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Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards

The Homeland Security Today awards annually recognize the people who devote their lives to protecting our people, our resources, and our way of life. From heroic efforts on duty to invaluable efforts behind the scenes, annually we gather to celebrate excellence, honor, and the daily successes of those working on the front lines and in a support capacity to ensure the safety of all Americans. We are proud to honor the following 2021 award recipients.


HOMELAND SECURITY PERSON OF THE YEAR


The GTSC Homeland Security Today Person of the Year is awarded to people who serve the homeland security mission in an exemplary fashion. These individuals have directly improved, executed, and/or engaged the proper people, agencies, or departments necessary to tangibly improve the nation’s prevention, protection, mitigation, or response capacity to make America safer. 

PERSON OF THE YEAR: NATIONAL

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayThis year, the Homeland Security Today Person of the Year – National award is not for one individual who is serving, and has served, the homeland security mission in an exemplary fashion. This year it’s the entirety of the men and women of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The workforce of more than 60,000 has steadfastly focused on mission under the most arduous of conditions, during a time of humanitarian crises and natural disasters as well as a pandemic that has killed dozens of CBP employees. In addition to adjusting workforce posture and health protocols to help protect workers for whom social distancing is often not an option, testing, diagnosis, isolation, and treatment protocols and partnerships have been developed for migrants. The Border Patrol has responded to surges along the southwest border, including rescuing migrants caught in treacherous environments and at the mercy of ruthless human smugglers or traffickers. In September, an influx of a large number of migrants who converged at the international bridge in Del Rio, Texas, swelled to more than 15,000 people, necessitating a department-wide effort to process and clear the encampment. The large number of expulsions during the pandemic has also contributed to a larger-than-usual number of migrants making multiple border crossing attempts. Passenger vehicle and pedestrian travel continue to be significantly higher than during comparable periods from the height of the pandemic in 2020. Commercial truck transit is higher than pre-pandemic levels as the supply chain works through strains.

In addition to handling these increases, CBP also has the critical responsibility of enforcing U.S. trade laws prior to merchandise arriving at U.S. ports of entry, once merchandise arrives at our ports, and even after merchandise is released into the U.S. marketplace – balancing the facilitation of legitimate trade that supports economic growth with the duty to shield the American public and businesses from unsafe products, intellectual property theft, and unfair trade practices. With $2.28 trillion in imports for FY 2021 as of July 30, CBP has helped ensure products are compliant with human rights through the issuance of withhold release orders and findings to prevent merchandise produced using forced labor from being imported into the United States. CBP agriculture specialists help protect America’s agriculture, natural resources, and economic prosperity with more than 6,000 emergency action notifications in September alone for restricted and prohibited plant and animal products entering the country. CBP officers, Border Patrol agents, and Air and Marine Operations agents continue to interdict the flow of illicit narcotics across the border; with approximately 1,800 federal agents and mission support personnel, 240 aircraft, and 300 marine vessels operating throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AMO seized or disrupted 285,976 pounds of narcotics, seized $51.5 million, and contributed to the apprehensions of 47,813 individuals and rescue of 184 persons in FY 2020.

The CBP frontline team is backed by dedicated personnel working to ensure that technology is deployed, partnerships with industry are forged, intelligence is gathered and put to use, and data is processed and delivered to enable efficient decision-making. The tireless commitment of CBP helps protect our nation from threats every day regardless of the challenges faced by the men and women behind the scenes and on the front lines. In addition to maintaining day-to-day missions, the agency has had numerous individuals who have focused on outreach and communication with the public and industry. From forward-leaning public affairs professionals like Maggie Myers and Kimberley Weissman, to those in procurement like Diane Sahakian, Earl Lewis, Ramona Watts-Sutton, Richard Gunderson, and Michael Amaral to mission-centered staff like CIO Sonny Bhagowalia, Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, OFO Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner Diane Sabatino, James Mandryck, David Hansen, Kathleen Scudder, Scott Miller, Dave Fluty, AMO Executive Director Jon Miller, CTO Sunil Madhugiri, and Benjamine “Carry” Huffman, the agency has worked to offer the highest level of transparency and collaboration to achieve the mission of a secure border.

PERSON OF THE YEAR: STATE

District Fire Chief Robert Palestrant, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayChief Bob Palestrant began his public safety career in 1977 as a Florida state-certified Emergency Medical Technician. Through his career, he established the Miami-Dade County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program, was a founding member of the Florida CERT Association Board of Directors, coordinated multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional responses to disasters and large-scale emergencies, and oversaw planning for emergency mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery efforts for natural and both accidental and deliberate human-caused disasters. During his tenure in OEM&HS, Chief Palestrant also sought up-and-coming firefighters to mentor and develop future leaders in homeland security. As Chief of the new Domestic Preparedness Division, he managed the Hazardous Materials, Technical Rescue, and Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) Bureaus. He created a Terrorism Response Bureau responsible for all homeland security-related issues and management of major pre-planned events and worked closely with Miami-Dade Police Department colleagues in 2008 to bring the Terrorism Liaison Officer (TLO) program to fruition. Palestrant also led the efforts to become first fire department in the Southeast United States to actively participate in a Fusion Center. He was also successful in developing and implementing the Tactical Paramedic and Rapid Deployment Force programs.

Palestrant is involved in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), the U.S Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) Anti-Terrorism Workgroup, the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Working Group, the SERDSTF Critical Infrastructure Workgroup, and the FBI Special Events Networking Group (SENG). In 2013, he joined the Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services as the District Fire Chief at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport. He also serves as a Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Office for Bombing Prevention (OBP) Bomb-Making Materials Awareness Program (BMAP) Administrator/Trainer, one of the National Fusion Center Association (NFCA) Sub-Committee on Fusion Liaison Officer (FLO) Program Southeast Region Co-Chairs, and one of the Interagency Fire Intelligence Exchange (IFIX) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region IV representatives. He is a Certified Emergency Manager through the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), holds a master’s degree in Homeland Security from American Military University (AMU), and is an adjunct Instructor for Emergency Management and Homeland Security at Barry University.

PERSON OF THE YEAR: LOCAL

Commander Robert Glover, Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayOver the past year Commander Robert Glover of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has demonstrated outstanding leadership in both the response and protection fields of Homeland Security. Glover serves as the commanding official of MPD’s Special Operations Division. Additionally, Glover served as MPD’s lead planner for security planning and response related to the 2021 Presidential Inauguration. In this role, Glover coordinated MPD’s planning efforts for the National Special Security Event (NSSE), served as a key representative on the NSSE Security Executive Steering Committee, and managed the development of the District’s operational security plan for the inauguration. His in-depth, historical knowledge of special event planning and past presidential inaugurations, as well as leveraging interagency relationships with numerous federal, state, and local agencies, was invaluable to coordinate the complicated and complex task of inaugural security planning. As the inaugural planning process was underway, the murder of George Floyd occurred in Minneapolis, which led to large-scale First Amendment demonstrations across the nation and in the District of Columbia. These demonstrations occurred throughout the summer of 2020, several of which ended in rioting. Glover served as the MPD Incident Commander during these incidents and several other large-scale First Amendment demonstrations related to the presidential elections. During these events Glover was key in spearheading MPD’s coordination and response efforts with our federal and regional law enforcement partners. Glover was instrumental in leading the MPD officers as they facilitated peaceful First Amendment demonstrations and restored order to the District of Columbia. Glover also served as the MPD Incident Commander on Jan. 6, 2021, and responded to the United States Capitol Police’s request for assistance during the insurrection at the Capitol. Once arriving at the Capitol, the commander’s leadership was instrumental in directing the women and men of the Metropolitan Police Department to restore order at the United States Capitol, allowing Congress to fulfill their constitutional duties.

As head of the Special Operations Division, Glover oversees the Emergency Response Team, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit, Harbor Patrol, Canine Unit, Domestic Security Operations Unit, Motor Carrier Unit, Harbor Patrol Unit, Air Support Unit, Horse Mounted Unit, Canine Unit, Planning Unit, Special Events Unit, and the Traffic Safety and Specialized Enforcement Branch. Glover began his career with the Metropolitan Police Department as a recruit in 1994. His first assignment upon graduating was as a patrol officer in the First District. In 2016, Robert Glover was named Captain of the Special Events Branch. He was promoted to Inspector in 2020.


HOMELAND SECURITY LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD


The Honorable Secretary Michael Chertoff, Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Founder, The Chertoff Group

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodaySince the beginning of his public career in 1983 as a prosecutor in the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York to his present role as Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of The Chertoff Group, Secretary Michael Chertoff has dedicated his career to ensuring the safety and security of our nation. While he is best known as the second United States Secretary of Homeland Security he amassed a multitude of accomplishments before and after his tenure as Secretary. His dedication to making the United States a safer nation both pre- and post-9/11 makes him uniquely qualified for this Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1990 Chertoff was selected by President George H.W. Bush as the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey. In 2001 Chertoff was appointed to lead the criminal division of the Department of Justice and served in this position until 2003. He led the federal prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui for his role in conspiring to kill Americans as part of the Sept. 11 attack. In 2005 President-elect George W. Bush nominated Chertoff to replace Tom Ridge as the Secretary of Homeland Security. Bush highlighted his experience crafting post-9/11 terror legislation including the Patriot Act among Chertoff’s qualifications for the position. Chertoff was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 15, 2005.

While serving as Secretary of Homeland Security, Chertoff was instrumental in toughening security at our borders, airports and shipping ports, improving our response to cyber attacks, protecting and preserving the nation’s critical infrastructure, and instilling in the minds of Americans that our nation was safer and our government leaders were working tirelessly to that end. Chertoff’s years at DHS solidified his understanding of the principals of sound risk management. It was with this in mind that he founded The Chertoff Group in 2009. Using unmatched industry insights around security technology, global threats, strategy and public policy, The Chertoff Group’s mission is to enable a more secure world. The firm’s clients are able to use these insights to build resilient organizations, gain competitive advantage and accelerate growth.

Secretary Chertoff’s career has been dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of our country and in 2021, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, he stands out for his steadfast dedication to ensuring that such an event never occurs again. Chertoff also stands as a mentor for many other professionals who have followed in his footsteps and been inspired to pursue careers that serve the public good and enable us all to have a future that is more secure than our past.


FEDERAL SMALL BUSINESS CHAMPION


Federal Small Business Champion of the Year is awarded annually to a federal official who shows a distinct commitment and tangible results toward improving the environment and success for small businesses in the federal homeland and national security market.

Anna Urman, Senior Procurement Analyst, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, U.S. State Department

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayAs a Senior Procurement Analyst at OSDBU, Anna Urman focuses on the HUBZone Program and guides relationships that enable the Department of State to meet and exceed its small business goals. The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) works with industry partners, the acquisition corps, and program offices to maximize prime and subcontracting opportunities for U.S. small businesses. The office’s efforts help maintain a viable and innovative industrial base, promote worldwide economic development, and support mission critical functions for every bureau within the Department of State. OSDBU conducts several annual outreach activities, including a subcontracting workshop/networking session, and participates in small-business procurement fairs, conferences, workshops, and seminars. Additionally, OSDBU conducts internal training with the DoS contracting workforce to ensure awareness of, and compliance with, small-business requirements.

A self-identified procurement “geek,” Urman has done a tremendous job on behalf of the Department of State to provide transparent communications, engage small- and mid-tier government contracting companies, and collaborate with organizations working to increase the variety and market around offerings to State. In addition to her forward-leaning approach on LinkedIn, Urman is relentless in her pursuit of the greatest amount of competition and finding the best services for State. She does this by reaching out to the people and organizations that can help her share and spread new opportunities within the department and by educating industry on how to do business with the agency. She is always open to sharing information and is a testament to the exceptional procurement team at the State Department.


MARKET MAVEN


Presented to an exceptional individual who contributes in a concrete and tangible way to the efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness of the homeland and national security market. Proven as a thought leader with a belief in increasing individual opportunity, the power of free enterprise and the nurture of innovation to advance and support the homeland and national security mission.

Luke McCormack, Former Chief Information Officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security Today

The Market Maven award is given to an individual that supports and enhances the homeland security market. Luke McCormack, former CIO of DHS, has certainly done that in support of the cybersecurity market. In addition to chairing the planning committee for Cyber Days 2021, McCormack moderated and engaged on developing subject-specific panels to educate and clarify some of the most challenging areas of cybersecurity for GTSC members and industry at large. Serving on the Board of Advisors, McCormack also highlighted areas of emerging concern in cyber throughout the year and supported numerous connections for both GTSC and Homeland Security Today. Since leaving government, McCormack has been an instrumental actor to forward the cybersecurity mission and market.

In his years at DHS,  McCormack oversaw DHS’ continuing efforts to implement information technology (IT) enhancements and strengthen IT security. He has extensive IT and leadership experience, previously serving at the Department of Justice as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Information Resources Management/Chief Information Officer. From 2005 to 2012, he served as CIO for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and from 1999 to 2005, he served Customs and Border Protection, moving from Director of Systems Engineering, to Director of Architecture and Engineering, to Acting Director of Infrastructure Services Division.


ACQUISITION EXCELLENCE


The Acquisition Excellence awards recognize a division, agency or effort that has improved the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of the acquisition of technology, products or services that support the frontline missions of homeland security. Projects must demonstrate tangible benefits and improved efficiency in the acquisition process.

FEDERAL

Heather M. Santiago, Director, Subterranean Portfolio, United States Border Patrol, and Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayHeather M. Santiago began her federal service at U.S. Customs and Border Protection 12 years ago as a management analyst, where her talent and work ethic were immediately noticed and rewarded with promotions to positions of increasing responsibility. After only a little over a decade at the agency, Santiago is now the Subterranean Portfolio Director at U.S. Border Patrol’s Program Management Office Directorate, in addition to being detailed as a Senior Advisor to the Office of the Secretary, Department of Homeland Security. As Portfolio Director, Santiago has led three programs critical to the success of the USBP. She led the acquisition and field deployment of the Linear Ground Detection System, driving a high-tech, revolutionary approach to human, animal, and vehicle identification and tracking along the entire land border. She also drove efforts to deploy new persistent systems and mobile technology to create a new holistic approach under the Cross Border Tunnel Threat Program to improve subterranean situational awareness in high-threat areas. Additionally, Santiago began the establishment of a Program of Record for Unattended Ground Sensors – a key step in creating an enduring acquisition program.

As a result of her impact during her service as a management and budget senior advisor and deputy chief of staff for DHS’ Blue Campaign to combat human trafficking, Santiago most recently was offered and accepted a detail to the Office of the Secretary to support President Biden’s executive order on the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families. As a result of her performance, the office requested her detail be extended an additional five months to stabilize and further this critical effort. Additionally, Santiago was selected for and recently completed the DHS Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program – a prestigious and highly selective 18-month program to prepare individuals for potential selection for the Senior Executive Service.

STATE

Elizabeth Snyder, Deputy Commissioner, New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayElizabeth Snyder serves as the Deputy Commissioner for Administration and Finance for the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. In this capacity, she oversees the day-to-day administrative functions for the agency such as human resources, risk management, and finance, and she manages the agency’s $4.9 billion budget, which includes hundreds of millions in federal homeland security grant funding used to support state and local emergency preparedness efforts. During the COVID-19 response, she led numerous teams and critical projects, all while maintaining her responsibilities as deputy commissioner. This has resulted in working extremely long days and weekends for many weeks straight. This work has included oversight of emergency procurement activities associated with the state’s mortuary affairs initiatives, testing and vaccination sites, and the collection and review of thousands of procurement records. Snyder also led efforts to procure PPE for New York’s first responders, medical professionals, and others.

Snyder’s ability to handle both the day-to-day agency operations and crisis response efforts is impressive and helps to set her apart from her peers. Her desire to solve problems, often with new and creative solutions, is also a hallmark of Snyder’s approach. For example, during COVID-19, the state was experiencing a major shortage of key response resources (i.e., refrigerated trucks) and it was Snyder’s idea to reach out to private-sector partners (grocery stores, in this case) to see if they would be willing to donate resources. Sure enough, private-sector partners were willing to help and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of response resources. Additionally, no job is too small. She has personally counted and sorted agency PPE deliveries to ensure accurate amounts were received.


MOST INNOVATIVE CAMPAIGN TO INCREASE SECURITY


People around the nation are working to find creative and engaging ways to help the public understand and prepare for any eventuality. Educating the public about homeland priorities, threats, and vulnerabilities is a critical part of the security equation. The Most Innovative Campaign to Improve Security recognizes a federal, state, local, or private-sector campaign that has increased awareness and preparedness for a threat that requires the partnerships to mitigate and prevent physical or cyber attack, disaster preparedness, human trafficking, infrastructure protection, supply-chain security or any threat to the country.

Dereck Orr, Division Chief of the Public Safety Communications Division, Communications Technology Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayDereck Orr and the entire Public Safety Research Division at NIST are recognized for the establishment of a nationwide research and development ecosystem devoted to public safety communications, uniting industry, academia, and public-sector resources to meet the needs of the U.S. public safety community. Orr’s leadership has been critical for advancing interoperable, state-of-the-art communications technologies for first responders through the development of technologies, measurements, and standards to ensure rigorous metrics for U.S. public safety communications infrastructure. It is the vision and dedication of Orr that has resulted in the growth of the program from a handful of NIST researchers into an international network of public- and private-sector entities devoted to the adoption of broadband technologies that are capable of meeting the public safety community’s challenging demands.

The mission of NIST’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division is to accelerate the adoption and implementation of the most critical communications capabilities to ensure that first responders can more effectively carry out their mission to protect lives and property during day-to-day operations, large-scale events, and emergencies. PSCR supports this mission by leading internal research efforts across NIST as well as supporting extramural research to deliver impactful results on the products and services developed for future public safety communications. The 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act charged NIST with utilizing up to $300 million of funds allocated from spectrum auction revenue to establish an R&D program to support the development and deployment of FirstNet. Although these funds were not available to NIST until 2017, Orr immediately embarked on a nationwide campaign to solicit input from stakeholders regarding barriers to adopting broadband communications by the public safety community. Orr led a formal process of engagement with stakeholders, including public safety practitioners (police, fire, emergency medical service), industry, and academia as well as local, state, and federal government agencies to prioritize research needs. Using the NIST public safety roadmaps as a guide, Orr established the Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program (PSIAP) to sponsor grant opportunities and open innovation prize challenges in key technology areas. To date, PSIAP has awarded approximately $60M in prize challenges and grants to over 150 external organizations. Key to the success of Orr’s program is the measurable impact on emergency responders’ ability to save lives and property more effectively with broadband technologies.

His longstanding commitment to the public safety community has been recognized by several prestigious awards, including the 2019 Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International Leadership in Advocacy Award and 2015 National Public Safety Telecommunications Council Leadership Award, as well as Department of Commerce Gold and Silver Medals. Orr has testified before House and Senate committees on five separate occasions as the NIST lead expert for public safety communications. From 2003 to 2004, Mr. Orr was detailed to the Department of Homeland Security to serve as the Chief of Staff for SAFECOM Office. Orr’s dedicated support of the public safety community is well-deserving of recognition.


CITIZEN OF MISSION


The Citizen of Mission award goes to an individual who devotes their personal time, energy, and resources to work for causes related to homeland security. Volunteers, nonprofit leaders, corporate employees — anyone is eligible for nomination as long as they devote time and dedicated effort to supporting the homeland mission.

Christopher Allan Smith, Emmy-Award Winning Director, Writer and Director of A High and Awful Price: Lessons Learned from the Camp Fire

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayAn Emmy-Award Winning documentarian, Christopher Allan Smith lived in Paradise, Calif., with his family until the Camp Fire consumed his home in November 2018. Smith took his talents and devoted them to helping others learn from the tragedy on the Paradise Ridge: Since then, he has been conducting interviews and research into the history of the fire as well as the lessons taken by first responders, civilians, government officials and private disaster planners, with an eye toward producing multiple projects based on those lessons. Smith writes a column for Homeland Security Today on disaster preparedness and recovery incorporating lessons learned in Paradise.

Currently he is director/producer on Three Days in Paradise, a docu-series on the causes, impacts and effects of the Camp Fire and the stories of the people who predicted it, the people who fought it and those who survived and those who did not. He also acted as a Field Producer for Ron Howard’s Rebuilding Paradise as well as the writer/director of the PBS broadcast documentary A High and Awful Price: Lessons Learned from the Camp Fire. He is the owner and founder of RocketSpots.tv, a video production company that produces a wide range of documentary, promotional and online projects.


MOST VALUABLE PLAYER


The MVP award is given to an official or team that modernizes and improves the operations and performance of an agency, component, program or division to increase capacity, speed delivery, use innovation and improve performance. These leaders also focus on the future – developing strategies and plans to address our constantly changing, dynamic threat environment. 

Ben Wenger, Acting Assistant Associate Director, Field Operations Directorate, Program Management Office, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayBen Wenger is the Acting Assistant Associate Director for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Field Operations Directorate (FOD) Program Management Office (PMO). FOD’s PMO was established to coordinate and manage implementation of the USCIS Service Adjudication Blueprint, which is the graphical representation of FOD’s strategic operating plan for modernizing and improving operations and organizational performance. Core concepts supporting the Blueprint include creating greater operational flexibilities and increasing capacity to process immigration benefit requests at USCIS field offices, accelerating the speed of services delivered to customers, and increasing the use of innovation to improve performance.

A few examples of how the FOD PMO has achieved these concepts:

  • Operational flexibilities and processing capacity were expanded by reimagining where certain types of customer service are best and most appropriately provided, so FOD can focus on interviewing immigration benefits applicants, which is FOD’s essential and most value-added function.
  • The rate of services delivered to applicants was accelerated by enhancing the ability of field offices to share workloads, better aligning resources with workloads, and enabling field offices with less capacity to focus on immigration benefit interviews and timely adjudication decisions.
  • Performance was improved through innovation, development, and implementation in leveraging available data to make risk-based determinations, applying automation where applicable, that can be further leveraged downstream in USCIS’ business processes to enhance the allocation of resources.

The FOD PMO continues to be among USCIS’ most innovative leaders by focusing on the future and developing strategies and plans to address the ever evolving business and operational landscape. In a recent example, the FOD PMO, in partnership with other USCIS directorates and program offices, rapidly deployed the use of video-facilitated interview functionality in field offices to enable the continued delivery of services to USCIS customers, while enhancing employee and public health and safety during the COVID pandemic.

President’s Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families: DHS, HHS, DOJ and State Department

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayE.O. 14011 directs the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families (Task Force) to identify children who were separated due to previous immigration policy and facilitate and enable the reunification of the families. In its first 120 days, the Task Force (1) identified nearly all of the children who were separated from their parents as a result of the Zero-Tolerance Policy and related initiatives, (2) established a reunification process for these families, and (3) began reunifying parents and legal guardians with their separated children in the United States. The Task Force is also exploring options to provide additional services and support to reunited families. As of October 2021, the Task Force has facilitated the reunification of 50 children with their separated parents in the United States and provided the families access to behavioral health services. The Task Force has made significant progress establishing services to support the reunification process and making it easier for families to self-identify and complete the steps necessary to facilitate reunification.

Completed action items include:

  • Launching the Together.gov/Juntos.gov website to provide separated families an explanation of who may qualify for family reunification and how to request assistance from the Task Force. Eligible families who register on the website are connected to Task Force resources in their home country to facilitate family reunification. Separated families are encouraged to register on the site to start the reunification process.
  • Committing to support the U.S. Department of State (State) Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration’s (State/PRM) project with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to locate separated family members outside of the U.S. and help register eligible participants.
  • Implementing a contract with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide support and direct assistance to families in requesting parole and making travel arrangements.
  • Posting a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) request for solicitations to continue offering behavioral health screenings and appropriate treatment for behavioral health conditions for reunified families.

Now that the online website and support services are available, the Task Force anticipates more families will come forward to seek reunification. As of October 2021, 132 individuals have registered through the website for Task Force consideration and 35 separated parents were confirmed to be in scope and forwarded for IOM support and processing.


EXCELLENCE IN OUTREACH


Much of partnership requires knowledge and understanding. Communication between industry and government to achieve the best products and services requires outreach in all stages: requirements building, request for information, effective industry days, outreach through engagement and much more. The Excellence in Outreach award recognizes the agency, department, team or individual that has excelled at engaging, explaining and educating to benefit the mission of securing the nation.

LCDR Anthony Borruso, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Admissions Recruiting Branch

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayIn the ongoing effort to recruit and influence the best and brightest minds seeking a college education as well as a career in federal service, the Coast Guard Academy Admissions Recruiting Branch led by Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Anthony Borruso achieved historic results even in the face of the numerous challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic when constructing the Coast Guard Academy Class of 2025, which reported to the Coast Guard Academy this summer. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy serves as the home of the Coast Guard’s Commissioned Officer Corps, responsible for providing 100 percent of the officer leadership who go on to command ships, units, aircraft and facilities, but most importantly lead the workforce in USCG’s 11 statutory missions. For a service with a defined national and international presence, with a workforce equivalent to the size of the New York Police Department, significant challenges exist annually as the Coast Guard Academy works to educate the public about the amazing opportunities associated with the 200-week leadership, academic, military and athletic development program offered on the Academy’s 103 acres. As the Coast Guard Academy program is responsible for 50 percent of the officers accessed into the service, it is the work of a 22-member office that makes the difference in the quality of students brought into the Coast Guard Academy annually to begin their development journey. On an even smaller scale, the work done by a six-member component within the Academy Admissions Division sets the direction for all activities and ultimately solidifies final results for incoming classes.

Between January 2020 and July 2021, LCDR Anthony Borruso led the Recruitment Branch of Academy Admissions with determination, distinction, and excellence resulting in the most historic incoming class in the institution’s distinguished history, properly representing the nation that we serve. All this was achieved throughout the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, utilizing methods, tactics and technology never employed before in annual recruiting methods achieving service-changing results. With an appointed class made up of 44 percent female selectees and 41 percent underrepresented minorities, the Academy Recruitment branch proved that the targeted approach of frequent quality interactions in the virtual battlespace was a method of best practice in the effort to win hearts and minds as it related to students’ future options not only on their college choice but also in their choice of career. Influencing over 5,000 college-bound students from across the United States on the benefits of federal service, the Academy Recruiting Branch under LCDR Borruso’s Leadership managed to develop and hone a final applicant pool of just over 2,000 diverse students from 47 U.S. States and multiple territories.

COVID-19 restrictions took away the ability for traditional recruitment practices such as traveling to attend college recruitment events or inviting students and their parents to visit the Coast Guard Academy for themselves in order to make the most informed decision. LCDR Borruso ensured his team had the right tools, training, and drive to conduct multiple virtual recruitment and outreach events, 7 days a week, at all hours of the day to respect all time zones, bringing in the maximum number of participants for every event. This monumental effort, although exhaustive not only due to the frequent virtual presentations offered but also due to the dedicated customer service effort with rapid response times to the multitude of phone calls and emails, demonstrated the highest level of dedication to recruitment and outreach never before seen in the arena of Service Academy recruitment.

Michael Johnson, Division Chief, Digital Engagement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Public Affairs

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayMichael Johnson, Division Director within Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Public Affairs, has been leading the effort to modernize and change business processes inside of ICE to deliver a comprehensive and integrated set of digital experience solutions, analytics, social and cross-channel insights resulting in faster and efficient delivery of ICE’s story to the public. ICE wanted to ensure that the public, media, Congress, community groups and other law enforcement entities understood the ICE mission, accomplishments and challenges related to securing America’s borders. ICE sought to become better understood through increased outreach and branding so that public sentiment will improve, people seeking law enforcement careers will pursue working at ICE, and employees can feel safe, thrive, be their best selves, and focus on the mission.

Like other law enforcement organizations, ICE is challenged with understanding the effectiveness of digital media campaigns across the ICE website and various social media organizations, and Johnson has been instrumental in bridging this gap. Understanding what various news organizations are reporting about ICE and what the public sentiment is around the stories was also needed. Additionally, ICE wanted to understand who its followers are and how to reach more of the public to improve public sentiment. It is very important for ICE Office of Public Affairs to deliver a positive, engaging and informative message while building trust with the public, media, community groups and others. Delivering the best measurable digital campaign and information to the right person at the right time requires the right combination of data, insights and digital content, and Johnson took up that challenge.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Industry Partnerships 

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayThe mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Industry Partnerships is to engage industry and facilitate partnerships with private-sector innovators to advance commercial technology solutions that address homeland security challenges. Forming, strengthening, and maintaining solid relationships between industry, researchers, and other relevant stakeholders is essential to ensuring genuine participation and engagement. Industry Partnerships intimately understands that S&T relies on private-sector partners to jointly identify and develop innovative technologies for homeland security and is committed to diversifying the network of innovators best positioned to meet DHS challenges via research and development programs. The S&T innovation funding programs incentivize industry to help solve critical homeland security challenges in non-traditional ways, while its engagement opportunities inform and educate innovators about mission and program areas.
 
Over the past three years, Industry Partnerships has successfully evolved and broadened their engagement and outreach activities, connecting with a more expansive and diverse set of industry stakeholders. These endeavors have educated innovators and brought new partners to DHS, creating an atmosphere of inclusivity and original thinking that breeds innovation. In 2020, despite the challenges of COVID-19, Industry Partnerships proactively shifted in-person events and other engagements to online platforms. Through this medium Industry Partnerships continues to form, strengthen, and maintain relationships between industry, researchers, and other relevant stakeholders to ensure stakeholder participation and engagement.
 
In 2021, Industry Partnerships held over 20 online industry days or webinars, seeking to engage the innovation community and promote new funding opportunities and other important information relevant to the DHS mission. The Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) inaugural “Demo Week” that promoted past successful projects from startups drew nearly 600 participants from 27 countries. The DHS Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program hosted several webinars for the small-business community, including two solicitations and an informational webinar for the community on fraud, waste, and abuse. The Long Range Broad Agency Announcement (LRBAA) Program hosted three webinars focusing on open topics of significant interest under S&T’s LRBAA, including Screening at Speed, tunnel detection, and data analytics. 
 
Most importantly, when the world changed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Industry Partnerships recognized that adapting to the new environment would be the only way to continue engaging innovators and developing new partnerships. To that end, Industry Partnerships embarked on an initiative to host a monthly webinar series to help the innovation community navigate S&T partnership opportunities, DHS mission needs, and alternative paths to funding to help get the best homeland security solutions to market faster. During the series, Industry Partnerships engaged nearly 3,000 viewers on topics including innovation funding programs like SVIP and SBIR, climate change resilience, DHS Component needs, and the numerous resources available for the private sector.
 
In an effort to expand and diversify S&T’s reach into the innovation community, Industry Partnerships began engaging under-represented private-sector organizations and other industry associations to establish relationships and educate them and their members on S&T’s research and development and funding opportunities. The new partnerships include academia, state-level government offices, associations, and industry organizations, whose missions range a variety of special interests and R&D capabilities. S&T and these associations share a common goal of advancing innovation and technology through business and networking opportunities. By connecting with these associations and organizations, S&T gains access to a larger network of members and like-minded organizations across key industries. Further, S&T can promote programs and upcoming business opportunities through various channels, including webinars, newsletters, and social media.
 
Through the use of strategic communications tactics, Industry Partnerships has been integral to publicizing S&T’s mission, the important work going on across the Directorate, and the various ways industry can work with S&T. Industry Partnerships is focused on engagement with new potential partners and the effort made to date has laid the groundwork for that expansion by ensuring the amplification of all future outreach efforts to new communities.

Interagency Security Committee, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

Excelling Through Challenging Times: 2021 Homeland Security Today Awards Homeland Security TodayThe ISC’s mandate is to enhance the quality and effectiveness of security in and the protection of buildings and nonmilitary federal facilities in the United States. Membership in the ISC consists of senior-level executives from 64 federal agencies and departments. To successfully implement ISC polices and standards, the ISC developed the RMP & FSC Training course. This training program assists federal departments and agencies as they implement ISC policies, standards, and recommendations and familiarizes federal departments and agencies with their roles and responsibilities in the risk management of federal facilities. The ISC delivers this training to students across the country at no cost. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this in-person training was converted to a virtual, instructor-led course using the Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation (ADDIE) instructional design model. The ISC continues to support capacity building within the federal facility security landscape by offering these in-demand courses. The RMP & FSC course:

  • Consists of 5 modules that include: Introduction to the ISC, Overview of ISC Publications, Facility Security Level (FSL) Determination, Levels of Protection (LOP) and Application of the Design Basis Threat (DBT) Report, and finally Facility Security Committees (FSCs).
  • Has been accredited by the International Accreditors for Continuing Education and Training (IACET). As such, the RMP&FSC Course is the only Interagency Security Committee training to earn this distinction.
  • Reaches approximately 1,000 students annually. With the addition of the virtual format, the ISC has both served more students and touched areas not previously served. This achievement is a shining example of the collaborative efforts essential to the ISC’s mission — from the team members who developed this training, to those who have refined it and transitioned it to a virtual format to further extend our reach, to those in D.C. and especially ISC Regional Advisors who deliver this important capacity-building resource.

The ISC was created six months after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and has continued to evolve to meet today’s threat landscape.

Stars in the Homeland Community: 2021 Mission Awards

Leaders in Homeland Partnerships: The 2021 GTSC Award Winners

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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