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Tag: Homeland Security

Homeland Security Has Spent $430 Million on Radios Its Employees Don’t Know How to Use

 
By Theodoric Meyer
ProPublica

Getting the agencies responsible for national security to communicate better was one of the main reasons the Department of Homeland Security was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But according to a recent report from the department’s inspector general, one aspect of this mission remains far from accomplished.

DHS has spent $430 million over the past nine years to provide radios tuned to a common, secure channel to 123,000 employees across the country. Problem is, no one seems to know how to use them.

Only one of 479 DHS employees surveyed by the inspector general’s office was actually able to use the common channel, according to the report. Most of those surveyed — 72 percent — didn’t even know the common channel existed. Another 25 percent knew the channel existed but weren’t able to find it; 3 percent were able to find an older common channel, but not the current one.

The investigators also found that more than half of the radios did not have the settings for the common channel programmed into them. Only 20 percent of radios tested had all the correct settings.

The radios are supposed to help employees of Customs and Border Patrol, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Secret Service, and other agencies with DHS communicate during crises, as well as normal operations.

DHS officials did not immediately respond to questions from ProPublica about what effect the radio problems could have on how the agency handles an emergency.

The $430 million paid for radio infrastructure and maintenance as well as the actual radios.

In a response letter to the report, Jim H. Crumpacker, the Department of Homeland Security’s liaison between the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general, wrote that DHS had made “significant strides” in improving emergency communications since 2003. But he acknowledged that DHS “has had some challenges in achieving Department-wide interoperable communications goals.”

The recent inspector general’s report is the latest in a string of critical assessments DHS has received on its efforts to improve communication between federal, state and local agencies. The Government Accountability Office reported in 2007 that the Department of Homeland Security had “generally not achieved” this goal.

DHS has assigned a blizzard of offices and committees to oversee its radio effort since 2003, which the inspector general’s report claimed had “hindered DHS’ ability to provide effective oversight.”

Also, none of the entities “had the authority to implement and enforce their recommendations,” the report concluded. Tanya Callender, a spokeswoman for the inspector general, said the current office overseeing the effort hadn’t been given the authority to force agencies to use the common channel or even to provide instructions for programming the radios.

The inspector general recommended DHS standardize its policies regarding radios, which DHS agreed to do. But it rejected a second recommendation that it overhaul the office overseeing the radios to give it more authority.

“DHS believes that it has already established a structure with the necessary authority to ensure” that its various agencies can communicate, Crumpacker wrote in his response letter.

ProPublica is a non-profit investigative journalism website.

President Obama Sets Up Federal Partnership to Combat Homeland Security Challenges

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Obama has assembled a feral partnership among law enforcement agencies to improve homeland security, Courthouse News Service reports.

The White House Homeland Security Partnership Council and Steering Committee will include the Justice Department, State Department and Homeland Security.

A total of 19 agencies will be represented, the Courthouse News Service wrote.

The idea is to “enhance our ability to address homeland security priorities, from responding to natural disasters to preventing terrorism, by utilizing diverse perspectives, skills, tools, and resources,” Obama said.

He added, “We must tap the ingenuity outside government through strategic partnerships with the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, foundations, and community-based organizations.”

STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST

Report: Homeland Security Employees Are Disproportionately Affected by Low Morale

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Department of Homeland Security is plagued with low morale, much more so than other federal agencies, according to a Department of Homeland Security report.

The report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office urges the DHS to determine the reason for low morale and solve the problem.

“GAO found that despite having broad performance metrics in place to track and assess DHS employee morale on an agencywide level, DHS does not have specific metrics within the action plans that are consistently clear and measurable,” the GAO report concluded.

The report examined four agencies within DHS: ICE, TSA, Border Protection and the Coast Guard.

Job satisfaction, according to the report, is being affected by perceptions of low pay and unfairness of performance evaluations.

Feds to Begin Testing Wider Use of Drones That Could Have Widespread Ramifications

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

 The Department of Homeland Security will test drones – small, unmanned flying spies – to see if they can be used for emergencies, law enforcement and border patrol, Wired.com reports.

The testing grounds will be Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where drones will officials will experiment with drones for five days, according to Wired.com.

The drones being researched are small and weigh less than 25 pounds.

The drones are controversial because of fears that they violate privacy rights or could crash into buildings, Wired.com reports.

STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST

FBI Warns of Potential Violence in U.S. Following Satirical Film About Prophet Mohammed

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are warning of potential violence spreading to the U.S. following a satirical movie mocking the Prophet Mohammed, ABC News reports.

The Joint Intelligence Bulletin warned that “the risk of violence could increase both at home and abroad as the film continues to gain attention.”

The warning comes a few days after an attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and four others.

While there are no specific threats, U.S. officials said violent extremists hope to exploit Muslim anger over the film, ABC News reported.

Money Pours into Manpower, Technology for Border Protection

 Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

 Persistent budget cuts haven’t stopped the flow of money spent  on technology and manpower to try and stop the flow of drug smugglers and illegal immigrants, NPR reports.

Over the past 25 years, the government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars building fences and detention centers and pursuing suspects with Blackhawk helicopters, according to NPR.

The industrial complex that has emerged on the border also is spreading farther into the U.S.

“It is safe to say that there has been more money, manpower, infrastructure, technology, invested in the border-protection mission in the last three years than ever before,” says Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

‘The Zombies Are Coming!’ Homeland Security Warns

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Homeland Security Department is urging citizens to prepare for a zombie apocalypse.

No, really. It was the government’s way of injecting a little humor into helping communities prepare for emergencies.

The idea is to prepare citizens for genuine disasters and emergencies, which would take the same sort of preparation to fend off a zombie attack, reports the Associated Press.

The tongue-and-cheek warning had a serious tone. If an emergency would break out, Homeland Security said residents should have an emergency evacuation plan and clothes, water, extra medication and emergency flashlights, the AP said.

AP reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency hosted an online seminar for its Citizen Corps organization to prepare for emergencies and used the zombie thing to add a little humor to the matter.

STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST


Some Congress Members Question Whether Homeland Security Overstepped Its Authority

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Some members of Congress are questioning the legality of Homeland Security seizing domains and taking down URLs accused of copyright infringement, CNET reports.

Among the concerns are that Homeland Security is “seizing the domain names of websites whose actions and content are presumed to be lawful, protected speech,” some Congress members said in a letter to the U.S. Attorney General.

Since 2010, nearly 700 domain names have been seized under “Operation In Our Sites,” launched in 2010, according to CNET.

More than a year ago, the government removed a hip-hop Web site, saying Dajaz1 linked to copyrighted songs.

But CNET reported that the link did not infringe on copyrights, CNET reported.