Important developments this week to which HLSwatch had hoped to give more attention:
On Tuesday Craig Fugate testified on FEMA’s FY2010 Budget. Documentation and a video of the House Appropriations Committee hearing is available online. The Administrator’s prepared remarks give particular attention to intergovernmental and public-private collaboration. “FEMA will work even more closely with our partners in other federal agencies, states, territories, tribal nations, local governments, first responders, voluntary organizations, business, industry, and individuals. Included among these will be key partners who, though often critical to an effective response at the local level, are often on the outside looking in during response planning: local charitable organizations and health care delivery organizations. We need to ensure that these critical grassroots organizations are effectively integrated into our response planning and strategies.”
The New York Times reported that FEMA officials, “are struggling to calculate the fiscal impact that climate change could have on the nation’s troubled public flood insurance program, amid predictions of intensifying downpours and more potent hurricanes. The mission is proving extremely difficult, according to one researcher, who said the effort so far has failed to reveal even ‘squishy assumptions’.”
Drug (war)lords continue their fight against the Mexican government. Shoot-outs involved scores of fighters in Durango, Mexico’s third largest city, and Acapulco, perhaps its best known tourist destination. According to AFP, “US border czar Alan Bersin warned Mexico’s brutal drug cartels Tuesday that threats to target law enforcement officials on both sides of the border would be met by a ‘significant response.’ Bersin said a recent call by one cartel kingpin to ramp up violence against US and Mexican law enforcement agents was potentially of ‘grave significance’ and was being ‘taken seriously’ by the administration.
The cartel’s threat to US law enforcement is of particular concern given the deep roots of the criminal gangs in the United States. The Department of Justice estimates Mexican drug organizations operate in 230 US cities.
DHS and the Justice Department have announced further plans for curtailing drug transport along the Southern Border. ABC News explains, “The new strategy aims to combat these cartels by establishing new channels of communication between involved agencies and utilizing new personnel and technologies to expand the amount of information available. It includes a call for increased prosecutorial and disruptive efforts, including the assignment of attorneys from the Department of Justice’s Violent Crime and Gang Unit to the southwest border and additional resources for the offices of southwest U.S. Attorneys.” (More from the Washington Post and you can access the complete Counternarcotics plan from the White House website.)
Important judicial proceedings this week included the conviction of Syed Haris Ahmed, a former Georgia Tech student, in Atlanta. The Judicial Committee of the House of Lords, the so-called “Law Lords,” largely rejected the use of secret evidence in the trials of suspected terrorists. According Deutsche Welle, “Four suspected Islamist militants on trial for plotting to kill Americans in Germany have told a Duesseldorf court they are prepared to confess.”
Jane Harman, Chair of the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment of the House Homeland Security Committee, has proposed legislation to close down the National Applications Office.
A Senate hearing was held Wednesday on the nomination of Dr. Tara O’Toole to serve as DHS Under Secretary of Science and Technology. Some have criticized Dr. O’Toole as an ”alarmist” regarding bio-terrorist threats. (More from HSToday.) But despite some sustained questioning by Senators, confirmation still seems likely.
FEMA has extended its comment period on Criteria for Preparation and Evaluation of Radiological Emergency Response Plans and Preparedness in Support of Nuclear Power Plants.
Last week HLSwatch reported on the appointment of a new Homeland Security Advisory Council. Since then considerable attention has been given the — admittedly unusual — pick of Jeff Moss, a well-known hacker. Less has been said about other appointees, including the Governors of Maryland and Georgia, the mayor of Miami, the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, the Police Commissioner of the City of New York, President of the Navajo Nation, and several other public and private senior executives. Much has been said about more actively seeking the counsel of State, local, tribal, and private sector leaders. HSAC members have the experience and political weight to provide very meaningful advice. What is worth watching is whether or not these senior leaders will make the sustained investment of time and energy that is necessary to be more than a typical blue ribbon panel.
Of course there was even more — much, much more — and if you consider something worth immediate consideration or ongoing coverage, please add your issues using the comment function.