Security Management interviews Lewis D. Schiliro, secretary of the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
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.
Is your mission affected by the financial crisis? If so, how has the state adjusted?
Delaware is no different than any other state. Right now we’re at a zero-based budget, which means we don’t have a lot of room to grow programs. We maintain the programs that we have and I think we have done that very effectively. We have a general assembly and a governor that are very, very supportive of the public safety mission, and they do everything in their power to make sure that we do have the resources that it takes. And in a perfect world we’d like to expand some of our programs. I do think we do fairly well in terms of identifying grants. Many of the local agencies in this state have done well on the Community Oriented Policing Services or COPS grant, getting some additional officers. Last year the State Police was the recipient of maritime grant that’s going to allow us for the first time to create a maritime unit. That’s very important to us. We have a lot of crucial infrastructure along our waterways. So I think we’re doing as well as we can.
To be quite candid I would like to see a shift in their risk analysis from the federal government. I think over time the feds have funded the major cities, and rightfully so. But if you do that year after year, I think we need to start to concentrate on some of the cities that haven’t received that level of funding. If you have a house and you have four doors, you don’t only lock three of them. We need to see a shift in how those limited grant opportunities are allocated. We have a very supportive congressional delegation, and they’ve been outstanding. But I think as a smaller state, to be somewhat parochial, I would like to see kind of a change in how they allocate funding, particularly on a year-to-year basis, and we certainly make that argument every chance we get.
What are some of the state’s major public-private partnerships?
There are a number of initiatives, and we’re looking to expand that every chance we get. Every time we give a talk or we appear at a group we ask for anybody who’s interested in signing up for the RISS-ATIX program to become participants in the DIAC dissemination, because it’s a two-way street. Not only do we look to disseminate information but we also look to receive information, particularly in terms of some of our industry partners. Our private sector partners are a great source of information themselves. In addition we also chair the state’s Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) committee, and our chemical firms provide expertise because in the event of a disaster because they would play a primary role in mitigation, of large chemical spills and those kinds of things. So it really is a good state to be in this business and it really is a two-way street.
On the other hand many of our firms are worldwide entities and they have access to some information that we don’t, so it really does become a true partnership. But again, we’re always looking for better ways to expand it and better ways to improve it. I think we have a rather robust group at our DIAC that is out there constantly looking at different infrastructure issues and trying to involve more people.
Our big initiative is really the notion of engaging all of our citizens in the “See something, say something” program. If you look at all of our utility workers that are out there, all of our different private concerns, the UPS drivers and the FedEx drivers, these are people that are out in our communities every day, so by engaging them and the community we serve, we can really increase the number of eyes and ears that are out there, and I think that is so very important.
Has the state reaped any significant lessons from recent responses or exercises?
In my time here the biggest events have been the snow storms. In my view many of these things you win or lose within the first few hours. You don’t get a do-over. So I guess the lessons-learned are to make sure you are prepared and know that often times there’s no second chance. I think that’s important, but we have a very good emergency management agency in the state, they do an incredible job in coordinating all of the resources and getting everybody on the same page. We have a governor that’s very responsive; he’s on top of it as these events unfold.
Our communication with the governor’s office is outstanding, and we’re able to react in a relatively short amount of time. There’s not a lot of bureaucracy involved in this and that’s a huge benefit. You can get things done and you can get them done fairly quickly, and that’s a huge benefit in terms of managing through critical events. We only have three counties in this state, and each one of those counties has its own emergency management groups. But our DEMA people have done an incredible job in coordinating not only the flow of information but the application of resources. We also have in this state, in my opinion, the finest National Guard bureau in the country, and its ability to deploy resources in a coordinated fashion in a relatively short amount of time is a great benefit. We’re constantly updating our procedures and protocols. We’d like to have more resources applied to that and we’re working on doing some of that, but I think overall we’ve done a fairly good job in managing through particularly the weather-related events that we’ve had.
What are your office’s major goals looking forward?
I think this year we’re going to look very hard at the issue of school security and schools safety plans throughout the state. I think if anybody can do that we can do this in the state of Delaware. We’re going to try to identify model schools safety plans and see if we can apply them across the board to every student in this state. I think that’s critical. We’re also going to look at a more efficient way of providing school safety and security resources to the schools. I think we can identify that and hopefully be able to do that. We’re going to also try to enhance our 911 system by applying a disabilities database, that is to say, if somebody dials 911 in the state of Delaware and that person has special needs, that we ought to be able to identify that so that our first responders can make the appropriate arrangements in order to be able to deliver services to them. And then also that is going to allow us, in the event of a natural disaster or other event, to identify those people in a geographic zone that may have special requirements in terms of evacuation and that kind of thing. We’re really excited about that.
Another initiative this year will be some kind of a more concentrated traffic enforcement in the state—being able to direct additional resources to that. We’re very concerned as all states are with aggressive driving and speeding. And if we can get more resources on the road we can cut down on some of the resources on our road and I think that would be a great thing to be able to do. Those are the things that we really face and would like to be able to identify and do a little bit more with.