Celebrating Women Leaders Luncheon
Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security

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Washington, DC—On December 16, 2009, the WFPG hosted a Women in Power Luncheon honoring Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. In her address and the discussion moderated by New York Times Pentagon Correspondent Elisabeth Bumiller, Napolitano presented an overview of the Department of Homeland Security, now the third largest department in the government, incorporating 22 separate agencies. She outlined the five major mission areas for DHS which include: counterterrorism, securing the borders of the US, the enforcement of the nation's immigrations laws, cyber-security, and preparation for disaster response.

Napolitano explained that DHS is not just a domestic agency, stating that "our very existence recognizes that in this day and age, terrorism itself is a globalized phenomenon that comes home to roost right here." She noted that although the conflict in Afghanistan is thousands of miles away, "one of the major reasons, if not the major reason, they are being so deployed is because of safety right here in the homeland, the transnational nature of what is emanating to the world and to the United States out of the AfPak arena."

The Secretary explained that DHS responds to a complex set of threats that involve military, diplomatic, cultural, and development issues, which have grown over the course of the last year. One of the unhappy developments, according to the Secretary, has been that American citizens raised here have become radicalized, violent, and "operationalized" after being trained in camps abroad. This means that we have to place "a premium on sharing intelligence and information, not just among federal departments - but also we need to make sure that we can effectively exchange or share information across the nation to state, to local, to tribal, to territorial, law enforcement and others." DHS' role is "not only the ability to gather or collect the information about threat streams ... but also then to transform them into products that can be shared across the country at various levels of security classification." This is something the Department is already doing across the country through fusion centers with federal, state, and local law enforcement. Their databases are collocated where information can be shared, gathered, and sent back to DHS in a pragmatic manner. The Secretary warned that while sharing all of this information, we have to be very careful not to engage in profiling.

In closing, the Secretary emphasized that despite the efforts of DHS, no single federal department can protect "the security enterprise of the United States" and thus stressed the importance of "the notion of shared responsibility" which includes the government, individuals, families, and the community.