Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 25, 2009

Napolitano Testifies

Filed under: Border Security,Congress and HLS,Immigration,Intelligence and Info-Sharing,State and Local HLS — by Philip J. Palin on February 25, 2009

If you missed the webcast, Secretary Napolitano testified this morning and into the early afternoon before the House Homeland Security Committee.

In a brief summation of her prepared remarks the Secretary highlighted three priorities for, as she said, “kicking the tires” at the Department of Homeland Security:
1. Immigration enforcement,
2. FEMA working with others, and
3. Sharing intelligence and analysis.

The committee’s follow-on questions did not give much attention to immigration policy, probably because this is mostly in the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction. But border security – and especially escalating violence in Mexico – was the focus of many members comments and questions. In response the Secretary noted the Mexican government is undertaking serious and much needed action against narco-terrorists. DHS is attempting to assist by reducing the southward flow of weapons and money. But the Secretary cautioned against militarizing the border, while promising a vigorous response if local authorities perceive the need for help with troubles boiling over the border.

(Shortly after the House hearing concluded Attorney-General Holder announced the arrest of over 750 individuals associated with Mexican drug cartels.  For more see an AP report and The Washington Times. )

When Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL) asked whither-goest-FEMA, the Secretary noted,  “I have not yet had a conversation with the President,” and was clearly keeping all options on the table. Still neither the Secretary nor the Committee seemed enthusiastic about FEMA being decoupled from DHS. Several members of both parties expressed opposition to such a move.

On intelligence gathering and analysis the Secretary gave particular emphasis to the role of non-federal assets. She mentioned that state and local authorities have “more eyes and ears than the federal government will ever have.” In response to several questions she went out of her way to emphasize a leading role for state and local public safety in the national intelligence enterprise.

In response to a question regarding Mexican drugwar violence the Secretary mentioned, the “best intel is often available from the local sheriff.”  Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) commended the Secretary for her commitment to “bottom-up intelligence.”

This was the Secretary’s inaugural appearance before the Committee.  Some additional thoughts later tonight or early tomorrow.

(On Thursday morning the Secretary’s testimony was covered by the Washington Post, New York Times, and other media.)

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Comment by William R. Cumming

February 25, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

Now that Presidential Study Directive #1 signed by the President and issued on Feburary 23, 2009 has been made public by the Federation of American Scientists Secrecy Archive, it looks like FEMA role in domestic crisis response is fully part of that review. The review will end the end of April so that in the meantime it is left to Jim Jones and John Brennan to wrestle with any intervening domestic crisis. There is already confusion but the text of PSD #1 revokes NSPD-8, not HSPD-8 which continues in effect as do all other HSPD’s issued by the Bush Administration. What is interesting is that the Secretary now argues she has NOT talked to the President about FEMA. WOW! Again FEMA appears leaderless and a step-child in a new administration. I think it is becoming a psychological issue as to whether FEMA is in or out of DHS! Does the leadership fear that FEMA leaving means the rest of DHS is threatened. Odd for an organization with less than 2% of the FTEs in DHS. By the way DHS keeps saying it has 220,000 FTEs while in my judgement closer to 160,000. Maybe an accurate head count and how that head count is conducted would be of help. Still almost 65-85,000 FTE in FEMA are uniformed or carry guns and badges and can retire in 20 years of active service. Any studies on this cultural fact and its impact on DHS? I keep hearing that DHS is an old-soldiers home (same language Frank Carlucci used in breaking up OEP in 1973 after Tropical Storm Agnes! And old Coasties home. While I have respect for both old soldiers and old Coasties if they are still capable perhaps they should just be allowed to continue where they are in military service for another decade. This issue should be looked at in detail because the “Can Do Types” are necessarily those that should be involved in critical community recovery issues that involve various sensitivities.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 25, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

Corection–65-85,000 FTE’s in DHS are uniformed or carry guns. NO ONE in FEMA is authorized to carry a weapon but OIG staff and security staff including special police at Mt. Weather.

Comment by Peter J. Brown

February 26, 2009 @ 9:18 am

“In response to a question regarding Mexican drugwar violence the Secretary mentioned, the “best intel is often available from the local sheriff.” Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) commended the Secretary for her commitment to “bottom-up intelligence.”

I think she meant “sheriffs other than the person with the badge on who was about to killed by 3 Mexican gang members in South Carolina as part of an initiation rite” as reported in today’s Washington Times by my old friend Jerry Seper who remains the best reporter thi snation has when it comes to the SW border / immigration beat.

Pingback by “Man-caused disasters” | Homeland Security Watch

April 11, 2009 @ 5:36 am

[…] Napolitano’s stubborn avoidance of “terrorism” in her prepared  testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee did not, as a result, especially trouble me.  But her choice of  “man-caused […]

Comment by Beth

April 12, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

When did the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) come under the Department of Homeland Security? Drugs are DEA not DHS? And public safety being a national intelligence enterprise statuatory of 3 year limitation to risk compensation to a hero is zero but granting a reward to protect is unaccountable risky management liability?

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