President Barack Obama may outline his plans for the entire federal government over the next year in his State of the Union address Wednesday night, but Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano provided reporters with an overview of her department’s priorities in 2010 in a press conference Tuesday.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will place an extraordinary focus on aviation security, border security, information sharing, and immigration reform as the Obama administration enters its second year, Napolitano said, speaking at DHS headquarters in Washington, DC.
The attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Flight 253 by suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab continues to dominate the department’s agenda, Napolitano confirmed. The attack created a renewed sense of urgency among US and international agencies to combat terrorism through all instruments of nationalpower, including diplomacy, military, intelligence, and law enforcement, she added.
"In that fight, the Department of Homeland Security’s role is very clear. Protect air travelers, prevent illegal entry, enforce our immigration laws, and utilize local law enforcement as a force multiplier by sharing intelligence and information with them," Napolitano commented. "So in 2010, the Department of Homeland Security will pursue an ambitious agenda in each of those four areas."
To bolster aviation security, Napolitano vowed to add new technologies, more law enforcement, and more canine teams to US airports.
But, she cautioned, DHS would be foolish to concentrate on aviation security just because the last attack occurred in the air.
"That’s why in 2010, we are going to build on the unprecedented effort we exerted in 2009 to deploy resources on the southwestern border and to strengthen security along the northern border," Napolitano said, noting the need to increase security at US land and sea ports through additional law enforcement personnel, physical infrastructure, and technology.
DHS also will increase its efforts to share intelligence and information with state and local law enforcement agencies, she said.
"Additionally, we will be working to improve information sharing with our federal, state, tribal, and territorial law enforcement partners through a robust network of fusion centers and joint terrorism task forces. Our goal is to give that front line of law enforcement the tools they need to confront and to disrupt terrorist threats," Napolitano remarked.
Napolitano also promised that the administration had not forgotten about immigration reform. Changes to US immigration law are necessary to ensure "effective national security" by bringing illegal immigrants out of the shadows, the secretary said.
As such, the department is continuing to work with Congress to introduce bills that would enact comprehensive immigration reform this year.
While announcements on these activities will be forthcoming within weeks, DHS also will continue to tackle high priorities in cybersecurity, weapons of mass destruction, and emergency response–among other areas, Napolitano acknowledged.