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DHS revs up information sharing and international efforts
The Department of Homeland Security has focused not only on domestic security in the last year, but also on becoming an international force in securing trade, and it will push those efforts forward in 2012, said Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in her second “State of America’s Homeland Security” address
In a speech at the National Press Club in downtown Washington on Jan. 30, Napolitano said her department’s focus on those issues will continue in 2012, with an eye towards increasing economic advantages, as well as security. The drive, she said is toward “a risk-based, information-driven approach to security.”
Leveraging information on cargo and passengers can lead not only to a more secure homeland, but on a more prosperous economy, she said, adding that increased information sharing allows her agencies to make better informed decisions about risk, potentially reducing wait times for cargo and passengers entering the U.S.
“We must recognize that security and efficiency are not mutually exclusive,” she said, noting that DHS has been steadily expanding its Global Entry visa program and the Transportation Security Administration’s trusted traveler Pre Check passenger programs. Both programs, she said, narrows and clarifies the search for those with bad intentions. TSA expanded the Pre Check initiative to two more airports in the last few weeks, including Las Vegas McCarran Los Angeles International and Minneapolis/St. Paul.
President Obama on Jan. 19, issued an executive order that would expand the Global Entry program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the U.S. He tasked the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to develop an implementation plan within 60 days
“If we have to look for a needle in a haystack, it makes sense to use all of the information we have about the pieces of hay to make the haystack smaller,” she said. “This approach not only makes us safer, but it also creates efficiencies within the system for travelers and for businesses,” she said. “Good, thoughtful, sensible security by its very nature facilitates lawful travel and legitimate commerce.”
“Simply put, our homeland security and our economic security go hand-in-hand,” she said.
She also said her agency is bolstering its presence overseas, through international agreements on cargo and passenger security measures. DHS, she said, has a presence in 75 countries worldwide and has the third largest footprint internationally of any U.S. agency.
In the next year, she said, DHS will focus on reaching common goals with other countries on standards for secure shipping and manifests. The agency, she said, is well on its way towards that goal.
“As part of a broader cargo security initiative, we now allow participating shippers to screen air cargo, following strict standards to support the 100 percent screening requirements of the 9/11 Act for cargo transported on passenger aircrafts,” said Napolitano.
“We are also reviewing our foreign partners’ cargo screening to determine whether their programs provide a level of security commensurate with U.S. air cargo security standards,” she said.
“Those who meet these requirements are officially recognized to conduct screening for cargo traveling to the U.S.,” she said.
Napolitano noted that DHS’ program to track precursor chemicals for Improvised Explosives Devices (IEDs) as a particular international success. “We are working with more than 80 countries to prevent the illegal theft or diversion of precursor chemicals that can be used to make Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs.” The program has stopped 62 metric tons of the materials so far, she said.