Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 5, 2007

DHS developing new traveler redress system

Filed under: Aviation Security,Privacy and Security — by Christian Beckner on January 5, 2007

The Federal Register contained a notice today by the TSA on a new information collection requirement related to a program that has not previously disclosed, based on a quick Google search of its name:

The Rice-Chertoff Initiative (RCI) Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) was developed as a voluntary program by DHS to provide a one-stop mechanism for individuals to request redress who believe they have been: (1) Denied or delayed boarding; (2) denied or delayed entry into or departure from the United States at a port of entry; or (3) identified for additional (secondary) screening at our Nation’s transportation hubs, including airports, seaports, train stations and land borders. The DHS TRIP office will be located at, and managed by, TSA. In order for individuals to request redress, they are asked to provide identifying information, as well as details of the travel experience.

The one-year anniversary of the launch of the Rice-Chertoff Initiative is later this month; this program is the result of Chertoff’s promise in that speech to establish a “government-wide traveler screening redress process before the end of this year [2006].”

For more on this issue, see this earlier post.

DHS announces FY07 HLS grants

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on January 5, 2007

The Department of Homeland Security is holding a press conference today to release a report (which you can download here) that describes FY07 allocations for five homeland security grant programs:

  • State Homeland Security Program (SHSP)- $509.3 million
  • Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP)- $363.8 million
  • Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)- $746.9 million
  • Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS)- $32.0 million
  • Citizen Corps Program (CCP)- $14.6 million

As noted yesterday, the most newsworthy dimension of is the selection of cities for the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) program. Baton Rouge, Louisville, Omaha, and Toledo were dropped from the list, and El Paso, Norfolk, Providence, and Tucson were added to it. Local newspapers in those cities are already beginning to react to these decisions – see, for example, the contrasting pieces in the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Providence Journal.

Also new this year, DHS makes the point of fencing off 55% of UASI funding for six “Tier 1″ cities/regions: New York/New Jersey, the National Capital Region, Chicago, Los Angeles/Long Beach, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Houston. However, this is unlikely to lead to an increase that compensates for the decreased FY 2006 allocations given to NYC and DC. In FY 2006, these six regions already received 53.9% of total UASI funding; an increase of 1% of funding, distributed among these six regions, is approx. $7 million, probably not enough to address NYC and DC’s needs and desires. Therefore, the only way to really increase funding for NYC and DC in FY 2007 will be to cut funding for Chicago, LA, Houston and San Francisco. If this math holds, we’re likely to see a repeat of the FY 2006 UASI allocation imbroglio.

Of better news for the “Tier 1″ cities, DHS makes a change that allows these six cities to spend up to 25% of their allocation “toward current state and local personnel dedicated exclusively to counterterrorism field operations.” This is a welcome change, and one that is particularly valuable to New York City, given its sustained investment in a first-rate counterterrorism unit at the NYPD.

For more detailed information, you can read the overview document that I posted here. And look for the Office of Grants & Training to release more detailed grant guidance on the FY 2007 HSGP shortly.

Update (1/5): This page on the Grants & Training contains voluminous information on the FY2007 grant programs, most notably this 98-page grant guidance document and this guide for fusion center investments.

Update (1/6): Here’s the transcript of the press conference.

New CRS report on post-Katrina housing

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christian Beckner on January 5, 2007

The Congressional Research Service released a report in late December that examine the rebuilding of housing in the Gulf Coast region affected by Hurricane Katrina:

RL33761: Rebuilding Housing After Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned and Unresolved Issues, December 19, 2006

The full HLS Watch collection of CRS reports is available here.

January 4, 2007

The 110th Congress begins

Filed under: Congress and HLS — by Christian Beckner on January 4, 2007

The 110th Congress began today, with the Democrats assuming the leadership of both the House and the Senate, and the leaders of both houses preparing to move forward on their near-term agendas.

Homeland security issues will be prominent on the agendas of both the House and the Senate this month, with an initial focus on bills to fully implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, an issue that I covered in detail in a report last month. The House leadership plans to bring this issue to the floor next Tuesday, January 9th, according to the 100-hours agenda found on the House Majority Leader’s website. A document on the House Rules Committee website notes that this bill will be named H.R 1, but the text of it is not yet available online (I’ll update this post when it is).

Meanwhile in the Senate, new Majority Leader Harry Reid outlined the Senate’s first ten bills, including S. 4, focused on implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations, and S. 9, focused on comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing next Tuesday examining the former issue in greater detail, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing looking at data mining programs and privacy issues next Wednesday.

In related news, the House and Senate committee and leadership websites are facing the challenge of adapting to the shift, a challenge that House IT staffers haven’t previously faced(the last time the House was in Democratic control, the WWW was still in its infancy). For example, if you go to http://hsc.house.gov/, you now land on the former Democratic committee webpage, but all of the links on it still go to their former site, and the Republican site is nowhere to be found. As this transition takes places, hopefully steps will be taken to preserve content from previous Congresses; for example, all of the reports and testimony that were formerly at http://hsc.house.gov are currently not online, making many of my old links inoperative and depriving external researchers and the general public of a valuable resource. Hopefully this will be remedied as the transition moves forward.

Update (1/4): The AP weighs in about the House bill.

Update 2 (1/5): The House HSC Republicans’ website has moved here.

Federal Register notes US-EU PNR deal

Filed under: Border Security,International HLS,Privacy and Security — by Christian Beckner on January 4, 2007

Today’s edition of the Federal Register provides notice of the interim agreement that was reached in October 2006 between the United States and the European Union on passenger name record (PNR) data, following the European Court of Justice’s decision to strike down the earlier PNR agreement that dated from 2004. There are no surprises in the new notice – its contents had been widely aired last fall – but it’s useful as a complete record of the new agreement.

Final TWIC regs released

Filed under: Port and Maritime Security — by Christian Beckner on January 4, 2007

Yesterday TSA released the final regulations for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program, following 7-8 months of consultation and negotiation with the impacted stakeholders. The complete final rule is available at this link. The New York Times summarizes the regs, and stories by the AP and Washington Technology notes the high fees associated with the mandatory program.

Now that the regs have been finalized, DHS is expected to begin enrolling people in TWIC in March of this year. And a great deal of work is still needed to develop and install TWIC card readers, an issue that was somewhat sidestepped during the rulemaking process.

UASI grants: Las Vegas, San Diego spared the axe

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on January 4, 2007

CQ Homeland Security has a story today (by subscription only) that previews the impending decisions about which cities to incldue for eligibility in the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI):

The Department of Homeland Security is close to releasing a list of 46 high-risk urban areas eligible for $770 million worth of funding in 2007 — including the Las Vegas and San Diego regions that in 2006 were at risk of losing their high-threat funding eligibility.

This year, six high-risk areas are grouped in a top tier and are eligible for about half of the total Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) pot of funding: the National Capital Region, the San Francisco Bay area, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles/Long Beach and New York City/Northern New Jersey.

Dropped from the UASI list this year are Omaha, Neb., Toledo, Ohio, Louisville, Ky., and Baton Rouge, La., areas, according to sources. Added to the list are Tucson, Ariz., Providence, R.I., Norfolk, Va., and El Paso, Texas.

I argued in a post last month that Las Vegas and San Diego had an “ironclad case” for continued participation in the UASI program, and I think that DHS is making the correct decision in keeping them around. The decision to drop the four cities listed above is also appropriate. The one decision that I don’t immediately understand is the inclusion of the four new cities – Tucson, Providence, Norfolk and El Paso. Tucson and El Paso have legitimate border security needs, but these are perhaps better addressed by programs other than the UASI grants. Norfolk is the most important military port on the Atlantic, but DOD force protection resources should somewhat mitigate the need for UASI funds. And I can’t quite figure out why to include Providence, unless as part of a “greater Boston area” regional allocation similar to the SF Bay Area grouping.

Overall though, this looks to be a vast improvement on the FY 2006 list. More analysis to follow when the list is officially released.

DHS releases interoperability scorecard

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on January 4, 2007

Yesterday DHS released a major report on the state of interoperable communications, giving scores to 75 urban/metropolitan areas on their current capabilities. You can download the full report here, and this webpage summarizes the scores in each area. This AP story summarizes some of the findings in the report:

The report found that while emergency agencies in more than 60 percent of the communities studied had the ability to talk to each other during a crisis, only 21 percent overall showed “the seamless use” of equipment needed to also communicate with state and federal officials.

The report’s highest ratings went to the Washington, D.C., area; San Diego; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Columbus, Ohio; Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Laramie County, Wyo.

The lowest scores went to Chicago; Cleveland; Baton Rouge, La.; Mandan, N.D.; and American Samoa. The report includes large and small cities and their suburbs, along with U.S. territories.

The report led members of the House Homeland Security Committee to argue yesterday in favor of a dedicated grant program for emergency communications, instead of providing this funding within broader homeland security grant programs. This issue is expected to arise in the 9/11 Commission recommendations legislation that will be brought to the House floor next Tuesday.

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