHS faces the challenges of a young Department, but this youth is also an advantage in undertaking the changes needed to best achieve the DHS mission.

My message to you today is that I am confident that DHS – with the support and participation of Congress – can make those changes, meet those challenges, and move down “the path forward” to build a more secure Nation.

Action Directives

Improving a Department as large and new as DHS requires a broad look at the current state of its programs. As you know, the DHS portfolio is extremely diverse. During my short term as Secretary, DHS has helped respond to ice storms in the Midwest, rescued ice fishermen on Lake Erie, helped secure the Super Bowl, and even assisted in capturing pirates off the coast of Somalia – all since January 21.

In undertaking the leadership of the Department, I am setting priorities that will be important to me as Secretary:

  • We need to hold people accountable, uphold professionalism across DHS, and act wisely with taxpayer money.

  • We have to dedicate ourselves to doing what works, and frequently reassess the Department to make sure that we are responding to threats as best as possible and making the kind of progress that Americans expect and deserve.
I promise to lead the Department in a way that focuses intently on achieving results that make Americans safer. To me, the process of producing results begins with a prompt assessment of the state of DHS’s programs.

New Directives Issued for Homeland Security

We are performing that kind of review right now. In the several weeks after I took office as Secretary, I issued a series of action directives to assess the current functions of the Department and help target areas for improvement. As part of this process, the different components of DHS are reporting on their current operations and detailing ways that we could improve programs in the future.

The Committee and I have similar views of the Nation's homeland security needs. I have reviewed the Committee's eight platform points, and the action directives I issued address all of those areas.

I agree with the need to prioritize each of the areas the Committee listed, and I see the action directives as the start of a process by which the work of DHS and the Committee will improve them.

The action directives required DHS components to report back to me in a short timeframe, and I want to update the Committee on the status of the directives:

EFFICIENCY REVIEW – Last week, I issued an action directive calling for an Efficiency Review across DHS.

In a young Department that combines many processes previously scattered across the federal government, this review will be critical to improving the governance, functionality and accountability of DHS. Components will provide information on actions they are taking to reduce costs, increase transparency, streamline processes, eliminate duplication, and improve customer service.

STATE AND LOCAL INTELLIGENCE SHARING – I issued two action directives concerned with the Department’s partnerships and intelligence-sharing activities with state, local, tribal, and territorial partners.

As a result of the directives, the Department is considering a possible future assessment of all intelligence-sharing efforts within DHS with an eye toward reducing duplication. DHS is also considering ways to improve intelligence sharing by involving state and local partners during the formulation of intelligence-sharing policies and programs.

The Department is looking to improve the coordination of activities involving state and local partners across DHS. I issued a separate action directive on FEMA integration with state and local governments; FEMA presented feedback based on 75 recommendations emerging from the candid assessments of state and local homeland security and emergency management officials.

HURRICANES KATRINA AND RITA – I issued an action directive regarding the Department’s continued efforts in recovery from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

As a result, FEMA will establish and field a senior-level team to identify issues related to – and review, assess, and identify – efficiencies that will improve Hurricane Katrina and Rita recovery efforts.

FEMA will work to clarify and enhance the government’s role as a more active and engaged facilitator of long-term community recovery working across agencies, and will move quickly to provide arbitration as an additional dispute resolution mechanism, as per the direction of Congress.

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