June 7, 2004 | Lecture on Department of Homeland Security
The attacks of 9/11 reinforced the notion that homeland security does not start and stop at a nation's borders. As Secretary Tom Ridge of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has stated, "Homeland security can't stop at a nation's border. The same threats are present for all of us and we must work together to meet them." We understand that we have to take actions far away from our shores and borders in order to ensure that the systems that connect us with the rest of the globe cannot be used by terrorists to travel to the United States or to transport the instruments of terrorism. The interconnectedness of the world today spans many sectors--political, military, economic, educational, and even homeland security. No one country can be truly safe without the cooperation and like-minded commitment of others.
I appreciate the opportunity to review a topic that is not well understood by many--the international roles of DHS. In fact, I've heard some say that "international" and "homeland" make as little sense when combined as does the term "military intelligence."
Yet we are very active internationally. We have personnel assigned or active on a temporary basis in 77 different countries. In my remarks today, I will give you an overview of their activities and of the importance of our international activities to the accomplishment of DHS missions. I will do so by referring you to the chapter on "International Cooperation" in the National Strategy on Homeland Security. It contains a succinct vision statement that orients our international homeland security activities:
The United States will work with traditional allies and new friends to win the war on terrorism.... We will sustain a high level of international commitment to fighting terrorism through global and regional organizations (UN, OAS [Organization of American States]).... major international fora (such as the G-8).... specialized organizations (WHO [World Health Organization], ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization], IMO [International Maritime Organization]).... multilateral and bilateral initiatives, and where needed, new coordination mechanisms.
We will work with our neighbors and key trading partners to create systems that allow us to verify the legitimacy of people and goods entering our country.
The Department of Homeland Security is working to attain this vision and is making progress across the board on these and other international initiatives. Allow me to describe how we are organizing our international activities before going into some detail about the overseas operational activities of our directorates and agencies.
My office of ten individuals is organized regionally as follows: a) Mexico and Latin America, b) Canada and the Caribbean, c) the Mid-East, d) Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, and e) Asia. We are staffed by a combination of detailees from within the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department: This gives us functional expertise (e.g. customs, immigration, Coast Guard).
We work closely and on a daily basis with our regional and functional counterparts at the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council (NSC), and the State Department (e.g., geographic and functional bureaus).
We support the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, and the Department's leadership in all their interactions with foreign counterparts and their international travel. We also ensure that the subordinate components of the Department of Homeland Security have situational awareness of the entire Department's international activities so that they have a contextual understanding of their respective activities.
Within the Department headquarters, we have also established an International Coordinating Council. This council is chaired by the Deputy Secretary and has representation from all agencies within the Department that have an international portfolio and from the key staff advisors to the Secretary. It meets on a regular basis and is the formal mechanism for "checking signals" on issues of importance to the Department.
There are numerous international offices distributed across the Department of Homeland Security. Some are so-called legacy organizations--like the high performing Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and Secret Service offices. Many are new--including international coordinating elements that support our under secretaries of Border and Transportation Security, Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, and Science and Technology, and the new agencies formed by the Homeland Security Act of 2002: Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS). One of our ongoing challenges is completing the process of reorganization of the former Customs and Immigrations and Naturalization Service (INS) overseas.
Finally, at our overseas diplomatic missions (where there are some 1,200 DHS employees), we are in the process of designating DHS Attachés . These attachés will help `brand' the new Department and also provide members of our country teams identified points of contact to address issues to DHS.
As is the case with most agencies, our overseas positions are staffed in various ways. We have permanent positions, which are formally approved by the State Department. These individuals have either country-specific or regional responsibilities. We have people on tours of duty (TDYs): In some cases, the regular rotation of individuals on a TDY basis to perform the same mission has the effect of creating quasi-permanent positions. Several agencies (e.g., Customs and TSA) also have attachés with regional responsibility (e.g., the Caribbean or Central America) assigned in gateway cities (e.g., Dallas, Miami). Finally, we have hired numerous Foreign Service Nationals who perform a variety of duties dependent on mission needs.
Travelers and Cargo
We are working with our trade partners and cargo shippers to secure vulnerable links in the international supply chain. One example of this work is the Container Security Initiative administered by our customs agency. Nearly 20,000 containers of cargo arrive in our ports every day. Today, we inspect just 1 percent or 2 percent of those containers upon arrival at our ports. We are now stationing security inspectors at the world's major ports to work alongside foreign port authorities to identify, target, and search high-risk cargo. This side-by-side effort is happening in the world's busiest foreign ports, such as Rotterdam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Hamburg, and Le Havre. We also have foreign inspectors in major U.S. ports, such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, Newark, and Seattle.
We are striving to increase security of all modes of transportation--air, land, and sea. The purpose is to prevent terrorists from traveling or transporting the instruments of terrorism. Our basic philosophy is one of risk management. Rather than look for the needle in the haystack, we want to remove that haystack, and look for the needle in a much smaller space. That is why we are instituting alternate inspection systems for "trusted" travelers and importers. There is no need to dedicate scarce inspection resources at movements that have been vetted and deemed secure or low-risk. While spot-checking must always occur, it is better to efficiently identify shipments that pose a potential risk and then to scrutinize them.
Given that we have essentially undefended borders with our two neighbors and enormous amounts of movement across them, the United States government has entered into border accords with Canada and Mexico. Our shared intent is to build "smart borders" that facilitate commerce and the legal movement of people while increasing security for the North American continent as a whole. These two accords focus action in three areas: the secure flow of people; the secure flow of goods; and securing cross-border critical infrastructure. The importance of this last initiative was underscored by the recent blackout that affected both Canadian and U.S. power grids and by the single episode of "mad cow" disease that disrupted our integrated cattle market.
We are also making inroads into the challenge of increasing the security of our immigration processes. For example, several hundred thousand international students attend our colleges and universities every year. The new Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is registering them in a user-friendly on-line fashion. This past fall, more than 200,000 foreign students arrived in the U.S. for the new academic year. Nearly all foreign students were properly registered and admitted into the country without incident. However, more than 140 people who arrived in the U.S. claiming to be students were not. Through our partnerships with colleges and universities, we were able to establish that these people were not registered at any U.S. school and they were denied admission into the United States.
Each year, we welcome nearly 600 million workers, tourists, students, business travelers, and families at our air, land, and sea ports of entry. DHS is implementing United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT)--a continuum of security measures that begins overseas at the Department of State's visa-issuing posts and continues through arrival in and departure from the United States. Using biometrics such as digital, inkless fingerscans and digital photographs, the identity of visitors requiring a U.S. visa is now verified upon entry in order to ensure that the person crossing our border is the same person who received the visa. Upon exit, a visitor will check out by scanning his or her two index fingers--verifying his or her departure and enabling us to know that he or she complied with the terms of admission. For travelers, the process is fast and simple and the biometrics help secure their identities in the event that their travel documents are lost or stolen. US-VISIT entry procedures are currently in place at 115 airports and 14 seaports. This year, US-VISIT will be expanded to the 50 busiest land ports of entry. Since the program began, 209 individuals (out of some 2.4 million entrants processed) have been matched against the FBI's watch lists.
The Honorable Cresencio Arcos is Director of International Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security.