Leadership Journal

September 11, 2008

9/11 Anniversary

Secretary Chertoff at the September 11 Memorial Service in New York City on September 11, 2008
It's been a year since we launched the leadership journal, and I'd like to thank our readers for keeping up with our posts and sharing your thoughts. The journal has been a valuable way to get information out to you and to receive your feedback; and it's been a useful medium to share some personal insights about what we see and do on a daily basis. I've learned from our exchanges, and I hope you have as well.

In my initial post, I asked readers whether they thought 9/11 was fading. Perhaps a partial answer to that question can be found in Tuesday’s edition of The New York Times, which again referred to the "fading memory" of 9/11 in an article that recounted the stories of several individuals who were injured in the attacks but managed to survive against overwhelming odds.

I can tell you from my own perspective that while the memory of 9/11 has aged another year, it has certainly not faded. This was reinforced today when I visited Ground Zero in New York City to participate in the annual 9/11 memorial ceremony. Thousands of people – friends, family members, government officials, and ordinary citizens – came together to pay their respects, honor the victims, and read their names aloud. It was an important reminder of the horrors of that day, but also the tremendous valor and sacrifice of the first responders and ordinary citizens who gave their lives trying to save their fellow citizens.

We have now gone seven years without another major attack on our own soil. Few would have thought that possible in 2001. It is a testament to the men and women who work every day to protect our country and who have not allowed the memory of 9/11 to fade. By remembering that day, it helps us recommit ourselves to our present purpose.

It also reminds us that we must strike a balance between fear and hysteria on the one hand and a dangerous complacency on the other. That is a balance we try to achieve every day at the Department of Homeland Security. I'd like to thank you for your interest in our perspective and for sharing your views on our efforts. We look forward to hearing more in the future.

Michael Chertoff


September 10, 2008

A Missed Opportunity

Tomorrow our nation will mark the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Since that time, there have been no successful attacks on our homeland. Common sense suggests that the terrorists did not suddenly and inexplicably lose interest in striking us again. Indeed, our government has helped disrupt a number of plots including the one uncovered two summers ago to hijack transatlantic airliners in London.

Yet in a just-released report on our progress since 9/11, the House’s Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs Committees paint an unrecognizable portrait of where we stand today. Contrary to the report’s assertions, the Department’s employees have worked tirelessly to implement over 250 distinct requirements in the ‘9/11 Recommendations Act,’ as well as hundreds of requirements in other laws.

Just over a year after enactment, the Department has made substantial progress implementing the legislative requirements, and often in the face of inconsistent or unclear congressional priorities. The report is littered with a host of egregious and embarrassing errors. To cite but a few examples:
  • The report states that the Department has made “no progress” with respect to section 1701, which mandates scanning in foreign ports for U.S.-bound cargo. In fact, DHS has deployed scanning systems in multiple foreign ports and thus far has met every obligation and deadline in section 1701. The numerous businesses, foreign governments, and departmental components involved in and affected by the deployed scanning systems strongly rebut the claim of “no progress.”
  • The report states that there has been “little progress” with respect to Section 1101, which requires an operational National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC) by September 30, 2008. In fact, NBIC is now operational, fully satisfies the statutory requirements, and recently disseminated a report on a salmonella outbreak.
  • The report states that regarding Section 711, which modernizes the Visa Waiver Program, “initial steps have been taken but significant implementation challenges remain.” In fact, virtually all of the major implementation challenges have been addressed, and DHS has not missed any statutory deadlines. Moreover, DHS already has realized substantial security gains – in particular, increased information-sharing with foreign partners – as a result of efforts undertaken in accordance with section 711. (More on the work of our Department and its people.)
In addition to the numerous errors in the report, of which the examples above are merely illustrative, many of the statements in the report actually rebut the report’s assertion that the “Administration has ignored the law.”

With respect to Section 1001, which requires the establishment and use of a prioritized list of critical infrastructure, the report acknowledges that “…DHS provided Congress with the list of prioritized critical infrastructure and, thus, fulfilled that requirement of Section 1001.” The report goes on to assert, illogically and incorrectly, that DHS does not use this list.

Finally, it is unfortunate that the report ignores Congress’s failure to implement one of the most important recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. That bipartisan body recommended that Congress “create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security.” With more than 80 committees and subcommittees often imposing inconsistent obligations on DHS, Congress has made it exceedingly difficult to prioritize tasks in a manner that best reduces overall risk to the country. While the Department’s employees work to implement the 250+ requirements of the 9/11 Recommendations Act, on top of the hundreds of pre-existing legal obligations, Congress would do well to heed the one recommendation directed toward reducing the fragmented congressional oversight.

On this solemn anniversary, the Committee has squandered a genuine opportunity to commend the brave men and women of this Department, the intelligence community, first responders, and law enforcement nationwide, for their outstanding job in protecting the homeland. In sum, the 218,000 dedicated members of this Department will continue to serve this nation with honor and distinction, and we who are privileged to lead them will continue our efforts to work with Congress on behalf of our homeland and its people.

Paul A. Schneider
Deputy Secretary


September 5, 2008

Information Sharing: Vital Building Block Toward a Safer and More Secure Nation

We all know how catastrophic the results can be when the right people do not get the right information at the right time. That is why we have made information sharing a national priority, and here at the Department of Homeland Security, a critical part of our mission.

Virtually everyone at DHS has a role in information sharing, which is an essential weapon against threats to the homeland. As those who want to do harm to the nation become more sophisticated, we, too, must be more creative and develop innovative ways to thwart potential attacks. We must continue working to develop coherent policies, create effective governance structures and break down any barriers that prevent us from building sustainable networks and relationships that will secure the nation -- not only now, but in the years to come..

The recently released DHS Information Sharing Strategy exemplifies the Department’s commitment to doing exactly that. A first-of-its-kind document for DHS, the strategy provides direction and guidance for all of the Department’s information-sharing initiatives. It describes how we can transform DHS into an organization that promotes an environment where information is shared in a strategic, efficient manner.

The Strategy is based on a set of five guiding principles:
  1. Fostering information sharing is a core Department mission.
  2. The Department must use the established governance structure to make decisions regarding information-sharing issues.
  3. The Department must commit sufficient resources to information sharing.
  4. The Department must measure progress toward information sharing goals.
  5. The Department must maintain information and data security and protect privacy and civil liberties.
The DHS Information Sharing Strategy is more than a piece of paper. By articulating our priorities in such a fashion, we are sending a clear message: information sharing is no longer optional; it is a vital building block toward a safer and more secure nation.

While our Information Sharing Strategy is a huge step forward, it is only one of a number of ways DHS is moving ahead. One of our most notable accomplishments to date has been the creation of a set of high-level governance structures that will ensure the Department continues to advance with information-sharing initiatives in a unified, coherent fashion.

The Information Sharing Governance Board is an executive-level body that drives Department-wide information sharing initiatives to completion. The Information Sharing Coordinating Council is a working-group made up of action officers from across all DHS Components, ensuring every sector of the Department is represented in information-sharing efforts.

But strategies, policies and governance structures are not enough. We must also work to address cultural barriers that exist across the Department. As the Secretary has said, “We are One DHS.” In order to achieve this vision, we are blending the many tactical missions of the Department. This led us to develop a set of Shared Mission Communities that will cut across the Department and build relationships based around common missions and not organizational structures.

Beyond DHS, we must share information with all federal, State, local, tribal, private sector and international partners as well. That is one reason our Strategy is not only consistent with, but complementary to the President’s National Strategy for Information Sharing, as well as the United States Intelligence Community Information Sharing Strategy.

To sustain a robust federal information sharing environment, we maintain close relationships with the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and its Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to name just a few. However, our responsibility to protect the homeland requires successful partnerships which extend beyond the federal government. We wholeheartedly support the state and local fusion centers across the country with personnel, training and funding. The centers provide deployed DHS analysts the opportunity to work side-by-side and exchange information with their state, local and tribal counterparts, and law enforcement and public safety officers. To date, the Department has deployed 25 intelligence officers to fusion centers across the country with plans to have a total of 35 in the field by the end of the year.

To foster collaboration and share best practices and lessons learned within the fusion center network, DHS sponsors the Homeland Security State and Local Intelligence Community of Interest (HS SLIC), a virtual community of intelligence analysts. Its membership has grown significantly in the past year with members now representing 45 states, the District of Columbia, and seven federal departments. We have also established a HS SLIC Advisory Board, which includes state and local leaders of the HS SLIC to advise the Office of Intelligence and Analysis leadership on issues relating to intelligence collaboration with our non-federal partners. Through the HS SLIC, members are able to post intelligence products so that there is effective vertical information sharing between the states and the national Intelligence Community and horizontally between the states. Fusion center analysts across the country meet via teleconference weekly with their DHS counterparts to discuss homeland security threat issues. Through these activities, DHS is making the HS SLIC a significant contributor to the National Strategy for Information Sharing.

Another initiative in which we are contributing significant leadership is with the Interagency Threat Assessment and Coordination Group (ITACG), which was established at the direction of the President and the 9/11 Commission Act to facilitate increased sharing of terrorism-related information between the national Intelligence Community and our state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners. By pulling together in one place state, local, tribal, territorial, and federal homeland security, law enforcement, and intelligence officers at the National Counterterrorism Center, the ITACG now serves as a focal point to guide the development and dissemination of federal terrorism-related intelligence products through DHS and the FBI to our State, local, tribal territorial, and private sector partners.

Through these and other efforts, I envision an environment where all of those vested in the protection of the nation are working in concert. I am pleased with how far we have come to develop effective technological solutions as well as reduce the cultural barriers that once impeded the flow of information--much progress has already been made.

Building trusted relationships takes dedication and patience. Creating a cohesive environment within an organization as vast as DHS and the federal government at large takes commitment and perseverance. Protecting our nation from the myriad of threats that we face takes courage and resolve. We are and must be up to the task.

Charlie Allen
Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis and Chief Intelligence Officer

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September 4, 2008

Gustav Response and Recovery

Late yesterday I returned from Louisiana with President Bush, after having spent the past several days with Governor Jindal and his team as we monitored Gustav's arrival and initiated response and recovery efforts. I met with several parish presidents and first responders while I was there, and toured many of the communities that were hit hard by this storm. I can tell you that the men and women on the ground who are ensuring the safe return of millions of evacuees are going on little sleep and are working in difficult conditions, but are forging ahead with remarkable determination.

There is still flooding in some areas, and several downed trees and debris-littered roads; but the biggest challenge we're facing right now is downed power lines. State officials are working with FEMA and local power companies to repair these lines as quickly as possible, but it will clearly take several days until power is restored across the region.

I want to take a moment to specifically thank the parish presidents, state officials, and first responders who had a hand in coordinating an enormously successful evacuation prior to Gustav's landfall. As a result of their efforts, our search and rescue operations have been relatively minimal because most of the people in harm's way evacuated well before Gustav's arrival. I also want to thank everyone who assisted with what Governor Jindal described as the largest medical evacuation in their history. It was a true testament to the benefits of pre-planning and coordination, and is a model that should be repeated as we prepare for the oncoming storms currently gaining strength in the Atlantic.

As we identify additional challenges and focus on priorities such as medical needs, power restoration, and debris removal, it's important to recognize that this will be a long-term effort. While the initial planning, preparedness, and evacuation measures were well coordinated, we still have a great deal of work ahead of us. I encourage everyone along the Gulf Coast that is involved in this effort to apply the same vigor and focus on response and recovery as they did for pre-hurricane preparations.

Of course, we must also remain flexible and nimble – Hanna, Ike, and Josephine will present their own sets of challenges in the coming days, as will additional weather systems during this busy period of the 2008 hurricane season.

I encourage residents in Hanna's likely impact area to emulate what Louisianans have done by listening to local officials' instructions and preparing to sustain themselves for at least three days (please visit www.ready.gov for more information). I also encourage everyone to keep up the good work as we roll up our sleeves and continue to respond to this storm and prepare for those ahead.

Michael Chertoff

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September 1, 2008

Gustav Preparations

As we closely monitor Gustav's landfall from Baton Rouge's Emergency Operations Center and remain poised to begin response efforts, I want to briefly update you with some of what I saw on the ground as we finalized our preparations yesterday.

People are taking this storm seriously. More than a million residents have evacuated well ahead of landfall, and those with special needs have been moved out of harm's way.

I've been spending time with Governor Jindal and Mayor Nagin and have been in close communication with Governor Barbour, as well as other state and local officials. I can tell you that preparations for this storm were well coordinated at every level, and everyone is now focused on responding as quickly as possible.

FEMA has pre-positioned assets and personnel in strategic locations and is poised to move in as soon as it's safe to assist with response and recovery operations. Other DHS personnel including ICE, CBP, TSA and Coast Guard teams have been deployed to assist with evacuations and are standing by to begin search and rescue operations as needed. Additional federal partners, including the Department of Defense and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have also deployed assets and personnel to the region and are preparing for response activities.

This will be a severe hurricane and is having a major impact as it continues to move ashore. While the levees around New Orleans have been strengthened since Katrina, there is a still a real risk of flooding because of possible overtopping and rain.

For those who must shelter in place, I hope that you heeded advice to be prepared to sustain yourself for at least 72 hours. This means having enough food, water, and medicine to last for three days.

I'll continue monitoring the storm from Louisiana and will update you as time and circumstances allow. I encourage you to visit www.ready.gov for additional preparedness information.

Michael Chertoff

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