ILW.COM - the immigration portal Immigration Daily

Home Page

Advanced search

Immigration Daily


Processing times

Immigration forms

Discussion board



Twitter feed

Immigrant Nation


CLE Workshops

Immigration books

Advertise on ILW

VIP Network


Chinese Immig. Daily


Connect to us

Make us Homepage



The leading
immigration law
publisher - over
50000 pages of free

Immigration LLC.

< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

U.S. Department of
Homeland Security

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Preserving Our Freedoms, Protecting Our Nation

February 23, 2004

Homeland Security's Strategic Plan

The National Strategy for Homeland Security and the Homeland Security Act of 2002 served to mobilize and organize our nation to secure the homeland from terrorist attacks. To be successful, complex missions require a focused effort from all of society. One primary reason for the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security was to provide the unifying core for the vast national network of organizations and institutions involved in efforts to secure our nation. In order to better do this and to provide guidance to the 180,000 men and women in the department who work every day on this important task, the department developed its own strategic plan. The new vision and mission statements plus the strategic goals will provide the framework for the thousands of action items that will focus the daily operations of the department.

Our Vision: Preserving our Freedoms, protecting America ... we secure our Homeland.

Our Mission: We will lead the unified national effort to secure America. We will prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the nation. We will ensure safe and secure borders, welcome lawful immigrants and visitors, and promote the free-flow of commerce.

The core values of the Department of Homeland Security are personal attributes expected of every employee.

Integrity: "Service before Self" Each of us serves something far greater than ourselves. To our nation, we represent the President and the Administration. To the world, seeking to visit or do business with us, we are often the first Americans they meet. We will faithfully execute the duties and responsibilities entrusted to us, and we will maintain the highest ethical and professional standards.

Vigilance: "Guarding America" We will relentlessly identify and deter threats that pose a danger to the safety of the American people. As a department, we will be on guard against threats, hazards or dangers that threaten our values and our way of life.

Respect: "Honoring our Partners" We will value highly the relationships we build with our customers, partners and stakeholders. We will honor the concepts for which America stands...liberty, democracy, civil rights and act on such thing as our Constitutional duty requires.

Highlights of the First Year

On March 1, 2003, the majority of 180,000 employees from 22 agencies were merged to create the 15th department in the federal government. At the end of its first year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has achieved many important operational and policy objectives, and is poised to significantly build upon that successful foundation in the next twelve months with new key homeland security initiatives.

Some of the highlights from the department's first year include:

  • US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) - Enhanced the nation's security while facilitating legitimate travel and trade through our borders by launching US-VISIT. The system was launched at major airports and seaports ahead of schedule, and included a biometric identifier, an additional attribute not required by law. Since January 5, 2004, the biometric capability of US-VISIT identified 107 individuals who were wanted for crimes in the U.S. or previously deported.

  • "One Face at the Border" - Strengthened security and more effectively deployed inspectors and border personnel, by combining formerly separate inspection functions - immigration, customs and agriculture.

  • Port Security - Significantly strengthened protection of the nation's ports, waterways, and ships from a terrorist attack by completing maritime industry security rules and expanding the Container Security Initiative to 17 ports. In addition, $482 million in port security grants were distributed throughout the country.

  • Threats Mapped Against Vulnerabilities - Created a new capability to analyze threat information and ultimately use it to take specific targeted steps to protect key infrastructure. By matching threat information with potential targets we are better able to ensure that the right protections are put in place to reduce vulnerability.

  • Homeland Security Operations Center - Implemented the most comprehensive 24-7 warning system in the United States by bringing 26 federal and local law enforcement agencies and Intelligence Community members into the same system.

  • Ready Campaign and Citizen Corps - Informed, educated and engaged citizens in homeland security through the Ready Campaign and Citizen Corps. Together these programs serve as a coordinated effort to involve individual Americans in emergency preparedness. The English and Spanish versions of the "Ready" public information campaign generated more than 17 million unique visits to the web site and distributed more than three million brochures. Citizen Corps grassroots outreach resulted in over 900 communities forming emergency preparedness councils.

  • Drug Seizures - Thwarted terrorism and protected citizens by breaking-up drug smuggling networks and their assets. In 2003, almost 136,865 pounds of cocaine were seized and 283 drug smugglers were arrested by Homeland Security entities, keeping more than $4 billion of cocaine off of America's streets.

  • Homeland Security Center of Excellence and Fellows - Fostered development of new technologies and research by establishing the first Homeland Security Center of Excellence at the University of Southern California. In addition, the department launched the Homeland Security Scholars and Fellows initiative. The inaugural class of 100 students (out of thousands of applicants) is dedicated to pursuing new technologies to protect the homeland.

  • 100% Citizenship Background Checks - Improved national security by implementing background/security checks on 100 percent of applications for U.S. citizenship. Customer service was also improved through the launch of an E-filing initiative that allows applicants to complete several of the most popular forms online.

  • Record First Responder Funds - In record time, allocated $8 billion to support state and local emergency preparedness efforts.

  • BioWatch - Improved the nation's protections against bioterrorism by deploying environmental sensors to major cities across the nation. These sensors help quickly detect airborne pathogens, such as anthrax, in time to distribute life-saving pharmaceuticals.

  • State and Local Preparedness Coordination - Provided more effective coordination with all levels of government so that extensive advance planning, training resulted in faster deployment of resources and manpower. For example, assistance was available and ready to turnaround at a moment's notice amid the disasters wrought by Hurricane Isabel, the wildfires in California, and the worst tornado season in years.

Priorities for Second Year

Drawing from the strategic plan, the Secretary has identified seven key priorities for the second year of the department. Each of the priorities includes specific actions that the department is committed to achieve by March 1, 2005.

Priority #1: Stronger Information Sharing and Infrastructure Protection

Critical to the Department of Homeland Security's mission is the ability to effectively share information with homeland security partners across the country to better protect the nation's critical infrastructure. Within the next year the Department of Homeland Security will dramatically expand both its vertical information sharing capability and its ability to identify critical infrastructure throughout the country as well as additional protective measures that may need to be taken.

Information Sharing

  • Homeland Security Information Network. Built upon the system known as JRIES, the department will expand its computer based counter terrorism communications network to all 50 states, five territories, Washington, D.C. and 50 other major urban areas. This program will significantly strengthen the two-way flow of real time threat information at the Sensitive-but-Unclassified level through the classified SECRET levels to state, local and private sector partners. To complement this effort, the department will launch a new internal network that will provide a stronger technical backbone for the department's information sharing program as well as facilitating the sharing of classified information. The department is already providing states with around-the-clock access to secure telephones, the ability to receive secure communications, and access to secure videoconferencing. By July 1, 2004 these tools will also be available to all governors' offices.

  • Watch List Integration. By the end of 2004, there will be a fully integrated watch list database in the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which will provide immediate updates to federal border-screening and law-enforcement systems. The Department of Homeland Security, working in tandem with state and local officials, will use these systems to identify suspected terrorists trying to enter or operate within the United States.


Critical Infrastructure Protection

To increase protections of the nation's critical infrastructure, the department is taking a systemized, risk based approach to this important challenge. By the end of this year, the department will create a master database of all existing critical infrastructure in the country which will be matched against current intelligence. This will allow the department to more easily and quickly identify the greatest points of vulnerability, assess existing levels of security and increase protections as necessary.

  • Unified National Database of Critical Infrastructure. A national database of all physical critical infrastructure ranked by priority will be created by December 2004. The department will also develop the tools, processes, and methodologies for identifying new critical infrastructure so that the unified national database will remain current.

  • National Infrastructure Coordination Center (NICC). The NICC, comprised of industry representatives from key companies, Information Sharing Advisory Committees (ISAC), and industry groups within each sector will be launched in May 2004 to support the Homeland Security Operations Center. These sector experts will work both within their areas of expertise and across sectors to maintain constant situational awareness of the status of the critical infrastructure. The NICC will provide a centralized mechanism for sharing information with the ISACs and the private sector in response to an event or crisis. The ISACs will also be expanded to ensure that one exists for all 13 critical infrastructure sectors and key segments within each sector.

  • Standards. Standards for vulnerability assessments and best practices will be developed in collaboration with the private sector to ensure more protection and less disruption of sectors of the economy by December 2004. The department will focus initially on priority sectors in a two tiered approach: 1) creation of standards for baseline protective measures/daily operational requirements, and 2) creation of threat specific mitigation measures. This process will articulate clearly the private sector's role in implementation and include a review mechanism to ensure that the standards evolve as the government and the private sector become more sophisticated in addressing ever-changing threat environments.

Priority #2: Interoperable Communications and Equipment

The ability for our nation's first responders to communicate with each other as well as share equipment in times of crisis is a critical issue facing our nation. Solving this challenge is a long-standing and complex problem. There are, however, some immediate steps the department can take this year to address the immediate communications and equipment needs of first responders and make substantial progress to achieving the penultimate communications solution.

In 2004, the department will initiate measures that will significantly improve interoperability, allowing firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel to communicate and share equipment with each other during a major disaster.

  • Immediate Communication Solutions. The Department has identified technical specifications for a short-term, baseline interoperable communications system that will allow first responders to interact by voice with each other, regardless of frequency or mode. If adopted at the state and local level, these specifications will enable most first responders to have some form of communication with each other during a crisis by December 2004.

  • Standards for Compatible Equipment. The Department will issue new standards in 2004 for major pieces of first responder equipment, including among others personal air filtration protection, personal protective clothing for personnel working in contaminated areas, and basic protective clothing for law enforcement for incidents involving possible chemical, biological, or radiological incidents.

  • Coordinated Grant Guidance for the Purchase of Compatible Equipment. A grant integration process will be instituted to ensure that when federal money is spent, it fosters interoperability. This approach will ultimately eliminate public safety stovepipes. This grant information, along with planning and management applications, collaborative tools and other relevant information will be available to the public safety community through a web portal.

These immediate steps will lay the foundation for longer-term efforts at the federal, state and local level to create an integrated system of communications that allows public safety personnel to communicate with each other in any mode - voice, data, or imagery. For instance, this year, in partnership with public safety officials, the current state of interoperability across the nation will be assessed so that the requirements for public safety practitioners to communicate and share information when and where it is needed can be defined. This will provide the basis for the technical specifications for a truly nationwide interoperable system.

The department will also research and test existing and emerging technologies for improved public safety communications and interoperability. Funding will be provided to promote coordination across the federal government to utilize bridging mechanisms that feature emerging technologies such as software defined radio and voice over communications.

Priority #3: Integrated Border and Port Security Systems

Efforts will continue to strengthen and fully integrate security at the nation's borders and ports while at the same time facilitating legitimate trade and travel. To accomplish this, the department will significantly expand the various programs already implemented or being piloted across the country.

Land Borders

  • Aerial Surveillance.  The first unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be used on the U.S. land border will be tested and deployed in 2004. This technology will allow Homeland Security officers to better monitor remote border locations in the day or at night. In addition, specially-equipped long-range P-3 surveillance aircraft will fly hundreds of additional hours in support of both counter drug and counter terrorism efforts.

  • Joint Border Operations. Homeland Security assets will be deployed in coordinated efforts at specific border locations to stem the flow of illegal migrants and protect innocent lives.

  • US-VISIT. The full capabilities of US-VISIT will be installed and implemented in the "secondary" areas of the 50 busiest land ports of entry by December 2004. This will provide a greatly expanded use of biometric technologies at our nation's borders, bringing enhanced integrity to our nation's immigration systems.

  • NEXUS and SENTRI. Expedited land border passenger programs will be opened at four additional sites on the US/Canada and US/Mexico borders by December 2004 to facilitate legitimate travel and commerce. Under these programs, frequent border crossers apply to Homeland Security, and after undergoing a background investigation, they are issued a special card that allows them to cross the border with minimal delay.

  • FAST Lanes. By June 2004, seven new FAST crossings will open on the US/Mexico border and six new FAST crossings will open on the US/Canada border, bringing the total number to 18. FAST lanes use Radio Frequency technology, allowing low-risk trucks to transmit key information to Homeland Security. This enables the trucks to move through the border process in seconds rather than hours, easing traffic congestion at the busiest commercial land border crossings.

  • Fast & Secure Visas. Five new international offices will open by the end of 2004 to oversee issuance of visas to ensure that homeland security needs are taken into account at the point of issuance.


  • Container Security Initiative (CSI). The program will be expanded to 14 additional foreign ports based on volume, location and strategic concerns. This will bring the total number of active CSI ports to 31. This means that once implemented this year, nearly 80 percent of all cargo containers headed for the United States will be prescreened before they depart from abroad.

  • Maritime Security Regulations. The new maritime security rules require vessel and facility owners to complete security assessments, develop security plans and implement security measures and procedures. U.S. Coast Guard plans to enforce compliance with the new regulations through an aggressive campaign to accelerate the development and implementation of these security plans.

A robust enforcement effort will begin on July 1, 2004. This will include:

  • Establishment of the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee.
  • Review and approval of over 10,500 domestic vessel security plans and 5,000 domestic facility security plans.
  • Verification of security plan implementations on 8,100 foreign vessels.
  • Completion of foreign port security assessments on over 100 countries conducting direct trade with the U.S.
  • Completion of 55 domestic port security assessments.

Priority #4: New Technologies and Tools

To galvanize the search for innovative technologies that can be harnessed to protect our homeland, the department will support both public and private research efforts to aggressively develop new scientific tools.

  • Detecting Nuclear Materials. The department is developing a new capability for detecting the presence of nuclear materials in shipping containers and vehicles. This capability identifies the presence of these materials shielded by lead or steel that might otherwise evade more conventional sensor detection. This new capability will then allow the department to probe questionable objects with a beam of radiation designed to provide information on materials unique to nuclear weapons.

  • Next Generation Biological and Chemical Detectors. The department is already engaged in developing the next generation of biological and chemical detectors to produce a more sensitive device less subject to producing false positives. These sensors will be able to provide real-time monitoring of facilities such as office buildings and sports arenas. The monitors will be tied to the building maintenance systems, allowing air flow to be automatically redirected if needed to provide time for people to evacuate safely.

  • Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency. Through the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA), the department will engage both small and large businesses to assist in filling technology gaps quickly. HSARPA recently engaged in contract negotiations with 66 small businesses from across the country to pursue research capabilities to protect the Homeland.

Priority #5: More Prepared Communities

Helping communities become better prepared to protect against or respond to a terrorist attack or major disaster is essential to the nation's security. Thus, five of the department's seven priorities for the next year contribute to this goal. Through improved information sharing, stronger protections of critical infrastructure, borders and ports, more targeted funds to communities that are at greater risk, and increased training and better equipment for first responders, the department is helping communities protect and prepare. In addition, this year the department will work to strengthen the nation's ability to save lives and restore order in an incident.

  • National Incident Management System (NIMS). The country's first National Incident Management System will provide a consistent nationwide template to enable federal, state, local and tribal governments and private-sector organizations to work together effectively to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from a terrorist attack or other major disaster.  NIMS will ensure that all of our nation's responders are working in support of "one plan, one team, one fight." For the first time, there will be standardized procedures for responding to emergencies across the nation. A NIMS Integration Center will also be established to identify and share best practices on preparedness with state and local authorities, provide consistent training to first responders across the country, and conduct exercises involving many different localities.

  • Citizen Engagement. Through the expansion of its Ready campaign and Citizen Corps initiatives, the department aims to have half of the American public -- as opposed to the current 20 percent -- take some form of preparedness action in the next year. This effort will include two new public education initiatives, Ready for Business and Ready for Schools and an increase in the number of active Citizen Corps Councils across the nation.

Priority #6: Improved Customer Service for Immigrants

To reduce the backlog of immigration service applications, the Department of Homeland Security will re-engineer existing systems to substantially decrease processing times and create fast track options for the bulk of applicants. The department is creating a series of new pilot programs aimed at a systematic deduction in processing times and paper flow. By May 2004, three new pilot programs will be in operation around the country. Lessons learned from these programs will be incorporated into a more wide scale overhaul of the process.

Priority #7: 21st Century Department

To build on the efforts to integrate functions and enhance capabilities, the department will focus on an array of management initiatives.

  • Pay for Performance. The department will begin to convert its components to a new pay and performance system that more closely supports mission needs by December 2004.

  • Leadership Development Curriculum. A standardized leadership development curriculum for all department executives, managers and supervisors will be created by May 2004.

  • DHS One Network. A single wide area network (DHS One Network) that will centrally connect all directorates and offices within the department with one communication tool will be established by December 2004.

  • Private Sector One-Stop Shop. A robust web and personal assistance service venue where all elements of the business community can learn how to do business with the department will be launched by May 1, 2004. This includes information on contracts, grants, small business procurement assistance, research and development, introduction of new products or services via the unsolicited proposal process, and other special departmental activities.