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Overview

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of the United States from terrorist attacks and other disasters. Created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, DHS has largely focused on federal preparations to deal with terrorism while trying to manage other duties, including border security, customs and emergency management. The department’s fixation on terrorism has resulted in considerable controversy and criticism, including accusations of violating civil liberties.

 

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History:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, prompted federal officials to examine how such an attack was allowed to occur. The post-9/11 debate eventually turned to how the federal government could prevent future attacks by terrorists. Exactly one month after the attacks, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security. The Bush administration rejected the idea, but Democratic members of the Senate continued to press it. Finally, in June 2002, more than seven months after the initial proposal, President Bush reversed his stand. The Homeland Security Act called for pulling together various federal agencies and offices into the newly established Department of Homeland Security (DHS), led by the first Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania.
 
In creating DHS, some agencies maintained their name and missions, while others ceased to exist and their duties were distributed among new DHS units. For example, the US Customs Service, formerly part of the Treasury Department, was split into the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Likewise, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, a Justice Department office, was divided into CBP and ICE, along with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. Altogether, the missions of 22 federal offices were either shifted or folded into DHS.
 
Having been created in the shadow of 9/11, DHS was born with an anti-terrorism focus, with much attention given to the formulation of a new National Threat Advisory system. This system used color-coded levels to express the state of threats to the country, from “green” (low threat) to “red” (severe). The responsibilities of many DHS offices were to prepare for future terrorist attacks in order to minimize the impact of such assaults. This was especially true of one DHS office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which had historically been charged with responding to natural disasters. Although FEMA was, on paper, still responsible for helping communities respond to and recover from earthquakes and hurricanes, the agency proved thoroughly incapable, as was DHS’ top leadership, of coordinating federal support for New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.
 
When the hurricane slammed into the Gulf Coast, it caused catastrophic damage to the city of New Orleans. The levies surrounding the city were breached, and 80% of the city was flooded. Almost 1,500 people died and thousands of others were left stranded with no help for days following the storm. Media reports repeatedly showed residents stranded on rooftops while looting and mayhem occurred in areas throughout the city, including the Superdome where thousands of refugees had sought shelter from the hurricane.
 
The Bush administration and FEMA were heavily criticized for the slow response by the federal government, including the president’s early praise of Michael Brown for his leadership in handling the crisis. A short time later, Brown was forced to resign. The bungling of the crisis proved to be one of the largest political failures of the Bush administration. DHS’ second secretary, Michael Chertoff, who succeeded Tom Ridge only a few months before Hurricane Katrina, had to oversee FEMA operations after Brown stepped down. Numerous investigations were launched to determine why FEMA had performed so poorly. Congress adopted legislation, the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act, which reorganized FEMA in order to make the agency more capable of handling future disasters, either natural or man-made.
 
Can Homeland Security Plan Make Us Safe? (by Micahel E. O’Hanlon and Peter R. Orszag, Los Angeles Times)
How Reliable Is Brown's Resume? (by Daren Fonda and Rita Healy, Time)

FEMA regroups after Katrina, but some question its readiness

(by Robert Block, Wall Street Journal)

 

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What it Does:

The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of the United States from both man-made and natural disasters. Created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, DHS has largely focused on federal preparations to deal with terrorism while managing other duties related to border security, customs and emergency management, among others.

 
A visit to the DHS web site clearly demonstrates that the department is still fixated on terrorism. Some of DHS’ high-profile programs include:
  • Constellation/Automated Critical Asset Management System (C/ACAMS), which is designed to help state and local governments better protect key infrastructure from terrorist attacks.
  • Homeland Security Advisory System, which warns public safety and other government officials of potential dangers or threats to their part of the country.
  • Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN), which works in tandem with the Homeland Security Advisory System to relate terrorism dangers to all 50 states, five territories, Washington, DC and 50 major urban areas.
  • State & Local Fusion Centers, which allow state and local officials to combine law enforcement data and terrorism intelligence into a system designed to warn of possible terrorist threats.
  • Protected Critical Infrastructure Information (PCII) Program, which duplicates some of the C/ACAMS efforts to protect private sector and pubic sector infrastructure, such as buildings, dams and power plants.
  • Homeland Security Advanced Research Project Agency, which is modeled after DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) by funding technological research that can help mitigate the dangers of terrorism and other duties performed by law enforcement agencies.
 
Directorate for Science and Technology: The S&T Directorate is responsible for a variety of tasks designed to protect the country from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) attacks. It provides research, resources and technology to federal, state, local and tribal officials, emergency personnel, Border Patrol Agents, Federal Air Marshals and airport baggage screeners in order for them to handle CBRNE attacks. Examples of what S&T does are developing new technology that improves security for borders and waterways, creating advanced surveillance techniques and countermeasures and developing cyber security tools for protecting the Internet.
 
The directorate also manages the Homeland Security Institute, DHS’ think tank, which began operations in June 2004.
 
Domestic Nuclear Detection Office: DNDO is responsible for developing high-tech screening methods, or “architecture” as DNDO calls it, that can detect a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb entering the US through a seaport, airport or border crossing. DNDO finances the creation of radiation detection equipment and tests its effectiveness before providing it to customs officials, border guards and Coast Guard sailors. DNDO is a joint operation made up of DHS personnel and officials from the departments of Defense, Energy and State, the FBI, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Safety Administration and the US Coast Guard.
 
Federal Emergency Management Agency: FEMA is responsible for coordinating the federal government’s response to natural and man-made disasters. FEMA is charged with providing help to local and state governments and residents both immediately following a disaster and in the longer term. It also conducts programs to help prepare for disasters. The kinds of assistance FEMA provides ranges from advising on building codes and flood plain management to helping equip local and state emergency agencies to coordinating the federal response to a disaster. Throughout its almost 30-year history, FEMA has been synonymous with the word “disaster.” Not only is this because of the agency’s mission to assist in times of crisis, but also due to its long record of mistakes and, in some cases, failures that have exacerbated suffering caused by storms, fires or earthquakes.
 
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center: FLETC is the largest training program of its kind in the country, providing teaching and vocational instruction to a wide range of law enforcement and security personnel at the federal, state and local government level. Graduating approximately 50,000 students annually, FLETC helps to train officers and agents from more than 80 federal agencies, as well as numerous state and local governments. The center also trains international police in selected advanced programs. Approximately one-third of the instructors at FLETC are permanent staff. The remaining instructors are federal officers and investigators on short-term assignment from their parent organizations or recently retired from the field. Training programs offered by FLETC vary from core instruction required by many government agencies to highly specialized training for select security officials.
 
Office of Infrastructure Protection: OIP helps secure key buildings and other structures across the United States from terrorist attack. OIP is not directly responsible for guarding private and public infrastructure but rather is tasked with identifying important locations and assessing their vulnerability to attack or other dangers, such as natural disasters. The office catalogs buildings, dams, manufacturing plants, waterways, roads and other critical infrastructures/key resources. This effort was widely criticized in 2006 when it was revealed that OIP’s database was filled with non-critical sites, including an Amish popcorn farm and a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts drive-through in Iowa.
 
Office of Intelligence and Analysis: OIA serves as the intelligence wing of DHS, gathering intelligence from other government and non-government sources on potential threats to US domestic security. OIA works with members of the Intelligence Community, as well as state, local, federal and private officials, to carry out its mission. Not only does OIA gather information from these sources but it also shares intelligence it has compiled in order to warn other sectors of the government about impending threats to the nation’s security. These information-sharing activities have raised concerns among civil libertarians, as have other facets of OIA’s work.
 
Transportation Security Administration: TSA is an agency responsible for protecting the nation’s transportation networks from attack. Specifically, it safeguards airports and airplanes, mass-transit systems, highways, seaports, railroads and buses. Americans are most familiar with TSA personnel who man security checkpoints at airports throughout the country. During its brief existence, TSA has been inundated with charges of ineptitude and corruption.
 
Immigration and Customs Enforcement: ICE is not only one of the largest offices in DHS but also represents the second largest law enforcement organization in the United States, behind only the FBI. ICE enforces both immigration and customs laws, which involves going after illegal immigrants in US territory, employers who hire illegal immigrants and those trying to smuggle goods or contraband into the country. Another priority for ICE is to prevent terrorist groups and hostile nations from illegally obtaining US military weapons and sensitive technology, including weapons of mass destruction components.
 
US Citizenship and Immigration Services: USCIS handles all matters pertaining to immigration and the granting of citizenship to non-nationals, having taken over the responsibilities of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service. The agency decides who is eligible for lawful permanent residence in the US, which involves the granting of “green cards.” The office provides information on becoming a permanent resident, eligibility requirements and application procedures. USCIS awards an average of one million green cards, 700,000 naturalizations and one million temporary work permits each year.
 
US Customs and Border Protection: CBP manages, controls and protects the nation’s border in an effort to thwart terrorist attacks, while facilitating legitimate trade and travel. In addition to targeting terrorists, CBP searches for drugs, illegal immigrants, traffickers, prohibited agricultural products and counterfeit goods. CBP is made up of personnel who were formerly with the US Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the entire US Border Patrol. 
 
US Coast Guar: The Coast Guard is one of the five branches of the US Armed Services. It performs a variety of functions at US ports, coasts and inland waterways, as well as in international waters. Peacetime roles include patrolling borders, enforcing licenses, protecting the environment, maintaining waterways, conducting rescue operations, inspecting vessels for safety and stemming the flow of drugs and other contraband into the United States. In times of war, the Coast Guard can be called upon to augment the other military services.
 
US Secret Service: The Secret Service performs a dual mission of investigating financial crimes and providing protection for the president, vice president, their families and other political figures, both US and foreign. Criminal investigations covered by the Secret Service include computer and telecom fraud, identity theft and financial institution fraud. More recently, investigations have included computer-based attacks on the nation’s financial and informational infrastructure.
 
DHS Committees & Working Groups
  • Homeland Security Advisory Council is comprised of leaders from state and local government, public safety agencies, the private sector and academia who advise the DHS Secretary on matters related to homeland security.
  • Critical Infrastructure Sector Partnership is yet another infrastructure-protection element within DHS that helps federal, state, local and tribal governments, along with the owners and operators of key infrastructure and resources, to share information.
  • The DHS Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee advises the DHS Secretary and the DHS Chief Privacy Officer on all issues related to DHS operations that affect individual privacy and data collected by the department.
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Where Does the Money Go

In the brief time it has existed, the Department of Homeland Security has dolled out more than $57 billion in contracts to private and public entities. According to USAspending.gov, 69,248 contractors have worked with DHS to provide a variety of services and goods.

 
Homeland Security officials have spent the most money on guard services ($3.4 billion), followed by computer and telecommunications equipment services ($2.8 billion), radio navigation equipment ($2.6 billion) and a little more than $2 billion on trailers, such as the kind provided to victims of Hurricane Katrina (see Controversies).
 
The biggest spenders among DHS offices were FEMA ($14.6 billion), the US Coast Guard ($13.6 billion), US Customs Service ($8.4 billion), Transportation Security Administration ($8.04 billion) and Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ($5.3 billion).
 
The top 10 recipients of DHS dollars included three of the nation’s biggest defense contractors along with several multi-national technology corporations:
Integrated Coast Guard Systems
$3,019,760,072
Boeing
$1,946,503,203
Unisys
$1,917,869,980
Fluor Corporation
$1,900,943,003
IBM
$1,702,876,445
L-3 Communications
$1,281,673,209
General Dynamics
$1,023,735,013
The Dewberry Companies
$1,011,777,214
The Shaw Group, Inc.
$857,559,983
Lockheed Martin
$843,186,343
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Controversies:

Planning Against the Threat of I.E.D.s in the United States

DHS is forcing state and local authorities to create plans to protect their citizens from the use of improvised explosive devices (I.E.D.s) like the ones used against U.S. troops in Iraq. DHS is so adamant about this that they have threatened states and cities with a cutoff of all DHS funding if they do not comply. Many police departments and state security officials are baffled by this emphasis on such an unlikely threat, but it does make sense to the companies that produce counter-I.E.D. systems, such as Lockheed Martin and BAE. These companies have invested a lot of time and research into the production of these systems, and with the War in Iraq likely to wind down, they are looking for new markets for their products.
States Chafing at U.S. Focus on Terrorism (by Eric Schmitt and David Johnston, New York Times)
 
Contract Abuse by DHS
In its quest to bolster domestic security, the Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly failed to spend wisely on goods and services provided by private contractors. An investigation by a congressional committee found that DHS relied too heavily on no-bid contracts and had too few trained government contract managers to oversee the department’s contracting. Researchers found 32 DHS contracts worth a total of $34 billion that had experienced “significant overcharges, wasteful spending, or mismanagement.”
 
Among the mismanaged contracts were those that involved the hiring of airport screeners, inspecting airport luggage, detecting radiation at the nation’s ports, securing the borders and housing Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Investigators looking into those contracts turned up security systems that had to be dumped, contractor bills for luxury hotel rooms and Homeland Security officials who bought personal items with government credit cards.
 
A DHS spokesman knit-picked in response to the criticism, saying it wasn’t fair to cite contracts made by the Transportation Security Administration before it became part of the Homeland Security Department.
 
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), who requested the report, said the findings revealed a “pattern of reckless spending, poor planning and ineffective oversight that is wasting taxpayers dollars and undermining our security efforts.”
Homeland Security Contracts Abused: Report Finds Extensive Waste (by Griff Witte and Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post)
Waste, Abuse, and Mismanagement in Department of Homeland Security Contracts (U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform) (PDF)
Hearing on Management of Massive Homeland Security Contracts  (U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) (PDF)
 
DHS Looking for Mind Control
In 2007, it was reported that the department had spent money on Russian mind-control research in an attempt to get a leg up on terrorist attempts to attack the US.
 
Through a Canadian intermediary company, DHS sponsored research by the Psychotechnology Research Institute in Moscow working on Semantic Stimuli Response Measurements Technology (SSRM Tek), a software-based mind reader that supposedly tests involuntary responses to subliminal messages.
 
The research was based on the work of Igor Smirnov, a controversial Russian scientist who was compared to the legendary figure Rasputin because of his almost mystical powers of persuasion. Many in Russia have called Smirnov the father of “psychotronic weapons.” The Soviet military enlisted Smirnov’s psychotechnology during the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan in the 1980s to combat the Mujahideen.
 
Some American security contractors have expressed skepticism of the Russian mind-control technology. DownRange G2 Solutions, a California company, began having doubts when the Russian institute’s Canadian partner, Northam Psychotechnologies, declined to make the software available for testing. “That raised our suspicion right away,” said Scott Conn, CEO and president of DownRange. “We weren't prepared to put our good names on the line without due diligence.”
 
DHS Contracts for US Gulag
In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security gave a subsidiary of Halliburton, formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, a $385 million contract to build emergency detention facilities that echoed a controversial measure from the Iran-Contra hearings of the 1980s.
 
KBR, the Halliburton division that ran afoul for its mismanaged contracts in Iraq, was given the task of preparing for “an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs” in the event of other emergencies. The vague press release offered no details about where Halliburton was to build these facilities, or when.
 
Some observers expressed concern that the intention behind the plan was to detain American citizens in the event that the Bush administration declared martial law. A similar proposal first made headlines during the Iran-Contra hearings on Capitol Hill when testimony revealed the existence of the Rex-84 “readiness exercise” developed under the leadership of Colonel Oliver North. Rex-84 called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to round up and detain 400,000 imaginary “refugees” during a mass influx of Mexican immigrants across the US-Mexico border. Along with Rex-84 was a secret plan developed by the Reagan administration to maintain continuity of government (COG) in the event of a nuclear war. COG would have suspended the Constitution and given authority to private, non-elected leaders to run the country.
 
Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, called the KBR contract an indication of the government’s intention to round up “Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters” after the next 9/11.
Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps (by Peter Dale Scott, Pacific News Service)
 
Toxic Trailers for Hurricane Victims
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA bought 145,000 mobile home trailers to provide shelter to those who lost their homes in the disaster. FEMA spent $2.7 billion largely through no-bid contracts, a decision that proved ill-advised. In March 2007 it was reported that the agency was selling off as many as 41,000 of the homes (and netting about 40 cents on each dollar spent by taxpayers) even though thousands of residents throughout the south were in need of shelter following storms from the previous winter.
 
Furthermore, complaints began to surface about the trailers making people sick. Dubbed “toxic tin cans,” the trailers were found to have formaldehyde, a human carcinogen, in the walls. The airborne form of the chemical was used in the making of composite wood and plywood panels. Air quality tests of 44 FEMA trailers conducted by the Sierra Club revealed formaldehyde concentrations as high as 0.34 parts per million - a level nearly equal to what a professional embalmer would be exposed to on the job, according to one study.
 
In spite of the public controversies, FEMA has continued to distribute the trailers to other displaced persons. In August 2007 residents of southern Minnesota were hit by historic floodwaters, causing many to lose their homes. FEMA provided trailers, and complaints similar to those raised by Katrina victims have surfaced.
 
To make matters worst, FEMA was accused in January of trying to suppress information in a scientific study on formaldehyde in the trailers. Congressman Nick Lampson (D-TX) claimed an official from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) informed a congressional committee that “good science wasn't followed when a decision was made to allow people to live in basically travel trailers that were not designed to be lived in." FEMA denied that it suppressed any report.
 
In February CDC released its preliminary findings for the FEMA Trailer Study. It found higher than typical indoor exposure levels of formaldehyde in travel trailers and mobile homes used as emergency housing in the Gulf Coast Region. 
 
Almost 150,000 households have lived in FEMA trailers at some point since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. FEMA says about 40,000 families are still living in the travel trailers.
FEMA Taking Hit on Sale of Surplus Trailers (by Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post)
 
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Debate:

DHS Personnel Rules

Shortly after the Department of Homeland Security was founded, the Bush administration tried to implement a series of controversial personnel reforms that applied to DHS and the Department of Defense. Administration officials argued it was critical to alter federal regulations pertaining to employee raises and other personnel rules in order to make the new homeland security operation run efficiently. The plan was backed by DHS leaders and Republicans on Capitol Hill, and it got an unexpected boost from the Government Accountability Office which gave a positive review of the proposed changes.
 
Initially, federal employee labor unions discussed the changes with administration officials in an attempt to help craft reforms that could be acceptable to both sides. The effort failed, however, after union leaders concluded that the administration was determined to destroy the collective bargaining power of DHS and other federal employees. Over the past several years, the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, among other unions, have publicly opposed the new personnel system designed for DHS. They also filed suit to stop the implementation of the changes. Congressional Democrats have joined the unions in opposing the administration’s effort.
 
In early 2008, the administration signaled in a court filing that it was caving on its plans to implement the controversial changes.
 
Background
DHS abandons efforts to implement new labor relations rules (by Richard W. Walker, Federal Computer Week)
DOD, DHS progress with personnel reforms (by Richard W. Walker, Federal Computer Week)
Appropriators block funding for DHS personnel reforms (By Brittany R. Ballenstedt, Government Executive)
Homeland Security workers criticize personnel reforms (by David McGlinchey, Government Executive)
 
Pro
 
Con
A Dangerous Experiment in Civil Service Reform (by Joseph N. Dassaro, Federal Times) (PDF)
DHS Survey Shows Little Movement on Morale (National Treasury Employees Union)
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Suggested Reforms:

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Commis­sion on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States was created to examine all aspects of the federal government in order to prevent such tragedies from occurring again. The 9/11 Commission recommended, among other provisions, that the Department of Homeland Security reform its grant process. So far it has not done so, according to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

 
What DHS has done is distribute more money to local and state governments so they can better prepare against terrorism threats. But “throwing money” at the problem is not the answer, argued the commission and The Heritage Foundation. Grants to state and local govern­ments are in danger of becoming little more than “pork-bar­rel” legislation.
 
The foundation has argued that DHS needs to take steps to create a preparedness system “that makes all Americans safer.” Three steps have been put forth by the foundation for Congress to follow:
  • Establish a regional framework for the Department of Homeland Security
  • Require a periodic mandatory review of the department’s strategic plan
  • Abolish or substantially reduce manda­tory outlays to states.
Homeland Security Grant Reform: Congressional Inaction Must End (by James Jay Carafano and Jamie Metzl, Heritage Foundation)
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Former Directors:

Tom Ridge (2003 to 2005)

A native of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge served as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security from 2001 to 2003 and then as the first Secretary of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005.
 
Ridge graduated from Harvard in 1967 and had began studying at Dickinson School of Law when he was drafted into the United States Army. He served as an infantry staff sergeant during the Vietnam War. After leaving the Army, Ridge completed his JD degree at the Dickinson School of Law, graduating in 1972.
 
He practiced law privately before becoming Assistant District Attorney in Erie County, Pennsylvania in 1980. In 1982 he successfully ran for northwestern Pennsylvania’s seat in Congress and was re-elected six times. In 1994, Ridge ran for governor of Pennsylvania, winning the election as a pro-choice Republican. He was reelected in 1998.
 
During the 2000 presidential race, Ridge served as an advisor to George W. Bush.
 
While serving as Homeland secretary, Ridge often clashed with administration officials over the raising of the terror alert. Ridge stated after resigning from the leadership of DHS that he was often overruled by the White House when the alert status was elevated based on “flimsy evidence.”
Ridge reveals clashes on alerts (by Mimi Hall, USA Today)

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Founded: 2002
Annual Budget: $47 billion
Employees: 208,000
Official Website: http://www.dhs.gov

Department of Homeland Security

Johnson, Jeh
Secretary

Jeh C. Johnson was sworn in December 23, 2013, as the fourth Secretary of Homeland Security in the department’s short history. As the head of Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Johnson oversees much of the nation’s domestic security apparatus. He was confirmed by the Senate for the post December 16, 2013.

 

Johnson (whose first name is pronounced Jay) was born in New York City on September 11, 1957, and grew up in Wappingers Falls, New York, living across the street from the woman who would eventually become his wife, dentist Susan DiMarco. He graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1979 and received his law degree from Columbia University in 1982. While he was an undergraduate, he was a summer intern for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynahan (D-New York).

 

Johnson started his career in 1982 at the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, but in 1984, he joined the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison. Johnson would move back and forth between that firm and government service right up to his appointment as DHS secretary. His first move into government service came in 1989, when he became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

 

During his stint in the U.S. Attorney’s office, Johnson worked on several prominent cases, including the prosecution of a former congressman, Robert Garcia, in the Wedtech scandal and the conviction of a New York state senator, Andrew Jenkins, for money laundering.

 

Johnson returned to Paul Weiss in 1992. While there, he unsuccessfully defended a client who had attempted to extort $5 million from McDonald’s with the client claiming he’d found a rat tail in his French fries. He had many more successes during his stints with the firm, however. He won while defending flooring company Armstrong World Industries in an anti-trust suit and successfully defended Citigroup and Salomon Smith Barney against claims.

 

In 1998, President Bill Clinton asked Johnson to join his administration as general counsel of the Air Force. He served in that post until 2001 when, with the arrival of the George W. Bush administration, Johnson returned to Paul Weiss. He remained there until 2008, but did work in 2004 as a campaign advisor to then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) in his run for the presidency. In 2008, Johnson earned $2.6 million at Paul Weiss.

 

Johnson served as a foreign policy advisor in Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. In addition, he was a major bundler of campaign funds in that race. After Obama’s inauguration, Johnson was named general counsel for the Department of Defense. One of his major achievements in that position was the co-authorship of a report on why the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy should be overturned. Congress took its recommendations to heart and now gays may serve openly in the armed forces.

 

Johnson was also a defender of the military’s increased use of drones, writing memos providing legal cover for their use. “In my view, targeted lethal force is at its least controversial when it is on its strongest, most traditional legal foundation,” he told an audience at Fordham Law School in 2013. “The essential mission of the U.S. military is to capture or kill an enemy. Armies have been doing this for thousands of years. As part of a congressionally authorized armed conflict, the foundation is even stronger. Furthermore, the parameters of congressionally authorized armed conflict are transparent to the public, from the words of the congressional authorization itself, and the Executive Branch's interpretation of that authorization, which this Administration has made public.”

 

At the end of 2012, Johnson left government service, returning once again to Paul Weiss. Just a few months later, though, in October 2013, Obama nominated Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security to replace Janet Napolitano.

 

Johnson’s unusual first name comes courtesy of his grandfather, Charles S. Johnson, at one time president of historically black Fisk University. The elder Johnson was sent to Liberia on a fact-finding mission for the League of Nations. While there, he met a tribal chief whom he admired and named one of his sons for him. That son was Jeh Johnson Sr., the father of the DHS secretary.

 

The secretary’s uncle, Robert B. Johnson, was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. While in training, he was arrested as part of the April 1945 “Freeman Field Mutiny,” in which black officers tried to use an officers’ club that was restricted to whites. Johnson was reprimanded over the incident.

 

Johnson and his wife have two children, Jeh Jr. and Natalie.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Nomination of Hon. Jeh C. Johnson to be Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

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Napolitano, Janet
Previous Secretary

Janet Napolitano does not shy away from tough fights, having first risen to prominence as Anita Hill’s attorney during the Clarence Thomas controversy, and later as a Democratic governor of a very Republican state.

 
Napolitano was born on November 19, 1957, in New York City to Jane Marie Winer and Leonard Michael Napolitano, an anatomy professor who was the dean of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. She was raised in Pittsburgh, PA, and Albuquerque, NM, and she enjoyed her time so much as a Girl Scout that she became a lifetime member. She graduated from Sandia High School in 1975 and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” Napolitano attended college in California, earning a Truman Scholarship and graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from Santa Clara University in 1979. She was valedictorian of her graduating class, the first female to earn the honor in the school’s history. Napolitano then received her Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1983.
 
After law school Napolitano clerked for Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and then joined Schroeder’s former firm, Lewis and Roca, in Phoenix, AZ. She became a partner of the firm in 1989, and in 1991, Napolitano was part of the legal team that represented Anita Hill, a former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission colleague of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas who accused Thomas of sexual harassment. Hill’s accusations jeopardized, but ultimately failed to derail, the Senate’s confirmation of Thomas. Napolitano was in charge of preparing the testimony of Hill’s supporting witnesses. Her representation of Hill became an issue in 1993 when the Senate considered Clinton’s nomination of Napolitano for US Attorney. Napolitano refused to answer questions about a private conversation with one of Hill’s witnesses, Susan Hoerchner, whom Republican critics contended changed her testimony at Napolitano’s urging.
 
In 1993, Napolitano was appointed by President Bill Clinton as US Attorney for Arizona. While awaiting her confirmation by the US Senate (which took a year because of Republican objections), she recused herself from a case against Cindy McCain, wife of US Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who was charged with stealing prescription drugs from her medical charity. During her time as a US Attorney, Napolitano began her political alliance with the controversial sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, who became famous for subjecting inmates to chain gangs, rotten food and pink underwear. Napolitano was part of an investigation by the Justice Department that looked into Arpaio’s methods of incarceration, but she downplayed the significance of the final report, which accused the sheriff’s operation of using excessive force, gratuitous use of pepper spray and “restraint chairs,” hog-tying and beating of inmates.
 
In 1998 Napolitano ran for state attorney general of Arizona and won. Her tenure focused on consumer protection issues. Before the U.S. Supreme Court, she defended (unsuccessfully) Arizona’s right to issue death penalties in non-jury trials. While still serving as attorney general, she spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2000, even though she was still recovering from a mastectomy and a battle against breast cancer.
Napolitano became a rising star in the Democratic Party when she became governor of Arizona in 2002. She narrowly defeated Republican Matt Salmon, a former congressman, giving Arizona (and the United States) the first ever back-to-back female governors of a state (she succeeded Republican Jane Dee Hull). Her campaign was helped by Arpaio’s endorsement and appearance in a television ad, and Napolitano continued her hands-off policy towards the sheriff’s controversial ways while she served as governor.
 
As governor, Napolitano got into numerous fights with the Republican-controlled Legislature over state spending and illegal immigration. She also became a prominent figure in the debate over REAL ID, a federal program launched after the 2001 terrorist attacks to make driver’s licenses more secure. In 2007, Napolitano struck a deal with the Department of Homeland Security that was supposed to lead to her state adopting the REAL ID standards. But in June 2008, she signed legislation refusing to implement the standards. Furthermore, state auditors faulted Arizona’s use of federal homeland security grants, citing sloppy record keeping of millions of federal dollars doled out to communities. If confirmed as homeland security secretary, Napolitano would oversee $2 billion a year in counterterrorism grants to states and cities. Napolitano has fought to curb illegal immigration, supporting the use of radar and the National Guard on the border. However, she has been skeptical that building a fence along the US-Mexico border will solve the problem. She once said: “You build a 50-foot wall, somebody will find a 51-foot ladder.” Napolitano has supported a guest-worker program and, like fellow Arizonan John McCain, she has spoken in favor of allowing a path to citizenship for the nation’s 12 million undocumented workers.
 
In November 2006, Napolitano easily won re-election as governor, defeating GOP challenger Len Munsil, and becoming the first woman to be re-elected to the governor’s office. With term limits preventing her from running again for governor, Napolitano was in an ideal position to accept the nomination for Secretary of Homeland Security.
 
Napolitano endorsed Barack Obama early on in the fight for the Democratic nomination for president, giving the Illinois Democrat a prominent female supporter while battling Hillary Clinton. That endorsement made Napolitano persona non grata among some Clinton supporters. She became part of the president-elect’s transition team in early November 2008. Like Obama, Napolitano is an avid basketball fan. She once climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest peak in Africa.
 
Napolitano is unmarried, which, according to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), makes her perfectly suited for the job of homeland secretary. “Janet’s perfect for that job,” Rendell told the media. “Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19, 20 hours a day to it.”
 
10 Things You Didn't Know About Janet Napolitano (by Bobby Kyle Sauer, US News & World Report)
Partners in Pink Underwear (by Tom Zoellner, Slate)
Napolitano has known controversy at high level (by Sharon Theimer, Associated Press)
A look at Janet Napolitano (Associated Press)
Janet Napolitano and the New Third Way (by Dana Goldstein, American Prospect)
Napolitano not fazed by inclusion on 'traitor list' (by Evan Brown, PolitickerAZ.com)
America's 5 Best Governors (by Terry McCarthy, Time)
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Overview

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of the United States from terrorist attacks and other disasters. Created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, DHS has largely focused on federal preparations to deal with terrorism while trying to manage other duties, including border security, customs and emergency management. The department’s fixation on terrorism has resulted in considerable controversy and criticism, including accusations of violating civil liberties.

 

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History:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, prompted federal officials to examine how such an attack was allowed to occur. The post-9/11 debate eventually turned to how the federal government could prevent future attacks by terrorists. Exactly one month after the attacks, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security. The Bush administration rejected the idea, but Democratic members of the Senate continued to press it. Finally, in June 2002, more than seven months after the initial proposal, President Bush reversed his stand. The Homeland Security Act called for pulling together various federal agencies and offices into the newly established Department of Homeland Security (DHS), led by the first Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania.
 
In creating DHS, some agencies maintained their name and missions, while others ceased to exist and their duties were distributed among new DHS units. For example, the US Customs Service, formerly part of the Treasury Department, was split into the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Likewise, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, a Justice Department office, was divided into CBP and ICE, along with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. Altogether, the missions of 22 federal offices were either shifted or folded into DHS.
 
Having been created in the shadow of 9/11, DHS was born with an anti-terrorism focus, with much attention given to the formulation of a new National Threat Advisory system. This system used color-coded levels to express the state of threats to the country, from “green” (low threat) to “red” (severe). The responsibilities of many DHS offices were to prepare for future terrorist attacks in order to minimize the impact of such assaults. This was especially true of one DHS office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which had historically been charged with responding to natural disasters. Although FEMA was, on paper, still responsible for helping communities respond to and recover from earthquakes and hurricanes, the agency proved thoroughly incapable, as was DHS’ top leadership, of coordinating federal support for New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.
 
When the hurricane slammed into the Gulf Coast, it caused catastrophic damage to the city of New Orleans. The levies surrounding the city were breached, and 80% of the city was flooded. Almost 1,500 people died and thousands of others were left stranded with no help for days following the storm. Media reports repeatedly showed residents stranded on rooftops while looting and mayhem occurred in areas throughout the city, including the Superdome where thousands of refugees had sought shelter from the hurricane.
 
The Bush administration and FEMA were heavily criticized for the slow response by the federal government, including the president’s early praise of Michael Brown for his leadership in handling the crisis. A short time later, Brown was forced to resign. The bungling of the crisis proved to be one of the largest political failures of the Bush administration. DHS’ second secretary, Michael Chertoff, who succeeded Tom Ridge only a few months before Hurricane Katrina, had to oversee FEMA operations after Brown stepped down. Numerous investigations were launched to determine why FEMA had performed so poorly. Congress adopted legislation, the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act, which reorganized FEMA in order to make the agency more capable of handling future disasters, either natural or man-made.
 
Can Homeland Security Plan Make Us Safe? (by Micahel E. O’Hanlon and Peter R. Orszag, Los Angeles Times)
How Reliable Is Brown's Resume? (by Daren Fonda and Rita Healy, Time)

FEMA regroups after Katrina, but some question its readiness

(by Robert Block, Wall Street Journal)

 

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What it Does:

The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of the United States from both man-made and natural disasters. Created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, DHS has largely focused on federal preparations to deal with terrorism while managing other duties related to border security, customs and emergency management, among others.

 
A visit to the DHS web site clearly demonstrates that the department is still fixated on terrorism. Some of DHS’ high-profile programs include:
  • Constellation/Automated Critical Asset Management System (C/ACAMS), which is designed to help state and local governments better protect key infrastructure from terrorist attacks.
  • Homeland Security Advisory System, which warns public safety and other government officials of potential dangers or threats to their part of the country.
  • Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN), which works in tandem with the Homeland Security Advisory System to relate terrorism dangers to all 50 states, five territories, Washington, DC and 50 major urban areas.
  • State & Local Fusion Centers, which allow state and local officials to combine law enforcement data and terrorism intelligence into a system designed to warn of possible terrorist threats.
  • Protected Critical Infrastructure Information (PCII) Program, which duplicates some of the C/ACAMS efforts to protect private sector and pubic sector infrastructure, such as buildings, dams and power plants.
  • Homeland Security Advanced Research Project Agency, which is modeled after DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) by funding technological research that can help mitigate the dangers of terrorism and other duties performed by law enforcement agencies.
 
Directorate for Science and Technology: The S&T Directorate is responsible for a variety of tasks designed to protect the country from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) attacks. It provides research, resources and technology to federal, state, local and tribal officials, emergency personnel, Border Patrol Agents, Federal Air Marshals and airport baggage screeners in order for them to handle CBRNE attacks. Examples of what S&T does are developing new technology that improves security for borders and waterways, creating advanced surveillance techniques and countermeasures and developing cyber security tools for protecting the Internet.
 
The directorate also manages the Homeland Security Institute, DHS’ think tank, which began operations in June 2004.
 
Domestic Nuclear Detection Office: DNDO is responsible for developing high-tech screening methods, or “architecture” as DNDO calls it, that can detect a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb entering the US through a seaport, airport or border crossing. DNDO finances the creation of radiation detection equipment and tests its effectiveness before providing it to customs officials, border guards and Coast Guard sailors. DNDO is a joint operation made up of DHS personnel and officials from the departments of Defense, Energy and State, the FBI, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Safety Administration and the US Coast Guard.
 
Federal Emergency Management Agency: FEMA is responsible for coordinating the federal government’s response to natural and man-made disasters. FEMA is charged with providing help to local and state governments and residents both immediately following a disaster and in the longer term. It also conducts programs to help prepare for disasters. The kinds of assistance FEMA provides ranges from advising on building codes and flood plain management to helping equip local and state emergency agencies to coordinating the federal response to a disaster. Throughout its almost 30-year history, FEMA has been synonymous with the word “disaster.” Not only is this because of the agency’s mission to assist in times of crisis, but also due to its long record of mistakes and, in some cases, failures that have exacerbated suffering caused by storms, fires or earthquakes.
 
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center: FLETC is the largest training program of its kind in the country, providing teaching and vocational instruction to a wide range of law enforcement and security personnel at the federal, state and local government level. Graduating approximately 50,000 students annually, FLETC helps to train officers and agents from more than 80 federal agencies, as well as numerous state and local governments. The center also trains international police in selected advanced programs. Approximately one-third of the instructors at FLETC are permanent staff. The remaining instructors are federal officers and investigators on short-term assignment from their parent organizations or recently retired from the field. Training programs offered by FLETC vary from core instruction required by many government agencies to highly specialized training for select security officials.
 
Office of Infrastructure Protection: OIP helps secure key buildings and other structures across the United States from terrorist attack. OIP is not directly responsible for guarding private and public infrastructure but rather is tasked with identifying important locations and assessing their vulnerability to attack or other dangers, such as natural disasters. The office catalogs buildings, dams, manufacturing plants, waterways, roads and other critical infrastructures/key resources. This effort was widely criticized in 2006 when it was revealed that OIP’s database was filled with non-critical sites, including an Amish popcorn farm and a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts drive-through in Iowa.
 
Office of Intelligence and Analysis: OIA serves as the intelligence wing of DHS, gathering intelligence from other government and non-government sources on potential threats to US domestic security. OIA works with members of the Intelligence Community, as well as state, local, federal and private officials, to carry out its mission. Not only does OIA gather information from these sources but it also shares intelligence it has compiled in order to warn other sectors of the government about impending threats to the nation’s security. These information-sharing activities have raised concerns among civil libertarians, as have other facets of OIA’s work.
 
Transportation Security Administration: TSA is an agency responsible for protecting the nation’s transportation networks from attack. Specifically, it safeguards airports and airplanes, mass-transit systems, highways, seaports, railroads and buses. Americans are most familiar with TSA personnel who man security checkpoints at airports throughout the country. During its brief existence, TSA has been inundated with charges of ineptitude and corruption.
 
Immigration and Customs Enforcement: ICE is not only one of the largest offices in DHS but also represents the second largest law enforcement organization in the United States, behind only the FBI. ICE enforces both immigration and customs laws, which involves going after illegal immigrants in US territory, employers who hire illegal immigrants and those trying to smuggle goods or contraband into the country. Another priority for ICE is to prevent terrorist groups and hostile nations from illegally obtaining US military weapons and sensitive technology, including weapons of mass destruction components.
 
US Citizenship and Immigration Services: USCIS handles all matters pertaining to immigration and the granting of citizenship to non-nationals, having taken over the responsibilities of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service. The agency decides who is eligible for lawful permanent residence in the US, which involves the granting of “green cards.” The office provides information on becoming a permanent resident, eligibility requirements and application procedures. USCIS awards an average of one million green cards, 700,000 naturalizations and one million temporary work permits each year.
 
US Customs and Border Protection: CBP manages, controls and protects the nation’s border in an effort to thwart terrorist attacks, while facilitating legitimate trade and travel. In addition to targeting terrorists, CBP searches for drugs, illegal immigrants, traffickers, prohibited agricultural products and counterfeit goods. CBP is made up of personnel who were formerly with the US Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the entire US Border Patrol. 
 
US Coast Guar: The Coast Guard is one of the five branches of the US Armed Services. It performs a variety of functions at US ports, coasts and inland waterways, as well as in international waters. Peacetime roles include patrolling borders, enforcing licenses, protecting the environment, maintaining waterways, conducting rescue operations, inspecting vessels for safety and stemming the flow of drugs and other contraband into the United States. In times of war, the Coast Guard can be called upon to augment the other military services.
 
US Secret Service: The Secret Service performs a dual mission of investigating financial crimes and providing protection for the president, vice president, their families and other political figures, both US and foreign. Criminal investigations covered by the Secret Service include computer and telecom fraud, identity theft and financial institution fraud. More recently, investigations have included computer-based attacks on the nation’s financial and informational infrastructure.
 
DHS Committees & Working Groups
  • Homeland Security Advisory Council is comprised of leaders from state and local government, public safety agencies, the private sector and academia who advise the DHS Secretary on matters related to homeland security.
  • Critical Infrastructure Sector Partnership is yet another infrastructure-protection element within DHS that helps federal, state, local and tribal governments, along with the owners and operators of key infrastructure and resources, to share information.
  • The DHS Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee advises the DHS Secretary and the DHS Chief Privacy Officer on all issues related to DHS operations that affect individual privacy and data collected by the department.
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Where Does the Money Go

In the brief time it has existed, the Department of Homeland Security has dolled out more than $57 billion in contracts to private and public entities. According to USAspending.gov, 69,248 contractors have worked with DHS to provide a variety of services and goods.

 
Homeland Security officials have spent the most money on guard services ($3.4 billion), followed by computer and telecommunications equipment services ($2.8 billion), radio navigation equipment ($2.6 billion) and a little more than $2 billion on trailers, such as the kind provided to victims of Hurricane Katrina (see Controversies).
 
The biggest spenders among DHS offices were FEMA ($14.6 billion), the US Coast Guard ($13.6 billion), US Customs Service ($8.4 billion), Transportation Security Administration ($8.04 billion) and Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ($5.3 billion).
 
The top 10 recipients of DHS dollars included three of the nation’s biggest defense contractors along with several multi-national technology corporations:
Integrated Coast Guard Systems
$3,019,760,072
Boeing
$1,946,503,203
Unisys
$1,917,869,980
Fluor Corporation
$1,900,943,003
IBM
$1,702,876,445
L-3 Communications
$1,281,673,209
General Dynamics
$1,023,735,013
The Dewberry Companies
$1,011,777,214
The Shaw Group, Inc.
$857,559,983
Lockheed Martin
$843,186,343
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Controversies:

Planning Against the Threat of I.E.D.s in the United States

DHS is forcing state and local authorities to create plans to protect their citizens from the use of improvised explosive devices (I.E.D.s) like the ones used against U.S. troops in Iraq. DHS is so adamant about this that they have threatened states and cities with a cutoff of all DHS funding if they do not comply. Many police departments and state security officials are baffled by this emphasis on such an unlikely threat, but it does make sense to the companies that produce counter-I.E.D. systems, such as Lockheed Martin and BAE. These companies have invested a lot of time and research into the production of these systems, and with the War in Iraq likely to wind down, they are looking for new markets for their products.
States Chafing at U.S. Focus on Terrorism (by Eric Schmitt and David Johnston, New York Times)
 
Contract Abuse by DHS
In its quest to bolster domestic security, the Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly failed to spend wisely on goods and services provided by private contractors. An investigation by a congressional committee found that DHS relied too heavily on no-bid contracts and had too few trained government contract managers to oversee the department’s contracting. Researchers found 32 DHS contracts worth a total of $34 billion that had experienced “significant overcharges, wasteful spending, or mismanagement.”
 
Among the mismanaged contracts were those that involved the hiring of airport screeners, inspecting airport luggage, detecting radiation at the nation’s ports, securing the borders and housing Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Investigators looking into those contracts turned up security systems that had to be dumped, contractor bills for luxury hotel rooms and Homeland Security officials who bought personal items with government credit cards.
 
A DHS spokesman knit-picked in response to the criticism, saying it wasn’t fair to cite contracts made by the Transportation Security Administration before it became part of the Homeland Security Department.
 
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), who requested the report, said the findings revealed a “pattern of reckless spending, poor planning and ineffective oversight that is wasting taxpayers dollars and undermining our security efforts.”
Homeland Security Contracts Abused: Report Finds Extensive Waste (by Griff Witte and Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post)
Waste, Abuse, and Mismanagement in Department of Homeland Security Contracts (U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform) (PDF)
Hearing on Management of Massive Homeland Security Contracts  (U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) (PDF)
 
DHS Looking for Mind Control
In 2007, it was reported that the department had spent money on Russian mind-control research in an attempt to get a leg up on terrorist attempts to attack the US.
 
Through a Canadian intermediary company, DHS sponsored research by the Psychotechnology Research Institute in Moscow working on Semantic Stimuli Response Measurements Technology (SSRM Tek), a software-based mind reader that supposedly tests involuntary responses to subliminal messages.
 
The research was based on the work of Igor Smirnov, a controversial Russian scientist who was compared to the legendary figure Rasputin because of his almost mystical powers of persuasion. Many in Russia have called Smirnov the father of “psychotronic weapons.” The Soviet military enlisted Smirnov’s psychotechnology during the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan in the 1980s to combat the Mujahideen.
 
Some American security contractors have expressed skepticism of the Russian mind-control technology. DownRange G2 Solutions, a California company, began having doubts when the Russian institute’s Canadian partner, Northam Psychotechnologies, declined to make the software available for testing. “That raised our suspicion right away,” said Scott Conn, CEO and president of DownRange. “We weren't prepared to put our good names on the line without due diligence.”
 
DHS Contracts for US Gulag
In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security gave a subsidiary of Halliburton, formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, a $385 million contract to build emergency detention facilities that echoed a controversial measure from the Iran-Contra hearings of the 1980s.
 
KBR, the Halliburton division that ran afoul for its mismanaged contracts in Iraq, was given the task of preparing for “an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs” in the event of other emergencies. The vague press release offered no details about where Halliburton was to build these facilities, or when.
 
Some observers expressed concern that the intention behind the plan was to detain American citizens in the event that the Bush administration declared martial law. A similar proposal first made headlines during the Iran-Contra hearings on Capitol Hill when testimony revealed the existence of the Rex-84 “readiness exercise” developed under the leadership of Colonel Oliver North. Rex-84 called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to round up and detain 400,000 imaginary “refugees” during a mass influx of Mexican immigrants across the US-Mexico border. Along with Rex-84 was a secret plan developed by the Reagan administration to maintain continuity of government (COG) in the event of a nuclear war. COG would have suspended the Constitution and given authority to private, non-elected leaders to run the country.
 
Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, called the KBR contract an indication of the government’s intention to round up “Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters” after the next 9/11.
Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps (by Peter Dale Scott, Pacific News Service)
 
Toxic Trailers for Hurricane Victims
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA bought 145,000 mobile home trailers to provide shelter to those who lost their homes in the disaster. FEMA spent $2.7 billion largely through no-bid contracts, a decision that proved ill-advised. In March 2007 it was reported that the agency was selling off as many as 41,000 of the homes (and netting about 40 cents on each dollar spent by taxpayers) even though thousands of residents throughout the south were in need of shelter following storms from the previous winter.
 
Furthermore, complaints began to surface about the trailers making people sick. Dubbed “toxic tin cans,” the trailers were found to have formaldehyde, a human carcinogen, in the walls. The airborne form of the chemical was used in the making of composite wood and plywood panels. Air quality tests of 44 FEMA trailers conducted by the Sierra Club revealed formaldehyde concentrations as high as 0.34 parts per million - a level nearly equal to what a professional embalmer would be exposed to on the job, according to one study.
 
In spite of the public controversies, FEMA has continued to distribute the trailers to other displaced persons. In August 2007 residents of southern Minnesota were hit by historic floodwaters, causing many to lose their homes. FEMA provided trailers, and complaints similar to those raised by Katrina victims have surfaced.
 
To make matters worst, FEMA was accused in January of trying to suppress information in a scientific study on formaldehyde in the trailers. Congressman Nick Lampson (D-TX) claimed an official from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) informed a congressional committee that “good science wasn't followed when a decision was made to allow people to live in basically travel trailers that were not designed to be lived in." FEMA denied that it suppressed any report.
 
In February CDC released its preliminary findings for the FEMA Trailer Study. It found higher than typical indoor exposure levels of formaldehyde in travel trailers and mobile homes used as emergency housing in the Gulf Coast Region. 
 
Almost 150,000 households have lived in FEMA trailers at some point since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. FEMA says about 40,000 families are still living in the travel trailers.
FEMA Taking Hit on Sale of Surplus Trailers (by Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post)
 
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Debate:

DHS Personnel Rules

Shortly after the Department of Homeland Security was founded, the Bush administration tried to implement a series of controversial personnel reforms that applied to DHS and the Department of Defense. Administration officials argued it was critical to alter federal regulations pertaining to employee raises and other personnel rules in order to make the new homeland security operation run efficiently. The plan was backed by DHS leaders and Republicans on Capitol Hill, and it got an unexpected boost from the Government Accountability Office which gave a positive review of the proposed changes.
 
Initially, federal employee labor unions discussed the changes with administration officials in an attempt to help craft reforms that could be acceptable to both sides. The effort failed, however, after union leaders concluded that the administration was determined to destroy the collective bargaining power of DHS and other federal employees. Over the past several years, the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, among other unions, have publicly opposed the new personnel system designed for DHS. They also filed suit to stop the implementation of the changes. Congressional Democrats have joined the unions in opposing the administration’s effort.
 
In early 2008, the administration signaled in a court filing that it was caving on its plans to implement the controversial changes.
 
Background
DHS abandons efforts to implement new labor relations rules (by Richard W. Walker, Federal Computer Week)
DOD, DHS progress with personnel reforms (by Richard W. Walker, Federal Computer Week)
Appropriators block funding for DHS personnel reforms (By Brittany R. Ballenstedt, Government Executive)
Homeland Security workers criticize personnel reforms (by David McGlinchey, Government Executive)
 
Pro
 
Con
A Dangerous Experiment in Civil Service Reform (by Joseph N. Dassaro, Federal Times) (PDF)
DHS Survey Shows Little Movement on Morale (National Treasury Employees Union)
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Suggested Reforms:

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Commis­sion on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States was created to examine all aspects of the federal government in order to prevent such tragedies from occurring again. The 9/11 Commission recommended, among other provisions, that the Department of Homeland Security reform its grant process. So far it has not done so, according to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

 
What DHS has done is distribute more money to local and state governments so they can better prepare against terrorism threats. But “throwing money” at the problem is not the answer, argued the commission and The Heritage Foundation. Grants to state and local govern­ments are in danger of becoming little more than “pork-bar­rel” legislation.
 
The foundation has argued that DHS needs to take steps to create a preparedness system “that makes all Americans safer.” Three steps have been put forth by the foundation for Congress to follow:
  • Establish a regional framework for the Department of Homeland Security
  • Require a periodic mandatory review of the department’s strategic plan
  • Abolish or substantially reduce manda­tory outlays to states.
Homeland Security Grant Reform: Congressional Inaction Must End (by James Jay Carafano and Jamie Metzl, Heritage Foundation)
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Former Directors:

Tom Ridge (2003 to 2005)

A native of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge served as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security from 2001 to 2003 and then as the first Secretary of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005.
 
Ridge graduated from Harvard in 1967 and had began studying at Dickinson School of Law when he was drafted into the United States Army. He served as an infantry staff sergeant during the Vietnam War. After leaving the Army, Ridge completed his JD degree at the Dickinson School of Law, graduating in 1972.
 
He practiced law privately before becoming Assistant District Attorney in Erie County, Pennsylvania in 1980. In 1982 he successfully ran for northwestern Pennsylvania’s seat in Congress and was re-elected six times. In 1994, Ridge ran for governor of Pennsylvania, winning the election as a pro-choice Republican. He was reelected in 1998.
 
During the 2000 presidential race, Ridge served as an advisor to George W. Bush.
 
While serving as Homeland secretary, Ridge often clashed with administration officials over the raising of the terror alert. Ridge stated after resigning from the leadership of DHS that he was often overruled by the White House when the alert status was elevated based on “flimsy evidence.”
Ridge reveals clashes on alerts (by Mimi Hall, USA Today)

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Founded: 2002
Annual Budget: $47 billion
Employees: 208,000
Official Website: http://www.dhs.gov

Department of Homeland Security

Johnson, Jeh
Secretary

Jeh C. Johnson was sworn in December 23, 2013, as the fourth Secretary of Homeland Security in the department’s short history. As the head of Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Johnson oversees much of the nation’s domestic security apparatus. He was confirmed by the Senate for the post December 16, 2013.

 

Johnson (whose first name is pronounced Jay) was born in New York City on September 11, 1957, and grew up in Wappingers Falls, New York, living across the street from the woman who would eventually become his wife, dentist Susan DiMarco. He graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1979 and received his law degree from Columbia University in 1982. While he was an undergraduate, he was a summer intern for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynahan (D-New York).

 

Johnson started his career in 1982 at the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, but in 1984, he joined the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison. Johnson would move back and forth between that firm and government service right up to his appointment as DHS secretary. His first move into government service came in 1989, when he became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

 

During his stint in the U.S. Attorney’s office, Johnson worked on several prominent cases, including the prosecution of a former congressman, Robert Garcia, in the Wedtech scandal and the conviction of a New York state senator, Andrew Jenkins, for money laundering.

 

Johnson returned to Paul Weiss in 1992. While there, he unsuccessfully defended a client who had attempted to extort $5 million from McDonald’s with the client claiming he’d found a rat tail in his French fries. He had many more successes during his stints with the firm, however. He won while defending flooring company Armstrong World Industries in an anti-trust suit and successfully defended Citigroup and Salomon Smith Barney against claims.

 

In 1998, President Bill Clinton asked Johnson to join his administration as general counsel of the Air Force. He served in that post until 2001 when, with the arrival of the George W. Bush administration, Johnson returned to Paul Weiss. He remained there until 2008, but did work in 2004 as a campaign advisor to then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) in his run for the presidency. In 2008, Johnson earned $2.6 million at Paul Weiss.

 

Johnson served as a foreign policy advisor in Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. In addition, he was a major bundler of campaign funds in that race. After Obama’s inauguration, Johnson was named general counsel for the Department of Defense. One of his major achievements in that position was the co-authorship of a report on why the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy should be overturned. Congress took its recommendations to heart and now gays may serve openly in the armed forces.

 

Johnson was also a defender of the military’s increased use of drones, writing memos providing legal cover for their use. “In my view, targeted lethal force is at its least controversial when it is on its strongest, most traditional legal foundation,” he told an audience at Fordham Law School in 2013. “The essential mission of the U.S. military is to capture or kill an enemy. Armies have been doing this for thousands of years. As part of a congressionally authorized armed conflict, the foundation is even stronger. Furthermore, the parameters of congressionally authorized armed conflict are transparent to the public, from the words of the congressional authorization itself, and the Executive Branch's interpretation of that authorization, which this Administration has made public.”

 

At the end of 2012, Johnson left government service, returning once again to Paul Weiss. Just a few months later, though, in October 2013, Obama nominated Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security to replace Janet Napolitano.

 

Johnson’s unusual first name comes courtesy of his grandfather, Charles S. Johnson, at one time president of historically black Fisk University. The elder Johnson was sent to Liberia on a fact-finding mission for the League of Nations. While there, he met a tribal chief whom he admired and named one of his sons for him. That son was Jeh Johnson Sr., the father of the DHS secretary.

 

The secretary’s uncle, Robert B. Johnson, was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. While in training, he was arrested as part of the April 1945 “Freeman Field Mutiny,” in which black officers tried to use an officers’ club that was restricted to whites. Johnson was reprimanded over the incident.

 

Johnson and his wife have two children, Jeh Jr. and Natalie.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Nomination of Hon. Jeh C. Johnson to be Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

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Napolitano, Janet
Previous Secretary

Janet Napolitano does not shy away from tough fights, having first risen to prominence as Anita Hill’s attorney during the Clarence Thomas controversy, and later as a Democratic governor of a very Republican state.

 
Napolitano was born on November 19, 1957, in New York City to Jane Marie Winer and Leonard Michael Napolitano, an anatomy professor who was the dean of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. She was raised in Pittsburgh, PA, and Albuquerque, NM, and she enjoyed her time so much as a Girl Scout that she became a lifetime member. She graduated from Sandia High School in 1975 and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” Napolitano attended college in California, earning a Truman Scholarship and graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from Santa Clara University in 1979. She was valedictorian of her graduating class, the first female to earn the honor in the school’s history. Napolitano then received her Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1983.
 
After law school Napolitano clerked for Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and then joined Schroeder’s former firm, Lewis and Roca, in Phoenix, AZ. She became a partner of the firm in 1989, and in 1991, Napolitano was part of the legal team that represented Anita Hill, a former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission colleague of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas who accused Thomas of sexual harassment. Hill’s accusations jeopardized, but ultimately failed to derail, the Senate’s confirmation of Thomas. Napolitano was in charge of preparing the testimony of Hill’s supporting witnesses. Her representation of Hill became an issue in 1993 when the Senate considered Clinton’s nomination of Napolitano for US Attorney. Napolitano refused to answer questions about a private conversation with one of Hill’s witnesses, Susan Hoerchner, whom Republican critics contended changed her testimony at Napolitano’s urging.
 
In 1993, Napolitano was appointed by President Bill Clinton as US Attorney for Arizona. While awaiting her confirmation by the US Senate (which took a year because of Republican objections), she recused herself from a case against Cindy McCain, wife of US Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who was charged with stealing prescription drugs from her medical charity. During her time as a US Attorney, Napolitano began her political alliance with the controversial sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, who became famous for subjecting inmates to chain gangs, rotten food and pink underwear. Napolitano was part of an investigation by the Justice Department that looked into Arpaio’s methods of incarceration, but she downplayed the significance of the final report, which accused the sheriff’s operation of using excessive force, gratuitous use of pepper spray and “restraint chairs,” hog-tying and beating of inmates.
 
In 1998 Napolitano ran for state attorney general of Arizona and won. Her tenure focused on consumer protection issues. Before the U.S. Supreme Court, she defended (unsuccessfully) Arizona’s right to issue death penalties in non-jury trials. While still serving as attorney general, she spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2000, even though she was still recovering from a mastectomy and a battle against breast cancer.
Napolitano became a rising star in the Democratic Party when she became governor of Arizona in 2002. She narrowly defeated Republican Matt Salmon, a former congressman, giving Arizona (and the United States) the first ever back-to-back female governors of a state (she succeeded Republican Jane Dee Hull). Her campaign was helped by Arpaio’s endorsement and appearance in a television ad, and Napolitano continued her hands-off policy towards the sheriff’s controversial ways while she served as governor.
 
As governor, Napolitano got into numerous fights with the Republican-controlled Legislature over state spending and illegal immigration. She also became a prominent figure in the debate over REAL ID, a federal program launched after the 2001 terrorist attacks to make driver’s licenses more secure. In 2007, Napolitano struck a deal with the Department of Homeland Security that was supposed to lead to her state adopting the REAL ID standards. But in June 2008, she signed legislation refusing to implement the standards. Furthermore, state auditors faulted Arizona’s use of federal homeland security grants, citing sloppy record keeping of millions of federal dollars doled out to communities. If confirmed as homeland security secretary, Napolitano would oversee $2 billion a year in counterterrorism grants to states and cities. Napolitano has fought to curb illegal immigration, supporting the use of radar and the National Guard on the border. However, she has been skeptical that building a fence along the US-Mexico border will solve the problem. She once said: “You build a 50-foot wall, somebody will find a 51-foot ladder.” Napolitano has supported a guest-worker program and, like fellow Arizonan John McCain, she has spoken in favor of allowing a path to citizenship for the nation’s 12 million undocumented workers.
 
In November 2006, Napolitano easily won re-election as governor, defeating GOP challenger Len Munsil, and becoming the first woman to be re-elected to the governor’s office. With term limits preventing her from running again for governor, Napolitano was in an ideal position to accept the nomination for Secretary of Homeland Security.
 
Napolitano endorsed Barack Obama early on in the fight for the Democratic nomination for president, giving the Illinois Democrat a prominent female supporter while battling Hillary Clinton. That endorsement made Napolitano persona non grata among some Clinton supporters. She became part of the president-elect’s transition team in early November 2008. Like Obama, Napolitano is an avid basketball fan. She once climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest peak in Africa.
 
Napolitano is unmarried, which, according to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), makes her perfectly suited for the job of homeland secretary. “Janet’s perfect for that job,” Rendell told the media. “Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19, 20 hours a day to it.”
 
10 Things You Didn't Know About Janet Napolitano (by Bobby Kyle Sauer, US News & World Report)
Partners in Pink Underwear (by Tom Zoellner, Slate)
Napolitano has known controversy at high level (by Sharon Theimer, Associated Press)
A look at Janet Napolitano (Associated Press)
Janet Napolitano and the New Third Way (by Dana Goldstein, American Prospect)
Napolitano not fazed by inclusion on 'traitor list' (by Evan Brown, PolitickerAZ.com)
America's 5 Best Governors (by Terry McCarthy, Time)
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