Federal | Agencies | Legislative
More than 20 Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) firms participated in a showcase hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) at the agency’s headquarters on Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, Feb. 27 and 28.
The event provided an opportunity for DISA employees to learn about the products and services offered by the HUBZone firms, reflecting the government’s desire to increase the percentage of federal contracting dollars that are designated for small businesses.
“Historically, DISA has a stellar small business program with significant small business goal achievements and strong industry engagements,” said OSBP Director Sharon Jones. “It is our intention to increase HUBZone utilization by increasing DISA personnel’s knowledge of the HUBZone program by increasing interactions with HUBZone firms through unique outreach events.”
The Small Business Administration's HUBZone Empowerment Contracting Program was created to stimulate economic development and create jobs in urban and rural communities by providing federal contracting preference to small businesses.
Frank Hameed, president and chief operating officer of Computer World Services, participated in the showcase to support the HUBZone community and represent his company.
Hameed said he believes the increase in the utilization of HUBZone companies is a result of growing confidence in the ability of small businesses to provide products and services that meet the standards set by the federal government.
“Today, more than ever before, there are many highly qualified HUBZone companies that can do very sophisticated information technology work,” said Hameed.
In order to qualify for the HUBZone program, a small business must be physically located in a HUBZone, with at least 51 percent of the company owned and controlled by at least one or more U.S. citizens, or a Community Development Cooperation, or an agricultural cooperative, or an Indian tribe, and at least 35 percent of its employees must reside in a HUBZone.
“HUBZone firms offer a wide array of diverse services and products that DISA requires to pursue its daily mission of providing instant communications,” said Jones. “HUBZone firms bring the value of access to fresh innovation and emerging technologies, the ability to generate pathways to smarter solutions based on experiences, and, finally, the ability to create cost efficiencies without compromising the mission requirements.”
“Small businesses are able to provide many of the same products and services that a large company can provide, but sometimes, they can provide more specific, more detailed services, which can make that particular contract nicely focused as opposed to larger, often more expensive contracts,” said Glenora Keeve, a DISA information technology (IT) specialist who attended the event to learn more about the companies.
Alex Jupiter, president of Jupiter Cybsec, had similar feelings about the benefits of contracting with small business. Jupiter said that from a talent standpoint, small businesses may be more advantaged when it comes to recruiting IT professionals because “younger generations look for small companies because there is more upward mobility [...] we can recruit and get the IT professionals with the right skillset to come in and help DISA.”
On the second day of the showcase, DISA Director and Joint Force Headquarters – DOD Information Networks Commander Army LTG Alan R. Lynn, DISA Vice Director Air Force Maj Gen Sarah Zabel, and members of the Senior Executive Service stopped by and thanked the HUBZone companies in attendance.
“HUBZone companies help DISA achieve its security, mobility, and cyber requirements,” said Infrastructure Executive Jessie Showers. “They have the technical skill that DISA is looking for and these events allow DISA to give back to the community as well.”
WASHINGTON March 15, 2017 The following statement was issued by Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in response to today's temporary restraining order issued by Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii:
"Today, once again, an unelected judge has stepped in and usurped the power and responsibility that our Constitution gives to the president. The plenary power of the president is clear, our national security is at stake and this ruling sets a dangerous precedent which reduces the plenary power of the president to deny entry to any alien or class of aliens the president deems to not be in the national interest.
"President Trump's Executive Order of March 6 is narrowly tailored to address legitimate national security concerns identified by both his administration and those of his predecessor. The intent of the temporary pause in admission of citizens of nations deemed to harbor or support international terrorism is to ensure that we have the ability to effectively screen out those who might pose a danger. Protecting the security of the nation is the president's foremost responsibility.
"We urge the Trump administration to seek immediate review of this ruling before the United States Supreme Court. There is vast Court precedent affirming the authority of the president to restrict the entry of foreign nationals to the United States. Moreover, the threats to national security, enumerated by officials of both the Trump and Obama administrations, demand an expedited decision by the nation's highest court.
"The security of the nation and the integrity of our constitutional system of government are at stake. This decision is without precedent, and constitutes a national emergency because courts would now appear to be forcing the country to accept possible terrorists."
March 15, 2017 A grand jury in the Northern District of California has indicted four defendants, including two officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), for computer hacking, economic espionage and other criminal offenses in connection with a conspiracy, beginning in January 2014, to access Yahoo’s network and the contents of webmail accounts. The defendants are Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, a Russian national and resident; Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43, a Russian national and resident; Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan, aka “Magg,” 29, a Russian national and resident; and Karim Baratov, aka “Kay,” “Karim Taloverov” and “Karim Akehmet Tokbergenov,” 22, a Canadian and Kazakh national and a resident of Canada.
The defendants used unauthorized access to Yahoo’s systems to steal information from about at least 500 million Yahoo accounts and then used some of that stolen information to obtain unauthorized access to the contents of accounts at Yahoo, Google and other webmail providers, including accounts of Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials and private-sector employees of financial, transportation and other companies. One of the defendants also exploited his access to Yahoo’s network for his personal financial gain, by searching Yahoo user communications for credit card and gift card account numbers, redirecting a subset of Yahoo search engine web traffic so he could make commissions and enabling the theft of the contacts of at least 30 million Yahoo accounts to facilitate a spam campaign.
The charges were announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions of the U.S. Department of Justice, Director James Comey of the FBI, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord of the National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch for the Northern District of California and Executive Assistant Director Paul Abbate of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.
“Cyber crime poses a significant threat to our nation’s security and prosperity, and this is one of the largest data breaches in history,” said Attorney General Sessions. “But thanks to the tireless efforts of U.S. prosecutors and investigators, as well as our Canadian partners, today we have identified four individuals, including two Russian FSB officers, responsible for unauthorized access to millions of users’ accounts. The United States will vigorously investigate and prosecute the people behind such attacks to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Today we continue to pierce the veil of anonymity surrounding cyber crimes,” said Director Comey. “We are shrinking the world to ensure that cyber criminals think twice before targeting U.S. persons and interests.”
“The criminal conduct at issue, carried out and otherwise facilitated by officers from an FSB unit that serves as the FBI’s point of contact in Moscow on cybercrime matters, is beyond the pale,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Once again, the Department and the FBI have demonstrated that hackers around the world can and will be exposed and held accountable. State actors may be using common criminals to access the data they want, but the indictment shows that our companies do not have to stand alone against this threat. We commend Yahoo and Google for their sustained and invaluable cooperation in the investigation aimed at obtaining justice for, and protecting the privacy of their users.”
“This is a highly complicated investigation of a very complex threat. It underscores the value of early, proactive engagement and cooperation between the private sector and the government,” said Executive Assistant Director Abbate. “The FBI will continue to work relentlessly with our private sector and international partners to identify those who conduct cyber-attacks against our citizens and our nation, expose them and hold them accountable under the law, no matter where they attempt to hide.”
“Silicon Valley’s computer infrastructure provides the means by which people around the world communicate with each other in their business and personal lives. The privacy and security of those communications must be governed by the rule of law, not by the whim of criminal hackers and those who employ them. People rightly expect that their communications through Silicon Valley internet providers will remain private, unless lawful authority provides otherwise. We will not tolerate unauthorized and illegal intrusions into the Silicon Valley computer infrastructure upon which both private citizens and the global economy rely,” said U.S. Attorney Stretch. “Working closely with Yahoo and Google, Department of Justice lawyers and the FBI were able to identify and expose the hackers responsible for the conduct described today, without unduly intruding into the privacy of the accounts that were stolen. We commend Yahoo and Google for providing exemplary cooperation while zealously protecting their users’ privacy.”
Summary of Allegations
According to the allegations of the Indictment:
The FSB officer defendants, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, protected, directed, facilitated and paid criminal hackers to collect information through computer intrusions in the U.S. and elsewhere. In the present case, they worked with co-defendants Alexsey Belan and Karim Baratov to obtain access to the email accounts of thousands of individuals.
Belan had been publicly indicted in September 2012 and June 2013 and was named one of FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted criminals in November 2013. An Interpol Red Notice seeking his immediate detention has been lodged (including with Russia) since July 26, 2013. Belan was arrested in a European country on a request from the U.S. in June 2013, but he was able to escape to Russia before he could be extradited.
Instead of acting on the U.S. government’s Red Notice and detaining Belan after his return, Dokuchaev and Sushchin subsequently used him to gain unauthorized access to Yahoo’s network. In or around November and December 2014, Belan stole a copy of at least a portion of Yahoo’s User Database (UDB), a Yahoo trade secret that contained, among other data, subscriber information including users’ names, recovery email accounts, phone numbers and certain information required to manually create, or “mint,” account authentication web browser “cookies” for more than 500 million Yahoo accounts.
Belan also obtained unauthorized access on behalf of the FSB conspirators to Yahoo’s Account Management Tool (AMT), which was a proprietary means by which Yahoo made and logged changes to user accounts. Belan, Dokuchaev and Sushchin then used the stolen UDB copy and AMT access to locate Yahoo email accounts of interest and to mint cookies for those accounts, enabling the co-conspirators to access at least 6,500 such accounts without authorization.
Some victim accounts were of predictable interest to the FSB, a foreign intelligence and law enforcement service, such as personal accounts belonging to Russian journalists; Russian and U.S. government officials; employees of a prominent Russian cybersecurity company; and numerous employees of other providers whose networks the conspirators sought to exploit. However, other personal accounts belonged to employees of commercial entities, such as a Russian investment banking firm, a French transportation company, U.S. financial services and private equity firms, a Swiss bitcoin wallet and banking firm and a U.S. airline.
During the conspiracy, the FSB officers facilitated Belan’s other criminal activities, by providing him with sensitive FSB law enforcement and intelligence information that would have helped him avoid detection by U.S. and other law enforcement agencies outside Russia, including information regarding FSB investigations of computer hacking and FSB techniques for identifying criminal hackers. Additionally, while working with his FSB conspirators to compromise Yahoo’s network and its users, Belan used his access to steal financial information such as gift card and credit card numbers from webmail accounts; to gain access to more than 30 million accounts whose contacts were then stolen to facilitate a spam campaign; and to earn commissions from fraudulently redirecting a subset of Yahoo’s search engine traffic.
When Dokuchaev and Sushchin learned that a target of interest had accounts at webmail providers other than Yahoo, including through information obtained as part of the Yahoo intrusion, they tasked their co-conspirator, Baratov, a resident of Canada, with obtaining unauthorized access to more than 80 accounts in exchange for commissions. On March 7, the Department of Justice submitted a provisional arrest warrant to Canadian law enforcement authorities, requesting Baratov’s arrest. On March 14, Baratov was arrested in Canada and the matter is now pending with the Canadian authorities.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
The FBI, led by the San Francisco Field Office, conducted the investigation that resulted in the charges announced today. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, with support from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.
Defendants: At all times relevant to the charges, the Indictment alleges as follows:
Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, was an officer in the FSB Center for Information Security, aka “Center 18.” Dokuchaev was a Russian national and resident.
Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43, was an FSB officer, a superior to Dokuchaev within the FSB, and a Russian national and resident. Sushchin was embedded as a purported employee and Head of Information Security at a Russian investment bank.
Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan, aka “Magg,” 29, was born in Latvia and is a Russian national and resident. U.S. Federal grand juries have indicted Belan twice before, in 2012 and 2013, for computer fraud and abuse, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft involving three U.S.-based e-commerce companies and the FBI placed Belan on its “Cyber Most Wanted” list. Belan is currently the subject of a pending “Red Notice” requesting that Interpol member nations (including Russia) arrest him pending extradition. Belan was also one of two criminal hackers named by President Barack Obama on Dec. 29, 2016, pursuant to Executive Order 13694, as a Specially Designated National subject to sanctions.
Karim Baratov, aka “Kay,” “Karim Taloverov” and “Karim Akehmet Tokbergenov,” 22. He is a Canadian and Kazakh national and a resident of Canada.
Victims: Yahoo; more than 500 million Yahoo accounts for which account information about was stolen by the defendants; more than 30 million Yahoo accounts for which account contents were accessed without authorization to facilitate a spam campaign; and at least 18 additional users at other webmail providers whose accounts were accessed without authorization.
Time Period: As alleged in the Indictment, the conspiracy began at least as early as 2014 and, even though the conspirators lost their access to Yahoo’s networks in September 2016, they continued to utilize information stolen from the intrusion up to and including at least December 2016.
A summary of the charges can be found at: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/us-charges-russian-fsb-officers-and-their-criminal-conspirators-hacking-yahoo-and-millions
RESTON, VA & PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL March 13, 2017 Constellis, a leading provider of operational support and risk management services, announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Centerra Group, LLC ("Centerra") and its subsidiaries from an affiliate of Alvarez & Marsal Capital. The acquisition of Centerra, a leading global government and critical infrastructure services company, will significantly enhance Constellis' U.S. domestic presence and strengthen its relationships with key customers, including the U.S. Department of Energy and the United Nations.
The transaction is conditioned on customary regulatory reviews and approvals, and is expected to close within the second quarter of 2017. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The transaction brings together the industry's two premier safety and risk management providers serving a broad range of customers, including U.S. government agencies (notably the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of Energy), foreign governments, NGOs and a diverse mix of blue-chip commercial entities. The transaction furthers Constellis' ongoing strategy of expanding its domestic presence serving well-funded customers with enduring requirements. Constellis will be able to leverage the combined entity's scale, vertical integration, training facilities, shared best practices and financial resources to strengthen its best-in-class risk mitigation service offering, utilizing the industry's most revered compliance programs.
Headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Centerra has approximately 9,000 employees operating across the U.S., Africa, the Middle East and other international locations. Centerra has an established track record of more than five decades operating domestically for the U.S. Department of Energy and currently provides operational support and risk management services at 15 U.S. Department of Energy sites across the U.S. In addition, Centerra provides security, fire suppression and base operations support to other U.S. Government customers, as well as humanitarian-focused services and training, such as munitions clearance and related consulting services, to the United Nations and foreign governments abroad.
"The acquisition of Centerra represents a critical step in our continued evolution as an essential service provider, enabling enduring missions for our customers," said Jason DeYonker, Chief Executive Officer of Constellis. "Centerra greatly enhances our domestic footprint and accelerates our ongoing efforts to further penetrate the U.S. risk management market with such highly regarded customers as the U.S. Department of Energy. Centerra's well respected brand, exceptional performance and strong leadership bring tremendous value to our combined offering."
Paul Donahue, President and Chief Executive Officer of Centerra, commented: "We are excited by the combination of Centerra and Constellis, yielding the leading global provider of the most creative, compliant and comprehensive risk management services in the world. Constellis' award winning compliance programs, exceptional training capabilities and commitment to invest in operational best practices will add value at less overall cost to our customers and partners."
Constellis has secured financing commitments from Credit Suisse, Barclays, Citi and Goldman Sachs to fund the acquisition of Centerra and to refinance the combined company's existing debt.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP are serving as legal advisors to affiliates of Apollo Global Management (together with its subsidiaries "Apollo") and Constellis.
This press release includes forward-looking statements. Readers are cautioned that these forward-looking statements are only predictions and are subject to risks, uncertainties, and assumptions that are difficult to predict and many of which are outside the control of the Company. Therefore, actual results may differ materially and adversely, in terms of quantum and timing, from those expressed in any forward-looking statements. The Company undertakes no obligation to revise or update any forward-looking statements for any reason except as may be required by law.
Constellis is a leading provider of operational support and risk management services to government and commercial clients worldwide. From security, crisis response and training to logistics, life support, and technology services, Constellis helps its clients to achieve and sustain success, no matter where they are in the world, with a commitment to highly compliant and ethical business practices. With more than 8,000 personnel, Constellis leverages its operational excellence, comprehensive expertise, world-class training facilities and global network of partners to quickly deliver tailored, cost-effective and innovative services to its clients. Constellis represents client interests around the world, operating in more than 25 countries with regional offices in Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East. Constellis' U.S. government division is headquartered in Reston, Virginia, while its commercial operations are based out of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. For more information, visit www.constellis.com.
Centerra is one of the largest providers of security services to the U.S. Federal Government and commercial customers. Centerra safeguards sites of great significance to the U.S.' national security, including facilities that house Category I Special Nuclear Material (SNM) as well as sites of cultural and historical significance, such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Centerra's Nuclear Security Protection Program is responsible for safeguarding the U.S. Federal Government's most critical assets and facilities, including the Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration, National Aeronautical and Space Administration and other National strategic assets and resources. The company was founded in 1960 as Wackenhut Services, Inc. (WSI), with a primary focus on armed security. It has since evolved into one of the largest U.S. Government service providers with 9,000 employees operating in more than a dozen countries worldwide. Centerra provides services across ten separate lines of business that include Federal and Commercial Security, Fire and Emergency Services, National Security Protection, Global Operations, Base Operations Support, De-Mining, Training, Facilities Management, Fleet Maintenance and Construction.
Apollo is a leading global alternative investment manager with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, St. Louis, Bethesda, Toronto, London, Frankfurt, Madrid, Luxembourg, Mumbai, Delhi, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Apollo had assets under management of approximately $192 billion as of December 31, 2016 in private equity, credit and real estate funds invested across a core group of nine industries where Apollo has considerable knowledge and resources. For more information about Apollo, please visit www.agm.com.
About Alvarez & Marsal Capital
A&M Capital is a private equity firm which invests in middle market businesses that can benefit from the firm's access to significant operating resources and expertise. The firm has a strategic association with Alvarez & Marsal Holdings, LLC, which gives it the distinctive capability to bring the exact management or operational talent and support to the companies with which they partner. The firm is focused on investments where the investment team can help to deliver significant value to companies across a wide range of industries. For more information please visit www.a-mcapital.com/amcp.
WASHINGTON The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) First Responders Group (FRG) invites members of the private sector, academia, laboratories, and the innovation community to attend an industry day on Thursday, March 23, 2017, in Washington, DC.
The event will offer a forum for attendees to learn about first responder capability gaps and opportunities to partner with DHS to rapidly develop technology solutions.
FRG staff will also provide overviews of technical topic areas that will be included in a new Broad Agency Announcement solicitation (HSHQDC-13-R-B0012) that will open in mid-April.
Some of the goals of the upcoming solicitation will be to:
- Increase situational awareness via real-time incident management tools;
- Protect wildland firefighters from exposure to environmental toxins and particulates;
- Integrate public data feeds with an alerting system to inform emergency responder decision making and resource allocation;
- Design energy-harvesting smart fabric technology for first responder uniforms;
- Develop an emergency vehicle navigation system that makes risk-based route calculations based on available traffic and transit data;
- Develop early warning systems to alert both responders and civilians to emergency vehicles approaching incident scenes; and
- Arm bomb squads with a multi-mission disrupter system to support land or water operations, as well as a multi-meter wire attack kit to increase bomb technician performance.
Industry Day attendees will have opportunities to ask questions of program managers and interact with members of the First Responder Resource Group—representatives of all response disciplines who inform FRG’s research and development efforts.
“We’re looking for innovative companies that are able to rapidly develop technologies—the best of the best,” said Greg Price, Director of FRG’s First Responder Technologies division. “We're on a twelve to eighteen month development cycle, so we need companies that are inspired, that have bright thoughts, bright people, and can develop the types of technologies we're looking for.”
The deadline to register is March 20. To register and for event details, go to http://www.cvent.com/d/svqv4y.
Survey indicates federal employees see their agencies becoming more resilient as cyberattack threat grows
By Steve Bittenbender
Editor, Government Security News
While the number and nature of cyberattacks on the federal government has increased in recent years, it appears that agencies are becoming more prepared and resilient to them.
That’s the key finding from a recent survey by GovLoop, a social network that connects 200,000 public sector employees from all levels of government. The poll of more than 350 workers was conducted both to review 2016 incidents and prepare for what may happen this year.
According to the survey, 43 percent of employees said their agency or department experienced an attack in the past year. Of those who suffered a hack, 78 percent said their office handled the attack either effectively or adequately.
Half of the respondents said their department underwent more attacks in 2016 than in the previous year, while 43 percent indicated the number of intrusions stayed the same.
One area where employees felt their departments made the biggest strides was in identity management. The number of personal identity verification cards nearly doubled over the past year, with 81 percent of civilian employees now using the cards.
Employees also felt better about their agencies’ ability to defend against attacks, as the number of agencies that improved their phishing and malware defense capabilities rose from 10 to 19 in the past year.
“Government has been doing a great job in making cybersecurity a priority,” said Tom Ruff, the vice president for Akamai’s Public Sector-Americas division who helped analyze the survey’s results. “Agencies are prepared as much as they can be, given the rapidly evolving landscape.”
Ruff has more than 30 years of experience in IT, having held numerous executive positions in Fortune 500 companies before becoming Akamai’s leader in selling IT and cybersecurity solutions to government agencies.
While most employees feel good about their department’s resiliency, they also indicated there are a few areas for improvement. Most notably, employees are concerned about an overreliance on internal IT offices to handle attacks, and they’re also not sure what they need to do during an attack.
In its summary, GovLoop noted that many employees will look to take such shortcuts as sharing accounts or writing down login information, to improve productivity. Those steps, however, also make systems more vulnerable to attacks.
Ruff noted that employees tend to be the leading threat to cybersecurity. That backs up an anecdote then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson gave back in 2015. He noted that one of his directorates sent out an email to staff with the subject line “Free Redskins Tickets.” All they needed to do in the email was click on a link and then they’d receive information about where to meet to get tickets to a football game. When the workers arrived at the location to get the tickets, they instead received information on how to combat phishing and other cyberattacks.
Other challenges facing government agencies include the lack of employees with the skills necessary to prevent and deter hacks. GovLoop noted that less than 1-in-4 applicants for cybersecurity jobs actually have the skills pertinent to do the job. Funding is another issue, especially as more than 75 percent of federal IT spending goes toward legacy systems that may be antiquated and extremely susceptible to attacks.
The 2017 federal budget included a request for $19 billion to develop a cyber strategy for federal infrastructure. That request represents a 35 percent increase from the previous budget.
Further complicating the financial strain is the cost of hiring security experts as the government must compete with private businesses. That demand, Ruff said, makes it “very difficult” for agencies.
Among the solutions available to help agencies become even more resilient are moving government enterprises to the cloud and improve employee education. GovLoop noted DHS’ Cybersecurity Workforce Development Toolkit as a best practice that’s helped the department improve its cyber resiliency.
“No government entity or enterprise can move as fast as adversaries are moving,” Ruff said. “But government is moving in the right direction. A defensive strategy is continuing to educate, enforce policy, and make sure you have the budget.”
A research brief on the survey can be found at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/otejps51jbuu140/The%20Future%20of%20Government%20Cybersecurity.pdf?dl=0
By Joshua Breisblatt in “Border Enforcement, Enforcement, Executive Action, Interior Enforcement”
(Editor’s note: Briesblatt is a policy analyst for the American Immigration Council.) March 1, 2017 - This week, President Trump gave an address to a joint session of Congress where he continued his divisive, inaccurate rhetoric on immigration. Some analysts have said Trump moderated his tone in this speech, but in reality Trump isn’t shifting from his hard-line immigration policies. In his speech, he continued to falsely blaming immigrants for the underlying cause for many issues our country faces.
Below are five statements from President Trump’s Joint Address that need to be corrected and explained.
1. Trump claimed that we’ve left “our own borders wide open for anyone to cross.”
This is categorically false Since the last major overhaul of the U.S. immigration system in 1986, the federal government has spent an estimated $263 billion on immigration and border enforcement. Currently, the number of border and interior enforcement personnel stands at more than 49,000. The number of U.S. Border Patrol agents nearly doubled from Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 to FY 2016 with Border Patrol now required to have a record 21,370 agents. Additionally, the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents devoted to its office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) nearly tripled from FY 2003 to FY 2016.
2. Trump said that immigrants aren’t contributing to our economy and instead are “costing the country billions.”
Once again, Trump is incorrect. The study Trump cited and misconstrued was conducted by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS), Engineering, and Medicine. The same report flatly states found that immigrants have “little to no negative effects on the overall wages or employment of native-born workers in the long term.” The NAS study also finds that immigrant workers expand the size of the U.S. economy by an estimated 11 percent annually, which translates out to $2 trillion in 2016. Further, the children of immigrants were found to be the largest net fiscal contributors among any group, native or foreign-born, creating significant economic benefits for every American.
3. Trump said that the government is “removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens.”
Despite the rhetoric, Trump has complicated immigration enforcement by making virtually all of the undocumented population a priority. The new administration is ignoring priorities that were put into place by the Obama Administration as a way to manage limited law enforcement resources and prioritize those who pose a threat to public safety and national security. The priorities recognized that there is a finite budget available for immigration enforcement, thus making prioritization important. The approach now being pursued by the Trump Administration casts a very wide net and will result in an aggressive and unforgiving approach to immigration enforcement moving forward.
4. Trump believes a merit-based immigration system will improve the economy.
The idea of a merit-based system is not new but it usually has been discussed as one piece to updating our immigration system, not the only piece as discussed in this speech. At its core, the allocation of points is not a neutral act, but instead reflects a political view regarding the “desired immigrant.” Since the enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965, legal immigration to the United States has been based primarily on the family ties or the work skills of prospective immigrants.
The contributions of family-based immigrants to the U.S. economy, local communities, and the national fabric are many. They account for a significant portion of domestic economic growth, contribute to the well-being of the current and future labor force, play a key role in business development and community improvement, and are among the most upwardly mobile segments of the labor force. And if cutting family-based immigration becomes part of a trade-off for a merit-based system, we would be turning our back on a centuries’ old tradition of family members already in the United States supporting newcomer relatives by helping them get on their feet and facilitating their integration.
5. Trump attempted to make the link between immigrants and crime through his newly created office of Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE).
Despite the implications of this new office at DHS which seeks to demonize all immigrants, immigrants are actually less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born. Additionally, high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime. This holds true for both legal immigrants and the unauthorized, regardless of their country of origin or level of education.
WASHINGTON March 7, 2017 Budget cuts being proposed by the Trump administration will make America less secure and endanger the lives of the public and our public servants, the head of the largest federal employee union said today.
"These budget cuts will make a difficult job even harder for the women and men who protect our skies, patrol our waters, and help us prepare for and respond to emergencies," American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.
"President Trump promised to 'make American safe again,' but the drastic budget cuts he's proposing will do just the opposite," Cox said. "You don't improve security by slashing budgets for programs that prevent terrorists from hijacking airplanes, keep illegal narcotics off our streets, and counter violent extremists in our neighborhoods."
The Trump administration is proposing double digit percentage budget cuts at the Transportation Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Coast Guard, according to Politico.
The Coast Guard's budget would be cut by 14 percent, or $1.3 billion, largely by cancelling or delaying new equipment purchases. FEMA's budget would be cut by 11 percent, or $370 million, by slashing funding for a program to counter violent extremism and prepare for a wide-scale terrorist attack, as well as cutting grants for port transit security by 40 percent.
TSA's budget would be cut by 11 percent, or $500 million. This includes a $65 million cut in behavioral detection officers, who monitor airports for suspicious behavior, and a $55 million cut in local law enforcement grants to airports, which help fund a local police presence in and around our airports.
The Trump administration is proposing to slash TSA's operating budget even as it forces the public to pay more for air travel. The security ticket fee charged by airline passengers would increase by $1 to $6.60 for each one-way flight, which would generate $470 million in additional revenue for DHS.
Homeland Security's budget overall would increase 6 percent to $43.8 billion in fiscal 2018, with most of the increase dedicated to the administration's planned crackdown on illegal immigration.
"Diverting money from airport security, emergency preparedness, and illegal drug interdiction to fund other aspects of homeland security will leave us less secure, not more," Cox said.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.
By Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Barger
NEW LONDON, CT A group of cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy are working on designs to replace some of the oldest ships in the Coast Guard’s fleet of cutters.
These ships are the Coast Guard’s inland waterway aid to navigation fleet, which include buoy and construction tenders, and have an average age of 52 years. The cadets, who are seniors majoring in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, are involved in a 35-week capstone design project, which specifically focuses on the design of a ship that could potentially replace these groups of vessels.
“As the Coast Guard recapitalizes the inland fleet over the next several years, the work performed by the cadets has the potential to form a baseline from which the larger Coast Guard will start the design process,” said Lt. James Schock, a naval architecture and marine engineering instructor at the Academy. “The cadets are asking tough questions and realizing the compromises necessary to meet the mission requirements of an inland buoy or construction tender.”
These ships, the oldest of which was commissioned in 1944, struggle with obsolete equipment, outdated fire protection systems and lack the facilities for mixed gender crews. The existing fleet is a mix of 35 different ships, which presents the service with a host of management and logistical challenges.
These ships are responsible for maintaining approximately 25,000 miles of waterways that connect about 300 ports. With 66 percent of U.S. crude oil imported via these waterways, the Coast Guard cutters charged with the upkeep are in constant motion.
With such an expansive area to cover, an update to the fleet of current cutters could revolutionize the aids to navigation mission and drastically improve efficiency and conditions for the crews on board.
Applying their study of engineering principles, the cadets will present solutions for replacing the inland waterway fleet in April 2017, prior to graduating with their class. The designs are required to adhere to Coast Guard standards as well as naval and civilian regulations, which because of the size restrictions for these vessels, has made this project that much more challenging.
“Past design projects have been focused on larger Coast Guard cutters, such as an off-shore patrol cutter or a polar icebreaker,” said Schock. “The scale of this design is considerably smaller in vessel size, which challenges the designers to use space efficiently.”
The cadets, who were split into four teams at the beginning of the project, had to work together to come up with their designs, which have required them to put in long hours in and out of their normal class time.
“My team set a goal for our design to make its environmental impact a minimum, which was the reasoning behind our decision to use Liquefied Natural Gas as our fuel,” said Cadet Laura Beck, a member of the naval architecture project. “This project required us to investigate the challenges and precautions associated with LNG, and also advocate for its use.”
As challenging and unique of a project as this has been for the cadets, it is not the only one they have to complete before the end of their academic year.
In addition to designing solutions for the oldest fleet of cutters in the Coast Guard, the cadets are also outlining the construction of a commercial lift boat, which will be an essential tool for the future plans of offshore wind turbine installations.
“We have completed a significant portion of our capstone and I have learned so much,” said Cadet Amanda Roy, a member of the naval architecture project. “We have put so much time and hard work into our projects that I feel ready to take on the volume of work that we will be handling as ensigns.”
Upon completion, cadets will have dedicated approximately 1200 man-hours to each of the projects. They will have gained experience in ship design as well as an understanding of the trade-offs the commercial sector must make, while still maintaining a standard that meets U.S. code. These projects that the cadets complete during their time at the Academy not only help each individual graduate but also greatly impact the Coast Guard as a whole by encouraging creative thinking and bringing new ideas to the table.
“An officer in the Coast Guard is responsible for solving challenging problems every day,” said Schock. “By learning how to work with others, apply strong engineering practice, navigate intrapersonal relationships and creatively solve tough puzzles, it will provide a foundation for success as young officers.”
By Steve Bittenbender
Editor, Government Security News
More than five weeks after signing his initial executive order, President Donald Trump signed a revised order Monday morning that removes Iraq from the list of countries where visitors are banned, temporarily, from entering the United States.
The order still prohibits travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – with certain exceptions – from entering the country over a 90-day period starting on March 16.
However, opponents still consider the new order to target Muslims specifically and have said they will take the Administration to court again because it continues to be unconstitutional.
In the new order, the President said Iraq presents a special case. While terrorist cells still wage battle in some areas of the country, Trump noted that Iraqi leaders have taken several steps to share information with the U.S. regarding its residents who seek to enter America.
“(T)he close cooperative relationship between the United States and the democratically elected Iraqi government, the strong United States diplomatic presence in Iraq, the significant presence of United States forces in Iraq, and Iraq's commitment to combat ISIS justify different treatment for Iraq,” the new order stated.
Trump’s initial travel ban was struck down by federal judges in the days after it was signed. After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied to overturn a stay, the President announced he would rescind the order and issue a new one.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which took the President to court after the initial order was implemented, said that while the President admitted defeat over the first order, its replacement is not any better.
“The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban,” said Omar Jadwat, the ACLU’s director for its Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Instead, President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department would work to defend the order in the court system. Last month, Trump fired the acting Attorney General after she advised lawyers in the department to not defend the initial order after she raised concerns about its legality.
Sessions and other Cabinet members spoke to the press moments after the announcement of the new order.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the new order targets only those individuals who do not have a valid visa. The previous order raised concerns about visa holders from all seven countries, with business and educational leaders voicing concerns about the effect it would have on its employees, professors and students.
“It is important to note that nothing in this executive order affects current lawful permanent residents or persons with current authorization to enter our country,” Kelly said. “If you have a current valid visa to travel, we welcome you. But unregulated, unvetted travel is not a universal privilege, especially when national security is at stake.”
The new order allows Kelly, in working with Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to place additional countries on the travel ban list if those countries do not provide American officials with the information they request regarding potential travelers.
The new order also continues the 120-day ban on accepting refugees, giving U.S. officials time to review the processes in place and determine if any new steps need to be taken to ensure those seeking refugee status do not pose a security threat. It also continues the call for the expedited completion of a biometric system to track travelers.