David Olive

Apr 25

Last week, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano was in New York to announce the new National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS). Then, at the end of the week, she went to Aretesia, New Mexico, to at FLETC’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol Academy, and early this week, according to a DHS press announcement, she will be headed to the “University of California at Berkeley to host a roundtable discussion with students and deliver remarks entitled ‘Securing Cyberspace: Our Shared Responsibility’—highlighting the continued collaboration of science and engineering communities to help secure our nation as part of her ongoing campus lecture series.”

I applaud Secretary Napolitano’s public appearances. She completely understands that a major part of her job is communicating with the public about what the Department is doing and what the public itself can do better to secure our country, our communities, our liberties and our way of life. She is an effective communicator, speaks clearly and almost always leaves audiences feeling more confident. I, for one, like that about her.

What I do NOT understand, however, is that among her many domestic travel destinations, Secretary Napolitano has never visited the one place in her home state of Arizona where DHS has made a major economic and political investment in dealing with border security– the area where the “SBInet” technology has been deployed and is currently being used with great success. Why has she failed to see first-hand what DHS money bought and how it is being used?

Napolitano hasn’t even visited the command and control center where she can see the system in its operational state, a place where she can ask actual users of the system about its strengths and get “ground truth” about its weaknesses. In all of her travels to other parts of the country, for very legitimate reasons, it seems logical that she would want to go to Arizona and see the SBInet system first hand. Why has she not done so?

For that matter, why hasn’t CBP Commissioner Allen Bersin been there either? It is Border Patrol personnel in his agency that use the system, and CBP managed its development and deployment. That he has not seen fit to visit is also a mystery.

So while I applaud DHS officials getting outside the Beltway to communicate important messages and listen to “real” Americans, there is at least one place in Arizona where I would have expected them to go and wonder what the “real” explanation might be for their not having done so.

This piece was originally posted in Security Debrief.


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