Selected Issues in Homeland Security Policy for the 114th Congress

In 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, “homeland security” went from being a concept discussed among a relatively small cadre of policymakers and strategic thinkers to a broadly discussed issue in Congress. Debates over how to implement coordinated homeland security policy led to the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296) and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Evolution of America’s response to terrorist threats has continued under the leadership of different Administrations, Congresses, and in a shifting environment of public opinion.

DHS is currently the third-largest department in the federal government, although it does not incorporate all of the homeland security functions at the federal level, even if one constrains the definition of homeland security to the narrow field of prevention and response to domestic acts of terrorism. In policymaking terms, homeland security is a very broad and complex network of interrelated issues. In its executive summary the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review issued in 2014 delineates the missions of the homeland security enterprise as follows: prevent terrorism and enhance security; secure and manage the borders; enforce and administer immigration laws; safeguard and secure cyberspace; and strengthen national preparedness and resilience.

This report outlines an array of homeland security issues that may come before the 114th Congress. After a brief discussion of the definitions of homeland security, the homeland security budget, and the role of homeland security actors in the intelligence community, the report divides the specific issues into four broad categories:

Counterterrorism and Security Management,

Border Security and Trade,

Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, and

DHS Management Issues.

Each of those areas contains a survey of topics briefly analyzed by Congressional Research Service experts. The information included only scratches the surface of most of these issues. More detailed information can be obtained by consulting the CRS reports referenced herein, or by contacting the relevant CRS expert.

Selected Issues in Homeland Security Policy for the 114th Congress

May 19, 2015 (R44041)



In 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, "homeland security" went from being a concept discussed among a relatively small cadre of policymakers and strategic thinkers to a broadly discussed issue in Congress. Debates over how to implement coordinated homeland security policy led to the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296) and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Evolution of America's response to terrorist threats has continued under the leadership of different Administrations, Congresses, and in a shifting environment of public opinion.

DHS is currently the third-largest department in the federal government, although it does not incorporate all of the homeland security functions at the federal level, even if one constrains the definition of homeland security to the narrow field of prevention and response to domestic acts of terrorism. In policymaking terms, homeland security is a very broad and complex network of interrelated issues. In its executive summary the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review issued in 2014 delineates the missions of the homeland security enterprise as follows: prevent terrorism and enhance security; secure and manage the borders; enforce and administer immigration laws; safeguard and secure cyberspace; and strengthen national preparedness and resilience.

This report outlines an array of homeland security issues that may come before the 114th Congress. After a brief discussion of the definitions of homeland security, the homeland security budget, and the role of homeland security actors in the intelligence community, the report divides the specific issues into four broad categories:

  • Counterterrorism and Security Management,
  • Border Security and Trade,
  • Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, and
  • DHS Management Issues.

Each of those areas contains a survey of topics briefly analyzed by Congressional Research Service experts. The information included only scratches the surface of most of these issues. More detailed information can be obtained by consulting the CRS reports referenced herein, or by contacting the relevant CRS expert.

Selected Issues in Homeland Security Policy for the 114th Congress

What Is Homeland Security?

There is no statutory definition of homeland security that reflects the breadth of the enterprise as currently understood. Although there is a federal Department of Homeland Security, it is neither solely dedicated to homeland security missions, nor is it the only part of the federal government with significant responsibilities in this arena.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296), which was signed into law on November 25, 2002. The new department was assembled from components pulled from 22 different government agencies and began official operations on March 1, 2003. Since then, DHS has undergone a series of restructurings and reorganizations to improve its effectiveness and efficiency.

Although DHS does include many of the homeland security functions of the federal government, several of these functions or parts of these functions remain at their original executive branch agencies and departments, including the Departments of Justice, State, Defense, and Transportation. Not all of the missions of DHS are officially "homeland security" missions. Some components have historical missions that do not directly relate to conventional homeland security definitions, such as the Coast Guard's environmental and boater safety missions, and Congress has in the past debated whether FEMA and its disaster relief and recovery missions belong in the department.

Some criminal justice elements could arguably be included in a broad definition of homeland security. Issues such as the role of the military in law enforcement, monitoring and policing transfers of money, human trafficking, explosives and weapons laws, and aspects of foreign policy, trade, and economics have implications for homeland security policy.

Rather than trying to resolve the question of what is and is not homeland security, this report is a survey of issues that have come up in the context of homeland security policy debates. It is neither exhaustive nor exclusive in its scope, but representative of the broad array of issues likely to be taken up in one way or another by Congress in the coming months. After initial discussion of the definitions of homeland security, the homeland security budget, and the role of homeland security actors in the intelligence community, the report groups the issues into four general themes:

  • Counterterrorism and Security Management;
  • Border Security and Trade;
  • Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery; and
  • DHS Management Issues

As each topic under these themes is introduced, the author of the section is listed, along with their contact information. In many cases, a specific CRS report is highlighted as a source of more detailed information.

Homeland Security: Missions and Strategy

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R42462, Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and Congressional Considerations.

Prior to 9/11, the United States addressed threats to our homeland through the separate prisms of national defense, law enforcement, and emergency management. Policy discussions about how the government should confront emerging threats were made more urgent by the 9/11 attacks. Despite the reorganization put in motion after the attacks, including the Homeland Security Act of 2002, and concurrent evolution of homeland security policy, over 30 federal departments, agencies, and entities have homeland security responsibilities and receive annual appropriations to execute homeland security missions.

Under the American structure of government, the executive branch is responsible for the development and execution of homeland security strategy, and Congress is charged with providing oversight and approving funding. It can be argued that the White House has the responsibility of coordinating homeland security activities that cut across the federal government, and encouraging state and local governments and the private sector to be willing and active partners in securing the homeland.

Expression of national homeland security strategy predates DHS, and the documents by the executive branch show an evolution in their view of national homeland security priorities. The first homeland security strategy document issued by President George W. Bush's Administration was the 2003 National Strategy for Homeland Security, which was revised in 2007. In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued the Strategic Plan—One Team, One Mission, Securing Our Homeland. The 2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security primarily focused on terrorism, whereas the 2008 Strategic Plan included references to all-hazards and border security. Arguably, the 2003 and 2007 national strategies for homeland security addressed terrorism in response to such incidents as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the attempted bombing of American Airlines Flight 93 on December 22, 2001, whereas the 2008 Strategic Plan addressed terrorism and all-hazards in response to natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, which occurred in 2005. These documents have been superseded by several other documents which are now considered the principal homeland security strategies, but they represent evolutionary steps in the development of the current policy.

Presentation of Homeland Security Priorities

One way the Administration presents its thinking on homeland security to Congress and the public is through the QHSR process. This involves DHS reviewing its homeland security policy and programs, and then reporting to Congress on the results. Arguably, the review process may inform the development of combined national security and homeland security strategy. The 2014 QHSR endorsed the five mission areas spelled out in the 2010 QHSR, noting that the mission areas needed to be "refined in response to reflect the evolving landscape of homeland security threats and hazards."1 The five mission areas are:

  • Prevent Terrorism and Enhance Security;
  • Secure and Manage our Borders;
  • Enforce and Administer Our Immigration Laws;
  • Safeguard and Secure Cyberspace; and
  • Strengthen National Preparedness and Resilience.2

Another way of looking at the Administration's thinking on homeland security is through the budget process. OMB's annual budget guidance—Circular A-11—provides federal departments and agencies with information on how to report to Congress on its homeland security expenditures. OMB states in its 2015 version of Circular A-11 that the six critical mission homeland security areas are identified in the 2004 National Strategy for Homeland Security. These six critical mission areas are:

  • Intelligence and Warning;
  • Border and Transportation Security;
  • Domestic Counterterrorism;
  • Protecting Critical Infrastructure and Key Assets;
  • Defending Against Catastrophic Threats; and
  • Emergency Preparedness and Response.3

Arguably, OMB's continued use of 2004 homeland security strategy mission areas in current guidance alongside the homeland security discussions in the 2014 QHSR and 2015 National Security Strategy indicates that these original missions still contribute to the Administration's analysis of homeland security matters by defining the terms of the budgetary discussion.

Presentation of the Homeland Security Strategy

The current primary national homeland security strategic document is the 2015 National Security Strategy, which is similar to the 2010 National Security Strategy that incorporated homeland security into the nation's national security strategy.4 The 2015 National Security Strategy identifies guarding against terrorism as the core responsibility of homeland security. The strategy also identifies improved information sharing, aviation and border security, and international cooperation as homeland security priorities. Community-based efforts and local law enforcement programs are identified as ways to counter homegrown violent extremism and protect vulnerable individuals from extremist ideologies that could lead them to join conflicts overseas or carry out attacks in the United States. Finally, the 2015 strategy states the federal government will work with the owners and operators of the nation's critical cyber and physical infrastructure to decrease vulnerabilities and increase resilience.5 At the national level, the 2015 National Security Strategy guides not just DHS's activities, but also all federal government homeland security activities.

Considerations for Congress

As noted above, Congress is responsible for providing oversight of and appropriating funds for homeland security activities. For Congress to exercise effective oversight and ensure efficient usage of taxpayer dollars, clear understanding of priorities for homeland security missions, goals and activities needs to exist between the branches. Policymakers could then use a process based on these defined priorities to ensure existing programs are on track and new developments can be addressed in a more strategic fashion. While the dynamic threat environment may not allow strategic priorities to be set in stone, Congress could encourage the use of a consistent broadly-drawn list of homeland security missions in budget and policy discussions, in order to facilitate strategic decisionmaking.

Even though the conventional wisdom since 9/11 has often identified counterterrorism as the core responsibility of homeland security—a mission that is often interpreted as a federal-level national security function—it can be argued that homeland security, at its core, is about the coordination of disparate stakeholders to confront the full range of risks to the country—not just terrorism.6

This is the ultimate challenge of strategic homeland security policymaking: arriving at a consensus on what the current risk portfolio is, how that portfolio is evolving, what the appropriate missions are in response, and how to prioritize them—not just once, but constantly. This consensus isn't just "horizontal"—at the federal level—but "vertical"—reaching down to those with homeland security roles at the state, local, tribal and territorial levels, as well as in the private sector.

Consistency in discussion of homeland security missions and strategy could also facilitate debate about the appropriate role of various federal, state, local and private sector stakeholders in ensuring homeland security. Such discussions are important in ensuring each level understands its role and can invest the proper level of resources to carry it out.

The Budget and Security

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R43796, Department of Homeland Security: FY2015 Appropriations, and CRS Report R43884, Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2015 Action in the 114th Congress.

According to data from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the entire U.S. government spent $564 billion (in nominal dollars) on "homeland security"—defined in law as "those activities that detect, deter, protect against, and respond to terrorist attacks occurring within the United States and its territories"—in the 10 years after the 9/11 attacks. Such spending peaked in FY2009 at $73.8 billion. The total budget for homeland security activities for FY2014, the last year for which there is complete data, was $66.2 billion, a reduction of $7.6 billion from its high-water mark in nominal terms.7

By comparison, the budget for the Department of Homeland Security has grown from $31.2 billion in FY2003, when it did not have its own appropriations bill, to $59.9 billion in FY2014, the last year for which we have complete budget data. Roughly $35.8 billion of that amount, or 58.6%, was considered "homeland security" spending by OMB's accounting under the above definition. Some argue that the definition in law is too focused on explicit and directly attributable counterterrorism activities compared to broader theories that have been part of the national discussion, which consider immigration and border control or disaster response as a part of homeland security.

DHS Appropriations

The Administration requested $38.3 billion in adjusted net discretionary budget authority for DHS for FY2015, plus over $6.4 billion to pay for the costs of major disasters under the Stafford Act. In the 113th Congress, the House Appropriations Committee reported legislation (H.R. 4903) that would have provided $39.2 billion in adjusted net discretionary budget authority, plus the requested disaster relief, and the Senate Appropriations Committee reported legislation (S. 2534) that would have provided $39.0 billion, plus the requested disaster relief and $0.2 billion in overseas contingency operations funding for the Coast Guard.8 Neither bill received floor consideration in the 113th Congress, and annual appropriations for DHS were not included in P.L. 113-235, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015. As no DHS annual appropriation was enacted, DHS continued to operate under a continuing resolution, which was extended by P.L. 113-235 through February 27, 2015.

With the beginning of the 114th Congress, both House- and Senate-reported FY2015 annual homeland security appropriations bills were no longer available for action. H.R. 240, a new FY2015 annual homeland security appropriations bill, was introduced on January 9, 2015, and considered in the House the following week under a structured rule that allowed five immigration policy-related amendments. After adopting these five amendments, the bill passed the House on January 14, 2015. On February 27, the Senate passed an amended H.R. 240 without the legislative text added by the House amendments.

After the House did not pass a three-week extension of the continuing resolution, the Senate and House passed a one week extension of the continuing resolution to avoid a lapse in annual appropriations for DHS. On March 3, 2015, the House voted to approve the Senate version of H.R. 240. The bill was signed into law on March 4, 2015, as P.L. 114-4. As enacted, the bill provided $39.7 billion in adjusted net discretionary budget authority, plus the requested disaster relief, and $0.2 billion in overseas contingency operations funding for the Coast Guard.

For FY2016, the Administration has requested $41.2 billion in adjusted net discretionary budget authority for DHS, plus $6.7 billion to pay for the costs of major disasters under the Stafford Act, as part of an overall budget of almost $64.9 billion.

The current budget environment will likely present challenges to homeland security programs and the department going forward, as the demands of the mission, ongoing capital investment efforts and staffing needs will compete with the budget demands of the rest of the government for limited funds. The potential impact of the changed budget environment is discussed at various points throughout this report.

Homeland Security and the U.S. Intelligence Community

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Intelligence and National Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report RL33539, Intelligence Issues for Congress; CRS Report R43793, Intelligence Authorization Legislation for FY2014 and FY2015: Provisions, Status, Intelligence Community Framework; and CRS Report R40138, Amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Extended Until June 1, 2015.

While many think of homeland security only in terms of DHS, it is a primary mission of the entire Intelligence Community (IC). In the years since 9/11, the "wall" between foreign and domestic intelligence has fallen and many efforts have been initiated to better integrate the capabilities residing in intelligence and law enforcement organizations.9 "National intelligence" has come to mean "all intelligence," not just foreign intelligence.10

The many barriers between foreign and domestic intelligence that existed prior to 9/11 were intended to prevent government spying on U.S. persons and focused the IC on foreign intelligence. The tragedy of the 9/11 attacks overcame earlier concerns and led Congress and the executive branch to enact legislation, policies and regulations designed to enhance information-sharing across the U.S. government.

The Homeland Security Act (P.L. 107-296) gave the DHS responsibility for fusing together law enforcement and intelligence information relating to terrorist threats to the homeland. Provisions in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act (IRTPA) of 2004 (P.L. 108-458) established the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) as the coordinator at the federal level for terrorism information and assessment and created the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to provide strategic management across the IC. New legal authorities accompanied these organizational changes.11 At the state and local level, initiatives to improve collaboration across the federal system, such as the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs), have expanded—the number of JTTFs across the country grew from 34 to over 100 between 2001 and 2015—and new ones, such as DHS's National Network of Fusion Centers (NNFC), have been put in place.12

The "community" of U.S. government entities that perform some kind of intelligence-related activity has gradually evolved into 17 organizations/agencies that span six separate government departments and one independent agency (the CIA). Two intelligence elements of DHS and one element of the FBI are most closely associated with homeland security.13

  • DHS's missions include "preventing terrorism and enhancing security; securing and managing our borders; enforcing and administering our immigration laws; strengthening cyberspace and critical infrastructure; and strengthening national preparedness and resilience to disasters."14 DHS's Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) section provides intelligence support across the full range of DHS missions. It serves as the DHS focal point for all policy issues and activities involving the entire IC. It is the federal government lead for information and intelligence sharing "with state, local, tribal and territorial governments and the private sector."15 Much of the information sharing is done through the NNFC—with I&A providing personnel, systems and training.16
  • The U.S. Coast Guard, made part of DHS in 2002, has intelligence elements that deal with information relating to maritime security and homeland defense. The USCG's responsibilities include protecting citizens from the sea (maritime safety), protecting America from threats delivered by the sea (maritime security), and protecting the sea itself (maritime stewardship). Its diverse mission sets and broad legal authorities allow it to fill a unique niche within the IC.17
  • The FBI's National Security Branch (NSB) serves as the focal point in the department for all policy issues and activities involving the IC. The key intelligence functions of the FBI relate to counterterrorism and counter-intelligence. Law enforcement information is expected to be shared with other intelligence agencies for use in all-source products. Robert Mueller, then-Director of the FBI when he testified in 2011, stated:

Protecting the United States against terrorism demanded a new framework for the way the FBI carries out its mission: a threat-based, intelligence-led approach. Rather than collecting information to solve a particular case, the new approach prioritizes the collection and utilization of intelligence to develop a comprehensive threat picture, enabling strategic disruptions of terrorist networks before they act. This focus on the overall threat picture also elevates the need for information sharing, thereby changing the FBI's role in and relationships with both the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Under this new model, intelligence drives how we understand threats, how we prioritize and investigate these threats, and how we target our resources to address these threats.18

Selected IC Issues with Homeland Security Implications

Domestic Surveillance

Domestic surveillance issues will likely be a concern for the 114th Congress principally because three amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 (P.L. 95-511)19 will expire on June 1, 2015, unless Congress votes to extend them.20

FISA provides a statutory framework regulating when government agencies may gather foreign intelligence through electronic surveillance or physical searches, capture the numbers dialed on a telephone line (pen registers) and identify the originating number of a call on a particular phone line (with trap and trace devices), or access specified business records and other tangible things. Authorization for such activities is typically obtained via a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), a specialized court created to act as a neutral judicial decisionmaker in the context of FISA.

Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress amended FISA to enable the government to obtain information in a greater number of circumstances.21 Three temporary amendments to FISA are known as the "roving" wiretap provision, the "Section 215" provision, and the "lone wolf" provision. The first two of these provisions were part of the USA PATRIOT Act of 200122 and the third was passed as part of the IRTPA of 2004.23 Distinctions between the three temporary amendments include:

Multipoint, or "roving" wiretaps allow wiretaps to follow an individual even when he or she changes the means of communication (i.e., wiretaps which may follow a target even when he or she changes phones). If it is allowed to expire, FISA provisions require a separate FISA Court authorization to tap each device a target uses.24

"Section 215" broadens the types of records and "other tangible things" that can be made accessible to the government under FISA. If it is allowed to expire, FISA provisions will read as they did prior to passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, and accessible business records will be limited to "common carrier, public accommodation facility, physical storage facility, or vehicle rental facility."25

The "lone wolf" provision allows the government to monitor individuals acting alone and potentially engaged in international terrorism, providing that they are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States. If it is allowed to expire, there is no provision for individuals acting alone.26

An extension of these authorities would need to be enacted prior to June 1, 2015, in order for them to be maintained. Otherwise, the amended FISA authorities will revert to the text as it appeared before the enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act and IRTPA. However, foreign intelligence investigations that began prior to the sunset date may continue to use these authorities beyond their expiration.

The National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting bulk telephone data as "tangible things" since 2001, and doing so using Section 215 authorities as a legal basis for that activity since 2006.27 As Congress considers extending Section 215, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently ruled that Section 215 does not authorize the "bulk collection" of phone records on the scale of the NSA program "[b]ecause we find that the program exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized."28 The court ruling appears to suggest that the bulk data collection program needs a separate authorization either within Section 215, or in addition to Section 215.

At this time, three bills have been introduced in the 114th Congress to extend all three provisions. The House and Senate versions (H.R. 2048, S. 1123), popularly known as the "USA FREEDOM Act of 2015,"29 would not only extend the three amendments until December 15, 2019, but would also propose a number of FISA reforms.30 A separate Senate bill (S. 1035) extends the three amendments until December 31, 2020. S. 1035 is being called a "clean bill" because it contains no new provisions.31

Information-Sharing and Collaboration

The "wall" between domestic and foreign intelligence has come down metaphorically, but barriers to information-sharing and collaboration32 continue between the IC and law enforcement entities,33 between IC entities in the various levels of government—federal, state, local, tribal, territorial—and between the public and private sector. DHS has efforts underway to overcome those barriers. For example, in order to meet the DHS's public‐private cybersecurity data sharing and analytical collaboration mission, DHS has developed a Critical Infrastructure Information Sharing and Collaboration Program (CISCP) that shares threat, incident and vulnerability information between government and industry across critical infrastructure sectors such as the chemical, energy, dams, and financial services sectors.34

Congress may choose to explore how the DHS is measuring progress in efforts such as CISCP, and, based on those metrics, where DHS and the IC as a whole are in terms of information-sharing and collaboration on homeland security-related issues such as cybersecurity, border security, transportation security, disaster response, drug interdiction, critical infrastructure protection, and homegrown violent extremism. As Congress reviews cases of collaboration between multiple agencies, it may examine if it is clear which agency has the lead, and whether any single organization is accountable if a collaborative arrangement fails. Congress may also choose to pass legislation designed to encourage information-sharing and collaboration in specific fields, such as cybersecurity.35

Counterterrorism and Security Management

The Transnational Trend of Terrorism

John Rollins, Specialist in Terrorism and National Security ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R41004, Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Foreign Policy Issues for Congress.

Terrorism remains a transnational threat that entails risks to U.S. global interests emanating from and manifesting in both the international and domestic environment. Central to U.S. efforts to address transnational terrorism are actions taken to detect, deter, and defeat Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. While recognizing that numerous other terrorist groups may wish to harm U.S. global security interests, the Administration primarily focuses on addressing threats from Al Qaeda, its affiliated organizations, and adherents to its violence-based philosophy and the Islamic State. Understanding how Al Qaeda and the Islamic State continue to evolve into global entities with a diverse set of actors and capabilities is central to formulating sound strategic policy and overseeing its effective implementation.

Al Qaeda

The past few years have witnessed an increase in terrorist actions by entities claiming some affiliation with or philosophical connection to Al Qaeda. Many of the past year's global terrorist attacks were conducted by individuals or small terrorist cells that received support ranging from resources and training to having minimal connections, if any, with the terrorist groups to which they claim allegiance. Some argue that recent U.S. counterterrorism successes may be reducing the level of terrorist threats to the nation emanating from core Al Qaeda. U.S. officials suggest that the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 coupled with continuous post-9/11 global military and intelligence counterterrorism actions have significantly degraded Al Qaeda's ability to successfully launch a catastrophic terrorist attack against U.S. global interests. Others suggest that Al Qaeda has changed from an organization to a philosophical movement, making it more difficult to detect and defeat. These security experts suggest that Al Qaeda and associated affiliates will remain viable, due in part to the prospective security implications related to the nation's budgetary situation. Counterterrorism analyst Daveed Gartenstein-Ross argues that "The U.S. will not be (defeated) by Al Qaeda. But one can see that as the national debt increases, we (will) have to make spending cuts and as Al Qaeda gets stronger in multiple countries simultaneously—Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, maybe Mali—suddenly you're looking at multiple theaters from where catastrophic strikes can be launched."36

The Islamic State37

The Islamic State (IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, or ISIS) is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that has expanded its control over areas of parts of Iraq and Syria since 2013. There is debate over the degree to which the Islamic State organization might represent a direct terrorist threat to U.S. facilities and personnel in the region or to the U.S. homeland. The forerunners of the Islamic State were part of the insurgency against coalition forces in Iraq, and the organization has in the years since the 2011 U.S. withdrawal from Iraq expanded its control over significant areas of both Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State has thrived in the disaffected Sunni tribal areas of Iraq and taken control of some eastern provinces of Syria affected by the civil war. In 2014, Islamic State-led forces, supported by groups linked to ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and some Sunni Arabs, advanced along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq, taking population centers including Mosul, one of Iraq's largest cities. Since then, IS forces have killed Syrian and Iraqi adversaries, including some civilians, often from ethnic or religious minorities, and killed hostages, including U.S. citizens. Islamic State attempts to make further gains continue. The group's tactics have drawn international ire, and raised U.S. attention to Iraq's political problems and to the war in Syria.


The balance between ensuring effective counterterrorism policies and being mindful of the current budget environment is not lost on senior Administration officials. In recent years John Brennan, in his former capacity as the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, now the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has spoken of Osama bin Laden's often stated objective of pursuing global acts of terrorism against the nation's interests with the desire to "bleed [the U.S.] financially by drawing us into long, costly wars that also inflame anti-American sentiment."38

The terrorist threat to U.S. global interests will likely remain an important issue for the Administration and the 114th Congress. Over the past few years numerous individuals were arrested in the homeland and abroad for conducting attacks and planning terrorism-related activities directed at U.S. national security interests. All of the attacks—successful and unsuccessful—were of a transnational dimension and ranged from a lone shooter who appears to have become radicalized over the Internet to terrorist organizations wishing to use airliners as platforms for destruction to individuals attempting to detonate large quantities of explosives in symbolic areas frequented by large groups of people.

The 113th Congress undertook efforts, largely through hearings, to better understand the nature of terrorism in various geographic regions and assess the effectiveness of U.S. and partnering nations' counterterrorism efforts. Programs and policies that Congress has reviewed include public diplomacy efforts; imposition of sanctions; terrorism financing rules; the nexus between international crime, narcotics, and terrorism; and the relationship between domestic and international terrorism activities. The 114th Congress may continue to assess the Obama Administration's counterterrorism-related strategies, policies, and programs to ascertain if additional guidance or legislation is required. These assessments will likely entail considerations of how best to balance perceived risks to U.S. global security interests with concerns about the long-term fiscal challenges facing the nation.

The Homegrown Violent Jihadist Threat: Four Key Themes

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Organized Crime and Terrorism ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Homegrown violent jihadist39 activity since 9/11 defies easy categorization. CRS analysis of homegrown violent jihadist plots and attacks since 9/11 suggests four broad themes:

  • Various Endgames for Plans: Plots have involved individuals interested in a variety of ways to harm U.S. interests. Some individuals focused on becoming foreign fighters in conflict zones, such as Somalia. Others planned attacks using explosives, incendiary devices, or firearms. Yet others incorporated multiple, unspecific, or unique tactics. Finally, outside of the post-9/11 violent plots, additional individuals intended only to fund or materially support jihadist activities.
  • Little Interest in Martyrdom: Only a minority of homegrown jihadists clearly exhibited interest in killing themselves while engaged in violent jihad.
  • Success of Lone Wolves: Individuals acting alone, so-called "lone wolves," conducted all four successful homegrown attacks since 9/11.
  • Divergent Capabilities: The operational capabilities of participants diverge greatly. Some evinced terrorist tradecraft such as bomb-making skills. Others appeared to be far less experienced.

Congress may wish to keep these four themes in mind as it considers responses to the threat of homegrown terrorism as opposed to foreign plots.

One aspect of the overall threat picture is the potential threat posed by "foreign fighters" from the United States and elsewhere involved in the Syrian civil war.40 These foreign fighters join terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL). According to Nicholas J. Rasmussen, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), more than 20,000 foreign fighters from approximately 90 nations have traveled to Syria. Most are from the Middle East and North Africa, with about 3,400 westerners who have joined the influx.41

U.S. intelligence officials have pointed out that not all individuals traveling to Syria take on the role of a "foreign fighter." According to James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, 180 people from the United States have gone to Syria. Not all have joined the Islamic State, and about 40 have returned.42

The federal government's terrorist watchlisting process plays a key role in tracking people suspected of having ties to the Islamic State.43 When federal law enforcement or intelligence agencies identify someone known or reasonably suspected of terrorism, they are required to share that information to help create a federal consolidated watchlist of known or suspected terrorists. The watchlist supports "the ability of front line screening agencies to positively identify known or suspected terrorists trying to obtain visas, enter the country, board aircraft, or engage in other activity.... "44

Preempting and Monitoring Potential Terrorists

Preemption and monitoring of possible IS terrorist activity by U.S. law enforcement can be broadly described in terms of interdiction, investigation, and countering violent extremism in the United States.

Interdiction involves—among other things—stopping a suspected terrorist from entering the United States. For example, within DHS, components such as Customs and Border Protection draw on information from the federal government's consolidated terrorist watchlist as they engage in intelligence-driven screening to mitigate the risk posed by certain travelers destined for the United States.45 DHS Secretary Jeh C. Johnson has broadly alluded to U.S. coordination with allies on foreign fighters. In an August 29, 2014, press release, he noted:

This government, in close collaboration with our international partners, has ... taken a series of steps to track foreign fighters who travel in and out of Syria, and we are contemplating additional security measures concerning foreign fighters. Some of the security measures will be visible to the public and some understandably will be unseen.46

Johnson has also mentioned enhanced screening at select overseas airports.47 One of the known efforts targeting foreign fighters pursued by DHS involves enhancements to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) used by Customs and Border Protection to vet prospective travelers from visa waiver countries "to determine if they pose a law enforcement or security risk before they board aircraft destined for the United States."48

Investigation largely focuses on Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and supported by local, state, and federal agencies—including DHS.49 The task forces fill the chief role in coordinating federal counterterrorism cases across the United States, bringing together federal, state, and local participants in the process. JTTFs have been involved in stopping individuals trying to leave the United States to fight with the Islamic State as well as investigating people who have returned from the conflict zone. Beyond U.S. borders, the FBI has legal attachés around the world that coordinate with foreign law enforcement partners to fight terrorist activity. Additionally, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has worked to expand its presence in countries that serve as transit points for foreign fighters.50

Countering violent extremism (CVE) involves the intricacies of radicalization. It focuses on determining when individuals are in danger of shifting from radical activity involving First Amendment-protected behavior to violent extremism.51 In part, CVE programs endeavor to prevent this shift without relying on traditional policing techniques such as investigation and prosecution. U.S. CVE programs can help keep people from traveling abroad to join terrorist groups. Additionally, such efforts provide law enforcement with vital links to U.S. communities that may provide tips regarding people who have returned from fighting in Syria and Iraq. Much of the federal work in this area includes outreach to local communities. Regarding the Islamic State, the FBI, DHS, and NCTC are striving to understand the motivations driving people to radicalize and join the group.52 Also, DHS and NCTC provide information to U.S. community groups about the recruitment efforts of violent extremist groups including those based in Syria and Iraq.53 Finally, largely in response to the Islamic State, the federal government is pursuing a program "in cities across the country to bring together community representatives, public safety officials and religious leaders to counter violent extremism."54 DOJ, DHS, and NCTC have chosen Boston, MA; Los Angeles, CA; and Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, as pilot cities for the program.55


John Rollins, Specialist in Terrorism and National Security ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R40836, Cybersecurity: Current Legislation, Executive Branch Initiatives, and Options for Congress.

Cyber threats to the United States are a current and growing concern to policymakers. Technology is ubiquitous and relied upon in almost every facet of modern life, such as supporting government services, corporate business processes, and individual professional and personal pursuits. Many of these technologies are interdependent and the disruption to one piece of equipment may have a negative cascading effect on other devices. A denial of service, theft or manipulation of data, or damage to critical infrastructure through a cyber-based attack could have significant impacts on national security, the economy, and the livelihood of individual citizens. These concerns raise many questions for Congress, among them,

  • Who are the aggressors in cyberspace and what are their intentions and capabilities?
  • What are the impacts and implications of cyberattacks?
  • What legislative and policy actions have the executive branch and Congress taken to respond to threats from cyberspace? What further steps should be taken?

Cyber Threats

Cyber-based technologies56 are now ubiquitous around the globe. The vast majority of their users pursue lawful professional and personal objectives. However, criminals, terrorists, and spies also rely heavily on cyber-based technologies to support organizational objectives. These malefactors may access cyber-based technologies in order to deny service, steal or manipulate data, or use a device to launch an attack. Entities using cyber-based technologies for illegal purposes take many forms and pursue a variety of actions counter to U.S. global security and economic interests.

The threats posed by these cyber-aggressors and the examples of types of attacks they can pursue are not mutually exclusive. For example, a hacker targeting the intellectual property of a corporation may be categorized as both a cyberthief and a cyberspy. A cyberterrorist and cyberwarrior may be employing different technological capabilities in support of a nation's security and political objectives. Commonly recognized cyber-aggressors and representative examples of the harm they can inflict include the following:

Cyberterrorists are state-sponsored and non-state actors who engage in cyberattacks as a form of terrorism. Transnational terrorist organizations, insurgents, and jihadists have used the Internet as a tool for planning attacks, radicalization and recruitment, a method of propaganda distribution, and a means of communication.57 While no unclassified reports have been published regarding a cyberattack on a critical component of the nation's infrastructure, the vulnerability of critical life-sustaining control systems being accessed and destroyed via the Internet has been demonstrated. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conducted an experiment that revealed some of the vulnerabilities to the nation's control systems that manage power generators and grids. The experiment, known as the Aurora Project, entailed a computer-based attack on a power generator's control system that caused operations to cease and the equipment to be destroyed.58

Cyberspies are individuals who steal classified or proprietary information used by governments or private corporations to gain a competitive strategic, security, financial, or political advantage. These individuals often work at the behest of, and take direction from, foreign government entities. For example, a 2011 FBI report noted, "a company was the victim of an intrusion and had lost 10 years' worth of research and development data—valued at $1 billion—virtually overnight."59 Likewise, in 2008 the Department of Defense's (DOD's) classified computer network system was unlawfully accessed and "the computer code, placed there by a foreign intelligence agency, uploaded itself undetected onto both classified and unclassified systems from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control."60 2013 was the last time the intelligence community reportedly produced a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) focused on cyberspying against U.S. targets from abroad. The NIE reportedly addressed activities relating to the "Chinese government's broad policy of encouraging theft of intellectual property through cyberattacks."61 Around the time the classified report was due to be issued then-DOD Secretary Leon Panetta stated, "it's no secret that Russia and China have advanced cyber capabilities."62

Cyberthieves are individuals who engage in illegal cyberattacks for monetary gain.63 Examples include an organization or individual who illegally accesses a technology system to steal and use or sell credit card numbers and someone who deceives a victim into providing access to a financial account. One estimate has placed the annual cost of cybercrime to individuals in 24 countries at $388 billion.64 However, given the complex and sometimes ambiguous nature of the costs associated with cybercrime, and the reluctance in many cases of victims to admit to being attacked, there does not appear to be any publicly available, comprehensive, reliable assessment of the overall costs of cyberattacks.

Cyberwarriors are agents or quasi-agents of nation-states who develop capabilities and undertake cyberattacks in support of a country's strategic objectives.65 These entities may or may not be acting on behalf of the government with respect to target selection, timing of the attack, and type(s) of cyberattack and are often blamed by the host country when accusations are levied by the nation that has been attacked. Often, when a foreign government is provided evidence that a cyberattack is emanating from its country, the nation that has been attacked is informed that the perpetrators acted of their own volition and not at the behest of the government. In August 2012 a series of cyberattacks were directed against Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil and gas producer and most valuable company, according to the New York Times. The attacks compromised 30,000 of the company's computers and the code was apparently designed to disrupt or halt the production of oil. Some security officials have suggested that Iran may have supported this attack. However, numerous cyberwarrior groups, some with linkages to nations with objectives counter to those of Saudi Arabia, have claimed credit for this incident.66

Cyberactivists are individuals who perform cyberattacks for pleasure, philosophical, or other nonmonetary reasons. Examples include someone who attacks a technology system as a personal challenge (who might be termed a "classic" hacker), and a "hacktivist" such as a member of a group who undertakes an attack for political reasons. The activities of these groups can range from simple nuisance-related denial of service attacks to disrupting government and private corporation business processes.

Ascertaining information about the aggressor and their capabilities and intentions is very difficult.67 The threats posed by these aggressors coupled with the United States' proclivity to be an early adopter of emerging technologies,68 which are often interdependent and contain vulnerabilities, make for a complex environment when considering operational responses, policies, and legislation designed to safeguard the nation's strategic economic and security interests.

Legislative Branch Efforts to Address Cyber Threats69

More than 50 federal statutes address various aspects of cybersecurity either directly or indirectly, but there is no overarching cybersecurity framework legislation in place.

Since the 111th Congress, many bills have been introduced that would address specific cybersecurity issues. The main topics addressed by the bills include:

  • Information Sharing—easing access of the private sector to classified threat information and removing barriers to sharing within the private sector and with the federal government. Issues: Roles of DHS and the Intelligence Community (IC), impacts on privacy and civil liberties, and risks of misuse by the federal government or the private sector.
  • Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) Reform—updating the 2002 law to reflect changes in information and communications technology and the threat landscape. Issues: Role of DHS, OMB, and Commerce, and flexibility of requirements.
  • Research and Development (R&D)—updating agency authorizations and strategic planning requirements. Issues: Agency roles, topics for R&D, and levels of funding.
  • Workforce—improving the size, skills, and preparation of the federal and private-sector cybersecurity workforce. Issues: Hiring and retention authorities, occupational classification, recruitment priorities, and roles of DHS, NSA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and NIST.
  • Privately Held Communications Infrastructure (CI)—improving protection of private-sector CI from attacks with major impacts. Issues: Roles of DHS and other federal agencies, and regulatory vs. voluntary approach.
  • Data-Breach Notification—requiring notification to victims and other responses after data breaches involving personal or financial information of individuals. Issues: Federal vs. state roles and what responses should be required.
  • Cybercrime Laws—updating criminal statutes and law-enforcement authorities relating to cybersecurity. Issues: Adequacy of current penalties and authorities, impacts on privacy and civil liberties.

Although comprehensive cybersecurity legislation was not enacted by the 113th Congress, five bills that contained cybersecurity provisions were passed and signed into law in December, 2014:

  • Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (S. 2521; P.L. 113-283)—amended FISMA to clarify the cybersecurity authorities for the Office of Management and Budget and DHS.
  • Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act (H.R. 2952; P.L. 113-324)—provided for an annual review of the DHS cybersecurity workforce and required the development of a DHS cybersecurity workforce strategy.
  • Sections 3 and 4 of the Border Agency Pay Reform Act of 2014 (S. 1691; P.L. 113-277)—mandated an assessment of the DHS cybersecurity workforce and authorized special recruitment and retention measures for cybersecurity personnel.
  • National Cybersecurity Protection Act of 2014 (S. 2519; P.L. 113-240)—authorized establishment of a national cybersecurity and communications integration center within DHS;
  • Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2014 (S. 1353, P.L. 113-274)—addressed a broad range of themes, including NSF and NIST activities in cybersecurity research and development, standards, workforce development, the NIST Framework, and cybersecurity awareness and education programs.

Many observers believe that enactment of comprehensive cybersecurity legislation will be attempted again in the 114th Congress.

Executive Branch Actions to Address Cyber Threats70

In 2008, the George W. Bush Administration established the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) through National Security Presidential Directive 54/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 23 (NSPD-54/HSPD-23). Those documents are classified, but the Obama Administration released a description of them in March 2010.71 Goals of the 12 initiatives in that description include consolidating external access points to federal systems; deploying intrusion detection and prevention systems across those systems; improving research coordination and prioritization and developing "next-generation" technology, information sharing, and cybersecurity education and awareness; mitigating risks from the global supply chain for information technology; and clarifying the federal role in protecting critical infrastructure.

In December 2009, the Obama Administration created the position of White House Cybersecurity Coordinator. The responsibilities for this position include government-wide coordination of cybersecurity-related issues, including overseeing the implementation of the CNCI. The Coordinator works with both the National Security and Economic Councils in the White House. However, the Coordinator does not have direct control over agency budgets, and some observers argue that operational entities such as the DOD's National Security Agency (NSA) have far greater influence over federal cybersecurity issues.72 Reportedly, in October 2012 President Obama signed a classified Presidential Decision Directive that "enables the military to act more aggressively to thwart cyberattacks on the Nation's web of government and private computer networks."73

The complex federal role in cybersecurity involves securing federal systems, assisting in protecting nonfederal systems, and pursuing military, intelligence, and law enforcement community detection, surveillance, defensive, and offensive initiatives. Under current law, all federal agencies have cybersecurity responsibilities relating to their own systems and dozens of agencies have government-wide aggressor, issue, and critical infrastructure sector-specific responsibilities and legislative authorities. The cybersecurity roles and responsibilities of these agencies are often complementary but at times are overlapping or competing. In the absence of enactment of overarching cybersecurity legislation, during the past two years the White House has issued a number of executive orders and presidential directives addressing intelligence issues, critical infrastructure protection, and safeguarding of classified materials.74

Continuity of Government Operations

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in American National Government, Government and Finance Division ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Continuity of government operations refers to programs and initiatives to ensure that governing entities are able to recover from a wide range of potential operational interruptions. Government continuity planning may be viewed as a process that incorporates preparedness capacities, including agency response plans, employee training, recovery plans, and the resumption of normal operations. These activities are established in part to ensure the maintenance of civil authority, provision of support for those affected by an incident, infrastructure repair, and other actions in support of recovery. Arguably, any emergency response presumes the existence of an ongoing, functional government to fund, support, and oversee recovery efforts. Interruptions for which contingency plans might be activated include localized acts of nature, accidents, technological emergencies, and military or terrorist attack-related incidents.

Current authority for executive branch continuity programs is provided in the 2007 National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) on National Continuity Policy, NSPD-51.75 To support the provision of essential government activities, NSPD-51 sets out a policy "to maintain a comprehensive and effective continuity capability composed of continuity of operations76 and continuity of government77 programs in order to ensure the preservation of our form of government78 under the Constitution and the continuing performance of national essential functions (NEF) under all conditions."

Executive Order (E.O.) 12656, Assignment of Emergency Preparedness Responsibilities, was issued in 1988,79 and assigns national security emergency preparedness responsibilities to federal executive departments and agencies. E.O. 12656 requires the head of each federal department and agency to "ensure the continuity of essential functions in any national security emergency by providing for: succession to office and emergency delegation of authority in accordance with applicable law; safekeeping of essential resources, facilities, and records; and establishment of emergency operating capabilities." Subsequent sections require each department to carry out specific contingency planning activities in its areas of policy responsibility.

Although contingency planning authorities are chiefly based on presidential directives, Congress could consider whether current authorities accurately reflect current government organization and goals, the costs of these programs, potential conflicts that might result from departments and agencies complying with different authorities, and the extent to which government contingency planning ensures that the federal executive branch will be able to carry out its responsibilities under challenging circumstances.

Medical Countermeasures to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Terrorism

[author name scrubbed], Specialist, Science and Technology Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

The 2014 Ebola outbreak highlighted the lack of available medical countermeasures against many of the highest risk chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats. Following the 2001 anthrax attacks, the federal government created several programs to develop, procure, and distribute CBRN medical countermeasures. Despite these efforts, many of the CBRN threats that the government deems likely to pose the highest risk lack available countermeasures, and some experts question the government's ability to distribute countermeasures quickly. The 114th Congress may consider the effectiveness of federal efforts and whether current programs should be continued, modified, or ended.

Federal efforts to support the research, development, and procurement of CBRN medical countermeasures include components from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services (HHS). In light of the current fiscal environment and demonstrated gaps in available countermeasures, Congress may increase its scrutiny of the planning, coordination, and accountability of this complicated multiagency enterprise. Policymakers may be aided in their evaluation of these programs by the first iterations of the annual countermeasure strategy and implementation plan and coordinated multiyear budget mandated by the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-5).

To help HHS procure new medical countermeasures, Congress passed the Project BioShield Act (P.L. 108-276) in 2004. Through Project BioShield, HHS can encourage the private sector to develop CBRN medical countermeasures by creating a guaranteed federal market. Project BioShield allows the government to agree to buy a countermeasure up to 10 years before the product is likely to finish development. The federal government used this program to acquire medical countermeasures against anthrax, smallpox, botulinum toxin, some nerve agents, and some radiological and nuclear threats. However, many threats, including Ebola, continue to lack effective medical countermeasures. Congress funded Project BioShield through a $5.6 billion advance appropriation for FY2004-FY2013. Since FY2014, Congress has provided annual appropriations for this program. Some countermeasure developers assert that another multiyear advance appropriation would increase their ability to develop countermeasures.80 The 114th Congress may consider whether modifying the funding amount or providing an advance appropriation would improve the program's efficiency or performance.

Distribution of existing medical countermeasures during a CBRN emergency remains a challenge for the federal government and its partners. The federal government maintains programs, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Strategic National Stockpile, that stockpile and distribute stores of medical countermeasures. Some experts question the sufficiency of these federal programs, and whether state governments have the capacity to receive and effectively disseminate federal stockpiles.81 Congress may continue evaluating the effectiveness of federal programs and may consider additional stockpiling and distribution methods. Such methods may include stockpiling countermeasures in homes or businesses or using the U.S. Postal Service to distribute countermeasures. These proposals may raise concerns regarding program costs, unintended use of countermeasures, and local implementation.

BioWatch: Detection of Aerosol Release of Biological Agents

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Public Health and Epidemiology ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

The BioWatch program—begun in 2003—deploys pathogen sensors in more than 30 large U.S. cities to detect the possible aerosol release of a bioterrorism pathogen, in order that medications can be distributed before exposed individuals become ill.82 The DHS Office of Health Affairs (OHA) manages the system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) oversees some aspects of laboratory testing. Local jurisdictions would manage the public health response to a bioterrorism incident.

BioWatch has not detected a bioterrorism incident since its inception, although it has detected pathogens of interest; scientists believe that natural airborne "background" levels of these or related pathogens exist in certain regions. In July 2012, the Los Angeles Times published the first in a series of investigative articles criticizing the performance of BioWatch, claiming that the system is prone to false alarms and is also insufficiently sensitive to detect an actual incident.83 DHS disputed these claims.84 In addition, some state and local health officials defended the program, saying, among other things, that it has fostered collaboration among federal, state, and local officials, who would be called upon to work together in response to an actual incident.85

Timely treatment can reduce casualties during a bioterrorism incident. Federal officials have sought to improve the responsiveness of the BioWatch system by replacing daily sensor filter collection and analysis with so-called autonomous sensors, which would transmit pathogen detection findings in near-real time. Beginning in 2007, OHA pursued procurement of this type of sensor, which it termed Generation 3, or Gen-3. However, after a critical GAO review,86 several procurement delays, and growing skepticism among some Members of Congress,87 DHS announced the termination of further Gen-3 procurement activities in April 2014.88

Congressional appropriators have at times sought to limit funding for BioWatch program expansion and called for program reviews.89 Authorizing committees in each Congress since the 108th have held hearings on the program. In addition, Members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce began an investigation of the program in the 112th Congress.90 The Administration requested FY2015 and FY2016 funding solely to maintain current BioWatch operations without upgrade. Congress provided funding for FY2015 slightly above the request to replace aging system components. Both House and Senate Appropriations Committees urged OHA to continue its efforts to improve the program's detection capability.91

Food Defense

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Public Health and Epidemiology ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Foods may be intentionally contaminated for purposes of terrorism, fraud (e.g., the dilution of a valuable commodity), or other harmful intent. Food safety efforts have long focused on protecting against unintentional contaminants, such as infectious pathogens or pesticide residues. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, regulators and others have added a focus on food defense, the protection of the food supply from deliberate or intentional acts of contamination or tampering.92 Large-scale foodborne outbreaks can sicken hundreds of people. Sales of affected commodities—as well as unaffected commodities that the consuming public perceives to be involved—can suffer. An intentional incident of food contamination, especially if it were an act of terrorism, could have serious economic consequences, in addition to any illnesses it caused.

Federal food safety responsibility rests primarily with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates most meat and poultry and some egg products; FDA is responsible for the safety of most other foods.93 State and local authorities assist with inspection, outbreak response, and other food safety functions, and regulate retail establishments. DHS notes

The Food and Agriculture Sector is almost entirely under private ownership and is composed of an estimated 2.2 million farms, 900,000 restaurants, and more than 400,000 registered food manufacturing, processing, and storage facilities. This sector accounts for roughly one-fifth of the nation's economic activity.94

The 111th Congress enacted a comprehensive food safety law, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA, P.L. 111-353), focused mainly on foods regulated by FDA.95 FSMA attempts to prevent both intentional and unintentional contamination of foods through a variety of production and processing strategies and through enhanced regulatory authorities. However, FDA has not yet implemented some of the law's provisions.96 Among other things, FSMA requires the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Agriculture to develop a National Agriculture and Food Defense Strategy, implementation plan, and research agenda. This strategy and the accompanying documents have not yet been published.97 FDA has published a proposed rule that would require food facilities to address vulnerabilities to intentional contamination,98 and is under a court order to finalize this rule by May 2016.99

GAO has named food safety as a high-risk issue, citing the fragmentation of federal oversight, among other concerns.100 GAO specifically noted delays in the implementation of the nation's food and agriculture defense policy, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9 (HSPD-9). This directive, issued by the George W. Bush Administration in 2004, assigns various emergency response and recovery responsibilities to USDA, FDA, DHS, and other agencies. GAO found that there is no centralized coordination of HSPD-9 implementation efforts, and recommended that DHS take on this role to assure that the nation's food and agriculture defense policy is fully in place. In addition, GAO recommended that the executive branch develop a government-wide performance plan for all of its food safety activities. These and several other GAO recommendations regarding food defense have not been implemented as of March 2015.101

Electric Grid Physical Security

Paul Parfomak, Specialist in Energy Policy, Resources, Science and Industry Division ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R43604, Physical Security of the U.S. Power Grid: High-Voltage Transformer Substations.

The electric utility industry operates as an integrated system of generation, transmission, and distribution facilities to deliver electric power to consumers. In the United States, this system consists of over 9,000 electric generating units connected to over 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines strung between large towers and rated at 230 kilovolts (kV)102 or greater.103 This network is interspersed with hundreds of large electric power transformers whose function is to adjust electric voltage as needed to move power across the network. High voltage (HV) transformer units make up less than 3% of transformers in U.S. power substations, but they carry 60%-70% of the nation's electricity.104 Because they serve as vital transmission network nodes and carry bulk volumes of electricity, HV transformers are critical elements of the nation's electric power grid.

The various parts of the electric power system are all vulnerable to failure due to natural or manmade events. However, HV transformers are considered by many experts to be the most vulnerable to intentional damage from malicious acts. Security analysts have long asserted that a coordinated and simultaneous attack on multiple HV transformers could have severe implications for reliable electric service over a large geographic area, crippling its electricity network and causing widespread, extended blackouts. Such an event could have severe electric reliability consequences, demonstrated in recent grid security exercise, as well as serious economic and social consequences.105 A handful of recent physical attacks on individual transformer substations—most notably a 2013 attack on an HV transformer substation in Metcalf, CA—did not cause widespread blackouts, but did highlight the physical vulnerability of HV transformer substations and drew the attention of both the media and federal officials to the utility industry's substation security efforts.106

Over the last decade or so the electric utility industry and government agencies have engaged in a number of initiatives to secure HV transformers from physical attack and to improve recovery in the event of a successful attack. These initiatives include coordination and information sharing, spare equipment programs, security standards, grid security exercises, and other measures. Several grid security guidelines or standards have been developed or proposed to address the physical security of the grid, including HV transformers. These standards have been promulgated by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation as voluntary best practices since at least 2002, with subsequent revisions. However, in late 2014, following the Metcalf attack, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered the imposition of mandatory physical security standards for HV transformer substations.107

There is widespread agreement among state and federal government officials, utilities, and manufacturers that HV transformers in the United States are vulnerable to terrorist attack, and that such an attack potentially could have catastrophic consequences. But the most serious, multi-transformer attacks would require acquiring operational information and a certain level of sophistication on the part of potential attackers. Consequently, despite the technical arguments, without more specific information about potential targets and attacker capabilities, the true vulnerability of the grid to a multi-HV transformer attack remains an open question. Incomplete or ambiguous threat information may lead to inconsistency in physical security among HV transformer owners, inefficient spending of limited security resources at facilities that may not really be under threat, or deployment of security measures against the wrong threat.

Congress has long been concerned about grid security in general, but the recent security exercises, together with the Metcalf attack have focused congressional interest on the physical security of HV transformers, among other specific aspects of the grid.108 Legislative proposals in the 113th Congress, especially the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense Act (H.R. 4298 and S. 2158), sought to strengthen federal authority to secure the U.S. grid. As the electric utility industry and federal agencies continue their efforts to improve the physical security of critical HV transformer substations, the 114th Congress may consider several key issues as part of its oversight of the sector: identifying critical transformers, confidentiality of critical transformer information, adequacy of HV transformer protection, quality of federal threat information, and recovery from HV transformer attacks.

Security of Chemical Facilities

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Science and Technology Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R43346, Implementation of Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS): Issues for Congress, and CRS Report R43070, Regulation of Fertilizers: Ammonium Nitrate and Anhydrous Ammonia.

The 113th Congress authorized DHS to regulate security at chemical facilities through P.L. 113-254, the Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act of 2014. This act repealed the prior statutory authority that had been granted in the Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007 (P.L. 109-295, §550). The new authority expires in January 2019. As Congress has recently enacted chemical facility security legislation, the focus of many congressional policymakers in the 114th Congress will likely shift from enacting new legislation to increasing oversight. Even before the 2013 explosion of the West Fertilizer Company in West, TX, various stakeholders had criticized the content of DHS chemical facility security regulation, known as the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), and the effectiveness and pace of its implementation. With the new authority granted by the 113th Congress, DHS may move forward with regulations implementing this authority.

P.L. 113-254 maintained aspects of the existing regulatory scheme identified by experts as potentially containing security or implementation challenges. The Obama Administration and other stakeholders have determined that existing regulatory exemptions, such as for community water systems and wastewater treatment facilities, pose potential risks. Environmental and "right-to-know" groups additionally advocate that Congress include requirements for facilities to adopt or identify "inherently safer technologies" and widely disseminate security-related information to first responders and employees. The regulated industry generally opposes granting DHS the ability to require implementation of inherently safer technologies or other specific security measures. They question the maturity and applicability of the inherently safer technology concept as a security measure and cite the need to tailor security approaches for each facility. The Obama Administration has identified potential security concerns if chemical security-related information is more broadly disseminated. However, the discovery that information about the chemical inventory of the West Fertilizer Company was not effectively shared between federal agencies has led to reconsideration of existing information-sharing policies. Starting with Executive Order 13650, "Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security," the Obama Administration is engaged in a multiagency effort to coordinate federal chemical safety and security activities.

Policymakers performing oversight of the CFATS program face critical decisions regarding DHS program changes. The DHS regulatory program is still in its early stages. Historically, it has experienced implementation challenges and delays. Many regulated entities have not yet received approval of their security plans. The current rate of facility security plan approval indicates that it will be still two or more years before DHS has completed its review and approval of information submitted by regulated facilities.

Transit Security

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Transportation Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Bombings of passenger trains in Europe and Asia have illustrated the vulnerability of passenger rail systems to terrorist attacks. Passenger rail systems—primarily subway systems—in the United States carry about five times as many passengers each day as do airlines, over many thousands of miles of track, serving stations that are designed primarily for easy access. The increased security efforts around air travel have led to concerns that terrorists may turn their attention to "softer" targets, such as transit or passenger rail. A key challenge Congress faces is balancing the desire for increased rail passenger security with the efficient functioning of transit systems, with the potential costs and damages of an attack, and with other federal priorities.

The volume of ridership and number of access points make it impractical to subject all rail passengers to the type of screening all airline passengers undergo. Consequently, transit security measures tend to emphasize managing the consequences of an attack. Nevertheless, steps have been taken to try to reduce the risks, as well as the consequences, of an attack. These include vulnerability assessments; emergency planning; emergency response training and drilling of transit personnel (ideally in coordination with police, fire, and emergency medical personnel); increasing the number of transit security personnel; installing video surveillance equipment in vehicles and stations; and conducting random inspections of bags, platforms, and trains.

The challenges of securing rail passengers are dwarfed by the challenge of securing bus passengers. There are some 76,000 buses carrying 19 million passengers each weekday in the United States. Some transit systems have installed video cameras on their buses, but the number and operation characteristics of transit buses make them all but impossible to secure.

The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-53), passed by Congress on July 27, 2007, included provisions on passenger rail and transit security and authorized $3.5 billion for FY2008-FY2011 for grants for public transportation security. The act required public transportation agencies and railroads considered to be high-risk targets by DHS to have security plans approved by DHS (§1405 and §1512). Other provisions required DHS to conduct a name-based security background check and an immigration status check on all public transportation and railroad frontline employees (§1414 and §1522), and gave DHS the authority to regulate rail and transit employee security training standards (§1408 and §1517).

In 2010 TSA completed a national threat assessment for transit and passenger rail, and in 2011 completed an updated transportation systems sector-specific plan, which established goals and objectives for a secure transportation system. The three primary objectives for reducing risk in transit are

  • increase system resilience by protecting high-risk/high-consequence assets (i.e., critical tunnels, stations, and bridges);
  • expand visible deterrence activities (i.e., canine teams, passenger screening teams, and anti-terrorism teams); and
  • engage the public and transit operators in the counterterrorism mission.109

TSA surface transportation security inspectors conduct assessments of transit systems (and other surface modes) through the agency's Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement (BASE) program. The agency has also developed a security training and security exercise program for transit (I-STEP), and its Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams conduct operations with local law enforcement officials, including periodic patrols of transit and passenger rail systems, to create "unpredictable visual deterrents."

In the most recent Congressional action prior to the 114th Congress, the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Transportation Security held a hearing in May 2012 to examine the surface transportation security inspector program. The number of inspectors had increased from 175 in FY2008 to 404 in FY2011 (full-time equivalents). Issues considered at the hearing included the lack of surface transportation expertise among the inspectors, many of whom were promoted from screening passengers at airports; the administrative challenge of having the surface inspectors managed by federal security directors who are located at airports, and who themselves typically have no surface transportation experience; and the security value of the tasks performed by surface inspectors.110 The number of surface inspectors decreased to 300 (full-time equivalent positions) in FY2014, as a result of a reduction in the number of VIPR surface inspectors.111

DHS provides grants for security improvements for public transit, passenger rail, and occasionally other surface transportation modes under the Transit Security Grant Program. The vast majority of the funding goes to public transit providers (see Table 1).

Table 1. Congressional Funding for Transit Security Grants, FY2002-FY2015

(millions of dollars)

Fiscal Year

Appropriation (nominal $)

Appropriation (constant 2015 $)











































Source: FY2002: Department of Defense FY2002 Appropriations Act, P.L. 107-117; FY2003: FY2003 Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act, P.L. 108-11; FY2004: Department of Homeland Security FY2004 Appropriations Act, P.L. 108-90; FY2005-FY2011: United States Government Accountability Office, Homeland Security: DHS Needs Better Project Information and Coordination among Four Overlapping Grant Programs, GAO-12-303, February 2012, Table 1; FY2012-2014: DHS, Transit Security Grant Program annual funding opportunity announcements; FY2015: P.L. 114-4.

Notes: FY2002 funding represents post -9/11 appropriations through the Defense Appropriations Act to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Federal Transit Administration. In FY2003-FY2004, grants were made through the Urban Areas Security Initiative. The Transit Security Grant Program was formally established in FY2005. Does not include funding provided for security grants for intercity passenger rail (Amtrak), intercity bus service, and commercial trucking. Nominal dollar amounts adjusted to constant 2015 dollars using the Total Non-defense column from "Table 10: Gross Domestic Product and Deflators Used in the Historical Tables: 1940-2020," published in the Historical Tables volume of the Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2016 (

a. Includes $150 million provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

b. Congress did not specify an amount for transit security grants, but provided a lump sum for state and local grant programs, leaving funding allocations to the discretion of DHS.

c. Estimated by CRS; Congress provided $100 million for Public Transportation, Amtrak, and Over-the-Road Bus Security grants, and specified that no less than $10 million was for Amtrak and no less than $3 million was for bus grants (P.L. 114-4).

In the past, the Government Accountability Office has found opportunity for duplication among four DHS state and local security grant programs with similar goals, one of which was the public transportation security grant program.112 The Obama Administration has repeatedly proposed consolidating several of these programs in annual budget requests. This proposal has not been supported by Congress in the appropriations process to date, though appropriators have expressed concerns that grant programs have not focused on areas of highest risk and that significant amounts of previously appropriated funds have not yet been awarded to recipients.

Border Security and Trade

Southwest Border Issues

Drug Trafficking and the Southwest Border

Kristin M. Finklea, Specialist in Domestic Security ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

The United States is the world's largest marketplace for illegal drugs and sustains a multi-billion dollar market in illegal drugs.113 An estimated 24.6 million Americans (9.4% of the 12 and older population) were current users of illicit drugs in 2013.114 The most recent National Drug Threat Assessment Summary indicates that Mexican drug trafficking organizations continue to dominate the U.S. drug market.115 Indeed, U.S. officials have outlined this threat:

Mexican transnational criminal organizations pose the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other group is currently positioned to challenge them. These Mexican poly-drug organizations traffic heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana throughout the United States, using established transportation routes and distribution networks. They control virtually all drug trafficking across the Southwest Border and are moving to expand their share, particularly in heroin and methamphetamine markets.116

Mexican criminal networks either (1) transport or (2) produce and transport drugs north across the United States-Mexico border. After being smuggled across the border by criminal networks, the drugs are distributed and sold within the United States. The illicit proceeds may then be laundered or smuggled south across the border. The proceeds may also be used to purchase weapons in the United States that are then smuggled into Mexico. While drugs are the primary goods trafficked by the criminal networks, those networks also generate income from other illegal activities, such as the smuggling of humans and weapons, counterfeiting and piracy, kidnapping for ransom, and extortion.

One of the current domestic drug threats fueled, in part, by Mexican traffickers is heroin. Not only has there been an increase in heroin use in the United States over the past several years, but there has been a simultaneous increase in its availability. This availability is driven by a number of factors, including increased production and trafficking of heroin by Mexican criminal networks.117 Some Mexican farmers have reported abandoning marijuana cultivation in favor of growing opium poppies; the switch may be partly due to the decline in wholesale prices of marijuana in Mexico—which some claim is linked to increased marijuana legalization in the United States—and an increase in U.S. heroin demand.118 Increases in Mexican heroin production and its availability in the United States have been coupled with increased heroin seizures at the Southwest border. Reportedly, these seizures increased by over 320% between 2008 and 2013.119

The 114th Congress may consider a number of supply-reduction and demand-reduction options in attempting to reduce drug trafficking from Mexico to the United States. For instance, policymakers may be interested in examining the implementation of the 2013 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, of which the overarching strategic goal is to "[s]ubstantially reduce the flow of illicit drugs, drug proceeds, and associated instruments of violence across the Southwest border."120 To accomplish this, the strategy aims to enhance intelligence and information sharing; interdict drugs, money, and weapons both at and between the ports of entry as well as through air and marine operations; disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations; stem the trans-border flow of illicit proceeds and weapons; bolster border communities; and increase bilateral U.S.-Mexico cooperation.121

Illicit Proceeds and the Southwest Border

Kristin M. Finklea, Specialist in Domestic Security ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

The flow of money outside legal channels not only presents challenges to law enforcement, but it also has a significant nexus with homeland security policy. Proceeds from illegal enterprises are sometimes used to fund broader destabilizing activities, such as smuggling, illegal border crossings, or more violent activities, such as terrorist operations—including those controlled by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in Colombia.122 While this is an issue with a global scope, this section focuses specifically on the policies affected by movement of illicit funds across the Southwest border.

As noted in the State Department's 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, "drug trafficking organizations send between $19 and $29 billion annually to Mexico from the United States."123 Money from the traffickers' illegal sale of drugs in the United States is moved across the border into Mexico, and these funds fuel the drug traffickers' criminal activities. This money is not directly deposited into the U.S. financial system, but rather is illegally laundered through mechanisms such as bulk cash smuggling and the Black Market Peso Exchange,124 or placed in financial institutions, cash-intensive front businesses, prepaid or stored value cards, or money services businesses.125

New technologies have provided additional outlets through which drug trafficking organizations may conceal their illicit proceeds. The use of stored value cards,126 mobile banking systems, and other technologies allows traffickers to move profits more quickly and stealthily. In addition, profits that the Mexican drug traffickers generate from the sale of Colombian cocaine can be moved directly from the United States to the source country without traversing through middlemen.127 There has been debate, however, as to the extent that these technologies may be used relative to other laundering techniques.128

Various departments and agencies—including the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)—share responsibility for combating drug-related activity and the flow of illicit proceeds both along the Southwest border and throughout the United States. Many of these agencies are also represented in Mexico, increasing U.S.-Mexican bilateral cooperation. Further, while some efforts explicitly target money laundering and bulk cash smuggling, other efforts are more tangentially related. For instance, operations targeting southbound firearms smuggling may intercept individuals smuggling not only weapons, but cash proceeds from illicit drug sales as well. As such, the 114th Congress may examine interagency coordination to reduce the flow of illicit money (and other goods) across the Southwest border.

Cross-Border Smuggling Tunnels

Kristin M. Finklea, Specialist in Domestic Security ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Mexican traffickers rely on cross-border tunnels to smuggle persons and drugs, as well as other contraband, from Mexico into the United States. The use of smuggling tunnels has increased not only in frequency but in the sophistication of the tunnels themselves.129 More than 150 tunnels have been discovered along the Southwest border since the 1990s;130 notably, there has been an 80% uptick in tunnels detected since 2008.131 Early tunnels were rudimentary "gopher hole" tunnels dug on the Mexican side of the border, traveling just below the surface, and popping out on the U.S. side as close as 100 feet from the border. Slightly more advanced tunnels relied on existing infrastructure, which may be shared by neighboring border cities such as Nogales, AZ, in the United States and Nogales, Sonora, in Mexico. These interconnecting tunnels may tap into storm drains or sewage systems, allowing smugglers to move drugs further and more easily than in tunnels they dug themselves. The most sophisticated tunnels can have rail, ventilation, and electrical systems. One of the most elaborate and sophisticated of such tunnels discovered to date was found in November 2011 in San Diego, CA. It stretched 612 yards in length, boasted electric rail cars, lighting, reinforced walls, and wooden floors, and its discovery resulted in the seizure of 32 tons of marijuana.132 In April 2014, two sophisticated drug smuggling tunnels were uncovered in the San Diego area of the Southwest border in less than a week.133

U.S. law enforcement uses various tactics to detect these cross-border tunnels. Law enforcement may use sonic equipment to detect the sounds of digging and tunnel construction and seismic technology to detect blasts that may be linked to tunnel excavation. Another tool for tunnel detection is ground penetrating radar.134 However, factors including soil conditions, tunnel diameter, and tunnel depth can limit the effectiveness of this technology.

Despite these tools, U.S. officials have acknowledged that law enforcement currently does not have technology that is reliably able to detect sophisticated tunnels.135 Rather, tunnels are more effectively discovered as a result of human intelligence and tips. U.S. officials have noted the value of U.S.-Mexican law enforcement cooperation in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting the criminals who create and use the cross-border tunnels.136 As a result, the 114th Congress may not only consider how to best help U.S. law enforcement develop technologies that can keep pace with tunneling organizations, but also examine whether existing bi-national law enforcement partnerships are effective and whether they may be improved to enhance investigations of transnational criminals. Policymakers may also question how prominently the issue of combating cross-border smuggling tunnels may play within the larger border security framework.

Cargo Security

[author name scrubbed], Section Research Manager ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R43014, U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Trade Facilitation, Enforcement, and Security.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), within DHS, is America's primary trade enforcement agency, and CBP seeks to balance the benefits of efficient trade flows against the demand for cargo security and the enforcement of U.S. trade laws. Thus, the overarching policy question with respect to incoming cargo is how to minimize the risk that weapons of mass destruction, illegal drugs, and other contraband will enter through a U.S. port of entry (POE), while limiting the costs and delays associated with such enforcement.

CBP's current trade strategy emphasizes "risk management" and a "multi-layered" approach to enforcement.137 With respect to cargo security, risk management means that CBP segments importers into higher and lower risk pools and focuses security procedures on higher-risk flows, while expediting lower-risk flows. CBP's "multi-layered approach" means that enforcement occurs at multiple points in the import process, beginning before goods are loaded in foreign ports and continuing after the goods have been admitted into the United States. In recent years, congressional attention to cargo security has focused on one of CBP's primary tools for risk management, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) trusted trader program, and on the statutory requirement that 100% of incoming maritime cargo containers be scanned abroad prior to being loaded on U.S.-bound ships. Congress also faces perennial questions about spending levels for POE infrastructure and personnel.

Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT)

[author name scrubbed], Section Research Manager ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is a voluntary public-private and international partnership that permits certain import-related businesses to register with CBP and perform security tasks prescribed by the agency. In return C-TPAT members are recognized as low-risk actors and are eligible for expedited import processing and other benefits.138 CBP established C-TPAT in November 2001 following the September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks, and the program was authorized as part of the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006 (SAFE Port Act, P.L. 109-347).

Proponents of C-TPAT favor increased participation in the program as a way to facilitate legal trade flows.139 Some businesses, however, have criticized the program for providing inadequate membership benefits, especially in light of the time and financial investments required to become certified as C-TPAT members.140

Yet there may be no easy way to substantially expand C-TPAT benefits. In the case of land ports, the primary trusted trader benefit is access to dedicated lanes where wait times may be shorter and more predictable. But adding lanes at land ports is difficult because many of them are located in urban areas with limited space for expansion and with limited ingress and egress infrastructure.141 In the case of maritime imports, the primary trusted trader benefit is a reduced likelihood of secondary inspection.142 But only about 6% of all maritime containers are selected for such an inspection,143 so C-TPAT membership may offer little practical advantage in this regard.

100% Scanning Requirement

[author name scrubbed], Section Research Manager ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Section 231 of the SAFE Port Act directed DHS, in coordination with the Department of Energy (DOE), the private sector, and foreign governments, to pilot an integrated system in three foreign ports to scan 100% of cargo containers destined for the United States from those ports.144 Section 232 of the law required that 100% of cargo containers imported into the United States be screened by DHS to identify high-risk containers, and that 100% of containers identified as high risk also be scanned through non-intrusive inspection (NII) and radiation detection equipment before arriving in the United States.145 In 2007, Section 1701 of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act; P.L. 110-53) amended the SAFE Port Act to require that by July 1, 2012, 100% of maritime containers imported to the United States—that is, from all ports, whether or not they are identified as high-risk—be scanned by NII and radiation detection equipment before being loaded onto a U.S.-bound vessel in a foreign port.

On May 2, 2012, however, then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano notified Members of Congress that she would exercise her authority under the 9/11 Act to extend the deadline for 100% scanning.146 The decision to delay implementation of the 100% scanning program partly reflects the department's findings from its evaluation of the pilot program. In its final report to Congress on the program, CBP identified three main obstacles to implementing 100% scanning at all foreign ports.147 First, 100% scanning requires significant host state and private sector cooperation, but some foreign governments and business groups do not support 100% scanning. Second, 100% scanning would be logistically difficult. Initial pilots were deployed in relatively low-volume ports with natural chokepoints, but many cargo containers pass through large volume ports with more varied port architectures. Third, 100% scanning would be costly. In February 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that 100% scanning at foreign ports would cost an average of $8 million per shipping lane to implement, or a total of about $16.8 billion for all 2,100 shipping lanes.148 Port operators and foreign partners also absorb additional costs associated with fuel and utilities, staffing, and related expenses. In a May 2014 letter to Members of Congress, the current Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, reaffirmed the conditions cited by his predecessor in support of another two-year extension of the deadline.149

Some Members of Congress have expressed frustration that DHS has made little progress toward implementing 100% scanning.150 Congress may continue to monitor the 100% scanning requirement and encourage DHS to scan a higher proportion of inbound cargo. On the other hand, in light of the difficulties DHS has identified, Congress may consider changes to the 100% scanning requirement, potentially including provisions to allow DHS to scan less than 100% of U.S.-bound cargo or to allow certain scanning to occur within U.S. ports rather than abroad. In its report to accompany the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, 2015 (H.R. 4903), the House Appropriations Committee directed DHS, in light of the Secretary of Homeland Security extending the 100% scanning deadline by an additional two years and the "unlikeli[ness] that the ... requirement will be met ... ," to submit an alternative strategy for cargo scanning to Congress that could be realistically achieved within the next two years.151

Port of Entry (POE) Infrastructure and Personnel

[author name scrubbed], Section Research Manager ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

In light of the substantial flow of cargo and travelers at ports of entry (also see "Immigration Inspections at Ports of Entry"), one perennial issue for Congress is how to allocate additional resources for CBP Office of Field Operations (OFO) personnel and for port infrastructure. Some in Congress have argued that inadequate personnel and infrastructure have contributed to costly delays and unpredictable wait times at ports of entry, particularly at land ports on the U.S.-Mexico border.152 In general, Congress has invested more heavily since 2004 in enforcement personnel between ports of entry (i.e., U.S. Border Patrol agents) than in OFO officers (also see "Enforcement Between Ports of Entry").153

Recent fiscal pressures have been a barrier to POE personnel increases. During the FY2014 budget process, the Administration proposed to hire 3,477 additional CBP officers (about half through increased appropriations and half through fee increases), but Congress approved a slower personnel growth, with half the proposed funding.154 Congress also authorized a pilot program in the FY2013 appropriations bill that permitted CBP to enter into public-private partnerships (PPPs) with certain localities and permitted the private sector to fund improvements in border facilities and port services, including by funding additional CBP officers and underwriting overtime hours.155 In its FY2014 budget, the Administration proposed expanding the pilot program by permitting CBP to accept donations to expand port operations. Approving the Administration's request, Congress extended the pilot program in the FY2014 DHS appropriations bill.156 The current pilot program permits CBP to accept donations to expand port operations, among other things.157

Immigration Inspections at Ports of Entry

[author name scrubbed], Section Research Manager ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R43356, Border Security: Immigration Inspections at Ports of Entry.

At ports of entry, CBP's Office of Field Operations (OFO) is responsible for conducting immigration, customs, and agricultural inspections of travelers seeking admission to the United States. The vast majority of people entering through U.S. ports are U.S. citizens, U.S. legal permanent residents (LPRs),158 and legitimate visitors. Thus, as with cargo security (see "Cargo Security"), CBP officers' goals are to identify and intercept dangerous or unwanted (high-risk) people, while facilitating access for legitimate (low-risk) travelers. CBP seeks to accomplish these tasks without excessive infringement on privacy or civil liberties while controlling enforcement costs.

Travelers seeking admission at ports of entry are required to present a travel document, typically a passport or its equivalent and (for non-U.S. citizens) either a visa authorizing permanent or temporary admission to the United States or proof of eligibility for admission through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP; see "Visa Waiver Program").159 Foreign nationals are subject to security-related and other background checks prior to being issued a visa or to receiving travel authorization through the VWP. CBP officers at U.S. ports of entry verify the authenticity of travelers' documents and that each document belongs to the person seeking admission (i.e., confirm the traveler's identity). Identity confirmation relies in part on biometric checks against DHS's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) database (see "Entry-Exit System"). Database interoperability allows CBP officers to check travelers' records against other biographic and biometric databases managed by the Departments of Justice, State, and Defense.

The concentration of inspection activity at the border—for travelers and imports—means that sufficient resources must be present in order to minimize congestion and ensure efficient operations. CBP faces pressure to provide for the rapid processing of individuals crossing the border, but expedited processing can lead to missed opportunities for interdicting threats. Moreover, investment in ports of entry arguably has not kept pace with rapid growth in international travel and trade, and there may be inadequate infrastructure to manage flows at some ports of entry (also see "Port of Entry (POE) Infrastructure and Personnel").

In an effort to streamline admissions without compromising security, CBP has implemented several trusted traveler programs. Trusted traveler programs require applicants to clear criminal and national security background checks prior to enrollment, to participate in an in-person interview, and to submit fingerprints and other biometric data.160 In return, trusted travelers—like trusted traders (see "Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT)")—are eligible for expedited processing at ports of entry. CBP currently operates three main trusted traveler programs: Global Entry, which allows expedited screening of passengers arriving at 34 major U.S. airports and 10 preclearance airports;161 NEXUS, which is a joint U.S.-Canadian program for land, sea, and air crossings between the United States and Canada, including through dedicated vehicle lanes at 19 land ports;162 and the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI), which allows expedited screening at land POEs on the U.S.-Mexican border, including through dedicated vehicle lanes at 11 land ports.163

Visa Waiver Program

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Immigration Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report RL32221, Visa Waiver Program.

The 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, and the possible threats posed by European citizens fighting abroad for terrorist groups such as the Islamic State,164 has increased congressional focus on the possible security risk posed by the visa waiver program (VWP).165 The visa waiver program (VWP) allows nationals from 38 countries,166 most of which are in Europe, to enter the United States as temporary visitors (nonimmigrants) for business or pleasure without first obtaining a visa from a U.S. consulate abroad. Temporary visitors for business or pleasure from non-VWP countries must obtain a visa from Department of State (DOS) officers at a consular post abroad before coming to the United States. While a foreign national from a VWP country does not need a visa to enter the United States, before embarking to the United States he or she must submit biographical information through the U.S. government's web-based Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which determines the eligibility of the foreign national to travel to the United States under the VWP.167

While there tends to be agreement that the VWP benefits the U.S. economy by facilitating legitimate travel,168 there is disagreement on the VWP's effect on national security. Travelers under the VWP do not undergo the screening traditionally required to receive a visa. While the ESTA system has increased the security of the VWP, it is a name-based system and cannot be used to run checks against databases that use biometrics such as DHS's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) and FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS).169 (Travelers are checked against these systems through US-VISIT when they enter the United States.)170 In addition, some contend that the relaxed documentary requirements of the VWP increase immigration fraud and decrease border security.171

Nonetheless, others argue that the VWP enhances security by setting standards for travel documents, requiring information sharing between the member countries and the United States on criminals and security concerns, mandating reporting of lost and stolen travel documents, and promoting economic growth and cultural ties.172 For example, travelers under the VWP have to present machine-readable passports or e-passports, and eventually, all travelers entering under the VWP will present e-passports, which tend to be more difficult to alter than other types of passports.173 In addition, many short-term tourist visas are valid for 10 years,174 and it is possible that a person's circumstances or allegiances could change during that time.

Entry-Exit System

[author name scrubbed], Section Research Manager ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Section 110 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA, P.L. 104-208, Div. C) required the Attorney General, to develop an automated entry and exit control system within two years of enactment that would collect records of alien arrivals and departures and allow the Attorney General to match such arrivals and departures through online searches and thereby identify nonimmigrant aliens who remain in the United States beyond the periods of their visas. Congress amended the system's requirements and deadlines on several occasions since then, including by adding an entry-exit requirement to legislation authorizing the Visa Waiver Program and by requiring the entry-exit system to include biometric technology and to be fully interoperable with the Departments of Justice and State databases. The entry-exit system, however, remains incompletely implemented.

The completion of the exit component of the system has been a persistent subject of congressional concern. No exit data are collected from persons leaving through southern border land ports; and data collection at other ports is limited to biographic data, is not always based on machine-readable data, and relies on information sharing with Canada and with air and sea carriers. DHS reportedly believes that the biographic information sharing generally meets its needs for purposes of exit tracking at an acceptable cost,175 and CBP has indicated, for purposes of immigration screening, that "[w]hile biometric information is growing in importance, the vast majority of data available for use at the POEs is biographical."176 At the same time, DHS has also argued that strengthening biographic data collection is a necessary precursor to biometric data collection, and views a biographic system as a desirable long-term goal for the entry-exit system.177

Enforcement Between Ports of Entry

[author name scrubbed], Section Research Manager ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R42138, Border Security: Immigration Enforcement Between Ports of Entry.

Between ports of entry, CBP's U.S. Border Patrol is responsible for enforcing U.S. immigration law and other federal laws along the border and for preventing all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries of terrorists, unauthorized aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband. In the course of discharging its duties, the Border Patrol patrols 7,494 miles of U.S. international borders with Mexico and Canada and the coastal waters around Florida and Puerto Rico.

With support from Congress, CBP—and its predecessor agency the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)—have invested in border security personnel, fencing and infrastructure, and surveillance technology since the 1980s, with CBP's budget totaling $10.7 billion in FY2014.178 Some Members of Congress have raised questions about whether DHS's investments at the border have been effective, and some have argued that enforcement has been compromised by the fact that DHS does not have a single, overarching strategy for border security.179 Congress also has raised questions about how to measure border security. The Border Patrol traditionally has used border apprehensions as its primary measure of border security, and these apprehensions have fallen since 2006.180 Yet falling apprehensions may reflect the downturn in U.S. labor market that occurred in recent years or a change in tactics by unauthorized migrants, among other variables, in addition to enforcement. Thus, apprehensions are an imprecise indicator of the effectiveness of border enforcement.

Congress may also question the relative priority attached to the southern and northern borders. While the Southwest border has experienced more unauthorized immigration, some security experts have warned that the northern border may represent a more important point of vulnerability when it comes to terrorism and related threats to homeland security—especially in light of the more limited enforcement resources deployed there.181

Domestic Nuclear Detection

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Science and Technology Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Congress has emphasized the need to detect and interdict smuggled nuclear and radiological material before it enters the United States, by funding investment in nuclear detection domestically and abroad. DHS has adopted a strategy of securing the border through emplacement of radiation portal monitors and non-intrusive imaging equipment. Some experts have criticized this combined system as insufficient to detect all smuggled special nuclear material. DHS has spent several years developing, testing, and evaluating next-generation detection equipment. Two of these next-generation systems, the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal and the Cargo Advanced Automated Radiography System, did not meet testing and evaluation milestones, lagged performance and timeline expectations, and ultimately were not procured.182 Other smaller systems have been successfully developed and deployed.

DHS has deployed radiation portal monitors and other nuclear and radiological material detection equipment since its establishment. In 2005, DHS established a new office, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), to research, develop, and procure detection equipment and coordinate DHS nuclear detection activities. Such activities are located mainly in Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Transportation Security Administration. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and other groups have questioned the efficacy of DNDO's efforts to develop a next-generation radiation detection system.

Congress also has required DHS to scan all containerized cargo entering the United States for nuclear and radiological material. DHS has not yet met this requirement, and stakeholders question whether the DHS approach will meet this requirement in the future. In addition, a shortfall of a key neutron detection material, helium-3, has forced a reconsideration of the current nuclear detection approach.183 DHS has invested in testing new neutron-detection materials and refitting deployed systems with alternative neutron-detection capabilities. As currently deployed systems approach their design lifetimes, DHS and congressional decisionmakers face questions about whether to recapitalize these systems or invest further in next-generation technology.

DHS activities to detect smuggled radiological and nuclear materials at the U.S. border are part of a large interagency effort to develop a global nuclear detection architecture (GNDA). Congress made DHS, through DNDO, responsible for coordinating federal efforts within the GNDA and implementing this architecture domestically.

The 114th Congress may continue its oversight over the development, testing, and procurement of current and next-generation nuclear detection equipment, interagency coordination in nuclear detection, the sufficiency of the global nuclear detection architecture that links this equipment together, and DHS's approach to the helium-3 shortage.

Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Transportation Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

In January 2007, TSA and the Coast Guard issued a final rule implementing the TWIC at U.S. ports.184 Longshoremen, port truck drivers, railroad workers, merchant mariners, and other workers at a port must apply for a TWIC card to obtain unescorted access to secure areas of port facilities or vessels. The card was authorized under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA, §102 of P.L. 107-295). Since October 2007, when TSA began issuing TWICs, about 2.9 million maritime workers have obtained a card. The card must be renewed every five years.

TSA conducts a security threat assessment of each worker before issuing a card. The security threat assessment uses the same procedures and standards established by TSA for truck drivers carrying hazardous materials, including examination of the applicant's criminal history, immigration status, and possible links to terrorist activity to determine whether a worker poses a security threat. A worker pays a fee of about $130 that is intended to cover the cost of administering the cards. The card uses biometric technology for positive identification. Terminal operators were to deploy card readers at the gates to their facilities, so that a worker's fingerprint template would be scanned each time he enters the port area and matched to the data on the card. Finding a card reader that worked reliably in a harsh marine environment proved difficult. In March 2013, the Coast Guard issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM)185 in which it proposed requiring card readers only for facilities or vessels handling dangerous bulk commodities (including barge fleeting areas) or facilities handling more than 1,000 passengers at a time—maritime sectors the Coast Guard considers to be of higher risk. The Coast Guard estimated that 38 U.S.-flag vessels and 352 facilities would be required to have card readers, which equates to about 0.3% of the vessels and 16% of the facilities it regulates under MTSA. Other vessels and facilities, including those handling containerized cargo, would continue to use the TWIC as a "flash pass" (i.e., the biometric data on the card would not be used to positively identify the worker). The comment period for the NPRM closed on June 20, 2013, and a final rule has not yet been issued.186 Currently, the Coast Guard performs spot checks with hand-held biometric readers while conducting port security inspections.

GAO audits have been highly critical of how TWIC has been implemented. A 2013 audit found that the results of a pilot test of card readers should not be relied upon for developing regulations on card reader requirements because they were incomplete, inaccurate, and unreliable.187 This audit was discussed at a hearing by the House Subcommittee on Government Operations on May 9, 2013,188 and by the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security on June 18, 2013.189 Another 2013 GAO audit examined TSA's Adjudication Center (which performs security threat assessments on TWIC applicants and other transportation workers) and recommended steps the agency could take to better measure the Center's performance.190 A 2011 audit found internal control weaknesses in the enrollment, background checking, and use of the TWIC card at ports, which were said to undermine the effectiveness of the credential in screening out unqualified individuals from obtaining access to port facilities.191

In July 2014, the House passed a bill (H.R. 3202, 113th Congress) requiring DHS to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the benefits and costs of the TWIC card. While no further action was taken on the bill in the 113th Congress, a bill similar to the House-passed version has been reintroduced in the 114th Congress.

Aviation Security

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Aviation Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress took swift action to create the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), federalizing all airline passenger and baggage screening functions and deploying significantly increased numbers of armed air marshals on commercial passenger flights. To this day, the federalization of airport screening remains controversial. For example, Representative Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, contended that, in hindsight, the decision to create TSA as a federal agency functionally responsible for passenger and baggage screening was a "big mistake." and that frontline screening responsibilities should have been left in the hands of private security companies.192 While airports have the option of opting out of federal screening, alternative private screening under TSA contracts has been limited to 21 airports out of approximately 450 commercial passenger airports where passenger screening is required.193 While Congress has sought to ensure that optional private screening remains available for those airports that want to pursue this option, proposals seeking more extensive reforms of passenger screening have not been extensively debated. Rather the aviation security legislation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks has largely focused on specific mandates to comprehensively screen for explosives and carry out background checks and threat assessments.

Despite the extensive focus on aviation security for more than a decade, a number of challenges remain, including

  • effectively screening passengers, baggage, and cargo for explosive threats;
  • developing effective risk-based methods for screening passengers and others with access to aircraft and sensitive areas;
  • exploiting available intelligence information and watchlists to identify individuals who pose potential threats to civil aviation;
  • effectively responding to security threats at airports and screening checkpoints;
  • developing effective strategies for addressing aircraft vulnerabilities to shoulder-fired missiles and other standoff weapons; and
  • addressing the potential security implications of unmanned aircraft operations in domestic airspace.

Explosives Screening Strategy for the Aviation Domain

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Aviation Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For additional information, see CRS Report R41515, Screening and Securing Air Cargo: Background and Issues for Congress, and CRS Report R42750, Airport Body Scanners: The Role of Advanced Imaging Technology in Airline Passenger Screening.

Prior to the 9/11 attacks, explosives screening in the aviation domain was limited in scope and focused on selective screening of checked baggage placed on international passenger flights. Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA; P.L. 107-71) mandated 100% screening of all checked baggage placed on domestic passenger flights and on international passenger flights to and from the United States.

In addition, the Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-53) mandated the physical screening of all cargo placed on passenger flights. Unlike passenger and checked baggage screening, TSA does not routinely perform physical inspections of air cargo. Rather, TSA satisfies this mandate through the Certified Cargo Screening Program. Under the program, manufacturers, warehouses, distributors, freight forwarders, and shippers carry out screening inspections using TSA-approved technologies and procedures both at airports and at off-airport facilities in concert with certified supply-chain security measures and chain of custody standards. Internationally, TSA works with other governments, international trade organizations, and industry to assure that all U.S.-bound and domestic cargo carried aboard passenger aircraft meet the requirements of the mandate.

Additionally, TSA works closely with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to carry out risk-based targeting of cargo shipments including use of the CBP Advance Targeting System-Cargo (ATS-C) which assigns risk-based scores to inbound air cargo shipments to identify shipments of elevated risk. Originally designed to combat drug smuggling, ATS-C has evolved and adapted over the years, particularly in response to the October 2010 cargo aircraft bomb plot that originated in Yemen, to assess shipments for explosives threats or other terrorism-related activities.

Given the focus on the threats to aviation posed by explosives, a significant focus of TSA acquisition efforts has been on explosives screening technologies. However, in 2014, Congress found that TSA has continued to face numerous challenges in meeting key performance requirements set for explosives detection, has only recently developed a technology investment plan, and has not consistently implemented DHS policy and best practices for procurement.194 The Transportation Security Acquisition Reform Act (P.L. 113-245) seeks to address these concerns by requiring a five-year technology investment plan, and to increase accountability for acquisitions through formal justifications and certifications that technology investments are cost beneficial. The act also requires tighter inventory controls and processes to ensure efficient use of procured technologies as well as improvements in setting and attaining goals for small business contracting opportunities.

A major thrust of TSA's acquisition and technology deployment strategy is improving the capability to detect concealed explosives and bomb-making components carried by airline passengers. On December 25, 2009, a passenger attempted to detonate an explosive device concealed in his underwear aboard Northwest Airlines flight 253 during its approach to Detroit, MI. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility. Al Qaeda and its various factions have maintained a particular interest in attacking U.S.-bound airliners. Since 9/11, Al Qaeda has also been linked to the Richard Reid shoe bombing incident aboard American Airlines flight 63 en route from Paris to Miami on December 22, 2001; a plot to bomb several trans-Atlantic flights departing the United Kingdom for North America in 2006; and the October 2010 plot to detonate explosives concealed in air cargo shipments bound for the United States.

In response to the Northwest Airlines flight 253 incident, the Obama Administration accelerated deployment of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) whole body imaging (WBI) screening devices and other technologies at passenger screening checkpoints. This deployment responds to the 9/11 Commission recommendation to improve the detection of explosives on passengers.195 In addition to AIT, next generation screening technologies for airport screening checkpoints include advanced technology X-ray systems for screening carry-on baggage, bottled liquids scanners, cast and prosthesis imagers, shoe scanning devices, and portable explosives trace detection equipment.

The use of AIT has raised a number of policy questions. Privacy advocates have objected to the intrusiveness of AIT, particularly if used for primary screening.196 To allay privacy concerns, TSA eliminated the use of human analysis of AIT images and does not store imagery. In place of human image analysts, TSA has deployed automated threat detection capabilities using automated targeting recognition (ATR) software. Another concern raised about AIT centered on the potential medical risks posed by backscatter X-ray systems, but those systems are no longer in use for airport screening and current millimeter wave systems emit nonionizing millimeter waves not considered harmful.

Some have advocated for risk-based use of AIT, in coordination with the risk-based approaches to passenger screening discussed below. Past legislative proposals have specifically sought to prohibit the use of WBI technology for primary screening (see, e.g., Sec. 215, H.R. 2200, 111th Congress), although primary screening using AIT is now commonplace, at least at larger airports. Checkpoints at many smaller airports, however, have not been furnished with AIT equipment and other advanced checkpoint detection technologies. This raises questions about TSA's long-range plans to expand AIT to ensure more uniform approaches to explosives screening across all categories of airports. Through FY2014, TSA had deployed about 750 AIT units, roughly 86%, of its projected full operating capability of 870 units. Full operating capability, once achieved, will still leave many smaller airports without this capability. TSA plans to manage this risk to a large extent through risk-based passenger screening measures, primarily through increased use of voluntary passenger background checks under the PreCheck trusted traveler program. However, this program, likewise, has not been rolled out at many smaller airports: currently the program's incentive of expedited screening is offered at less than one-third of all commercial passenger airports.

Risk-Based Passenger Screening

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Aviation Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For additional information, see CRS Report R43456, Risk-Based Approaches to Airline Passenger Screening, by [author name scrubbed]

TSA has initiated a number of risk-based screening initiatives to focus its resources and apply directed measures based on intelligence-driven assessments of security risk. These include a trusted traveler program called PreCheck, modified screening procedures for children 12 and under, and a program for expedited screening of known flight crew and cabin crew members. Programs have also been developed for modified screening of elderly passengers similar to those procedures put in place for children.

A cornerstone of TSA's risk-based initiatives is the PreCheck program. PreCheck is TSA's latest version of a trusted traveler program that has been modeled after CBP programs such as Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS. Under the PreCheck program, participants vetted through a background check process as well as other passengers randomly selected and deemed to be low risk under a process known as "managed inclusion" are processed through expedited screening lanes where they can keep shoes on and keep liquids and laptops inside carry-on bags. As of March 2015, PreCheck expedited screening lanes were available at more than 130 airports. The cost of background checks under the PreCheck program is recovered through application fees of $85 per passenger for a five-year membership. TSA's goal is to process 50% of passengers through PreCheck expedited screening lanes, thus reducing the need for standard security screening lanes.

A predecessor test program, called the Registered Traveler program, which involved private vendors that issued and scanned participants' biometric credentials, was scrapped by TSA in 2009 because it failed to show a demonstrable security benefit. Although initial evaluations and consumer response have suggested that PreCheck offers an effective, streamlined screening process, some questions remain regarding whether PreCheck is fully effective in directing security resources to unknown or elevated-risk travelers. While questions remain regarding the security effectiveness of risk-based screening measures like PreCheck, these approaches have demonstrated improved screening efficiency resulting in cost savings for TSA. TSA estimates annual savings in screener workforce costs totaling $110 million as a result of risk-based screening efficiencies.197

One concern raised over PreCheck, and the passenger screening process in general, is the public dissemination of instructions, posted on Internet sites, detailing how to decipher boarding passes to determine whether a passenger has been selected for expedited screening, standard screening, or more thorough secondary screening. The lack of encryption and the limited capability TSA has to authenticate boarding passes and travel documents could be exploited to attempt to avoid detection of threat items by more extensive security measures. Other concerns raised over the PreCheck program include the lack of biometric identity authentication and the extensive use of managed inclusion to route travelers not enrolled in or vetted through the PreCheck program through designated PreCheck expedited screening lanes based on random selection or observations by Behavior Detection Officers, canine explosives detection teams, or explosives trace detection equipment. GAO found that TSA had not fully tested its managed inclusion practices and recommended that TSA take steps to ensure and document that testing of the program adheres to established evaluation design practices.198

In addition to passenger screening, TSA, in coordination with participating airlines and labor organizations representing airline pilots, has developed a known crewmember program to expedite security screening of airline flight crews.199 In July 2012, TSA expanded the program to include flight attendants.200

TSA has also developed a passenger behavior detection program to identify potential threats based on observed behavioral characteristics. TSA initiated early tests of its Screening Passengers by Observational Techniques (SPOT) program in 2003. By FY2012, the program deployed almost 3,000 BDOs at 176 airports, at an annual cost of about $200 million. Despite its significant expansion, questions remain regarding the effectiveness of the behavioral detection program, and privacy advocates have cautioned that it could devolve into racial or ethnic profiling of passengers despite concerted efforts to focus solely on behaviors rather than individual passenger traits or characteristics. While some Members of Congress have sought to shutter the program, Congress has not moved to do so. For example, H.Amdt. 127 (113th Congress), an amendment to the FY2014 DHS appropriations measure which sought to eliminate funding for the program, failed to pass a floor vote.36 Congress also has not taken specific action to revamp the program, despite the concerns raised by GAO and the DHS Office of Inspector General.201

In the broad context of risk-based passenger screening, TSA policies and procedures regarding prohibited items, including current limitations on the carriage of carry-on liquids, may also be issues of particular interest for congressional oversight for the 114th Congress. In November 2014, outgoing TSA Administrator John Pistole suggested that restrictions on liquids and gels should be relaxed for PreCheck participants.202

The Use of Terrorist Watchlists in the Aviation Domain

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Aviation Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For additional information, see CRS Report R43456, Risk-Based Approaches to Airline Passenger Screening, by [author name scrubbed].

The failed bombing attempt of Northwest Airlines flight 253 on December 25, 2009, raised policy questions regarding the effective use of terrorist watchlists and intelligence information to identify individuals who may pose a threat to aviation. Specific failings to include the bomber on either the no-fly or selectee list, despite intelligence information suggesting that he posed a security threat, prompted reviews of the intelligence analysis and terrorist watchlisting processes. Adding to these concerns, on the evening of May 3, 2010, Faisal Shazad, a suspect in an attempted car bombing in New York's Times Square, was permitted to board an Emirates Airline flight to Dubai at the John F. Kennedy International airport, even though his name had been added to the no-fly list earlier in the day. He was subsequently identified, removed from the aircraft, and arrested after the airline forwarded the final passenger manifest to CBP's National Targeting Center just prior to departure.203 Subsequently, TSA modified security directives to require airlines to check passenger names against the no-fly list within two hours of being electronically notified of an urgent update, instead of allowing 24 hours to recheck the list. The event also accelerated the transfer of watchlist checks from the airlines to TSA under the Secure Flight program.

By the end of November 2010, the Department of Homeland Security announced that 100% of passengers flying to or from U.S. airports are being vetted using the Secure Flight system.204 Secure Flight continues the no-fly and selectee list practices of vetting passenger name records against a subset of the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). On international flights, Secure Flight operates in coordination with the use of watchlists by CBP's National Targeting Center—Passenger, which relies on the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) and other tools to vet both inbound and outbound passenger manifests. In addition to these systems, TSA also relies on risk-based analysis of passenger data carried out by the airlines through use of the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS). In January 2015, TSA gave notification that it would start incorporating the results of CAPPS assessments, but not the underlying data used to make such assessments, into Secure Flight, along with each passenger's full name, date of birth and PreCheck traveler number (if applicable). These data are used within the Secure Flight system to perform risk-based analyses to determine whether passengers receive expedited, standard, or enhanced screening at airport checkpoints.205

Central issues surrounding the use of terrorist watchlists in the aviation domain that may be considered during the 114th Congress include the speed with which watchlists are updated as new intelligence information becomes available; the extent to which all information available to the federal government is exploited to assess possible threats among passengers and airline and airport workers; the ability to detect identity fraud or other attempts to circumvent terrorist watchlist checks; the adequacy of established protocols for providing redress to individuals improperly identified as potential threats; and the adequacy of coordination with international partners.206

Security Issues Regarding the Operation of Unmanned Aircraft

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Aviation Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed]) and [author name scrubbed], Legislative Attorney ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information see CRS Report R42718, Pilotless Drones: Background and Considerations for Congress Regarding Unmanned Aircraft Operations in the National Airspace System, by [author name scrubbed], and CRS Report R42701, Drones in Domestic Surveillance Operations: Fourth Amendment Implications and Legislative Responses, by [author name scrubbed].

Provisions in FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-95) require that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) take steps by the end of FY2015 to accommodate routine operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, widely referred to as "drones") in domestic airspace. The operation of civilian UAS in domestic airspace raises potential security risks, including the possibility that terrorists could use a drone to carry out an attack against a ground target. It is also possible that drones themselves could be targeted by terrorists or cybercriminals seeking to tap into sensor data transmissions or to cause mayhem by hacking or jamming command and control signals.

Terrorists could potentially use drones to carry out small-scale attacks using explosives, or as platforms for chemical, biological, or radiological attacks. In September 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation disrupted a homegrown terrorist plot to attack the Pentagon and the Capitol with large model aircraft packed with high explosives. The incident heightened concern about potential terrorist attacks using unmanned aircraft. Widely publicized drone incidents, including an unauthorized flight at a political rally in Dresden, Germany, in September 2013 that came in close proximity to German Chancellor Angela Merkel; a January 2015 crash of a small drone on the White House lawn in Washington, DC; and a series of unidentified drone flights over landmarks and sensitive locations in Paris, France, in 2015, have raised additional concerns about security threats posed by small unmanned aircraft. Domestically, there have been numerous reports of drones flying in close proximity to airports and manned aircraft, in restricted airspace, and over stadiums and outdoor events. The payload capacities of small unmanned aircraft would limit the damage a terrorist attack using conventional explosives could inflict, but drone attacks using chemical, biological, or radiological weapons could be more serious.

A recent FAA proposal for regulating small unmanned aircraft used for commercial purposes would require TSA to carry out threat assessments of certificated operators as it does for civilian pilots.207 However, this requirement would not apply to recreational users, who are already permitted to operate small drones at low altitudes. Moreover, while FAA has issued general guidance to law enforcement regarding unlawful UAS operations,208 it is not clear that law enforcement agencies have sufficient training to respond to this emerging threat.209

Technology may help manage security threats posed by unmanned aircraft. Integrating tracking mechanisms as well as incorporating "geo-fencing" capabilities, designed to prevent flights over sensitive locations or in excess of certain altitude limits, into unmanned aircraft systems may help curtail unauthorized flights.210

Routine operations of unmanned aircraft by homeland security and law enforcement agencies and others may be vulnerable to jamming or hacking that could result in a crash or hostile takeover, as command and control systems typically use unsecured radio frequencies. Some have recommended that that unmanned aircraft systems be required to have spoof-resistant navigation systems and not be solely reliant on signals from global positioning systems, which can be easily jammed.211 While TSA has broad statutory authority to address a number of aviation security issues, it has not formally addressed the potential security concerns arising from unmanned aircraft operations in domestic airspace.

While unmanned aircraft may pose security risks, they are also a potential asset for homeland security operations, particularly for CBP border surveillance. CBP currently employs a fleet of 10 modified Predator UASs, and has plans to acquire another 14, to augment its border-patrol capabilities. Operating within specially designated airspace, these unarmed UASs patrol the northern and southern land borders and the Gulf of Mexico to detect potential border violations and monitor suspected drug trafficking, with UAS operators cuing manned responses when appropriate. State and local governments have expressed interest in operating UASs for missions as diverse as traffic patrol, surveillance, and event security. A small but growing number of state and local agencies have acquired drones, some through federal grant programs, and have been issued special authorizations by FAA to fly them. However, many federal, state, and local agencies involved in law enforcement and homeland security appear to be awaiting more specific guidance from FAA regarding the routine operation of public use unmanned aircraft in domestic airspace.

The introduction of drones into domestic surveillance operations presents a host of novel legal issues related to an individual's fundamental privacy interest protected under the Fourth Amendment.212 To determine if certain government conduct constitutes a search or seizure under that amendment, courts apply an array of tests (depending on the nature of the government action), including the widely used reasonable expectation of privacy test. When applying these tests to drone surveillance, a reviewing court will likely examine the location of the search, the sophistication of the technology used, and society's conception of privacy. For instance, while individuals are accorded substantial protections against warrantless government intrusions into their homes,213 the Fourth Amendment offers fewer restrictions upon government surveillance occurring in public places,214 and even fewer at national borders.215 Likewise, drone surveillance conducted with relatively unsophisticated technology might be subjected to a lower level of judicial scrutiny than investigations conducted with advanced technologies such as thermal imaging or facial recognition. Several measures introduced in Congress would require government agents to obtain warrants before using drones for domestic surveillance, but would create exceptions for patrols of the national borders used to prevent or deter illegal entry and for investigations of credible terrorist threats.216

Security Response to Incidents at Screening Checkpoints

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Aviation Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

On November 1, 2013, a lone gunman targeting TSA employees fired several shots at a screening checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), killing one TSA screener and injuring two other screeners and one airline passenger. The incident raised concerns about the ability of TSA and airport security officials to mitigate and respond to such threats. In a detailed post-incident action report, TSA identified several proposed actions to improve checkpoint security including enhanced active shooter incident training for screeners; better coordination and dissemination of information regarding incidents; expansion and routine testing of alert notification capabilities; and expanded law enforcement presence at checkpoints during peak times. TSA did not recommend mandatory law enforcement presence at checkpoints and did not support proposals to arm certain TSA employees or provide screeners with bulletproof vests.

The Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2015 (H.R. 720), named in honor of the TSA screener killed in the LAX incident, addresses security incident response at airports. It would mandate airports to put in place working plans for responding to security incidents including terrorist attacks, active shooters, and incidents targeting passenger checkpoints. Such plans would be required to include details on evacuation, unified incident command, testing and evaluation of communications, timeframes for law enforcement response, and joint exercises and training at airports. Additionally, the bill would require TSA to create a mechanism for sharing information among airports regarding best practices for airport security incident planning, management, and training. The bill also would require TSA to identify ways to expand the availability of funding for checkpoint screening law enforcement support through cost savings from improved efficiencies.

Mitigating the Threat of Shoulder-Fired Missiles to Civilian Aircraft

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Aviation Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

The threat to civilian aircraft posed by shoulder-fired missiles or other standoff weapons capable of downing an airliner remains a vexing concern for aviation security specialists and policymakers. The State Department has estimated that, since the 1970s, over 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by shoulder-fired missiles, causing 25 crashes and more than 600 deaths. Most of these incidents involved small aircraft operated at low altitudes in areas of ongoing armed conflicts, although some larger jets have also been destroyed. Notably, on April 6, 1994, an executive jet carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down while on approach to Kigali, Rwanda, and on October 10, 1998, a Boeing 727 was destroyed by rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The dangers of operating civil aircraft in and near regions of armed conflict has recently been a topic of particular concern following the July 17, 2014, downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a Boeing 777, over eastern Ukraine after being struck by a much larger surface-to-air missile.

The terrorist threat posed by small man-portable shoulder-fired missiles was brought into the spotlight soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks by the November 2002 attempted downing of a chartered Israeli airliner in Mombasa, Kenya, the first time such an event took place outside of a conflict zone. In 2003, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell remarked that there was "no threat more serious to aviation."217 Since then, Department of State and military initiatives seeking bilateral cooperation and voluntary reductions of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) stockpiles have reduced worldwide inventories by at least 32,500 missiles.218 Despite this progress, such weapons may still be in the hands of potential terrorists. This threat, combined with the limited capability to improve security beyond airport perimeters and to modify flight paths, leaves civil aircraft vulnerable to missile attacks.

The most visible DHS initiative to address the threat was the multiyear Counter-MANPADS program carried out by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate. The program concluded in 2009 with extensive operational and live-fire testing along with FAA certification of two systems capable of protecting airliners against heat-seeking missiles. The systems have not been operationally deployed on commercial airliners, however, due largely to high acquisition and life-cycle costs. Some critics have also pointed out that the units do not protect against the full range of potential weapons that pose a potential threat to civil airliners. Proponents, however, argue that the systems do appear to provide effective protection against what is likely the most menacing standoff threat to civil airliners: heat-seeking MANPADS. Nonetheless, the airlines have not voluntarily invested in these systems for operational use, and argue that the costs for such systems should be borne, at least in part, by the federal government. Policy discussions have focused mostly on whether to fund the acquisition of limited numbers of the units for use by the Civil Reserve Aviation Fleet, civilian airliners that can be called up to transport troops and supplies for the military. Other approaches to protecting aircraft, including ground-based missile countermeasures and escort planes or drones equipped with antimissile technology, have been considered on a more limited basis, but these options face operational challenges that may limit their effectiveness.

While MANPADS are mainly seen as a security threat to civil aviation overseas, a MANPADS attack in the United States could have a considerable, long-lasting impact on the airline industry. At the airport level, improving security and reducing the vulnerability of flight paths to potential MANPADS attacks continues to pose unique challenges. While major U.S. airports have conducted vulnerability studies, and many have partnered with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to reduce vulnerabilities to some degree, these efforts face significant challenges because of limited resources and large geographic areas where aircraft are vulnerable to attack. While considerable attention has been given to this issue in years past, considerable vulnerabilities remain, and any terrorist attempts to exploit those vulnerabilities could quickly escalate the threat of shoulder-fired missiles to a major national security priority.

Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery

Disaster Assistance Funding

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in American National Government ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

The majority of disaster assistance provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to states and localities after a declared emergency or major disaster is funded with monies from the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF).219

In general, Congress annually appropriates budget authority to the DRF to ensure that funding is available for recovery projects from previous incidents (some of these projects take several years to complete) and to create a reserve to pay for emergencies and major disasters that might occur that fiscal year. Any remaining balance in the DRF at the end of the fiscal year is carried over to the next fiscal year (see Table 2).

Table 2. Disaster Relief Fund Total Appropriations and Carried-over Balances, FY2012-FY2015

FY2012 through FY2015 (in millions of dollars)

Fiscal Year

Total Appropriation

Carried over Balance from Prior Fiscal Year













Source: Figures include annual and supplemental appropriations; These figures do not include prior-year deobligations. Carryover data derived from the Disaster Relief Fund: Congressional Monthly Report for March of 2012, February 2013, and October 2014.

From FY2005 to FY2014 Congress provided additional budget authority for the DRF through a combination of supplemental and continuing appropriations twelve times.220 The reliance on emergency supplemental appropriations has been of particular congressional concern. Supplemental appropriations for disasters are often designated as an emergency expenditure, which under congressional budgetary procedures can exceed discretionary spending limits. In addition, the number of disasters being declared over the last two decades has risen, as have their costs.221 These upward trends have led some to discuss how to reduce or offset federal spending on major disasters.

Partly in response to these discussions, Congress included provisions on disaster relief spending when it passed P.L. 112-25, the Budget Control Act (BCA).222 The BCA sets overall discretionary spending caps and provides two types of adjustments that could be applied to make room for disaster assistance—a limited adjustment specifically for the costs of major disasters under the Stafford Act, and an unlimited adjustment for more broadly defined emergency spending.

The adjustment limitation is not a restriction on disaster assistance—it is a restriction on how much the discretionary budget cap can be adjusted upward by that particular mechanism to accommodate the assistance.

FY2013 represented the first fiscal year in which the DRF received all of the funding available under the BCA's allowable adjustment for disaster relief, and the first time that disaster relief in excess of the allowable adjustment was covered by an emergency designation. The DRF had roughly $7.3 billion available for initial disaster needs when Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the northeastern United States in October 2012. While the $7.3 billion helped address the initial needs of the disaster, it was insufficient to fund the entire recovery. When there is a shortfall in the DRF, additional budget authority has typically been provided through a continuing resolution or supplemental appropriation. In the case of Hurricane Sandy, Congress passed a $50.5 billion package of disaster relief largely focused on responding to Hurricane Sandy, including $11.5 billion for the DRF.223

One noteworthy aspect of the supplemental funding for Hurricane Sandy was the amount of time Congress took to pass a supplemental funding measure. Prior to FY2013, when a catastrophic disaster occurred (such as Hurricane Katrina or the terrorist attacks of 9/11) Congress generally had to act expeditiously to provide supplemental funding within days to weeks after an incident. In contrast, supplemental funding for Hurricane Sandy was enacted 91 days after the incident was declared a major disaster.224 The $7.3 billion in available funds in the DRF at the time of the hurricane may have allowed Congress time to debate supplemental funding as well as target specific areas in need of assistance.

It could be argued that while the BCA included an accommodation to provide dedicated additional funding for many disasters, catastrophic events such as Hurricane Sandy still represent a challenge to those who wish to reduce or eliminate emergency designations for disaster relief funding.

Another potential challenge concerns how the allowable adjustment is calculated. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) manages the sequestration process and the limits on adjustments available to raise the spending cap. The BCA requires OMB to annually calculate the adjusted 10-year rolling average of disaster relief spending that sets the allowable cap adjustment for disaster relief. The highest and the lowest years in terms of disaster relief costs are eliminated from the calculation. The sizeable initial disaster relief expenditures for Hurricane Katrina and the other 2005 storms will begin to drop out of the 10-year range and start to lose relevance in calculating the allowable adjustment for disaster assistance for FY2016. Disaster relief funding in post-BCA years is defined by congressional designation, so only a fraction of the cost of the Hurricane Sandy supplemental would be counted toward the 10-year rolling average. The absence of significant spending in some years would also lower the allowable adjustment. This reduction could increase the likelihood that the cap will be breached if a large-scale disaster needs funding in excess of the allowable adjustment.

Congress could choose to continue to use emergency funding to meet unbudgeted disaster relief needs, or explore options that might increase the allowable adjustment. For example, emergency declarations and Fire Management Assistance Grants are also funded through the DRF. Congress could require that OMB combine the costs associated with these declarations with major disasters when calculating the allowable adjustment in order to increase the cap on disaster spending.

Another potential issue is the amount of money the federal government is providing for disaster relief. While some might argue the expenditures are justified because they provide important assistance to states and localities, others may be interested in finding ways to reduce federal costs. For example, Congress could change emergency and major disaster declaration criteria to limit the number of events eligible for federal assistance, and reduce the standard 75% federal to state cost-share for recovery to a lower percentage, or convert some (or all) assistance grants to low interest loans.

Firefighter Assistance Programs

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Science and Technology Policy ([phone number scrubbed], [email address scrubbed])

For further information, see CRS Report RL32341, Assistance to Firefighters Program: Distribution of Fire Grant Funding, and CRS Report RL33375, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response: The SAFER Grant Program.

Although firefighting activities are traditionally the responsibility of states and local communities, Congress has established federal firefighter assistance grant programs within DHS to provide additional support for local fire departments. In 2000, the 106th Congress established the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG), which provides grants to local fire departments for firefighting equipment and training. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the scope and funding for AFG were subsequently expanded. Additionally in 2003, the 108th Congress established the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program, which provides grants to support firefighter staffing.

In the 114th Congress, debate over firefighter assistance programs is likely to take place within the appropriations process. Arriving at funding levels for AFG and SAFER is subject to two countervailing considerations. On the one hand, inadequate state and local public safety budgets have led many to argue for the necessity of maintaining, if not increasing, federal grant support for fire departments. On the other hand, concerns over reducing overall federal discretionary spending have led others to question whether continued or reduced federal support for AFG and SAFER is warranted.

Congress reauthorized AFG and SAFER in the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 112-239). The reauthorized statute makes changes in AFG grant caps and distribution formulas, and removes or changes certain SAFER grant restrictions and limitations. The 114th Congress will likely continue to oversee the impact of AFG and SAFER grant changes mandated by the reauthorization. The continuing issue is how effectively grants are being distributed and used to protect the health and safety of the public and firefighting personnel against fire and fire-related hazards.

Emergency Communications

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Telecommunications Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed]).

For more information, see CRS Report R42543, The First Responder Network (FirstNet) and Next-Generation Communications for Public Safety: Issues for Congress, by [author name scrubbed].

Emergency communications systems support first responders and other emergency personnel, disseminate alerts and warnings to residents in endangered areas, and relay calls for help through 911 call networks. Their networks support day-to-day needs to protect the safety of the public and deliver critical information before, during, and after disasters.

The technologies that support emergency communications are converging toward a common platform using the Internet Protocol (IP). Federal, state, and local agencies are investing in IP-enabled communications infrastructure that can be shared to support all forms of emergency communications. Notable examples of new investment are

  • Interoperable public safety communications networks;
  • Digital alerts and warnings; and
  • Next-Generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) networks.

The transition to IP-enabled networks and devices places additional emphasis on cybersecurity policies. Additionally, adapting these new technologies to existing systems and processes poses additional challenges and requirements for change, such as in governance models, operating procedures, standards development, training and planning for sustainable investments.

Notable federal programs, in addition to grant programs, are the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet);225 the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS);226 and the 9-1-1 Implementation Coordination Office (ICO),227 which is expected to be re-established in 2015. FirstNet is an independent authority established within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), to develop a nationwide broadband network for emergency communications. IPAWS alert and warning capabilities are coordinated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the participation of the Federal Communications Commission. The functions of ICO, which focus on providing a base for improving 9-1-1 infrastructure, are to be shared by the NTIA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Coordination of these discrete programs is assisted through federal programs and guidance described in the National Emergency Communications Plan of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).228 The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296), Title XVIII, as amended, directs the DHS Office of Emergency Communications to develop and periodically update a plan in consultation with federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector stakeholders.

The 2014 National Emergency Communications Plan recognizes the advantages of converging emergency communications platforms and coordinating across federal, state, local, and tribal agencies. The plan identifies four categories of emergency response that in time should converge. These are: communications for incidence response and coordination; notifications and alerts and warnings; public information exchange; and requests for assistance and reporting. The top three priorities for the plan over the three to five years following publication are: identifying and prioritizing areas for improvement in emergency responders' narrowband networks (Land Mobile Radio, LMR); facilitating the adoption, integration, and use of broadband technologies, notably the broadband network to be deployed by FirstNet; and enhancing coordination among stakeholders across the emergency response community.

Development of the National Preparedness System

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report IN10134, Preparing for Disasters: FEMA's New National Preparedness Report Released.

The United States is threatened by a wide array of hazards, including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, viral pandemics, and manmade disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The way the nation strategically prioritizes and allocates resources to prepare for disasters can significantly influence the ultimate cost to society, both in the number of human casualties and the scope of economic damage. As required by Subtitle C of the Post-Katrina Emergency Reform Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-295, 6 U.S.C. §741-764), the federal government has developed a National Preparedness System (NPS) to guide how the nation, to include the "whole community,"229 can "prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from those threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation."230

The NPS is supported by numerous strategic policies, national planning frameworks, and federal interagency operational plans, all as mandated by Presidential Policy Directive 8, National Preparedness (PPD-8).231 In brief, the NPS and its many component policies embody the strategic vision and planning of the federal government, with input from the whole community, as it relates to preparing the nation for disasters. The NPS also establishes methods for achieving that level of preparedness for both federal and non-federal partners. Furthermore, the NPS includes annual National Preparedness Reports that are the "report cards" of progress made toward achieving national preparedness objectives. The Reports rely heavily on a self-assessment process, called the Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA),232 to incorporate the perceived risks and goals of the whole community into the national preparedness system. In this respect, the NPS's influence may extend to budgetary decisions, the assignment of duties and responsibilities across the nation, and the creation of long-term policy objectives for disaster preparedness.

The 114th Congress may wish to continue its oversight of how the NPS is developing on a variety of factors, such as whether:

  • the NPS conforms to the objectives of the PKEMRA statute;
  • federal roles and responsibilities have been properly assigned and resourced to execute the core capabilities needed to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from the greatest risks;
  • non-federal resources and stakeholders are efficiently incorporated into NPS policies;
  • federal, state, and local government officials are allocating sufficient resources to the preparedness mission relative to other homeland security missions.

Hurricane Sandy Recovery

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R43396, The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy: In Brief.

On the evening of October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy, the second-largest Atlantic storm on record, made landfall in southern New Jersey. The consequences of the storm were considered to be immense: at least 159 people died, over 23,000 people required temporary shelters, 8.5 million customers were left without power, approximately $65 billion in damages were incurred, and 650,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.233 In recognition of the scale and complexity of Hurricane Sandy, the Administration initiated a coordinated effort across multiple federal agencies to support the region in responding to and recovering from the disaster. On December 7, 2013, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13632, Establishing the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.234

The key deliverable of the established Task Force, as mandated by Section 5 of E.O. 13632, is the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy (HSRS). The HSRS is a wide-ranging, lengthy policy document providing 69 different recommendations for a long-term recovery plan for the impacted region. In their totality, the recommendations of HSRS presented the Administration's strategic vision for the Hurricane Sandy recovery process, including how federal funds should be expended, how federal agencies should synchronize their efforts, and how the region could leverage the recovery process from Sandy to prepare for future disasters. As of a Fall 2014 Progress Report of the HSRS, 50 of the 69 recommendations were reported as completed by the Administration.235

There are numerous issues that may arise in the 114th Congress in relation to the Hurricane Sandy recovery process. Congressional oversight may be required for many more years to ensure the appropriate use of billions of dollars in federal assistance to support the completion of major infrastructure projects in the region. Further legislative and executive branch action is also needed to implement many of the HSRS recommendations if they are to apply to future disaster recovery efforts. The 114th Congress may also evaluate whether an entity in the mode of the Hurricane Sandy Task Force is necessary to achieve rebuilding success following future disasters of the magnitude of Hurricane Sandy.

Implementation of the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R42991, Analysis of the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013.

On January 29, 2013, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013, a $50.5 billion package of disaster assistance largely focused on responding to Hurricane Sandy, was enacted as P.L. 113-2. In addition to evaluating the need for supplemental appropriations in response to Hurricane Sandy, the 112th and 113th Congresses considered reforming provisions of the Stafford Act. Generally, concerns were raised that the recovery from Hurricane Sandy would be plagued by perceived delays and bureaucratic burdens that inhibited the recovery following Hurricane Katrina. The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 (SRIA)236 revised the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act, P.L. 93-288, as amended), which is the primary source of authorities for disaster assistance programs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

SRIA amended the Stafford Act with a stated goal of improving the efficiency and quality of disaster assistance provided by FEMA. Briefly, SRIA required FEMA to (among other activities):

  • Establish a new set of alternative procedures for administering the Public Assistance Program, which provides assistance for debris removal and the repair and restoration of eligible facilities;
  • Revise the administration of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, to include a possible advancement of 25% of grant funds;
  • Create an alternative dispute resolution procedure (including binding arbitration), building on FEMA's current appeals process, to resolve federal and state disagreements on costs and eligibility questions;
  • Update the regulatory factors considered when assessing the need for Individual Assistance in the disaster declaration process; and
  • Implement a process for the chief executive of a tribal government to directly request major disaster or emergency declarations from the President, much as a governor can for a state.

The 114th Congress may oversee the continued implementation of these reforms to the Stafford Act and FEMA's disaster assistance programs and policies. Varying levels of progress have been made implementing each of the reforms, though some of the provisions have not been implemented within the timeframe required by SRIA.237 In addition, the 114th Congress may consider legislation to:

  • further address any perceived problems that have arisen in implementing SRIA reforms;
  • codify certain policies and regulations FEMA has established to implement SRIA, especially with regards to the Public Assistance Alternative Procedures; or
  • direct additional audits and reviews of the reforms.238

Public Health and Medical Services

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Public Health and Epidemiology ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

The nation's public health emergency management laws expanded considerably following the terrorist attacks in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in particular. Since then a varied slate of public health incidents—including natural and man-made disasters and outbreaks of infectious disease—show both improvements in the nation's readiness for public health and medical emergencies, and persistent gaps. For example, response plans may not sufficiently anticipate situations that arise. The technology needed to assess threats (such as radiation or chemical exposure) may be limited. Medical countermeasures (i.e., vaccines, antidotes, or treatments for harmful exposures) may not be available in adequate amounts, if at all. The means to distribute existing countermeasures in a timely manner may be limited. The medical system may lack adequate capacity to respond to mass casualty incidents. Funding for response costs may not be available immediately, or at all. Given the robust roles of the private sector and state and local governments in preparedness and response efforts, the federal government's ability to address these gaps through funding and other policies may also be limited.239

The 113th Congress reauthorized the body of law that directs most public health and medical preparedness and response activities in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 (PAHPRA, P.L. 113-5). The reauthorization focused in particular on improving federal programs to assure the availability of medical countermeasures in an emergency.240 (See also "Medical Countermeasures to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Terrorism".) PAHPRA also reauthorized grants to states for public health and health system preparedness, as well as funding for a number of other specific programs. In general, the appropriations amounts that are authorized for programs under PAHPRA are lower than the amounts authorized for these programs in the 2006 reauthorization.241

Assistance under the Stafford Act242 can help federal, state, and local agencies with the costs of public health emergency activities such as assuring food and water safety, and monitoring illness rates in affected communities.243 However, there is no federal assistance program designed specifically to cover the uninsured or uncompensated costs of individual health care—including mental health care—that may be needed as a consequence of a disaster. There is no consensus that this should be a federal responsibility. Nonetheless, when faced with mass casualty incidents, hospitals, physicians, and other providers may face considerable pressure to deliver care without a clear source of reimbursement. On several occasions, Congress has provided special assistance to address uncompensated disaster-related health care costs after an incident.244 Depending upon its implementation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) may mitigate concerns about disaster-related health care costs by decreasing the ranks of the uninsured.245

Funding for the response to a public health incident is a challenge when the incident does not lead to a declaration under the Stafford Act. The HHS Secretary has authority for a no-year Public Health Emergency Fund (PHEF), but this fund does not have a balance, and Congress has not appropriated monies to it for many years.246 Stating that "The lack of dedicated and flexible funding impeded [HHS's] ability to respond more quickly to control the spread of Ebola at its source in West Africa" in 2014, the Obama administration seeks $110 million for the PHEF in its FY2016 budget request.247

DHS Management Issues

The Management Budget

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R42644, Department of Homeland Security: FY2013 Appropriations.

Title I of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill contains the funding for the primary management functions of DHS. Originally envisioned as a skeleton staff, the headquarters and management functions have grown in response to criticism of the department's ability to effectively oversee its own activities. In debates over departmental funding, questioning the size and effectiveness of the department's management cadre is a common theme.

In FY2003, the first year of DHS operations, $195 million was provided for management accounts. In FY2015, those accounts were funded at $743 million. This growth is due to several factors, including increases in staff size required to perform oversight functions, rising personnel costs, technology investments, and increasing real estate expenses for the department's headquarters offices. In recent years, these accounts have been requested at higher levels than might otherwise be expected due to the inclusion of significant capital initiatives, such as headquarters consolidation and data center migration in these accounts, and personnel initiatives aimed at boosting the department's cadre of acquisition oversight staff and reducing the number of contractors in sensitive positions.

Unity of Effort

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

One of the unresolved debates from the development of DHS was how extensive the involvement would be of departmental management in the functioning of departmental components. Some policy experts supported a strong management function, which would replace the leadership of the components, while others supported a smaller management function that allowed components to function freely in their areas of expertise much as they had before.

Once the department was established, it became clear that a small management cadre could not provide adequate coordination of policy or oversight of the department. The benefits of coordinated action by a large organization, including setting operational and budgetary priorities, were being lost due to the lack of strong leadership. As its components continued to perform their missions, the department undertook efforts to establish a unified identity and way of doing business. The term "One DHS" was used to describe these initiatives under Tom Ridge, the first secretary of the department, and the efforts continued through secretaries Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano.

On April 22, 2014, months into his tenure as the fourth secretary of DHS, Jeh Johnson issued a memorandum to DHS leadership, entitled "Strengthening Departmental Unity of Effort." This now-widely circulated memorandum set out an agenda to reform the Department of Homeland Security way of doing business by implementing new analytical and decisionmaking processes to develop strategy, plan, and identify joint requirements. These would bring component leadership together above the component level to ensure unity of effort across the department.

Secretary Johnson described it this way in a Federal Times interview:

We've embarked on a unity of effort initiative that promotes greater coordination among department, greater centralized decision-making at headquarters, a more strategic approach to our budget building process, a more strategic departmentwide approach to our acquisition strategy. It is clearly a balance. Within the Department of Homeland Security there are components that long predated the Department of Homeland Security. And so what we are not asking components to do is to all act and behave together. They are distinct cultures.... But what we are asking and expecting our component leadership to do is participate with us in a more strategic approach to promote greater efficiency in how we operate, how we conduct ourselves, particularly in our budget process and in our acquisitions.248

The memorandum laid out four areas of initial focus. The first was to bring together senior leaders of the department in two groups: a Senior Leaders Council to discuss "overall policy, strategy, operations and Departmental guidance," and a Deputies Management Action Group (DMAG) to "advance joint requirements development, program and budget review, acquisition reform, operational planning, and joint operations." The second area was to make improvements to the departmental management processes for investments. Specifically, incorporating strategic analysis and joint requirements planning into the annual budget development process, directing the DMAG to develop and facilitate a component-driven joint requirements process, and reviewing and updating the DHS acquisition oversight framework. The third was developing a stronger strategy, planning, and analytic capability within the Office of Policy. The fourth was to improve coordination of cross-component operations.

Bipartisan support for these reforms was shown in several hearings in the 113th Congress, and the FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations Act included funding requested for this initiative. Both House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports included language supportive of the department's managerial reorganization.249

Several of the action items included in the memorandum were completed in 2014, such as the establishment of a Cost Analysis Division in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer in May 2014. The role of this division is to ensure life-cycle cost estimates are part of major acquisition plans. DHS also completed development of a Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan—a four-year strategic framework for joint operations securing the southern border of the United States.

The department is continuing to seek legislation to authorize certain aspects of the proposed reforms, and to help make permanent other changes. Congress may wish to consider these requests, potentially debating the appropriate role of departmental level management at DHS, and monitor the progress of management reforms to see how they are proceeding and whether they are having the desired effect.

DHS Financial Management Reforms

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

From its inception, DHS has faced financial management challenges. Transferring components and their budgets between agencies is a complex process in the best of situations, but doing it in the process of establishing a new department that is performing important national security missions from its first day of operations adds additional complexity. This was further compounded by inherited financial management problems that existed at several major legacy components, including the Coast Guard, FEMA, and elements that formed ICE.250

The department tried to develop its own financial management system in-house through a project known as "eMerge2," but failed. A second attempt was made to implement a department-wide system through contracting with outside developers under the Transformation and Systems Consolidation initiative, or TASC. After GAO ruled that DHS had improperly awarded the initial $450 million contract—the latest result from a series of protests and legal challenges that had delayed the project—the award was cancelled and the project shelved.251

Although the department has been on the GAO High Risk List since it was created, progress has been made on reducing the number of material weaknesses in the department's financial controls. FY2012 was the first year since its establishment that DHS was able to complete a qualified audit of all its financial statements.

The independent auditor noted five deficiencies in internal controls252 that were significant enough to be considered material weaknesses:

  • Financial Reporting;
  • Information Technology Controls and Financial System Functionality;
  • Property, Plant and Equipment;
  • Environmental and Other Liabilities; and
  • Budgetary Accounting.

In FY2013, DHS was able to complete another qualified audit, and the number of material weaknesses dropped to four with the resolution of "Environmental and Other Liabilities." 253 In FY2014 DHS sustained that progress and obtained a clean opinion on all its financial statements for the first time in its history. The DHS Office of Inspector General termed it "a significant achievement that built on previous years' successes,"254 but noted the four deficiencies in internal control remained. The OIG noted that:

In FY2015 and beyond, DHS' continuing challenge will be to sustain its progress in achieving an unmodified opinion on its financial statements and avoid slipping backward. To sustain its clean opinion on financial statements and obtain an unqualified (clean) opinion on its internal control over financial reporting, the Department must continue its remediation efforts and stay focused. 255

The 114th Congress will likely continue its interest in DHS's efforts to improve its internal financial systems, given the relative size of the department's budget, the interest expressed in this issue by authorizing committee leadership, and the current drive for stricter budgetary oversight.

These issues could be examined at the department, component, or program level. Oversight might include a review of the internal financial and administrative controls in the administration of specific grant programs, and improper payments made under the programs. Consideration of the internal financial and management controls might include the extent to which DHS is complying with existing control standards, penalties for noncompliance, and whether the standards should be adjusted to account for any unique elements in the DHS programs.

Headquarters Consolidation

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For additional information, see CRS Report R42753, DHS Headquarters Consolidation Project: Issues for Congress.

The Department of Homeland Security's headquarters footprint occupies more than 7 million square feet of office space in about 50 separate locations in the greater Washington, DC, area. This is largely a legacy of how the department was assembled in a short period of time from 22 separate federal agencies which were themselves spread across the National Capital region. The fragmentation of headquarters is cited by the department as a major contributor to inefficiencies, including time lost shuttling staff between headquarters elements; additional security, real estate, and administrative costs; and reduced cohesion among the components that make up the department.

To unify the department's headquarters functions, the department approved a $3.4 billion master plan to create a new DHS headquarters on the grounds of St. Elizabeths in Anacostia. According to GSA, this is the largest federal office construction since the Pentagon was built during World War II. $1.4 billion of this project was to be funded through the DHS budget, and $2 billion through the GSA.256 Thus far a total of over $1.75 billion has been appropriated for the project—$543 million for DHS and $1,207 million to GSA through FY2015. Phase 1A of the project—a new Coast Guard headquarters facility—has been completed with the funding already provided by Congress and is now in use.

In 2013, a revised construction schedule was developed, projecting lower levels of appropriations and a longer timeline for the project. Under the new projection, the project would be completed in FY2026 at a cost of $4.5 billion.257 The project was criticized by GAO in September 2014 for not conforming to certain leading practices for capital decisionmaking processes. DHS and GSA revised its plans as a result of similar observations by GAO and other critics, announcing a new plan that would be completed in FY2021, and cost $3.7 billion.

According to GSA, even with the cost increases from delaying funding, the project would still result in over $430 million in projected savings compared to leasing over the next 30 years. This estimate does not take into account the costs GSA would have to incur to stabilize and maintain the St. Elizabeths campus if the project were halted, or the efficiencies for DHS that a consolidated headquarters would generate.258

With the Coast Guard now operating from St. Elizabeths, the discussion in Congress becomes less about whether to proceed with consolidation at St. Elizabeths, but how. Whether the new headquarters consolidation plan conforms to best practices identified by GAO and the realities of the budget situation are topics that the 114th Congress may explore.

Department of Homeland Security Personnel Issues

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in American National Government ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed]).

For appropriations information, see the section on "Departmental Management and Operations" in CRS Report R43796, Department of Homeland Security: FY2015 Appropriations.

An essential consideration underlying the mission and performance of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is human resource management (HRM). Responsibility for HRM is vested in the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (OCHCO), an entity organizationally and for appropriations purposes located within the Under Secretary for Management. The OCHCO plays a critical role in supporting and executing the department's "Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2012-2016."259 The current chief human capital officer assumed the position on August 4, 2011, and with the change in the appointment from political to career status, is the first career member of the Senior Executive Service to hold the office.

During the 114th Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate may conduct oversight of personnel issues at DHS. Among the matters that may be considered are those related to succession management; employee morale; the loaned executive program; the use of digital technology to train, and recruit and retain employees; and veteran employment policies. Each of these issues is briefly discussed below. Hearings conducted by the House of Representatives and the Senate related to DHS appropriations or management matters could include review of these issues.

Each May, during Public Service Recognition Week, the value of public service is discussed and the work of public servants, including federal employees, is highlighted and honored. This observance would provide an occasion for Congress to annually review human resources management at the department, either through meetings with DHS officials and the CHCO or an oversight hearing. Such activities could supplement congressional review and oversight of the OCHCO and current and developing HRM policies at DHS, throughout the year.

Succession Management

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in American National Government ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed]).

Over the last several years, some attention has focused on the Department of Homeland Security's difficulties in retaining rank and file and senior employees260 and vacancies in its executive positions.261 This discussion, coupled with the circumstance of the upcoming November 2016 presidential election, may prompt DHS to review its policies and procedures for succession planning.

According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), a strategic succession planning system involves "planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating succession management programs" to strengthen the "current and future organizational leadership capacity" of an agency.262 OPM defines succession management as

a systematic approach for: Shaping the leadership culture. Building a leadership pipeline/talent pool to ensure leadership continuity. Developing potential successors whose strengths will best fit with the agency's needs. Identifying the best candidates for categories of positions. Concentrating resources on the talent development process, yielding a greater return on investment.263

Congress has conducted review and oversight of policies and procedures for succession planning at DHS before, as part of the presidential transition process. For example, the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs conducted a hearing on September 18, 2008, prior to the 2008 presidential election, related to presidential transition. DHS Under Secretary for Management Elaine Duke testified about the department's succession planning activities. She told the committee that the DHS transition efforts began in Spring 2007, and involved "identifying critical positions that support component priorities and using our own Critical Position Succession Planning template to ensure a pipeline of successors to critical positions, which are viewed as corporate assets and monitored on a regular basis." She also noted that, "components identified senior career civil servants who will assume responsibility for political positions during the time of transition" and "identified key competencies needed for success in these positions, assessed successor pools, prepared development plans, assessed our ability to recruit externally, and identified critical positions that are vacant or have high succession risk."264

A September 24, 2008, hearing conducted by the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform included discussions of transition planning at DHS, aspects of which relate to succession management.265 The subcommittee received testimony from Doris Hausser who represented a panel of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) and highlighted recommendations for a comprehensive transition program that were discussed in the NAPA report entitled "Addressing the 2009 Presidential Transition at the Department of Homeland Security."266 Among those recommendations were actions to occur during the period preceding the national party conventions, including that all critical non-career executive positions be identified; a transition training plan with objectives, time frames, participants and resources be developed; and training for career executives to service in new roles during transition be implemented.267

However, the department's "Strategic Plan Fiscal Years 2012-2016" and the DHS congressional submission that accompanied the FY2016 budget proposal do not specifically mention succession planning. A search of the DHS website did not reveal a publicly available succession plan or the Critical Position Succession Planning template mentioned during the 2008 Senate hearing.268

Congress may be interested in re-examining policies on succession management (both outside of and during a presidential transition) within DHS, including the department's plans to review and update its succession plans, transition plans for executive positions, transition training programs for career executives, and the operation of the rotation program. The House of Representatives and the Senate could include a provision in the annual DHS appropriations bill directing that certain HRM policy documents, such as those related to succession management, be easily accessible on the OCHCO webpage.269

Morale of DHS Employees

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in American National Government ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed]).

Concerns about the morale of DHS employees have persisted since the department was created. The responses provided by department employees to the annual Employee Viewpoint Survey conducted by the Office of Personnel Management are regularly examined as evidence of that dissatisfaction. In particular, nine questions in the survey solicit employee views on "My Satisfaction."270 The 2014 survey results (the most recent available) reveal a continuing decline in DHS employee satisfaction. Responses on two of the questions illustrate this.

The question on how satisfied employees were with their jobs solicited these views from some 40,110 employees:

  • "Very satisfied" or "Satisfied" (53.1%),
  • "Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied" (20.9%), or
  • "Dissatisfied" or "Very Dissatisfied" (26%).271

The question on how satisfied those employees were with their organization solicited these views from some 40,203 employees:

  • "Very satisfied" or "Satisfied" (41.7%),
  • "Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied" (23.1%), or
  • "Dissatisfied" or "Very Dissatisfied" (35.1%).272

For both questions, the "Very satisfied" or "Satisfied" responses were lower than, and the "Dissatisfied" or "Very Dissatisfied" responses were higher than, the 2012 and 2013 survey results for these questions.273 In July 2014, OPM released a new data tool, Unlock,274 that will enable DHS to customize the Employee Viewpoint Survey data for its employees and examine the responses in more detail.275

Over the last several years, DHS has sought to address the morale issue by commissioning studies or undertaking specific initiatives. The studies were listed in a Washington Post news report.276 On October 9, 2014, Secretary Jeh Johnson directed the Homeland Security Advisory Council to establish a DHS Employee Morale Task Force to "provide recommendations on how to improve employee morale throughout the DHS enterprise." Task Force findings and recommendations are to be submitted to the council by July 2015, and are to be deliberated and voted on by the council during a public meeting. The approved report is then to be sent to the Secretary.277

A December 2012, report on "Federal Employee Engagement," published by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) included recommendations related to job characteristics and rewards to increase employee engagement278 government-wide. For the job component these included that employees be assigned "work that they find interesting and meaningful, and which allows them to perform a variety of tasks that require a wide range of knowledge, skills, and abilities." Ensuring that rewards are administered "in a fair and transparent manner" was one of the suggestions for the rewards component.279

The House of Representatives and Senate hearings in the 113th Congress that were mentioned in "Succession Management," above, also included discussions of employee morale within the department. The House Committee on Homeland Security hearing conducted on December 12, 2013, received testimony from Max Stier, President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, that included, among other recommendations, that DHS modify the performance plans for its senior leaders to ensure that they are held accountable for improving employee engagement and solicit support and ideas from the labor unions that represent its workers "to improve employee morale in the agency."280 During the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on his nomination as Secretary, Jen Johnson expressed his views on the issue:

When it comes to morale, in my experience, you remind people of the importance of the mission, you remind people that they are serving the Nation. These are things that I think touch a lot of people at their core. I also recognize from experience that morale is driven in large part by just basic economic issues. When somebody has not had a pay raise in a long time and they are threatened with sequestration or government shutdown, that [sic] it takes its toll. So I expect to address morale, but there are limits to what you can do without giving people some basic relief.281

Congress may follow the activities of the task force and review the council's report when it is submitted to the Secretary. Separately, the department's performance plans for senior leaders and policies on job characteristics and rewards could be examined by the House of Representatives and the Senate to determine whether any administrative or statutory changes may be needed to facilitate DHS employee engagement. The department's efforts to use the data tool to better understand the views of its employees and its work to partner with labor organizations to improve employee morale could also be considered.

Loaned Executive Program

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in American National Government ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed]).

Executives from the private sector may share their expertise with DHS for a limited time period under the department's Loaned Executive Program. Established in 2008 by the Private Sector Office,282 the program allows the senior officials "to fill special, discrete needs" related to homeland security and "partner with" the department to "solve problems, improve processes," and assist in fulfilling the DHS mission. According to DHS, a loaned executive will "Serve as a subject matter expert and senior advisor to DHS leadership," "Evaluate and provide assessments on existing policies, procedures, and training," and "Provide guidance on the public-private partnership model and implementation of strategies designed to improve private sector engagement."283

An executive may be appointed to serve for at least three months, but no longer than one year. The individual may be reappointed, but the total appointment cannot exceed two years. An executive's private sector employer pays the salary and expenses; the federal government does not pay any compensation to the executive.

Six loaned executives began six-month assignments as senior advisors to the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection on November 14, 2014.284 Their duties include "site visits" at the Chicago O'Hare, John F. Kennedy International, Los Angeles International, Miami International, and Newark Liberty International Airports. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) planned to use a loaned executive "to provide individual advice to ... FEMA Region VIII on supporting the restoration of lifeline functions immediately following a catastrophic earthquake along the Wasatch Fault in Utah."285

Congress may wish to examine the operation of the Loaned Executive Program, including results expected and achieved to date, the working relationships between the loaned executives and senior executives and career employees in the department, and plans for the use of additional loaned executives by DHS components.

Digital Technology for Training, Recruitment, and Retention

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in American National Government ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed]).

The use of digital technology to facilitate training, and recruitment and retention, and support the management and development of the federal workforce continues to be of interest to federal executives. For example, in January 2015, the National Academy of Public Administration and ICF International reported on the views of randomly selected senior federal civil servants,286 referred to as "Federal Leaders," who were surveyed on issues related to digital technology and the federal government. The survey defined digital technology as "Technology that systemically connects people with each other and with information (data or content). This includes transactional services (online forms, benefits applications, e-commerce) across a variety of devices (mobile, tablet, desktop), and delivery mechanisms (websites, mobile applications, and social media)."287

The views of the Federal Leaders were obtained through an online survey that included approximately 50 questions, some of which solicited "open-ended responses." A total of 510 respondents completed the survey for a response rate of 5.7% and an overall margin of error of +/-4.2 percentage points.288 A part of the survey included questions related to workforce training, recruiting, and retention and revealed the following views:

  • 76% of Federal Leaders responded that "they are adequately trained to take advantage of digital technologies in the workplace"; 36% believed that "their agency's employees are adequately trained." The lack of skilled employees was considered "to be one of the top 5 barriers ... to better implementing digital technology in the workplace."
  • 43% of Federal Leaders responded that their agency had created offices or positions289 to assist in implementing new digital technology; 58% of respondents who have a role in procuring digital technology reported that such offices or positions had been established.
  • 33% of Federal Leaders responded that the use of digital technology in their agency "had a positive impact on recruiting and retention"; less than 25% of respondents viewed the use of digital technology "as a recruiting and retention competitive advantage."290

The report recommended that agencies "invest in, develop, and implement training" both on new technology and "to reinforce the use of existing technologies"; use a "a blended approach" for the training "that mixes classroom with online courses, mobile-learning, and on-the-job-training"; and jointly convene interagency groups of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council and the Chief Information Officers Council "to discuss lessons learned and share best practices" as training programs are developed and new positions and offices are established.291

A search of the DHS website and the Google and ProQuest databases did not reveal publicly available information on the department's specific use of digital technology for training, and recruitment and retention. The annual Federal Employee Viewpoint survey conducted by the Office of Personnel Management includes a question on how satisfied federal employees are with the training that they receive for their present jobs. Some 40,136 DHS employees responded to this question on the 2014 survey and expressed the views that they were either "Very satisfied" or "Satisfied" (43.6%), "Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied" (23.6%), and "Dissatisfied" or "Very Dissatisfied" (32.9%) with the training provided to them.292

Congress may examine the use of digital technology for training, and recruitment and retention, at the department, including specific examples of its current use, plans for future applications of technology for these purposes, and human resources information technology implementation and activities at DHS.

Employment of Veterans

[author name scrubbed], Analyst in American National Government ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed]).

Assisting veterans, who are transitioning from military to civilian life, in applying their skills and experiences in the federal workplace is a priority for the Obama Administration. On November 9, 2009, the President issued Executive Order 13518 on "Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government." The Executive Order established an Interagency Council on Veterans Employment to, among other duties, "advise and assist the President and the Director of OPM in establishing a coordinated Government-wide effort to increase the number of veterans employed by the Federal Government by enhancing recruitment and training" and participate in a Veterans Employment Initiative to promote employment opportunities.293 The Executive Order prescribed specific responsibilities for OPM and several departments, including the Department of Homeland Security. It directed DHS, joined by the Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs, and in consultation with OPM, to "develop and implement counseling and training programs to align veterans' and transitioning service members' skills and career aspirations to Federal employment opportunities, targeting Federal occupations that are projected to have heavy recruitment needs."294

The department's website has a page on "Veterans and Homeland Security" and states that veterans comprise 25% (50,000 employees) of the civilian workforce at DHS.295 The DHS congressional justification that accompanied the FY2016 budget proposal includes the hiring of veterans as a management measure and continues the performance goal of 25% of DHS total new hires being veterans, which has been in place since FY2013. The congressional justification states that the target was exceeded in FY2014, when 27.6% of the department's new hires were veterans.296

Congress may be interested in examining the department's existing policies and planned initiatives on the hiring of veterans, including the types of positions for which veterans are being recruited, the targets for hiring of veterans by DHS components, and the results, realized and expected, by the department in carrying out the responsibilities assigned to it by the Executive Order.

Homeland Security Research and Development

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Science and Technology Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

For more information, see CRS Report R43064, The DHS S&T Directorate: Selected Issues for Congress.

Many stakeholders have identified advances in research and development (R&D) as key to creating new or improved technologies that defend against homeland security threats. R&D is generally a multi-year endeavor with significant risk of failure. Additionally, it may take years to realize any benefits from R&D investments. Some congressional and stakeholder expectations regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of agency performance have not been met. The 114th Congress may continue to focus attention on whether investments in homeland security research and development net appropriate rewards, how the distribution of investments among homeland security topics and between R&D activities leads to a balanced portfolio, and what the appropriate funding level for DHS R&D is during a time of fiscal constraint.

The DHS homeland security R&D activities have substantial scope, as these activities must attempt to meet the needs both of DHS component agencies and of other customers outside the agency, such as first responders. Many stakeholders continue to debate the optimal approach to maximizing DHS R&D effectiveness. Some advocates call for substantial increases in particular areas of research and development, asserting that a dedicated research effort with significant investments is more likely to yield technology breakthroughs. Some stakeholders call for a rebalancing of the investment portfolio with an increased focus on technology development, arguing that many prototypes under development in the private sector need only a small boost to convert them to procurable technologies. Still other stakeholders call for a rebalancing of the investment portfolio towards long-term research activities, warning that DHS will lack research outcomes to develop into prototypes if long-term research languishes. Finally, portions of the stakeholder community suggest using a high-risk, high-reward investment strategy similar to that undertaken by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) so as to make "leap-ahead" advances relative to terrorist capabilities.

DHS is not the sole provider of federal funds for homeland security R&D, but the DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology (S&T) is responsible for coordinating homeland security R&D activities within DHS and across the federal government. The Under Secretary for S&T has experienced challenges in attempting to coordinate these activities and has not issued a federal homeland security R&D strategy. A key barrier to coordination of R&D investment within DHS and across the broader federal effort is difficulty in identifying R&D activities across DHS. Congress has historically been interested in identifying and overcoming the barriers to such coordination. The 114th Congress may conduct oversight of how any new strategic approaches taken by DHS address these long-standing concerns, set milestones for future performance, and meet the needs of DHS components and the first-responder community.

Both the Administration and Congress have previously contemplated reorganizing DHS R&D activities. R&D reprioritization efforts and consolidation might change the productivity of DHS R&D activities, which have been criticized by some stakeholders as having little to show for the federal investment. Other stakeholders, including some representatives of DHS operational components, indicate that R&D efforts undertaken by the S&T Directorate have yielded value. Congressional appropriations for the S&T Directorate have fluctuated in recent years. This may indicate that some congressional policymakers find the slow rate of return shown by S&T Directorate R&D investments unacceptable.

Author Contact Information

[author name scrubbed], Coordinator, Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Organized Crime and Terrorism ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Aviation Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Domestic Security ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Transportation Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Science and Technology Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Science and Technology Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Analyst in American National Government ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Public Health and Epidemiology ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Intelligence and National Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Telecommunications Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Energy and Infrastructure Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Transportation Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in American National Government ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Terrorism and National Security ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Analyst in American National Government ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Section Research Manager ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Acting Deputy Assistant Director/Resources, Science and Industry ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Immigration Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])



Department of Homeland Security, 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, Washington, DC, June 2014, p. 5. Available at


Ibid., pp. 6-8.


Office of Management and Budget, Circular A-11: Instructions for Homeland Security Data Collection, pp. 7-8,


Upon taking office, President Obama combined the National and Homeland Security staffs and this may have affected the decision to combine national and homeland security strategies into a single document.


Office of the President, National Security Strategy, Washington, DC, February 2015, pp. 8-9,


Donald F. Kettl, System Under Stress: Homeland Security and American Politics, 2nd ed, Washington, DC, CQPress, 2007, p. 82.


Office of Management and Budget, Fiscal Year 2016 Analytical Perspective of the U.S. Government (Washington, DC, 2015), p. 344.


The overseas contingency operations (also known as OCO/GWOT) funding request of $0.2 billion, was made on June 26, 2014, after the House Appropriations Committee had reported its measure, but before the Senate Appropriations Committee had reported its measure.


See, for example, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report (Washington, DC: GPO, 2004), pp. 78-80, under "Legal Constraints on the FBI and 'the Wall.'" See also, Jerry Berman and Lara Flint, "Guiding Lights: Intelligence Oversight and Control for the Challenge of Terrorism," Criminal Justice Ethics, Winter/Spring 2003, at They suggest that there were many walls: "There were really many walls, built between and within agencies.… Some walls were meant to protect individual rights. Others were meant to protect national security interests."


P.L. 108-458, §1012.


See for example, the section below examining the three amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 which broadened the ability of federal government organizations to collect and share intelligence information domestically.


Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Protecting America From Terrorist Attack: Our Joint Terrorism Task Forces," at; and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Fusion Centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces, at


For details on all 17 components of the IC see Office of the Director of National Intelligence, U.S. National Intelligence: An Overview, at


U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "Homeland Security Roles and Responsibilities," Appendix A in 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, June 18, 2014, p. 83, at


U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "More About the Office of Intelligence and Analysis," March 28, 2014, at


Ibid.; see also Office of the Director of National Intelligence, U.S. National Intelligence: An Overview, pp. 19-20, at


U.S. Coast Guard, Intelligence, Coast Guard Publication 2-0, May 2010, at


U.S. Congress, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Statement of Robert S. Mueller, III; Director FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Hearing, 112th Cong., 1st sess., October 6, 2011, at


The original FISA legislation, P.L. 95-511 is available at


These provisions were last extended in 2011. See P.L. 112-14, "PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011." §2. "SUNSET EXTENSIONS: (a) USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005.—Section 102(b)(1) of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-177; 50 U.S.C. 1805 note, 50 U.S.C. 1861 note, and 50 U.S.C. 1862 note) is amended by striking 'May 27, 2011' and inserting 'June 1, 2015'. (b) Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.—Section 6001(b)(1) of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-458; 50 U.S.C. 1801 note) is amended by striking 'May 27, 2011' and inserting 'June 1, 2015'."


CRS Report R40138, Amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Extended Until June 1, 2015, by [author name scrubbed].


P.L. 107-56.


P.L. 108-458.


CRS Report R40138, Amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Extended Until June 1, 2015, by [author name scrubbed].






U.S. Congress, House, House Judiciary Committee, "Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline over Monitoring Act of 2015," Report to Accompany H.R. 2048, H.Rept. 114-109, 114th Cong., 1st sess., May 8, 2015, p. 8.


ACLU v. Clapper, Doc. No. 14-42-cv, (2nd Cir., 2015), p. 5. The ruling did not comment on the program's constitutionality.


U.S. Congress, House, "Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring Act of 2015," H.R. 2048, 114th Cong., 1st sess., introduced April 29, 2015; and U.S. Congress, Senate, "Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring Act of 2015,"S. 1123,114th Cong., 1st sess., introduced May 11, 2015.


Reforms include: "Pen Register and Trap and Trace Reform," "FISA Acquisitions Targeting Persons Outside the United States Reforms," "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Reforms," and "National Security Letter Reform." These and other suggested changes are not discussed in this report.


U.S. Congress, Senate, "A bill to extend authority relating to roving surveillance, access to business records, and individual terrorists as agents of foreign powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and for other purposes," S. 1035, 114th Cong., 1st sess., introduced April 22, 2015.


Barriers to information-sharing and collaboration include different uses of information collected by various organizations (e.g., data gathered for intelligence purposes vs. evidence gathered to prosecute a criminal), access to classified materials, complications associated with information technology, differing organizational cultures, and concerns over the damage caused by leaked information. Various types of DHS, IC, and law enforcement centers exist to "fuse" or bridge the gaps between organizations at all levels of but the system for integrating intelligence-related information is far from perfect.


A large part of the statutory basis for the 'wall' between law enforcement and intelligence information was removed with passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, which made it possible to share law enforcement information with analysts in intelligence agencies, but many obstacles remain.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security, CIKR Cyber Information and Collaboration Program, at See also DHS, "Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources Cyber Information Sharing and Collaboration Program," at; and DHS, "Critical Infrastructure Sectors," at


For additional information, see the "Cybersecurity" section, below.


Spencer Ackerman, "Even Dead, Osama Has a Winning Strategy," Wired, July 20, 2011,


For additional information, see CRS Report R43612, The "Islamic State" Crisis and U.S. Policy, by [author name scrubbed] et al.


Remarks by the John Brennan, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, before the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, June 29, 2011.


For the purposes of this report, homegrown describes terrorist activity or plots perpetrated within the United States or abroad by American citizens, lawful permanent residents, or visitors radicalized largely within the United States. Violent jihadist describes radicalized individuals using Islam as an ideological and/or religious justification for their belief in the establishment of a global caliphate—a jurisdiction governed by a Muslim civil and religious leader known as a caliph—via violent means. Plots include schemes by homegrown individuals or groups to either join terrorist organizations abroad or to commit violent attacks. Attack describes a plot in which ideologically-driven physical violence was committed by homegrown jihadists. To qualify as an attack, the violence has to harm a person or people in the United States or those targeted as Americans abroad. Lawful permanent residents refers to foreign nationals who are legally admitted to reside permanently in the United States. For more information on homegrown violent jihadists, see CRS Report R41416, American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat, by [author name scrubbed].


For the purposes of this report, "foreign fighters" from the United States are American citizens, lawful permanent residents, or aliens who radicalized in the United States and plotted to or traveled abroad to join a foreign terrorist group.


Nicholas J. Rasmussen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, statement for the record for a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, February 12, 2015.


Mark Hosenball, "U.S. Spy Chief Says 40 Americans Who Went to Syria Have Returned," Reuters, March 2, 2015.


Christopher M. Piehota. Director, Terrorist Screening Center, Federal Bureau of Investigation, written statement for a House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Transportation Security hearing, "Safeguarding Privacy and Civil Liberties While Keeping our Skies Safe," September 18, 2014.




In 2012, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) described commercial air travel as "the primary target of terrorist organizations seeking to attack the homeland or move operatives into the United States.... " See Kevin McAleenan, then-Assistant Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations, written statement for a House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing, "Eleven Years Later: Preventing Terrorists from Coming to America," September 11, 2012.


The press release discussed the United Kingdom's decision to raise its threat level from "substantial" to "severe" because of developments in Syria and Iraq. See Department of Homeland Security, press release, "Statement by Secretary Johnson on the United Kingdom's Decision to Raise Their Threat Level," August 29, 2014.


Jeh C. Johnson, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, written statement for a House Homeland Security Committee hearing, "Worldwide Threats to the Homeland," September 17, 2014.


For details see CBP, "Strengthening Security of the VWP Through Enhancements to ESTA," at For background see CRS Report RL32221, Visa Waiver Program, by [author name scrubbed]. See also Tom Warrick, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism Policy, Department of Homeland Security, written statement for a House Committee on Foreign Affairs joint subcommittee hearing, "ISIS and the Threat from Foreign Fighters," December 2, 2014.




Tal Kopan, "Holder: DOJ Expanding International Capacity to Stem Foreign Fighters," Politico, November 13, 2014. In a capacity that combines interdiction and investigation, in September 2014, DOJ has noted that one of its components, Interpol Washington, announced the creation of a program dedicated to thwarting foreign fighters. It will draw on the investigative work of law enforcement agencies in more than 30 countries. DOJ, "Interpol Washington Spearheads Foreign Terrorist Fighter Program, Serves as Catalyst for Global Information Sharing Network," press release, September 24, 2014.


For more information see CRS Report R42553, Countering Violent Extremism in the United States, by [author name scrubbed].


Brookings Institution, "A National Counterterrorism Center Threat Assessment of ISIL and Al Qaeda in Iraq, Syria, and Beyond," "Proceedings," September 3, 2014.


Nicholas J. Rasmussen, then-Deputy Director National Counterterrorism Center, written statement for a hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, "Cybersecurity, Terrorism, and Beyond: Addressing Evolving Threats to the Homeland," September 10, 2014.


DOJ, "Attorney General Holder Announces Pilot Program to Counter Violent Extremists," press release, September 15, 2014.


DOJ, "Pilot Programs Are Key to our Countering Violent Extremism Efforts," press release, February 18, 2015.


Defined as an electronic device that accesses or relies on the transfer of bytes of data to perform a mechanical function. The device can access cyberspace (the Internet) through the use of physical connections or wireless signals.


For additional information, see CRS Report RL33123, Terrorist Capabilities for Cyberattack: Overview and Policy Issues, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].


See Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, "Challenges Remain in DHS' Efforts to Security Control Systems," August 2009. For a discussion of how computer code may have caused the halting of operations at an Iranian nuclear facility see CRS Report R41524, The Stuxnet Computer Worm: Harbinger of an Emerging Warfare Capability, by [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and [author name scrubbed].


Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry, Responding to the Cyber Threat, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore, MD, 2011.


Department of Defense Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III, "Defending a New Domain," Foreign Affairs, October 2010.


Ken Dilanian, "U.S. Spy Agencies to Detail Cyberattacks from Abroad," Los Angeles Times, December 6, 2012.




For discussions of federal law and issues relating to cybercrime, see CRS Report 97-1025, Cybercrime: An Overview of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Statute and Related Federal Criminal Laws, by [author name scrubbed], and CRS Report R41927, The Interplay of Borders, Turf, Cyberspace, and Jurisdiction: Issues Confronting U.S. Law Enforcement, by [author name scrubbed].


Symantec, "Symantec Internet Security Threat Report: Trends for 2010," vol. 16, April 2011. Plain text summary with calculations available at


For additional information, see CRS Report RL31787, Information Operations, Cyberwarfare, and Cybersecurity: Capabilities and Related Policy Issues, by [author name scrubbed].


Perlroth, Nicole, "Cyberattack on Saudi Firm Disquiets U.S.," New York Times, October 24, 2012, p. A1. Available at


The concept of attribution in the cyber world entails an attempt to identify with some degree of specificity and confidence the geographic location, identity, capabilities, and intention of the cyber-aggressor. Mobile technologies and sophisticated data routing processes and techniques often make attribution difficult for U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities.


Emerging cyber-based technologies that may be vulnerable to the actions of a cyber-aggressor include items that are in use but not yet widely adopted or are currently being developed. For additional information on how the convergence of inexpensive, highly sophisticated, and easily accessible technology is providing opportunities for cyber-aggressors to exploit vulnerabilities found in a technologically laden society, see Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, National Intelligence Council, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, December 10, 2012.


Information derived from CRS Report R42114, Federal Laws Relating to Cybersecurity: Overview of Major Issues, Current Laws, and Proposed Legislation, by [author name scrubbed]


Information contained in this section was derived from multi-authored reports and memos produced by numerous CRS analysts working on cybersecurity.


The White House, "The Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative," March 5, 2010. For additional information about this Initiative and associated policy considerations, see CRS Report R40427, Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative: Legal Authorities and Policy Considerations, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].


See, for example, Seymour M. Hersh, "Judging the Cyber War Terrorist Threat," The New Yorker, November 1, 2010.


Nakashima, Ellen, "Obama Signs Secret Directive to Help Thwart Cyberattacks," The Washington Post, Nov. 14, 2012.


The White House, "Cybersecurity," last accessed March 19, 2015,


White House, Office of the Press Secretary, National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive, May 9, 2007. NSPD-51 is also identified as Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) 20. A more detailed discussion of national continuity policy is available in CRS Report RS22674, National Continuity Policy: A Brief Overview, by [author name scrubbed]. Original document available at


NSPD-51 identifies continuity of operations (COOP) as "an effort within individual executive departments and agencies to ensure that Primary Mission-Essential Functions continue to be performed during a wide range of emergencies, including localized acts of nature, accidents, and technological or attack-related emergencies."


NSPD-51 identifies continuity of government (COG) as "a coordinated effort within the federal government's executive branch to ensure that national essential functions continue to be performed during a catastrophic emergency."


The directive notes "that each branch of the federal government is responsible for its own continuity programs," and requires an executive branch official to "ensure that the executive branch's COOP and COG policies ... are appropriately coordinated with those of the legislative and judicial branches in order to … maintain a functioning federal government." The legislative branch and the federal judiciary maintain continuity programs consonant with their positions as coequal branches of government. NSPD-51 does not specify the nature of appropriate coordination with continuity planners in the legislative and judicial branch.


53 Federal Register 47491; November 23, 1988.


U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations for 2011, Part 6, Statements of Members of Congress and Other Interested Individuals and Organizations, 111th Cong., 2nd sess., May 12, 2010 (Washington: GPO, 2010), pp. 197-204.


See for example, Christopher Nelson, Andrew M. Parker, and Shoshana R. Shelton, et al., Analysis of the Cities Readiness Initiative (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2012), pp. 31-34.


For more information, see the BioWatch current services program description in Department of Homeland Security, Congressional Budget Justification, FY2016, Office of Health Affairs, pp. OHA-4-5,


David Willman, "The Biodefender That Cries Wolf," Los Angeles Times, July 8, 2012.


Dr. Alexander Garza, Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs, DHS, "The Truth About BioWatch: The Importance of Early Detection of a Potential Biological Attack," July 12, 2012. Statistics cited in this blog posting were later reported to be inaccurate by a DHS official. See comments of BioWatch Program Manager Dr. Mike Walter before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Continuing Concerns over BioWatch and the Surveillance of Bioterrorism, 113th Cong., 1st sess., June 18, 2013, CQ transcription.


See for example Robert Roos, "Public Health Officials Respond to Critique of BioWatch," CIDRAP News, August 17, 2012,


U.S. Government Accountability Office, Biosurveillance: DHS Should Reevaluate Mission Need and Alternatives before Proceeding with BioWatch Generation-3 Acquisition, 12-810, September 10, 2012,


See BioWatch discussions in CRS Reports on annual DHS appropriations,


DHS, "Cancellation of the BioWatch Autonomous Detection Technology Acquisition," spot report, April 24, 2014. See also David Willman, "Homeland Security Cancels Plans for New BioWatch Technology," Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2014.


See BioWatch discussions in CRS Reports on annual DHS appropriations,


House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, "Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Continues Investigation of BioWatch and Surveillance of Bioterrorism," press release, June 18, 2013, with links to committee report and other documents,


H.Rept. 113-481, pp. 96-97; S.Rept. 113-198, pp. 109-110.


Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "Food Defense,"


CRS Report RS22600, The Federal Food Safety System: A Primer, by [author name scrubbed].


DHS, "Food and Agriculture Sector, Sector Overview," June, 2014,


CRS Report R40443, The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (P.L. 111-353), coordinated by [author name scrubbed].


See FDA FSMA implementation information,; and CRS Report R43724, Implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA, P.L. 111-353), by [author name scrubbed].


FDA, "FSMA Reports and Studies,"


FDA, "FSMA Proposed Rule for Focused Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration,"


FDA, "President's FY2016 Budget Request: Key Investments for Implementing [FSMA]," fact sheet, February 2, 2015,


GAO, "Improving Federal Oversight of Food Safety," High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-15-290, February 11, 2015,


GAO, four open recommendations from Homeland Security: Actions Needed to Improve Response to Potential Terrorist Attacks and Natural Disasters Affecting Food and Agriculture, GAO-11-652, August 19, 2011, from database of open recommendations,, searched March 9, 2015.


1 kV=1,000 volts.


North American Electric Reliability Corporation, "Understanding the Grid," fact sheet, August 2013, Note that there is no industry consensus as to what voltage rating or other operating characteristic constitutes "high voltage." This report uses 230 kV as the high voltage threshold, but other studies may use a different threshold, such as 115/138 kV, or may include an additional "extra high voltage" category above 345 kV. See, for example, U.S. Department of Energy, Large Power Transformers and the U.S. Electric Grid, April 2014, p. 4.


C. Newton, "The Future of Large Power Transformers," Transmission & Distribution World, September 1, 1997; William Loomis, "Super-Grid Transformer Defense: Risk of Destruction and Defense Strategies," Presentation to NERC Critical Infrastructure Working Group, Lake Buena Vista, FL, December 10-11, 2001.


North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), Grid Security Exercise (GridEx II): After-Action Report, March 2014, p.15; Matthew L. Wald, "Attack Ravages Power Grid. (Just a Test.)," New York Times, November 14, 2013.


RTO Insider, "Substation Saboteurs 'No Amateurs,'" April 2, 2014,; Chelsea J. Carter, "Arkansas Man Charged in Connection with Power Grid Sabotage," CNN, October 12, 2013; Max Brantley, "FBI Reports Three Attacks on Power Grid in Lonoke County," Arkansas Times, October 7, 2013; Rebecca Smith, "U.S. Risks National Blackout From Small-Scale Attack," Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2014.


Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Physical Security Reliability Standard, Docket No. RM14-15-000; Order No. 802, November 20, 2014.


See, for example, Senators Dianne Feinstein, Al Franken, Ron Wyden, and Harry Reid, letter to the Honorable Cheryl LaFleur, Acting Chairman, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, February 7, 2014,


Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, Surface Transportation Security FY2016 Congressional [Budget] Justification, p. 11.


United States House of Representatives, Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Transportation Security, Hearing on TSA's Surface Inspection Program: Strengthening Security or Squandering Resources?, May 31, 2012,


Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, Surface Transportation Security FY2014 Congressional [Budget] Justification, p. 18; FY2015 Congressional [Budget] Justification, p. 19.


United States Governmental Accountability Office, Homeland Security: DHS Needs Better Project Information and Coordination Among Four Overlapping Grant Programs, GAO-12-303, February 2012.


Oriana Zill and Lowell Bergman, "Do the Math: Why the Illegal Drug Business Is Thriving," PBS Frontline,


Current means within the past month. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, September 2014.


Drug Enforcement Administration, National Drug Threat Assessment Summary 2014, November 2014, p. 3.


Drug Enforcement Administration, Statement of the Honorable Michele Leonhart, Administrator Drug Enforcement Administration, Before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, April 2, 2014, p. 2.


Drug Enforcement Administration, National Drug Threat Assessment Summary 2014, November 2014, p. 10.


See, for example, Nick Miroff, "Tracing the U.S. Heroin Surge Back South of the Border as Mexican Cannabis Output Falls," The Washington Post, April 6, 2014.


U.S. Department of Justice, "Attorney General Holder, Calling Rise in Heroin Overdoses 'Urgent Public Health Crisis,' Vows Mix of Enforcement, Treatment," press release, March 10, 2014.


Office of National Drug Control Strategy, National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, 2013, p. 4.


Ibid., pp. 4-9.


U.S. Department of State, 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes, March 2014.


Ibid., p. 161.


The Department of the Treasury defines the BMPE as "a large-scale money laundering system used to launder proceeds of narcotic sales in the United States by Latin American drug cartels by facilitating swaps of dollars in the U.S. for pesos in Colombia through the sale of dollars to Latin America businessmen seeking to buy U.S. goods to export,"


According to the Department of the Treasury, a money services business is any person or entity engaging in activities including exchanging currency; cashing checks; issuing, selling, or redeeming travelers' checks, money orders, or stored value cards; and transmitting money. For more information, see


According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, stored value are "funds or monetary value represented in digital electronics format (whether or not specially encrypted) and stored or capable of storage on electronic media in such a way as to be retrievable and transferable electronically," 31 C.F.R. §103.11(vv).


Douglas Farah, "Money Laundering and Bulk Cash Smuggling: Challenges for the Mérida Initiative," in Shared Responsibility: U.S.-Mexico Policy Options for Confronting Organized Crime, ed. Eric L. Olson, David A. Shirk, and Andrew D. Selee (2010), p. 144.


National Drug Intelligence Center, National Drug Threat Assessment 2011. More recent National Drug Threat Assessment Summaries produced by the Drug Enforcement Administration do not contain information on illicit finance.


Ken Stier, "Underground Threat: Tunnels Pose Trouble from Mexico to Middle East," Time, May 2, 2009.


Statement of James A. Dinkins, Executive Associate Director, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, before the U.S. Congress, Senate United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, Illegal Tunnels on the Southwest Border, 112th Cong., 1st sess., June 15, 2011.


Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, "CBP's Strategy to Address Illicit Cross-Border Tunnels,"


U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, "Second Major Cross-Border Drug Tunnel Discovered South of San Diego This Month: Investigators Seize 32 Tons of Marijuana, Arrest 6 Suspects," press release, November 30, 2011,


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "ICE-Led Task Force Shutters 2 San Diego-Area Smuggling Tunnels," press release, April 4, 2014.


For more information, see


Statement of Laura E. Duffy, U.S. Attorney, Southern District of California, U.S. Department of Justice, before the U.S. Congress, Senate United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, Illegal Tunnels on the Southwest Border, 112th Cong., 1st sess., June 15, 2011.




See Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcomittee on Homeland Security, DHS Hearing: Strengthening Trade Enforcement to Protect American Enterprise and Grow American Jobs. Testimony of CBP Office of International Trade Acting Assistant Commissioner Richard DiNucci.


See U.S. CBP, "C-TPAT: Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, Commercial truck drivers who are Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) members also are eligible to join the Free and Secure Trade System (FAST), which permits expedited processing at land ports of entry; and C-TPAT members who are residents of the United States and are known importers that have businesses physically established, located, and managed within the United States may be eligible for the Importer Self-Assessment Program (ISA), which exempts importers from certain post-entry enforcement audits. See ibid., and CBP FAST: Free and Secure Trade for Commercial Vehicles,


See for example, U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Evaluating Port Security: Progress Made and Challenges Ahead, 113th Cong., 2nd sess. June 4, 2014.


See for example, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Trade, Supporting Economic Growth and Job Creation through Customs Trade Modernization, Facilitation, and Enforcement, 112th Cong., 2nd sess. May 17, 2012.


See U.S. Department of Commerce, Draft Report: Improving Economic Outcomes by Reducing Border Delays, Facilitating the Vital Flow of Commercial Traffic Across the US-Mexican Border, Washington, DC, 2008,


Secondary inspection may include both non-intrusive imaging (NII) scans and/or physical inspection, in which the container may be opened and unpacked so that materials can be examined.


CRS analysis of data provided by CBP Office of Legislative Affairs, April 28, 2014.


The 100% scanning pilot program is known as the Secure Freight Initiative (SFI). Following DHS's evaluation of the SFI in 2012, the program was scaled back to a single port, Port Qasim, in Pakistan.


The risk-based scanning program is known as the Container Security Initiative (CSI).


Letter from Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, to Hon. Joseph I. Lieberman, Senator, May 2, 2012. The 9/11 Act permits the Secretary to extend the deadline by two years and in additional two-year increments by certifying that two of the following conditions exist: that scanning systems are not available, are insufficiently accurate, cannot be installed, cannot be integrated with existing systems, will significantly impact trade and the flow of cargo, and/or do not provide adequate notification of questionable or high-risk cargo. In her notification to Congress, Secretary Napolitano certified that the use of systems to scan containers would have a significant and negative impact on trade capacity and cargo flows, and that systems to scan containers cannot be purchased, deployed, or operated at overseas ports due to limited physical infrastructure.


See CBP, Report to Congress on Integrated Scanning System Pilots (Security and Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006, §231). Also see U.S. GAO, Supply Chain Security: Container Secuirty Programs Have Matured, but Uncertainty Persists over the Future of 100 Percent Scanning, GAO-12-422T, February 7, 2012, Also see letter from Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, to Hon. Joseph I. Lieberman, Senator, May 2, 2012.


Spoken response by Kevin McAleenan, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, U.S. CBP, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, before the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee of the Homeland Security Committee, U.S. House, hearing "Balancing Maritime Security and Trade Facilitation: Protecting Our Ports, Increasing Commerce and Securing the Supply Chain—Part I," February 7, 2012. CBP reports that the U.S. government spent a total of about $120 million during the first three years of the Secure Freight Initiative; CBP, Report to Congress on Integrated Scanning System Pilots, p. 13.


See Stephen L. Caldwell, Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office, testimony before the U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Evaluating Port Security: Progress Made and Challenges Ahead, 113th Cong., 2nd sess. June 4, 2014.


See for example, U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Evaluating Port Security: Progress Made and Challenges Ahead, 113th Cong., 2nd sess. June 4, 2014; and U.S. Congress, House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, Balancing Maritime Security and Trade Facilitation: Protecting Our Ports, Increasing Commerce, and Securing the Supply ChainPart I, 112th Cong., 2nd sess., February 7, 2012.


H.Rept. 113-481, p. 38.


See, for example, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, Using Technology to Facilitate Trade and Enhance Security at Our Ports of Entry, 112th Cong., 2nd sess., May 1, 2012. On border wait times, also see GAO, CBP Action Needed to Improve Wait Time Data and Measure Outcomes of Trade Facilitation Effort, GAO-13-603, July 24, 2013.


According to a CRS analysis of data provided by CBP Office of Congressional Affairs in January 2013, staffing for enforcement between ports of entry more than doubled between FY2004 and FY2012 (increasing from 10,819 to 21,394), while staffing at ports of entry increased just 20% during this period (from 18,110 to 21,790).


For a fuller discussion, see CRS Report R43147, Department of Homeland Security: FY2014 Appropriations, coordinated by [author name scrubbed].


See Section 560 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, FY2013 (P.L. 113-6, Div. D). The FY2013 pilot program permitted five such partnerships in Dallas, TX, Houston, TX, and Miami, FL, and land POEs in El Paso, TX, and Laredo/McAllen, TX.


See Section 559 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, FY2014 (P.L. 113-76, Div. F).




Legal permanent residents (LPRs) are foreign nationals authorized to live lawfully and permanently within the United States; see CRS Report RL32235, U.S. Immigration Policy on Permanent Admissions, by [author name scrubbed].


For a fuller discussion of travel requirements, see CRS Report RL31381, U.S. Immigration Policy on Temporary Admissions, by [author name scrubbed]; and CRS Report RL32221, Visa Waiver Program, by [author name scrubbed].


Individuals are ineligible to participate in a trusted traveler program if they are inadmissible to the United States; provide false or incomplete information on trusted traveler applications; have been convicted of a criminal offense, have outstanding warrants, or are subject to an investigation; or have been found in violation of customs, immigration, or agriculture laws. Trusted travel enrollees are re-checked against certain security databases every 24 hours, every time they enter the United States, and every time they renew their trusted traveler membership.


CBP, "About Global Entry,"




CBP, "About SENTRI,"


For information on the Islamic State and foreign fighters, see CRS Report R43612, The "Islamic State" Crisis and U.S. Policy, by [author name scrubbed] et al.; and CRS Report IN10209, European Security, Islamist Terrorism, and Returning Fighters, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].


For example, see U.S. Congress, House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, One Flight Away: An Examination of the Threat Posed by ISIS Terrorists with Western Passports, 113th Cong., 2nd sess., September 10, 2014; and Jerry Markon, "Visa Waivers Under Scrutiny on Hill," The Washington Post, January 28, 2015, p. A2.


The 38 countries are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.


ESTA checks the foreign national's information against different immigration, criminal, and security databases.


See U.S. Congress, House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, Visa Waiver Program Oversight: Risks and Benefits of the Program, Testimony of Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies, 112th Cong., 1st sess., December 7, 2011.


IAFIS is a national fingerprint and criminal history system. IDENT is a DHS-wide system for the storage and processing of biometric and limited biographic information. IDENT is the primary DHS-wide system for the biometric identification and verification of individuals encountered in DHS mission-related processes. For more information on IAFIS, see Federal Bureau of Investigation, "The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS)," press release, For more information on IDENT, see Department of Homeland Security, Privacy Impact Assessment for the Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT), Washington, DC, July 31, 2006, p. 2.


CRS Report R43356, Border Security: Immigration Inspections at Ports of Entry, by [author name scrubbed].


For an example of this argument, see "Congressman Claims Allowing Poland Visa-Free Travel to the US Would Pose Security Threat,", June 20, 2012,


For an example of this argument, see David Inserra and Riley Walters, The Visa Waiver Program: Enhancing Security, Promoting Prosperity, Heritage Foundation, Issue Brief #4273, Washington, DC, Sept. 16, 2014.


There is not a specific requirement to present an e-passport when entering under the VWP. Any passports issued after October 26, 2006, and used by VWP travelers to enter the United States are required to have integrated chips with information from the data page (e-passports).


The length of validity of a visa is mostly dependent on reciprocity with the United States (i.e., that visas from that country for U.S. citizens are valid for the same period of time). For a full list of reciprocity schedules, see Department of State, Reciprocity Schedules, at


Testimony of DHS Assistant Secretary David Heyman, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Judiciary, Implementation of an Entry-Exit System: Still Waiting After All These Years, 113th Cong., 1st sess., November 13, 2013. Hereinafter: Heyman Testimony, 2013.


CBP, Secure Borders, Safe Travel, Legal Trade: Fiscal Year 2009-2014 Strategic Plan, Washington, DC, 2009, p. 15.


See for example Testimony of CBP Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Wagner, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Oversight and Government Affairs, Subcommittee on National Security, Border Security Oversight, Part III: Border Crossing Cards and B1/B2 Visas, 113th Cong., 1st sess., November 14, 2013.


By comparison, the enforcement-related budget of the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service was $380 million in 1986, according to CRS calculations from U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the U.S. Government: Appendix, Washington, DC, 1987. For a fuller discussion of FY2014 appropriations, see CRS Report R43147, Department of Homeland Security: FY2014 Appropriations, coordinated by [author name scrubbed].


See for example, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, A Study in Contrasts: House and Senate Approaches to Border Security, 113th Cong., 1st sess., July 23, 2013. The Border Patrol published a national strategy for controlling U.S. borders in May 2012, building on three earlier strategies published between 1994 and 2005. The new strategy describes the Border Patrol's approach to risk management and to striking a balance among its traditional emphasis on preventing illegal migration and its post-9/11 priority missions of preventing the entry of terrorists and terrorist weapons, along with the recent U.S. focus on combating transnational criminal organizations. But the strategy does not describe operational plans or address the interaction among the Border Patrol and other federal agencies (including other parts of DHS) with responsibilities at the border.


The border patrol reported 327,577 alien apprehensions along the Southwest border in FY2011, the lowest number since FY1972; see U.S. Border Patrol, Total Illegal Alien Apprehensions By Fiscal Year,


See, e.g., U.S. Government Accountability Office, Border Security: Enhanced DHS Oversight and Assessment of Interagency Cooridination is Needed for the Northern Border, GAO-11-97, December 2010, Also see CRS Report R42969, Border Security: Understanding Threats at U.S. Borders, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].


For a brief overview of challenges with the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal and the Cargo Advanced Automated Radiography System, see Government Accountability Office, Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DHS Has Developed a Strategic Plan for Its Global Nuclear Detection Architecture, but Gaps Remain, GAO-11-869T, July 26, 2011.


For background, see CRS Report R41419, The Helium-3 Shortage: Supply, Demand, and Options for Congress, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].


72 Federal Register 3492-3604, January 25, 2007. Codified at 49 C.F.R. 1572.


78 Federal Register 17782, March 22, 2013.


Comments filed can be viewed at under docket # USCG-2007-28915.


GAO, Transportation Worker Identification Credential—Card Reader Pilot Results Are Unreliable; Security Benefits Need to Be Reassessed, GAO-13-198, May 8, 2013.


U.S. Congress, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Operations, Federal Government Approaches to Issuing Biometric IDs, 113th Cong., 1st sess., May 9, 2013.


U.S. Congress, House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, Threat, Risk and Vulnerability: The TWIC Program, 113th Cong., 1st sess., June 18, 2013.


GAO, Transportation Security: Action Needed to Strengthen TSA's Security Threat Assessment Process, GAO-13-629, July 19, 2013.


GAO, Transportation Worker Identification CredentialInternal Control Weaknesses Need to Be Corrected to Help Achieve Security Objectives, May 2011, GAO-11-657.


Keith Laing, "GOP Chairman: TSA Was a 'Big Mistake,'" The Hill, March 18, 2015,


Transportation Security Administration, Screening Partnership Program,


See P.L. 113-245.


National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report, New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co., 2004.


See, e.g., American Civil Liberties Union, "ACLU Backgrounder on Body Scanners and 'Virtual Strip Searches,'" January 8, 2010,


Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, Fiscal Year 2016 Congressional Justification, Aviation Security.


U.S. Government Accountability Office, Aviation Security: Rapid Growth in Expedited Passenger Screening Highlights Need to Plan Effective Security Assessments, GAO-15-150, December 2014.




Transportation Security Administration, Press Release: U.S. Airline Flight Attendants to Get Expedited Airport Screening in Second Stage of Known Crewmember Program, Friday, July 27, 2012,


U.S. Government Accountability Office, Aviation Security: TSA Should Limit Future Funding for Behavior Detection Activities, GAO-14-159, November 2013; Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Transportation Security Administration's Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (Redacted), OIG-13-91, Washington, DC, May 29, 2013; Department of Homeland Security, Statement of Charles K. Edwards, Deputy Inspector General, Before the United States House of Representatives, Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Transportation Security, November 13, 2013.


Mary Forgione, "Existing TSA Director Wants to Ease Liquids Ban for Some Passengers," Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2014,


Scott Shane, "Lapses Allowed Suspect to Board Plane," New York Times, May 4, 2010.


Department of Homeland Security (DHS), "DHS Now Vetting 100 Percent of Passengers On Flights Within Or Bound For U.S. Against Watchlists," Press Release, November 30, 2010.


Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, "Privacy Act of 1974; Department of Homeland Security Transportation Security Administration-DHS/TSA-019 Secure Flight Records System of Records," 80 Federal Register 233-239, January 5, 2015.


For additional information see CRS Report RL33645, Terrorist Watchlist Checks and Air Passenger Prescreening, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed] (out of print—available on request).


Federal Aviation Administration, "Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems; Proposed Rule," 80 Federal Register 9544-9590, February 23, 2015.


Federal Aviation Administration, Law Enforcement Guidance for Suspected Unauthorized UAS Operations,


Statement of Chief Richard Beary, President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, Committee on Homeland Security, United States House of Representatives, March 18, 2015.


See, e.g., Todd Humphreys, "Statement on the Security Threat Posed by Unmanned Aerial Systems and Possible Countermeasures," submitted to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, House Committee on Homeland Security, March 16, 2015.


Todd Humphreys, "Statement on the Vulnerability of Civil Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Other Systems to Civil GPS Spoofing," submitted to the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management of the House Committee on Homeland Security, July 19, 2012; U.S. Government Accountability Office, "Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Use in the National Airspace System and the Role of the Department of Homeland Security," Statement of Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D., Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues, Before the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management, Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives, July 19, 2012, GAO-12-889T.


See CRS Report R42701, Drones in Domestic Surveillance Operations: Fourth Amendment Implications and Legislative Responses, by [author name scrubbed].


See Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001).


See California v. Ciraolo, 476 U.S. 207, 213 ("[W]hat a person knowingly exposes to the public ... is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection") (quoting Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351 (1967)).


See, e.g., United States v. Flores-Montano, 541 U.S. 149, 152 (2004) ("The Government's interest in preventing the entry of unwanted persons and effects is at its zenith at the international border").


See, e.g., H.R. 1229, H.R. 1385, S. 635.


Katie Drummond, "Where Have All the MANPADS Gone?," Wired, February 22, 2010.


Ibid.; U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, MANPADS: Combating the Threat to Global Aviation from Man-Portable Air Defense System, July 27, 2011,


For further analysis on emergency and major disaster declarations see CRS Report R43784, FEMA's Disaster Declaration Process: A Primer, by [author name scrubbed]. For more information on the Disaster Relief Fund see CRS Report R43537, FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund: Overview and Selected Issues, by [author name scrubbed].


For information on supplemental appropriations for disasters see CRS Report R43665, Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Assistance: Summary Data and Analysis, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].


For further analysis on Stafford Act declarations from 1953 to 2011 see CRS Report R42702, Stafford Act Declarations 1953-2011: Trends and Analyses, and Implications for Congress, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].


For further analysis on disaster assistance under the Budget Control Act see CRS Report R42352, An Examination of Federal Disaster Relief Under the Budget Control Act, by [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and [author name scrubbed].


P.L. 113-2, Making supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, to improve and streamline disaster assistance for Hurricane Sandy, and for other purposes. For more information on supplemental funding for Hurricane Sandy see CRS Report R42869, FY2013 Supplemental Funding for Disaster Relief, coordinated by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].


Hurricane Sandy was declared a major disaster on October 30, 2012. Making supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, to improve and streamline disaster assistance for Hurricane Sandy, and for other purposes (P.L. 113-2) was enacted January 29, 2013.


Information on FirstNet at


Information on IPAWS at


9-1-1 Implementation Coordination Office (ICO) reauthorized by P.L. 112-96; see 47 U.S. C. §942.


National Emergency Communications Plan, 2014, at


The "whole community" includes individuals and families, including those with access and functional needs; businesses; faith-based and community organizations; nonprofit groups; schools and academia; media outlets; and all levels of government, including state, local, tribal, territorial, and federal partners. See more at FEMA's website at


White House, Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness, Washington, DC, March 30, 2011, p. 1,




For more on THIRA, see FEMA's website on the topic at


Extensive descriptions of the Hurricane Sandy storm and its impacts can be found in Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy: Stronger Communities, a Resilient Region, Washington, DC, August 2013, pp. 18-22, at; and at Federal Emergency Management Agency, Hurricane Sandy FEMA After-Action Report, Washington, DC, July 1, 2013, p. 7, at


Executive Order 13632, "Establishing the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force," 77 Federal Register 74341, December 14, 2012.


Hurricane Sandy Program Management Office, Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy: Progress Report, Fall 2014, Washington, DC, Fall 2014, at


SRIA was enacted as Division B of P.L. 113-2, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013.


For example, Section 1109 of SRIA, 127 Stat. 47, required FEMA to review and update its regulations (44 C.F.R. §206.48(b)(2)) concerning the individual assistance factors taken into consideration when evaluating a request for a major disaster declaration by January 29, 2014. For an update on SRIA implementation from FEMA, see their website at, as well as Federal Emergency Management Agency, Sandy Recovery Improvement Act Fact Sheet, November 2014, at


For example, Section 1102 of SRIA, 127 Stat. 42, as codified at 42 U.S.C. §5189f(h), Section 428(h) of the Stafford Act; directs the DHS Inspector General to audit the efficacy of the Public Alterative Procedures.


For further discussion see the National Health Security Preparedness Index,; and CRS Report RL33579, The Public Health and Medical Response to Disasters: Federal Authority and Funding, by [author name scrubbed].


See for example FDA, "Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 (PAHPRA),"


P.L. 109-417, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act. Actual appropriations for many of these programs have also decreased since 2006.


The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, P.L. 93-288, as amended. See CRS Report RL34724, Would an Influenza Pandemic Qualify as a Major Disaster Under the Stafford Act?, by [author name scrubbed]; and CRS Report RL33053, Federal Stafford Act Disaster Assistance: Presidential Declarations, Eligible Activities, and Funding, by [author name scrubbed].


See, for example, FEMA Office of Response and Recovery, "Infectious Disease Event," Fact Sheet FP-104-009-001, October 21, 2014,


See for example GAO, Hurricane Katrina: Allocation and Use of $2 Billion for Medicaid and Other Health Care Needs, GAO-07-67, February 28, 2007,; CRS Report R41232, FY2010 Supplemental for Wars, Disaster Assistance, Haiti Relief, and Other Programs, coordinated by [author name scrubbed]; and emergency supplemental funding for HHS for the response to the Ebola outbreak in P.L. 113-235, Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, Division G, Title VI.


CRS reports on ACA implementation are available at


CRS Report RL33579, The Public Health and Medical Response to Disasters: Federal Authority and Funding, by [author name scrubbed].


HHS, "Public Health Emergency Response Initiative," Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, Justification of Estimates for Appropriations Committees, FY2016, p. 115,


Secretary for Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, interviewed by Steve Watkins, "DHS Head: Cybersecurity, Unity of Effort Top Priority List," Federal Times, October 17, 2014. Available at


See H.Rept. 113-481, p.7; and S.Rept. 113-198, p. 16.


For examples of DHS program management and financial management issues, see U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Major Management Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security, OIG-13-09, November 2012; U.S. Government Accountability Office, Managing Preparedness Grants and Assessing National Capabilities: Continuing Challenge Impede FEMA's Progress, GAO-12-526T, March 20, 2012; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, FEMA's Efforts to Recoup Improper Payments in Accordance with the Disaster Assistance Recoupment Fairness Act of 2011, OIG-12-127, September 2012.


House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management, "Department of Homeland Security Financial Management," May 13, 2011. Documents available at


Internal control standards seek to ensure that the use of funds comply with applicable laws, that assets are appropriately protected against waste, fraud, and abuse, and that federal agencies have efficient and effective financial and program administration systems that allow for appropriate accountability of funds. Internal control standards are integrated into program management protocols, including quarterly program and financial monitoring, timely submission of single audit reports and grants closeout, and improper payments testing and reporting.


Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security, OIG-15-10, "Independent Auditors' Report on DHS' FY2014 Financial Statements and Internal Control over Financial Reporting," November 2014, p. 1.


Statement of John Roth, Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security, before the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, "Assessing DHS' Performance: Watchdog Recommendations to Improve Homeland Security," February 26, 2015, p. 6.


Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security, OIG-15-10, "Independent Auditors' Report on DHS' FY2014 Financial Statements and Internal Control over Financial Reporting," November 2014, p.2


U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Homeland Security Headquarters Facilities, 111th Cong., 2nd sess., March 25, 2010 (Washington: GPO, 2010), pp. 335-366.


"St. Elizabeths Development Revised Baseline," document provided by DHS, June 12, 2013.


"Prospectus—Construction: Department of Homeland Security Consolidation at St. Elizabeths, Washington DC," PDC-0002-WA14, p. 14 as downloaded from


U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Strategic Plan Fiscal Years 2012-2016 (Washington, DC: February 2012), pp. 25-26, available at


A September 2014, article in the Washington Post reported that: "During the Obama years, the outflow of personnel has accelerated, according to the FedScope database of federal employees maintained by the Office of Personnel Management. Between 2010 and 2013, the number of annual departures of permanent employees from DHS increased 31 percent, compared with a 17 percent increase for the government overall. Members of the Senior Executive Service—the government's top career managers—also are leaving DHS at a much higher rate. In 2013, SES departures were up 56 percent from the year before. By contrast, the rate for the government as a whole was virtually unchanged." (Jerry Markon, Ellen Nakashima and Alice Crites, "Top-level Turnover Makes It Harder for DHS to Stay on Top of Evolving Threats," Washington Post, September 21, 2014, available at In response, Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a statement that noted, in part: "In fact, over the last nine months there have been 12 presidential appointments to senior-level positions in this Department. Each of these appointees [has] pledged to serve until at least the end of this Administration. In fact, 90 percent of all positions at the SES level and above across this 240,000-person Department are now filled." (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, DHS Press Office, "Statement by Secretary Johnson About Today's Washington Post Story on DHS," September 22, 2014, available at The current incumbents of executive positions in the department, including those officials who are serving in an "Acting" capacity, are listed on a "Leadership" page on the DHS website, available at


Vacancies in executive positions at DHS have been discussed during hearings conducted by the House of Representatives and the Senate. For example, see U.S. Congress, House Committee on Homeland Security, Help Wanted at DHS: Implications of Leadership Vacancies on the Mission and Morale, Hearing, 113th Cong., 1st sess., (Washington: GPO, December 12, 2013), available at U.S. Senate, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Nomination of Hon. Jeh C. Johnson, Hearing, 113th Cong., 1st sess., (Washington: GPO, November 13, 2013), available at


U.S. Office of Personnel Management, "A Guide to the Strategic Leadership Succession Management Model," (Washington, DC: OPM, March 2009), p. 1, available at


Ibid., p. 5.


U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Hearing, Keeping the Nation Safe Through the Presidential Transition, 110th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO, September 18, 2008), p. 30, available at


U.S. Congress, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement, Hearing, Passing the Baton: Preparing for the Presidential Transition, 110th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO, September 24, 2008), available at


Ibid., pp. 210-211.


National Academy of Public Administration, A Report by a Panel of the National Academy of Public Administration, "Addressing the 2009 Presidential Transition at the Department of Homeland Security" (Washington: NAPA, June 2008), pp. 82-86, available at


On January 28, 2015, the Congressional Research Service requested information from DHS on its succession plan and current succession management activities underway, but the department has not yet provided a response.


The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer webpage is available at


This section of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey includes nine questions: (63) How satisfied are you with your involvement in decisions that affect your work?; (64) How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what's going on in your organization?; (65) How satisfied are you with the recognition you receive for doing a good job?; (66) How satisfied are you with the policies and practices of your senior leaders?; (67) How satisfied are you with your opportunity to get a better job in your organization?; (68) How satisfied are you with the training you receive for your present job?; (69) Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job?; (70) Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your pay?; and (71) Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization?


U.S. Office of Personnel Management, "2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Employees Influencing Change," Published Reports, select "Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey 2014: FedView Report by Agency," then select the second PDF file, Question 69. The published reports page is available at and includes information on the survey methodology. The specific percentages for each response category were: "Very satisfied" (14.3%), "Satisfied" (38.8%), "Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied" (20.9%), "Dissatisfied" (15.9%), and "Very Dissatisfied" (10.1%).


Ibid. Question 71. The specific percentages for each response category were: "Very satisfied" (9.6%), "Satisfied" (32.1%), "Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied" (23.1%), "Dissatisfied" (20.0%), and "Very Dissatisfied" (15.1%).


The results for the earlier years are included with the 2014 results.


The Unlocking Federal Talent Dashboard is available to agencies with an assigned user name and password at


The "Employee Engagement and Satisfaction" page will allow managers to "view employee scores (i.e., rating satisfaction with supervisors and peers, with their jobs and pay levels)" by office or department and easily compare office "scores to government-wide averages, or, compare them to earlier years' scores as a way of gauging progress-or lack of progress-over time." U.S. Office of Personnel Management, "OPM Releases Dashboard," News Release, July 15, 2014, available at


See Jerry Markon, "DHS Tackles Endless Morale Problems With Seemingly Endless Studies," Washington Post, February 20, 2015, available at—repeatedly/2015/02/20/f626eba8-b15c-11e4-886b-c22184f27c35_story.html.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "Homeland Security Advisory Council—New Tasking," 79 Federal Register 64399, October 29, 2014, available at


According to the report, "employee engagement has three primary elements: (1) emotional and rational commitment to the job and the organization; (2) discretionary effort that produces sustained goal-directed performance; and (3) satisfaction from the job and its context." U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, "Federal Employee Engagement: The Motivating Potential of Job Characteristics and Rewards" (Washington: MSPB, December 2012), p. 2, available at


Ibid., pp. 33-34.


U.S. Congress, House Committee on Homeland Security, Help Wanted at DHS: Implications of Leadership Vacancies on the Mission and Morale, Hearing, 113th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington: GPO, December 12, 2013), pp. 58-59, available at


U.S. Senate, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Nomination of Hon. Jeh C. Johnson, Hearing, 113th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington: GPO, November 13, 2013), p. 20, available at


A Management Directive and an Instruction Guide for the program were issued by DHS in August 2008. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, DHS Directives System, Directive 084-01, "Department of Homeland Security Loaned Executive Program," August 4, 2008, available at U.S. Department of Homeland Security, DHS Directives System, Instruction 084-01-001, "Instruction Guide on the Department of Homeland Security Loaned Executive Program," August 7, 2008, available at


U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "Loaned Executive Program," February 6, 2015, available at


U.S. Department of Homeland Security, DHS Press Office, "DHS Loaned Executive Program Begins to Improve the Travel Experience for Commercial Aviation Travelers," November 14, 2014, available at


The executive will serve a six-month assignment with the option for a renewal of six months. See "Senior Advisor, Lifeline Functions Restoration, FEMA Region VIII," available at


The civil servants were selected from the Leadership Directory database and were generally in General Schedule (GS) grades GS-13 and above. Respondents were not identified.


National Academy of Public Administration and ICF International, "Federal Leaders Digital Insight Study," January 13, 2015, p. 1, available at The definition did not include the underlying information technology systems "that provide infrastructure or computing platforms." (Hereinafter referred to as Digital Insight Study.)


Digital Insight Study, p. 3. ICF administered the survey between August 28, 2014, and September 26, 2014, and sent it to 8,967 Federal Leaders by electronic mail.


Examples of such offices or positions that were listed in the report were: Offices/Directors of Digital Strategy/Digital Programs/Digital Trends/Digital Communications; Innovation Offices; Digital Diplomacy/e-Diplomacy Office; Departments/Centers for New Media; Social Media Engagement Specialists/Managers; Customer Relations Officers/Managers; E-Commerce/Shoppers Insight Division; and Cyber Czar.


Digital Insight Study, pp. 9-10.


Digital Insight Study, p. 10.


U.S. Office of Personnel Management, "2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Employees Influencing Change," Published Reports, select "Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey 2014: FedView Report by Agency," then select the second PDF file, Question 68. The published reports page is available at and includes information on the survey methodology. The specific percentages for each response category were: "Very satisfied" (9.0%), "Satisfied" (34.6%), "Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied" (23.6%), "Dissatisfied" (19.5%), and "Very Dissatisfied" (13.4%).


For specific details on the Interagency Council on Veterans Employment and the Veterans Employment Initiative, see U.S. President (Obama), "Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government," Executive Order 13518, 74 Federal Register 58533-58536, November 13, 2009, available at


Ibid, p. 58535.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "Veterans and Homeland Security," August 26, 2014, available at


U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "Departmental Management and Operations, Strategic Context, Fiscal Year 2016 Congressional Justification" (Washington: DHS, February 2015), p. DMO-6, embedded within the "Congressional Budget Justification FY2016," available at