Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Lists Accomplishments
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2004 "Our enemies are not idle, and neither are we," said Homeland Security Deputy Secretary James Loy today, echoing the words of President Bush.
Although the president used those words to challenge terrorists, they might also describe the flurry of activity at the Department of Homeland Security, which has worked to achieve better security in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy and introduced several new security initiatives.
Loy, speaker at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Homeland Security Conference here, said DHS has made "great strides" over the past year and yielded a "pretty impressive" record of accomplishments. The department turns a year old March 1.
Loy, a retired Coast Guard commandant, cited accomplishments and explained his department's goals for making America safe.
At the top of his list were improved border functions, which he said resulted in better service, shorter delays and tighter security. He said the border inspection process was also unified to speed the free flow of goods and people, and to keep terrorists and criminals out of the United States.
In addition, the department also took measures to enhance aviation security. Loy said that in less than a year 50,000 newly trained screeners, air marshals, along with state of the art technology helped make airline travel safer and more secure.
Although, "the system employed is not perfect," he added, "we can and have built a dramatically more secure aviation security system."
The department also took a closer look at the Internet-based Student and Exchange Visitor Information System to maintain current information on non- immigrant students and exchange visitors coming and going to and from the United States.
He said the system has ensured that foreign students are not delayed upon entry and those "posing as students" or seeking entry to fraudulent schools are stopped in their tracks. Last fall 300,000 students were successfully cleared for study through the program, while some 200 others were sent home, he said.
Another department initiative has been expansion of its Container Security Initiative in an effort to ensure the 20,000 containers entering U.S. ports every day are safe. Loy said the department has increased inspections at ports around the world.
He said the department will install U.S. VISIT program equipment at the nation's 50 busiest land ports as well as deploy aerial surveillance and expand CSI to more seaports around the world. The US-VISIT system is a DHS program that uses biometric identifiers such as fingerprints from visitors to assist border control officers in making admission decisions. The system also helps the department verify the identity of incoming visitors and confirm compliance with visa and immigration policies.
Plans also call for the department to work with the private sector on compliance of new maritime security laws, he said.
The department is also looking to develop new capabilities of detecting the presence of nuclear material in shipping container and vehicles, and increase efforts to develop the next generation of biological and chemical detectors.
Some department priorities for this year include improved protection for critical infrastructures and information-sharing capabilities. "The goal is to maximize real-time sharing of situational information without delay and with full-throttle distribution of intelligence to those in the field who need to act on it," he said.
The department will phase in a system over the next three months that will provide secure real-time cyber connectivity among all 50 states and territories. In addition, a network of secure video conferencing capability between governors' offices will be in place by July, he said.
The department also plans to build on existing programs to share information, because "pieces of information that were never important before have all of a sudden become important," he explained.
Also the department is working on a solution for better information sharing and communication, as well as interoperability in equipment and training, among first responders and state and local levels.
The deputy secretary noted that part of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, was that equipment didn't work across jurisdictions. "Fire department radios couldn't transmit to police department radios, and firefighters rushing in could not join the fray as efficiently as they might have been able to do," he said.
"In some cases being unable to assist meant the couplings on their fire hoses did not match up with those at the hydrants in that other city," he noted. "Those kinds of incompatibilities we must find a way to deal as constructively as we can."
Loy said the first responders must have an "interoperable, innovated and integrated" system. He said the department has identified "technical specifications" for a baseline interoperable communications systems that, if adopted at the state and local level, will give most first responders two-way communications during a crisis regardless of frequency or mode of communication.
Another priority lies in further protecting U.S. borders. Loy noted that every year 500 million people, 130 million vehicles, 2.5 million rail cars and more than 11 million containers are processed at borders across the country.
"The challenge of developing a fully integrated border and port security system in the context of a global economy amid a global war is huge," he said. "And yet the consequences of not achieving this goal is even greater."
Still despite all the department's accomplishments and initiatives, Loy reminded the group early on that the department is a "work in progress."
"We are not declaring anything remotely close to victory at this particular point on our one-year anniversary," he reminded the audience. "The saga of what we have to undertake will play out over time. The president has made it clear: The global war on terrorism is something we will be fighting for a long, long time."