Homeland Security

DHS Secretary: Obama Leaving Homeland Security 'Much Stronger'

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in his term-end memo that despite remaining work to be done “to remove bureaucratic stove pipes and improve the effectiveness of headquarters functions,” President Obama “will leave a much stronger DHS than the one we inherited eight years ago.”

Obama requested the exit memos from all department heads, asking that they sum up accomplishments over the past eight years and challenges.

“In the world of homeland security, good news does not get much press and public attention, while bad news quickly becomes front-page news. But there is much good news to report,” Johnson wrote, stressing the “outstanding job protecting our homeland” done by DHS employees.

“Routinely, our Customs officers prevent high-risk travelers from boarding flights bound for the United States; our TSA personnel seize loaded weapons from carry-on luggage at airports; our cybersecurity experts detect and prevent cyberattacks against federal civilian networks; our Secret Service protect the First Family and world leaders who visit this country; our Coast Guard pull drowning boaters from the sea; our Border Patrol officers combat illegal smuggling and rescue starving migrants from the desert; our investigative agents break up human trafficking operations; and our FEMA personnel help thousands rebuild their home after natural disasters,” he said.

Over the past eight years, the secretary said, Obama’s administration has “adopted a more effective and efficient risk-based approach to homeland security.”

“With more technology and sophisticated uses of data, we are better able to screen more people that warrant it, and, at the same time, reduce the burden and inconvenience on those who pose less risk,” he added.

Johnson underscored that “as a collective entity” and the newest, third-largest cabinet-level government entity, “the Department of Homeland Security is still a work in progress.”

“But things are improving,” he said. “Through our Unity of Effort initiative launched in 2014, we have improved decision-making around budgets and acquisitions, stood up Joint Task Forces for border security, improved the hiring and promotion process, financed a new headquarters, and raised employee morale.”

Johnson also boasted that the DHS for the first time has their own mission statement for its 232,000 employees: “With honor and integrity, we will safeguard the American people, our homeland and our values.”

“I urge the next Administration to continue to focus on – in addition to our vital missions – improving the manner in which the Department conducts business,” he said. “This is essential to support our people on the front lines and the public we are all committed to protecting.”