THE MAGAZINE

State Perspective - Delaware

By Joseph Straw
Lewis D. Schiliro has served as secretary of the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security since January 2009, a cabinet level position in the administration of Gov. Jack Markell. A 25-year FBI veteran, Schiliro retired as head of the New York Field Office, the agency’s largest. As assistant FBI director-in-charge of the field office, his responsibilities included the supervision, management, and leadership of over 2,300 special agents and support personnel in all areas of criminal, national security, and international and domestic terrorism. Earlier, as the field office’s assistant special agent-in-charge for terrorism, Schiliro’s responsibilities included supervision and direction of domestic and international terrorism cases. During this period the field office contributed to prosecutions in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He also served as the field office’s organized crime coordinator and as commander of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, which under his supervision led the nation in identification and prosecution of domestic and international criminal groups. As Inter-Agency Policy & Program Unit chief, Schiliro’s responsibilities included development and implementation of best practices within different government investigative agencies. After retiring from the FBI, Schiliro accepted a position as senior vice president at MBNA America Bank, N.A. in Wilmington, Delaware. Later Schiliro served as director of emergency management at the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority and as a senior vice president at AIG. Schiliro earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Hofstra University and his Juris Doctor from Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. He is a graduate of the Senior Management Government Program at John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University. In addition, he is a member of the National Executive Institute for Major City Chiefs. He is admitted to practice law in front of the New York, Washington, D.C., and federal bars.
 

What are the responsibilities of your office?

In my agency are the State Police, the Division of Capitol Police, which is responsible for all of our state facilities; the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement, which targets underage drinking and underage tobacco consumption among other things, and they have certain regulatory functions. We also have the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) which is our primary office responsible for emergency planning, the Division of Communications, which is responsible for all emergency radios in the state; the Developmental Disabilities Council; and the Division of Gaming Enforcement which is a new division we created. Delaware recently began table games in the state. We also have the Office of Highway Safety, which does all of our highway safety initiatives, the DUI checkpoints and they administer all of the federal grants. So we have a rather diverse group. I also chair the Delaware Emergency Medical Committee, we share membership on the state Council on Police Training, and we share responsibility for the 911 Board, so we have a fairly busy schedule in terms of what we do out of the Office of the Secretary.

 

What assets and threats make the state unique?

We have a small state, but many of the same issues that the larger states do, just in terms of the things that we need to plan and prepare for. As it stands right now the issues that we spend the most time on are weather-related. We are a coastal state, with hurricane issues and nor’easters that hit the state have been issues. DEMA spends a fair amount of time on that. As you know last winter we got hit pretty heavily by some of the snow storms, so that takes up a lot of our time just in terms of preparation and anticipation of those kinds of issues. But also we’re in the shadows of a nuclear plant in New Jersey. We spend a lot of time looking at that. We have a number of chemical facilities in the state; we have Dover Air Force Base. Certainly we have Interstate 95 that runs through our state; we have major financial institutions in the city of Wilmington, major universities that do a lot of research here, just a variety of things that we monitor on a fairly regular basis.

 

How has your professional background informed your current work?

I spent most of my career in the FBI: 25 years. I retired as the head of the New York Field Office which is the largest FBI field division. I was the special agent-in-charge of the criminal division in New York for three years, so I came into this with a fair amount of experience in terms of managing major criminal cases in particular. In New York we worked on a number of disasters, both accidental and criminal, going back to the FALN bombings to the original World Trade Center bombings to major airline disasters like the Avianca and TWA Flight 800 crashes. I travelled all over the world dealing in terrorism cases, most recently before I retired the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa. So when I came into this job with a fair amount of experience dealing with disasters and crisis management. And I think that really helped me in terms of looking at the issues that we’re faced with here—even though it was on a smaller scale—but I think the same principles apply.

I worked in the private and public sectors between my retirement from the FBI in 2000 and 2009. And that is helpful in terms of developing partnerships, both the public sector and the private sector; getting people together to share information. Here I think we’ve made huge inroads in terms of information sharing. We operate as you know the Delaware Information and Analysis Center (DIAC), which is a fusion center. It’s just unbelievable to me the amount of information that is being shared. We have the federally supported Regional Information Sharing System (RISS) and Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (ATIX) which we use to share information with our private sector partners including businesses. I’ve seen information sharing change like day and night in terms of how the FBI used to be. I think that’s such a very positive thing, because our ability to ensure homeland security is really intelligence-based. The better we do at gathering information, the better we do at disseminating that, the more effective we’re going to be at really protecting the assets and the people that we need to. So I think it’s been just an incredibly good experience for me just in seeing the changes. We’ve worked in partnership with many different agencies up in New York and coming to Delaware it’s really the same sense of cooperation and partnership, and that’s really just a good thing. Delaware is a relatively small state, which is a good thing, and you get to know all of your different public safety agencies, and the people involved, and I’ll tell you they’re just great—great to work with and just incredibly good partners.

 

What is the greatest challenge of your office’s mission?

As you probably hear from everybody, it’s budget. It’s money. The job would be a lot easier if we had the money it took to do the things we’d like to do. And the challenge is really to look at the resources we have and apply them to the greatest risks that we face. I’m a firm believer in risk management: identifying the greatest risk and applying our limited resources to mitigating those dangers. But it is a constant battle. We’re constantly looking at different granting opportunities and how we can develop resources and apply that within the state and certainly regionally. You know we’d love to have a magic wand and be able to do all the things that we really would like to do, but you know we have some good partners of the federal agencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); they’ve been great to us. We couldn’t ask for any more in terms of cooperation, but it’s just a tough environment today. The state budget is tough. We have a lot of public safety issues to maintain, both in the State Police and through DEMA and all the different agencies so, that’s probably the most difficult challenge.

 

What has been the state’s greatest success in the homeland security mission?

I think since 9-11 it’s the partnerships that have developed both with the private sector and the public agencies. The DIAC and through the information-sharing programs they run—both RISS and ATIX—and our ability to get information from a variety of sources, both public and private, and the ability to engage the public, are both remarkable. We’ve also launched a public education campaign similar to those in New York City and elsewhere around the country called, “See something, say something.” So now our ability to gather all of the resources that are available and channel them toward developing intelligence and disseminating it—I really think that that is really the heart of what homeland security has to become.

Our partnerships on the regional Join Terrorism Task Force with the federal agencies is just a great benefit to the state. We have, as you know, major chemical and pharmaceutical firms in the state. We have great partnerships with them, just in terms of being able to look at all the infrastructure and decide how best to apply resources to protect that. So we’ve come a long way. We certainly have. But the world’s changed since 9-11, and we have to change with that, and I think we’ve certainly made great inroads.

 

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