NEWS

Napolitano Orders Review of Key DHS Efforts

By Joseph Straw

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano briefed lawmakers Wednesday on a series of directives issued during her first month on the job, all targeting longstanding challenges inherited from the last administration.

“We need to hold people accountable, uphold professionalism across [the Department of Homeland Security], and act wisely with taxpayer money,” Napolitano told members of the House Homeland Security Committee. “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.”

Napolitano summarized roughly a dozen action directives issued since she took office Jan. 21, calling for review of existing efforts in a number of areas:

Critical infrastructure protection: Napolitano has ordered a review of DHS’s infrastructure protection efforts, in particular national cybersecurity, and the push to limit the availability of hazardous chemicals.

Risk management: One directive requires an assessment of DHS’s current risk analysis efforts, to “assure DHS provides risk-analysis information to a full range of decision-makers and assure that the department’s strategies are risk-based,” Napolitano said.

Border security and immigration: Several directives target border issues, including a review of military involvement at the Mexican border (Napolitano deployed the Arizona National Guard to the state’s border in 2006) and engagement of partner agencies to combat drug smuggling and violence. Napolitano also ordered development of improved methods to measure participation in DHS’s E-Verify program and bolster the program's accuracy in determining job applicants’ immigration status.

State and local cooperation: Napolitano issued separate directives calling for increased state and local participation in DHS’s formulation of policies and procedures regarding intelligence sharing and an agency-wide review to eliminate any redundancies. A separate directive calls for review of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) interaction with state and local governments, she said.

Medical surge capacity: DHS will assess its role, along with agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services, in ensuring surge capacity during a major terrorist attack, natural disaster, or disease pandemic.

Gulf Coast Recovery: Napolitano has ordered FEMA to establish a senior-level management team to review and expedite reconstruction programs and claims stemming from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Targeting waste: The U.S. Government Accountability Office has kept DHS on its list of agencies at high risk for waste, fraud, and abuse for most of the agency’s six-year history, due primarily to the large reorganization that established it. Napolitano has ordered an agency-wide efficiency review.

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