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Suggested Questions for Janet Napolitano

By Ed O'Keefe

Janet Napolitano should sail through her confirmation hearing with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, but the General Accountability Office suggests her tenure at the Department of Homeland Security will be anything but easy.

Janet Napolitano
Homeland Security Secretary-designate Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, left, at a recent meeting with Vice President-elect Joe Biden. (Photo by AP)

DHS was quickly created in 2002, a shotgun merger of dozens of law enforcement agencies in the months following the Sept. 11 attacks. Regardless, a GAO report prepared for lawmakers late last year suggests Napolitano faces 21 key issues in five areas: emergency preparedness and response, border security and immigration, transportation security, critical infrastructure protection and transforming the department.

"Although the department has made progress in addressing major management and mission challenges...the department lacks not only a comprehensive strategy with overall goals and a timeline but also a dedicated management integration team to support its management integration efforts," the GAO reports.

The watchdog agency suggests several questions for lawmakers to ask Napolitano. See them after the jump, leave your suggested questions in the comments section below and read the GAO's entire report here.

Department of Homeland Security

• In 2008 the department issued the new National Response Framework, a summary of principles, participants, and structures rather than an operational plan for responding to national disasters. Can you cite a couple of examples of your involvement in the development of operational plans?

• There is concern that the department and FEMA have not yet clarified how prepared they expect first responders to be. Congress passed the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA), providing direction and setting many expectations for the department and FEMA. Do you have significant experience ensuring that key executives and other partners have clear roles, responsibilities, and

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security have not resolved how they will work together in the event of a disease outbreak where a presidential emergency or major disaster is declared. Do you have experience with continuity of operations and succession planning under emergencies? What key steps do you believe are necessary to ensure there is a clear understanding of leadership and agency roles in responding to catastrophic agriculture- and food-related events?

• The department is pursuing the Secure Border Initiative, a multiyear, multibillion dollar program aimed at securing U.S. borders and reducing illegal immigration. Concerns have been raised about whether early results are meeting user needs, and whether the department will be able to deliver the program on schedule and at cost. Do you have significant experience you can cite with major programs or initiatives depending on the integration of technology? What were key success factors? Based on your experiences, what would be key considerations for deciding whether to continue when faced with significant delays or cost overruns?

• Most experts believe that the majority of those who migrate illegally to the United States do so to obtain employment. The department has a program called E-verify that provides participating employers with a means for electronically verifying employees’ work eligibility, but mandating participation for the estimated 7.4 million employers in the United States would be challenging. What prior experience do you have that would help the federal government market the benefits of or provide incentives to participate in the program by the nation’s employers?

• Regarding efforts to secure commercial aviation, the security measures in place today in commercial airports have largely been shaped by legislation passed immediately following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. What experiences do you have in implementing systemic, environmental, or procedural scans intended to identify opportunity for fundamental changes in organizational strategy or tactic? Explain how this experience might help the department and TSA identify any necessary fundamental changes to the existing security structure in place in airports today.

• Could you provide a couple of examples where you worked with state and local governments? What advice would you offer the department for involving state and local governments in the department’s critical infrastructure protection efforts?

• GAO has reported that departmental transformation takes at least 5-7 years. Can you describe how that compares to any fundamental transformations you have been involved with? Given the department’s upcoming 6-year anniversary, what actions should the department undertake to promote an efficient transformation?

• Improving the acquisition workforce has been noted as one of the acquisition management priorities at the department. What experience have you had recruiting and retaining individuals with skills that are in high demand? How will this experience help the department make progress in recruiting, hiring, and retaining contract specialists, as well as address the challenge of filling the remaining acquisition workforce gaps?

• The department has gone through continued delays in issuing its strategic plan, a key component of which should be the identification and timeline for achieving departmental goals. Describe your successes with strategic planning and how they would prepare you to help develop short- and long-term goals for the department/component/office.

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 15, 2009; 6:16 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Confirmation Hearings, Congress  
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Next: Eye Opener: Jan. 15, 2009


QUESTION: Do any of your current staff members or future staff members have a spouse or other relative that that you are considering to lead one of the agencies? Especially ones that do not have experience in that area.

Posted by: Govt | January 15, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

My question is for Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security, regarding those that migrate illegally to the United States to obtain employment. In about the year 2003 I entered an unemployment office in the State of New York, Long Island City, Cresent Street, I found a oriental appearing woman, I handed her all that was needed to apply for unemployment. Her English was so bad she seemed unable to understand the language, from the start. She took my information and then looked something up on a computer. Her bad American English disappeared and no skills at any language appeared. She handed me a slip of paper with a phone number on it. Call, Call, IS all she seemed to understand. I Called and Called and the lady on the other end of the line spoke English like she was in New Delhi, India. She hung up on me, twice. Never did I receive unemployment. I did receive a letter saying no unemployment was for me.
Here we have what appear to be legal migrates to America. How do these persons have so much information at an American Computer terminal and a lack of English? No pledge of Alligence to the Flag of the United States of America here. I cannot tell anyone the emotions I feel as I see America going up in monetary flames. How do these "legals" with so much government information at their disposal fit into the overall security violations? I am now self-employed. Five cents a container an American Slave at best. Where is Abraham Lincoln When HE is NEEDED????

Rose Watkins
Crance Watkins Recycling -- Since 2004
GPO Old Chelsea Station, 10011-9998

Posted by: motherschild | January 16, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

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