Weekly News Roundup

Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice Leadership:

Trump Administration Pledges Better Interagency Collaboration on Revised Travel Ban

Government Executive | Eric Katz | 3/6/17

In a show of the newfound interagency collaboration, the leaders of DHS, State and Justice held a joint press briefing Monday morning. One of the key differences between the initial January order and the revised document is the White House and the departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice are now “in sync,” with “no daylight” between them, a senior DHS official said. The rollout of Trump’s initial order caused significant confusion and disruption at airports, with uncertainty among CBP and other federal personnel over which travelers were subject to the ban. Senior department officials across government reportedly had not seen the final version of the order until Trump signed it.

 

CBP Data Shows ‘Unprecedented Decline’ In Illegal Border Crossings, Kelly Says

Homeland Security Today | Staff | 3/10/17

This week Secretary John Kelly announced CBP’s illegal border crossing data through the month of February “shows an unprecedented decline in traffic. From January to February, the flow of illegal border crossings as measured by apprehensions and the prevention of inadmissible persons at our southern border dropped by 40 percent.”

 

Canada-US Border In Spotlight Before Secretary Kelly Visit

BBC | Jessica Murphy | 3/10/17

A series of recent incidents at the US border has led to questions in Canada over whether people are facing more scrutiny and tougher measures at the international boundary. The answer is not entirely clear. According to figures provided by CBP, the number of people being denied entry at the international boundary is in line with previous years. In fiscal year 2014, 28,875 people were turned away at the Canada-US frontier. In 2015 it was 27,311. In 2016, it was 28,584.

 

AG Tells Federal Prosecutors To Target Most Significant Violent Offenders

Homeland Security Today | Staff | 3/10/17

In a memo this week from Attorney General Jeff Session to federal prosecutors in the Justice Department’s 94 United States Attorney’s Offices, he directed federal prosecutors to focus and prioritize their efforts “to investigate, prosecute and deter the most violent offenders.”

 

Sessions: Changes Coming To Policies On Drug Charges

Politico  | Josh Gerstein | 3/8/17

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is signaling that the Trump administration plans to make changes to policies the Obama administration implemented to seek less serious charges in some drug cases. In a memo sent to federal prosecutors nationwide Wednesday, Sessions called on them to crack down on violent crime. Most surely already view that as a core part of their duties. However, another passage in the directive says changes in Justice Department charging policies are in the offing.

 

Comey: ‘You’re Stuck With Me For Another 6 1/2 Years’

Federal Times | 3/8/17

FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday he plans to serve his entire 10-year term, even as controversy swirls over his attempt to rebut President Trump’s claim that the Obama administration tapped his phones during the election. “You’re stuck with me for another 6½ years,” Comey said during a cybersecurity conference at Boston College. Comey was appointed 3½ years ago by then-President Barack Obama.

 

Department of Homeland Security:

Coast Guard, TSA Cuts Would Help Pay for Trump’s Wall

Politico | Jeremy Herb and Bryan Bender | 3/7/17

The Trump administration wants to gut the Coast Guard and make deep cuts in airport and rail security to help pay for its crackdown on illegal immigration, according to internal budget documents reviewed by POLITICO — a move that lawmakers and security experts say defies logic if the White House is serious about defending against terrorism and keeping out undocumented foreigners. OMB is seeking a 14 percent cut to the Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget, the draft documents show, even as it proposes major increases to other DHS agencies to hire more border agents and immigration officers and construct a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

For additional reading please see:

 

Read the Official Fact Sheet on the Revised Travel Ban

Time | Maya Rhodan | 3/6/17

President Trump signed an executive order on Monday that revised a previously issued ban on travel from certain majority-Muslim countries.

The revised order blocks travel from six countries, not seven, and no longer indefinitely bans the resettlement of refugees from Syria—but all refugees are still subject to a 120 day pause. Administration officials say the first order was not legally unsound, but the new order was issued in response to challenges the first order faced in federal courts. On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security released a fact sheet outlining key points of the new order. You can read it here below.

Please see the full executive order here.

For additional reading please see:

 

CBP Details Biometric Entry/Exit Program Plans

Biometric Update | Justin Lee | 3/9/17

CBP has updated its Biometric Exit RFI and is taking the next step of its development of a biometric entry/exit system program by reaching out to the industry with an RFI titled “CBP OIT Biometric Exit Acquisition“, as posted via the U.S. General Services Administration. As discussed in the previous RFI, which was issued on June 20, 2016, the CBP performed four biometric field tests to assess the operational viability of different biometric modalities and traveler processing procedures. These experiments included 1-to-1 face comparison where the agency collected and matched the facial images of incoming travelers against their passport photo to confirm their identity, a biometric exit mobile (BE-Mobile) test that measured the feasibility of collecting departure biometrics using handheld devices to quantify future exit law enforcement requirements, and a pedestrian entry/exit test where the agency examined the viability of facial and iris image capture in an outdoor land environment. Please see the Biometric Exit Update here.

 

Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Might Turn Out to be Nearly as Good as Building a Wall

Government Executive  | Ana Campoy | 3/9/17

President Donald Trump has promised to bulk up his country’s border defenses by building a wall and adding thousands of new border patrol agents, but he might not need to: The number of immigrants illegally entering the US appears to have dropped dramatically during his first month in office. Border apprehensions, a proxy metric for illegal immigration flows, dropped by nearly 45% from January to February. They’re down about 40% from Feb. 2016.

 

IN-DEPTH: Border Wall ‘Pre-Solicitation’ Amended As CBP Indicates Possible Expansion Of RVSS Program

Homeland Security Today | Anthony Kimery | 3/6/17

On February 24, CBP announced a “Design-Build Structure” “presolicitation” out of its Indianapolis, Indiana office in advance of its intent to issue a formal “solicitation … on or about March 6, 2017 for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico” to cover the currently more than 1,250 unsecured miles of the US border. On March 3, however, CPB amended its pre-solicitation notice to provide additional information to interested bidders and due to a revision in strategy based on input received after the original posting.

 

The Firm That Built the Border Fence Isn’t Interested in the Border Wall

Government Executive | Kriston Capps | 3/10/17

Late on Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency announced that it will delay its plans to select a design for the border wall with Mexico. While vendors looking to build President Donald Trump’s wall had anticipated that request for proposals to be released on Wednesday, it now won’t drop before March 15. On Tuesday, Senator Claire McCaskill, the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to Secretary Kelly asking for information about prototypes for the wall. Her 16-point questionnaire calls for detailed answers on the acquisition and funding process: everything from the department’s permission to use existing funds for this job to “the level of IT security risk that DHS has assigned to this acquisition.”

 

Here’s What Global Building Companies Say About Designing Trump’s Wall

Government Executive | Kriston Capps | 3/7/17

On Febuary 24, CBP announced a solicitation for the design and construction of the U.S. border wall with Mexico. That offer, which drew the interest of scores of companies, gave a deadline for wall prototype concepts of Friday, March 10. But the agency has since extended the deadline to March 20 and changed the overall scope of the project—details of which will be made available on March 8. The list of interested vendors now runs more than 350 in number. Project-management companies, concrete suppliers, and fence-builders have thrown their hats in the ring. Missing from its ranks, however, are a number of the nation’s largest defense contractors and global engineering firms—the kinds of companies that might be expected to bid on an infrastructure project of this magnitude.

 

Why Customs and Border Protection’s ID Search of a Domestic Flight Is on Weak Legal Ground

Government Executive | Barrett Epps | 3/8/17

The incident at John F. Kennedy Airport, where Customs and Border Protection Agents boarded an incoming flight from San Francisco and asked for—or demanded––ID from every passenger, has hit a nerve with many people—some of whom, like me, think that a demand that passengers exiting a domestic flight show “papers” would probably be unconstitutional, and definitely smacks of a nascent police state. But others have suggested that, because the incident took place at an airport, government agents actually have the legal authority to demand ID from anyone. I researched the question further, and reached out to former government lawyers. But I still can’t find legal authority for a demand for ID from passengers on a domestic flight.

 

DHS Wants A Look At Anti-Drone Tech

FCW | Mark Rockwell | 3/9/17

The proliferation of drones in the hands of private operators raises the specter of the devices being weaponized. The Department of Homeland Security is looking for technology to counter the potential threat before it materializes. The Science and Technology Directorate at DHS issued a call for developers of anti-drone systems to take part in technology assessments under a new program. The Technical Assessment of Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems Technologies in Cities is looking to identify and prove out technology that can detect, identify and track small UAS that are perceived as threats to people or critical infrastructure.

 

Industry Group Calls For More Cyber Threat Context From DHS

FCW | Sean Carberry | 3/9/17

The Department of Homeland Security is not providing enough context around the cyber threat indicators it shares with the private sector for firms to use the data effectively, industry leaders say. “The sharing of individual indicators of compromise without context leaves practitioners asking more questions than having them answered,” Intel Security Group vice president Scott Montgomery said at a March 9 hearing of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee.

 

TSA Rolls Out New Pat-Downs, Some Travelers Say They’re Invasive

NBC  | Dakshayani Shankar | 3/4/17

he Transportation Security Administration has rolled out changes to pat-downs at airports, which some travelers said resulted in more invasive screenings at airports. The pat-downs don”t involve any additional areas of the body, and will still be performed by agents of the same gender as passengers, the agency said.

 

Department of Justice:

DOJ Reportedly Plans To Send Fleet Of Judges To Immigration Detention Centers

Fox News | 3/10/17

The Justice Department is reportedly sending 50 judges to immigration detention centers across the U.S. to hear more cases and cut down on the massive backlog of immigration cases. Court will be in session from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., two sources told Reuters. Judges will be asked to volunteer for one or two month deployments at detention centers. If the amount of volunteers is inadequate, the department would assign judges, Reuters reported. Immigration courts have a backlog of more than 550,000 cases, according to the Justice Department.

 

Fear of FBI ‘Back Door Searches’ May Spur FISA Reform

Bloomberg | Patrick Gregory | 3/10/17

Congressmen are eager to reform a law which might allow evidence gathered through warrantless surveillance abroad to be used to prosecute Americans for ordinary crimes, a witness who testified at a House hearing told Bloomberg BNA. Congress is considering whether to renew or reform FISA Section 702, which authorizes warrantless surveillance of non-U.S. persons outside of the U.S. for foreign intelligence purposes, before it expires at the end of this year.

 

U.S. Senator Calls For Investigation of DEA Enforcement Slowdown Amid Opioid Crisis

Washington Post |  Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein | 3/6/10

A U.S. senator on Monday called for an investigation into why the Drug Enforcement Administration slowed enforcement efforts against pharmaceutical companies accused of violating laws designed to prevent pain pills from reaching the black market. Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in a letter asked the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate. She said she had “serious concerns” about reports of an enforcement slowdown as the opioid epidemic escalated nationwide. “This a matter of life and death and I want to know whether or not we could have done more,” McCaskill said in a statement.

 

White House:

Cyber Executive Order Nearing Completion

FCW | Sean Carberry | 3/6/17

The almost-executed, then retracted and repeatedly revised cyber executive order from the Trump administration appears to be nearing completion. Speaking on a panel at CSIS, former IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano said he would soon attend a meeting with Trump officials to discuss and provide feedback on the executive order. “So that means it’s pretty far along if they’re looking for some kind of feedback,” said Palmisano, who added that he thought the order could be finalized “maybe within a week or so.”

 

Aide to Trump Tech Adviser Picked As Deputy CTO

FCW | Chase Gunter | 3/6/17

A top aide to Peter Thiel is joining President Donald Trump’s administration. Michael Kratsios, a former executive at Thiel Capital, will serve as the deputy CTO. Kratsios, a 2008 Princeton graduate, was most recently principal and chief of staff at Thiel Capital.

 

Legislative Branch:

Congress Rolls Back Fed Contracting ‘Blacklisting’ Rule

Federal Times | Tony Ware | 3/8/17

The Senate has passed a Congressional Review Act resolution disapproving the Aug. 25, 2016, “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” federal acquisition regulation. Approving the CRA on March 7, the Senate now sends it for President Trump’s signature in order to officially roll back the final rule, which has not yet gone into effect because of a Texas federal court’s preliminary injunction. In addition, the CRA prevents future administrations from promulgating a similar rule.

 

House Panel Passes a Raft of DHS Acquisition Reform Bills

Bloomberg | Daniel R. Stoller | 3/9/17

Several bills promoting acquisition overhaul and innovation at DHS have passed through the House Homeland Security Committee. A few of the five measures work in concert with each other, their sponsors said at a March 8 markup. Each of the bills is designed to promote procurement-related reform and combat fraud, waste and abuse at DHS, themes that have been explored repeatedly in recent congressional hearings and GAO reports.

 

House Committee Passes Homeland Security For Children Act

Homeland Security Today | Staff | 3/8/17

Legislation to incorporate children’s needs into disaster preparedness planning was unanimously passed Wednesday by the House Committee on Homeland Security. In 2015, Save the Children issued a report which disclosed 10 years after Hurricane Katrina children are still unnecessarily vulnerable to disasters. The report noted there are significant gaps in disaster management and recovery and child physical health and trauma.

 

Democrats Ask DHS To Drop ‘Unconscionable’ Idea Of Splitting Up Families At Border

Huffington Post | Elise Foley | 3/8/17

Democratic lawmakers urged the Trump administration on Wednesday not to take the “appalling,” “unconscionable” step of separating children from their mothers at the U.S.-Mexico border in an attempt to deter them from coming to the country without authorization. In letters to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and during questioning of the nominee to be his deputy, lawmakers asked DHS officials to consider what it would mean both morally and practically to split apart families that come to the border, particularly those seeking asylum. Kelly confirmed on Monday that he is considering such a policy change “in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network” through Central America and Mexico.

 

What Has DHS Done To Examine, Improve Vetting, House HS Committee Member Wants To Know

Homeland Security Today | Staff | 3/8/17

Secretary John Kelly was asked Tuesday for information about directives in Trump’s original January 27 Executive Order, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, which weren’t affected by the court’s temporary restraining order (TRO).On February 3, a federal court issued a TRO preventing the enforcement of five specific sections of the original Executive Order, but several provisions of the original order were not subject to the TRO.

 

DHS Nominee Grilled On Wall Costs

FCW | Mark Rockwell | 3/8/17

Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hammered President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Department of Homeland Security’s second in command with questions about how the agency will fund and build the wall along the southern border. In the committee’s March 8 confirmation hearing for DHS deputy secretary nominee Elaine Duke, committee ranking member, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) repeatedly asked what it will take to build the president’s proposed border wall and demanded specific cost analyses of the project.

 

House Committee Investigates EB-5 Investor Visa Program

Homeland Security Today | Staff | 3/6/17

The House Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing March 8 to examine proposed reforms to the EB-5 investor visa program. This immigration program – while intended to create jobs and inject capital into the US economy – is currently plagued with fraud and abuse and needs to be reformed, the committee said. Chairman Goodlatte said, “The Department of Homeland Security has proposed commonsense reforms that increase the investment amount and curtail gerrymandering in the EB-5 program. These proposals would help ensure that EB-5 investment funds are directed to distressed urban and rural communities that need them the most. At this week’s hearing, the House Judiciary Committee will examine DHS’s proposed changes to strengthen the integrity of this immigration program so that it benefits the US economy.”

 

GSA:

GSA Public Buildings Service Commissioner Steps Down

FCW | Troy Schneider | 3/8/17

Norman Dong is leaving his position as head of the General Services Administration’s Public Buildings Service. A GSA spokeswoman confirmed the departure, and said that Deputy Commissioner Michael Gelber will run the Public Buildings Service on an acting basis “until a permanent commissioner is appointed.”

 

Miscellaneous:

Category Management Basics: How to Attract Top-Quality Suppliers and Ensure They Deliver

Government Executive  | David Shields | 3/6/17

Nurturing the relationship with suppliers is a critical component of the category management procurement model. Supplier relationship management, or SRM, reshapes every step of the traditional acquisition lifecycle to increase the likelihood that agencies will contract with the most suitable suppliers and enable those companies to deliver on expectations. SRM goes well beyond the requirements of traditional Federal Acquisition Regulation contract management: It requires extensive knowledge and analysis of markets and suppliers to improve sourcing. It results in more precise contracts that better match commercial practices. And it creates an environment that supports improved supplier performance and more effective measurement of that performance by the government. As a result, capable, high-quality suppliers are more likely to bid on government work and to deliver it exceptionally. This is the second column in a series about category management.  

 

Lead Agencies Must Turn Category Management Small Business Strategies Into Action

Federal News Radio | Jason Miller | 3/6/17

The future of the Obama administration’s category management initiative remains unknown. Several federal officials involved in category management have told me they have received good feedback from Trump administration transition team and special advisers so far in the first few months of the transition and presidency. But others, particularly in industry, say they are hearing major changes are on the way for this and several procurement initiatives of the prior administration. Keep in mind it has been four months since comments were due on the proposed category management circular. One source told me recently the circular is basically on hold until more political appointees are in place.

 

IGs: Budget Cuts Could Put Cybersecurity at Risk

FCW | Chase Gunter | 3/9/17

Inspectors general fear that steep budget cut proposed by the Trump administration could force civilian agencies to decide between spending on program operations and cybersecurity. The White House’s budget guidance calls for a $54 billion bump in military spending that would be offset by cuts from civilian agencies. If cuts are approved, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said at a March 9 hearing of his Appropriations subcommittee, programs would experience a “dramatic decline in services.” He added that cuts would not yield “all the savings right upfront because there is a lot of cost associated with closedown.”

 

All U.S. Companies Need to Share Cybersecurity Threat Data

Bloomberg | Daniel Stroller | 3/9/17

U.S. companies large and small feeling the burn in the aftermath of a data breach are struggling to find resources to bolster their security systems, cybersecurity industry panelists said at a March 9 House Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Subcommittee hearing.

Cybercriminals usually don’t discriminate based on a company’s size, going after valuable personal data no matter the target. Companies of all sizes need to work with the government and private-sector partners to combat the growing cyberthreat in the U.S., even though many hesitate to share threat data, given the limited liability protection offered by the government.

 

Redefining The Role Of Federal CIO: The Enabler-In-Chief

NextGov  | Jerad Speigal | 3/9/17

As President Donald Trump formalizes his tech team and the administration’s tech agenda, one of the most pressing questions within federal IT circles has come to a close center on modernization—will federal technology continue down the path to transformation? Early indications from the new Trump administration are positive, ranging from a series of remarks made by the president’s senior advisers, as well as early drafts of tech-related executive orders.

 

GAO Reports of Interest: 

RADIOACTIVE SOURCES: Opportunities Exist for Federal Agencies to Strengthen Transportation Security

Publically Released: March 9, 2017.  

 

IMMIGRANT INVESTOR PROGRAM: Proposed Project Investments in Targeted Employment Areas

Publicly Released: March 8, 2017.

 

Upcoming House Committee Hearings of Interest

Immigration Benefits Vetting: Examining Critical Weaknesses In USCIS Systems

Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee

March 16, 2017 9:30 AM | House Capitol Visitor Center (HVC) Room 210