2023 Year in Review: Secretary Mayorkas Champions Department-Wide Efforts to Save Lives and Prepare for 21st Century Security Challenges

2023 Year in Review: Secretary Mayorkas Champions Department-Wide Efforts to Save Lives and Prepare for 21st Century Security Challenges

2023 Year in Review: Secretary Mayorkas Champions Department-Wide Efforts to Save Lives and Prepare for 21st Century Security Challenges

Release Date: January 9, 2024

DHS priorities to include efforts to harness artificial intelligence technology, mitigate cybersecurity threats, and combat targeted violence and terrorism  

WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reflect on the progress made in 2023 to improve cohesion, transparency, and innovation in the work of preventing, preparing for, and responding to the many and varied threats facing the homeland in 2023. The United States faced a range of challenges last year, including damaging natural disasters, strategic competition and aggression from nation-states, historic growth in global migration, the growing sophistication of transnational organized crime, large scale cyber intrusions, and an increased threat of targeted violence — all of which are expected to continue or intensify in the coming years. DHS’s significant investments in its workforce, innovation, and partnerships throughout 2023 have laid the groundwork for taking on these challenges of the decades ahead.  

“Our communities are safer and more resilient, our economy is more secure, and our government is more prepared thanks to the unprecedented work of the DHS workforce,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “From managing a historic level of global migration, to helping secure travel for a record number of Americans, rescuing children from online sexual exploitation, and leading operations that kept fentanyl off our streets, DHS took dramatic steps this past year to enhance the security and readiness of our nation. That progress will continue into 2024 as we enhance collaboration with our partners in and outside of government and utilize new strategies, including responsibly harnessing the capabilities of artificial intelligence, to strengthen our nation’s safety, security, and resilience.” 

In 2023, the DHS workforce: 

  • Enhanced the speed and efficiency of vetting and processing noncitizens seeking to enter the United States with the same level of security and integrity of our processing and without additional resources from Congress. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was able to process four-to-five times as many individuals at select ports of entry in 2023 than we could a decade ago.  

  • Seized over 43,000 pounds of fentanyl in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 and 5,500 pounds in the first two months of FY 2024, enough to kill every American 33 times over. DHS stopped more fentanyl and arrested more drug traffickers in the last two years than the previous five years combined. 

  • Helped to identify or rescue over 1,170 child victims of online sexual exploitation or abuse. 

  • Responded to 25 natural disasters that have individually each accounted for over a billion dollars in damage, the most billion-dollar disasters in FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) history.  

  • Ensured the safety and security of nearly 850 million travelers amid a record-setting year of air travel and prevented more than 6,500 firearms from entering the secure areas of airports and onboard aircraft, more than any previous year.  

In his first State of Homeland Security address delivered at the Council on Foreign Relations in April 2023, Secretary Mayorkas spoke of emerging homeland security challenges:   

“Revolutionizing technological innovations, growing political and economic instability, widening wealth inequality, a rapidly changing climate, increasingly aggressive nation states, emerging infectious diseases, and other forces are transforming the global landscape, challenging and sometimes rendering moot a nation’s borders, and bringing national and international threats to any community’s doorstep.”  

In 2023, the Department took steps to address these challenges, including enhancing efforts to prevent terrorism and targeted violence, preparing for new security challenges presented by emerging technologies like AI, and helping communities build resiliency to prepare for natural disasters and cybersecurity incidents. DHS led whole-of-government efforts to combat fentanyl. DHS also took steps to modernize the application and enforcement of our immigration laws. All the while, the Department invested in its dedicated workforce to ensure they have the tools they need to deliver on our critical mission. 

DHS continues to transform the way it addresses the most pressing security challenges facing Americans today and for years to come. The Department is agile and vigilant in addressing the threats of today and anticipating the challenges we may face in the days ahead.  

  • Released publicly for the first time the annual Homeland Threat Assessment. This public report on terrorism and targeted violence threats is giving our partners across state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, along with campuses and the private and non-profit sectors, important information to make better-informed decisions to prepare for security challenges. Going forward, the annual Homeland Threat Assessment will serve as a regular mechanism for describing the prevailing terrorism threat level.  

  • Distributed DHS resources and our latest threat assessments to enhance the security of faith-based organizations across the country through more than 100 direct engagements with faith leaders amidst the ongoing Middle East conflict. DHS is regularly communicating with over 2,000 state, local, tribal, territorial, and campus law enforcement officials and with the leadership of all national-level law enforcement associations and, through the DHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, is amplifying security resources to over 65,000 faith partners. 

  • Enhanced security in local communities and at nonprofit organizations and places of worship through federal grants. DHS provided $2 billion to help state, local, tribal, territorial, campus officials, and nonprofit organizations prepare for, prevent, protect against, and respond to acts of terrorism. This includes 40 urban areas, including four additional cities for receiving grants for the first time: Austin, Texas; Honolulu, Hawaii; Jacksonville, Florida; and Nashville, Tennessee. This also includes $305 million in Nonprofit Security Grants to more than 2,200 faith-based and other nonprofit organizations to support target hardening and other physical security enhancements.  

  • Helped law enforcement better understand, recognize, prepare for, prevent, and respond to terrorist activity by increasing law enforcement terrorism prevention funding within the Homeland Security Grant Program from 25% to 35%, a $103 million increase over the statutory minimum.  

  • Expanded access to Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) grants. The TVTP Grant Program provides resources to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, nonprofits, and institutions of higher education to strengthen or enhance existing capabilities to prevent terrorism or targeted violence or establish them where they do not exist. In FY 2023, DHS awarded $20 million to 34 entities. As a result of extensive outreach efforts, a larger percentage of applications devoted to underserved populations were accepted in 2023 (48%) versus 2022 (25%). Underserved populations represented in this cohort include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), and nongovernmental organizations serving Native American, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and rural communities.   

  • Equipped over 28,000 state and local law enforcement and government officials, educators, mental health professionals, faith-based leaders, and workplace security managers across the country to more readily identify threats and strengthen public safety. This was achieved through over 280 trainings and briefings led by the United States Secret Service’s (USSS) National Threat Assessment Center. 

  • Improved access to federal resources by launching the Prevention Resource Finder in March 2023 in collaboration with more than a dozen federal partners. The online guide is a comprehensive repository of federal resources available to help community leaders understand, mitigate, and protect themselves from targeted violence and terrorism.  

  • Helped faith-based organizations and communities enhance their security by releasing the first ever Physical Security Performance Goals for Faith-Based Communities. This collection of cost-effective actions specifically tailored for faith-based organizations and communities can be implemented to reduce risk without sacrificing accessibility.  

  • Responded to an increase in bomb threats impacting campuses and universities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, by providing information, trainings, and resources. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security’s (CISA) Office for Bombing Prevention hosted 27 virtual courses, trained over 1,250 participants, and provided over 1,500 bomb threat planning and response products. The DHS Office for State and Local Law Enforcement also increased its efforts to share of resources and timely, relevant, and actionable information to campus law enforcement. 

  • Ensured the safety of millions of Americans at significant events like the Super Bowl and the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix. This included 18 Special Event Assessment Rating (SEAR) events — including first-ever designations for the Chicago NASCAR Street Race, the NFL Draft, and the Boston Marathon — and three National Special Security Events (NSSE). The Federal Protective Service (FPS) and CBP also worked collaboratively with law enforcement partners at the Federal, state, and local level to provide Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-UAS) detection and deterrence at major U.S. events. There was a 22% increase in C-UAS coverage at SEAR events in 2023.  

  • Secured unprecedented Presidential visits for President Biden to Ukraine and Israel in 2023, the first trips a U.S. President has taken to active war zones not controlled by the U.S. military. U.S. Secret Service led the planning and coordination of these high-profile visits of enormous magnitude, with surgical precision and on a short timeline. During both visits, the U.S. Secret Service along with our partners played a key role in allowing world leaders to meet face-to-face despite the dangerous conditions. 

  • Undertook several measures in 2023 to improve security effectiveness and efficiency as well as to enhance the passenger experience. Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) PreCheck™ experienced a record-breaking enrollment year enrolling almost 4 million Americans, bringing the total enrolled to 18 million or one-third of all U.S. travelers. The majority of TSA PreCheck™ applicants receive their Known Traveler Number in three to five days.   

  • Led a year-long investigation through Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Washington, D.C. Field Office and HSI’s War Crimes Center — with the Department of Justice and FBI — that resulted in the Justice Department charging four Russian soldiers with war crimes — including torture, inhuman treatment, and unlawful confinement of a U.S. national in Ukraine following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. These charges were the first of their kind in U.S. history. 

  • Ensured the safety and security of more than one million federal employees and visitors to thousands of federal facilities across the nation, including the protection of individuals participating in First Amendment protected activities on or near federal facilities. 

  • Convened a new Homeland Intelligence Experts Group, whose members support the Department’s vital work to protect our country by independently providing advice and perspectives on intelligence and national security efforts to the Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the Office of Counterterrorism Coordinator. Members include former senior intelligence officials, journalists, and prominent human rights and civil liberties advocates. 

  • Expanded the Visa Waiver Program to include Israel, a step which further strengthens the security, economic, and people-to-people ties between the United States and Israel. All participants in the Visa Waiver Program meet strict requirements related to counterterrorism, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security, and border management. 

The Department is committed to keeping Americans safe from the devastating effects of cybercrimes and protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure from attacks is a core departmental mission. This past year, the Department took significant steps both to harness the benefits and mitigate the risks associated with artificial intelligence (AI). Central to all this work is strengthening our partnerships with the private sector, nonprofits, and all levels of government to ensure they are prepared for the threats they face. 

  • Took steps to improve the cybersecurity of our infrastructure, leveraging our authorities and partnerships across the public and private sectors:

    • Worked in collaboration with representatives from the cities of San Jose, New York City, Chattanooga, and Memphis, along with Colorado State University, to issue the first Connected Community Governance guide to help state, local, tribal, and territorial leaders set a clear vision for their connected community, define smart service areas, articulate metrics of performance, and address cybersecurity risk and privacy needs. 

    • Developed a ransomware notification pilot program that actively warns vulnerable entities of potential attacks. The program issued over 1,000 notifications this past year, including at least 187 to international entities across 24 countries.  

    • Streamlined and harmonized the reporting of cyber incidents to better protect the nation’s critical infrastructure and improve the private sector’s ability to report incidents through the Cyber Incident Reporting Council.  

    • Enhanced transportation security by issuing new cybersecurity requirements for certain TSA-regulated airport, air carriers, and air cargo operators that are increasing the cybersecurity resilience of U.S. critical infrastructure. TSA also issued performance-based cybersecurity regulations to pipeline companies and railroad operators. 

  • Built resiliency across our cyber infrastructure:  

    • Strengthened cybersecurity controls and tools for state and local governments and civil society organizations following the Cyber Safety Review Board’s review of vulnerabilities that threat actor groups such as Lapsus$ exploited to infiltrate dozens of well-resourced organizations. As a result of the CSRB’s work, the Federal Communications Commission issued new rules to combat SIM swapping.  

    • Awarded nearly $375 million in grant funding to state, local, tribal, and territorial communities to improve their cyber resilience. DHS doubled funding for this program in FY 2023. 

    • Launched the “Shields Ready” awareness campaign to encourage the critical infrastructure community to focus on strengthening resilience. State and local governments as well as critical infrastructure operators can also use CISA’s new Infrastructure Resilience Planning Framework to better identify critical infrastructure, assess related risks and develop and implement resilience solutions. 

  • Enhanced information sharing and collaboration internationally to improve our cybersecurity:

    • Ensured greater collaboration on cybersecurity trainings and vulnerability scans; workshops on topics such as cyber hygiene threat mitigation, and public-private partnerships; aviation and maritime port cybersecurity assessments; cybercrime and cyber law enforcement trainings; and the exploration of additional mechanisms for enhanced information sharing and collaboration across 21 Western Hemisphere nations. This is the first-ever agreement of its kind.  

    • Developed Guidelines for Secure AI System Development in close collaboration with the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre. This will help developers of any systems that use AI make informed cybersecurity decisions at every stage of the development process. The guidelines were formulated in cooperation with 21 other agencies and ministries from across the world – including all members of the Group of 7 (G7) major industrial economies – and are the first of their kind to be agreed to globally.  

    • Worked with the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) signed on an updated Memorandum of Cooperation on Cybersecurity. Throughout 2023, DHS and METI engaged on areas identified within the agreement such as vulnerability management and public private partnerships. 

  • Harnessed the opportunity of responsible AI use to protect the homeland: 

    • Established the Department’s first AI Task Force and named its first Chief AI Officer. The Task Force is working across the DHS mission to identify areas where AI can improve its work. For instance, it is working to enhance the integrity of our supply chains and the broader trade environment by helping deploy AI to improve cargo screening, the identification of imported goods produced with forced labor, and risk management. 

    • The Task Force is also charged with using AI to better detect fentanyl shipments, identify and interdict the flow of precursor chemicals around the world, and disrupt key nodes in criminal networks. Last year alone, machine learning models that help CBP Officers determine which suspicious vehicles and passengers to refer to secondary screening have led to 240 seizures, which include thousands of pounds of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl. 

    • Supported law enforcement officers’ use of AI to investigate heinous crimes. DHS successfully completed Operation Renewed Hope, which focused on protecting children from sexual abuse online. The use of new AI technology allowed DHS to identify more than 300 victims of sexual exploitation and also identify perpetrators.   

  • Ensured DHS can deliver on its mission by bolstering our workforce with the best cybersecurity talent. DHS onboarded more than 150 DHS Cybersecurity Service employees and will continue to expand the Cyber Talent Management System to additional Components to improve recruitment and retention in the cybersecurity workforce. 

  • Protected our elections. CISA worked in close coordination with the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors to host “Tabletop the Vote,” the nation’s largest annual election security exercise, to prepare for a range of hypothetical scenarios affecting election operations. Over 1,300 people from 45 states, 12 federal agencies, and 13 private sector partners worked together to address the exercise scenario. Last year, CISA established Election Security Advisor positions in CISA’s ten regions to work to strengthen front line support to the election community.  

Securing our critical infrastructure is fundamental to staying competitive in a 21st century economy. DHS is committed to supporting strong economic growth and meeting the labor demand in the United States, while strengthening worker protections for both American and foreign workers. 

  • Facilitated lawful international travel and trade at our nation’s airports, seaports, and land ports of entry. With the installation of 11 new Non-Intrusive Inspection systems at six ports of entry, CBP is increasing our ability to scan cargo in rail and trucks and prevent illicit drugs, unreported currency, guns and ammunition, and people from being smuggled into the country.  

  • Took steps to attract and retain talented researchers and professionals who work on AI and other critical emerging technologies by streamlining processing times of petitions and applications for noncitizens who seek to work, study, or conduct research in the United States. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking to modernize the H-1B specialty occupation worker program and clarified guidance on evidence for EB-1 applications.  

  • Helped American businesses that rely on seasonal and temporary workers better plan for their workforce needs by providing early notice of doubling the number of H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas available in FY 2024 from 66,000 to 130,000. American businesses in industries such as hospitality and tourism, landscaping, seafood processing, and more turn to seasonal or other temporary workers in the H-2B program to help them meet demand from consumers and allow our economy to continue to thrive.  

  • Supported communities receiving migrants by speeding Employment Authorization Document (EAD) processing times from an average of 90 to 30 days for applicants paroled through new processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans or after scheduling a CBP One appointment. USCIS also announced that certain categories of EADs would be valid for five years, a tremendous efficiency for individuals and the agency. USCIS provided intake and biometric collection at sites where states and cities are assisting certain noncitizens who had not yet filed a work permit application and sent more than 1.6 million texts and emails to noncitizens who are work-eligible but who have yet to apply for an EAD in a first-of-its-kind national campaign. 

  • Took steps toward eliminating the use of forced labor practices in the U.S. supply chain by ramping up enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). CBP stopped 4,033 shipments of goods in FY 2023 valued at approximately $1.44 billion suspected to have been made wholly or in part by People’s Republic of China (PRC)-based companies that use forced labor. Ten new PRC-based entities were added to the list of banned companies in 2023.  

  • Held unscrupulous employers accountable by creating a streamlined and expedited deferred action request process to better protect noncitizen workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, the violation of labor rights. This helps protect the American labor market, the conditions of the American worksite, and the dignity of the workers who power our economy. Over 2,000 case requests have been made since this policy was put in place.  

  • Took steps to ensure the security of the U.S. supply chain by establishing the Supply Chain Resilience Center (SCRC). The SCRC is starting to analyze vulnerabilities and conducting scenario planning with private sector stakeholders to help mitigate supply chain disruptions, ensure reliable and efficient deliveries of goods and services, and lower costs for the American people. HSI also established the Government Supply Chain Investigations Unit, a dedicated unit to facilitate more comprehensive supply chain risk management with increased resources to identify, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations infiltrating our supply chain with counterfeit or substandard goods. 

  • Helped protect U.S. businesses by seizing over 19,000 shipments containing products that infringe on U.S. trademarks or copyrights, or other intellectual property rights violations. Those shipments accounted for a total of nearly 23 million counterfeit items. If the seized products were genuine, their total Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price would be valued at $2.4 billion.  

  • Improved security effectiveness and efficiency and enhanced the passenger experience by deploying new technology at airport security checkpoints. This includes more than 2,000 Credential Authentication Technology units to improve identity verification at over 200 locations and 243 Computed Tomography X-ray scanners that produce high-quality 3D images of carry-on baggage while also reducing the need to touch or manually check bags. 

The Biden-Harris Administration inherited a badly broken immigration system that Congress has not fixed in decades. Despite the challenges, DHS is executing a comprehensive strategy to secure our borders and manage irregular migration in a safe, orderly, and humane way, including the transition from the Title 42 public health order to full processing under Title 8. By expanding lawful pathways, strengthening enforcement of our immigration laws, and leveraging innovation and modernization, we are laying the groundwork for a 21st century immigration system and providing unprecedented support for our workforce. We continue to call on Congress to provide the sustained resources and long-term modernization of the immigration and asylum system that is needed. 

  • Expanded lawful pathways to reduce irregular migration and ensure safe, orderly, and humane management of our borders and our immigration system: 

    • Interviewed over 100,000 refugee applicants in FY 2023 – more than double the previous fiscal year – contributing to the resettlement of over 60,000 refugees from abroad. 

    • Implemented new humanitarian parole processes for Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians that helped reduce irregular migration, denying smugglers the opportunity to exploit over 300,000 individuals from these countries. 

    • Established new family reunification parole processes for Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia, with updated family reunification parole processes for Cuba and Haiti. Over 3,000 paroles have been granted under this policy.  

    • Mobilized our partners throughout the hemisphere to work together under the framework of the Los Angeles Declaration to expand lawful pathways and reduce irregular migration. In 2023, that work included expediting refugee processing times through the establishment of Safe Mobility Offices in key locations including Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Guatemala. These facilities implement the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and provide information and/or referrals to humanitarian parole, family reunification, and labor pathways in the United States, Canada, and Spain and provide an orderly alternative to irregular migration. 

  • Increased our ability to enforce consequences for those who enter unlawfully and do not qualify for relief: 

    • Expanded expedited removal to process noncitizens who do not enter the United States through lawful pathways more quickly and in greater numbers than ever before, including record numbers of noncitizens receiving credible fear interviews by USCIS asylum officers.  

    • Removed or returned over 470,000 individuals since May 12, the vast majority of whom crossed the Southwest Border, including more than 78,000 individual family members. In seven months, this nearly exceeds the number removed and returned in all of FY 2019 and exceeds the number of removals and returns in each full fiscal year from 2015-2018. Daily removals and enforcement returns are nearly double what they were compared to the pre-pandemic average (2014-2019). 

    • In addition, after the ending of Title 42 in May, through the end of FY 2023, DHS removed or returned more noncitizens without a basis to remain in the United States than in any other five-month period in the last ten years. 

    • Expanded a first-of-its kind effort, unprecedented in scale, to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling networks that was launched in 2022. To date, this campaign has resulted in the arrest of over 18,000 smugglers, more than 10,000 disruption actions, and more than $60 million seized. The campaign has led to more than 2,000 indictments and more than 1,500 convictions in partnership with U.S. attorneys. U.S. Border Patrol has also referred close to 10,000 individuals for prosecution. 

  • Provided an unprecedented level of support for the CBP workforce, with more technology, personnel, and infrastructure deployed along our borders than ever before, and by securing the first increase in hiring of U.S. Border Patrol Agents in over a decade. That includes 300 additional Agents funded in the FY 2023 budget, an additional 350 requested in the President’s FY 2024 budget, and a further 1,300 Agents requested through the Administration’s supplemental budget request. By expanding digital innovation, including the use of electronic A-Files across the Southwest border, DHS has spared the equivalent of more than 200 CBP full-time personnel from paperwork processing so they can focus on operational duties. 

  • Reunited over 770 migrant children with their families who were separated at the Southwest Border. The Department also reached an agreement that provides for continued family reunifications, certain immigration relief, and certain support services for separated families, and sets forth standards to limit future separations during an eight-year period. 

  • Leveraged new technologies and other innovative tactics to increase efficiency and effectiveness of our law enforcement, including migrant vetting:

    • Improved processing times and vetting of migrants at the Southwest border by launching an appointment scheduling function on the CBP One mobile app. This enabled CBP to process four to five times as many individuals at select ports of entry than it could a decade ago, strengthening our ability to screen and vet those seeking to enter the United States. This orderly process with case-by-case determinations was utilized by over 360,000 individuals. 

    • Advanced compliance with immigration enforcement processes by making them more accessible, including through a newly launched U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) Portal where noncitizens can schedule appointments, update their address, and check immigration court hearing information in a consolidated location. This portal is part of ICE’s efforts to modernize, streamline, and encourage compliance with immigration enforcement processes.  

    • Built partnerships with foreign governments to strengthen our vetting capabilities. Under the International Biometric Information Sharing Program, for example, DHS has partnered with the U.S. Department of State to build the capacity of partners in the Western Hemisphere to collect and screen biometric information — including against DHS holdings — to more effectively manage irregular migration. 

  • CBP performed over 37,000 noncitizen rescues at our Southwest Border in FY 2023 including of those in danger of drowning in the Rio Grande or abandoned by unscrupulous smugglers in harsh and remote terrain without adequate water or sustenance. Noncitizens rescued are still subject to U.S. immigration laws, including being placed into removal proceedings if they do not have a legal basis to remain. 

  • Provided nearly $800 million in funding for communities receiving migrants through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program-Humanitarian and the Shelter and Services Program established by Congress in December 2022. The Department has also increased coordination with state and local officials to share best practices and help connect communities to federal resources to shelter migrants. 

  • Decreased the median processing time for naturalization applicants from 10.5 months to 6.1 months by the end of FY 2023, achieving the agency’s longstanding processing time goal for most individuals seeking the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship. USCIS welcomed more than 883,000 new U.S. citizens, completed 964,500 naturalization applications, and administered the Oath of Allegiance to over 12,000 U.S. military service members.  

  • DHS redesignated and extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Afghanistan, Cameroon, Haiti, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine, and Venezuela and extended TPS for certain nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal and Nicaragua.  

DHS stopped more fentanyl and arrested more drug traffickers in the last two years than in the previous five years combined and continues to optimize our intelligence and field operations to stop these deadly substances from hitting our streets. More than 90% of seized fentanyl is smuggled into the United States by transnational criminal organizations through ports of entry, primarily in vehicles driven by U.S. citizens. Our strategy is to disrupt the flow of fentanyl and precursor chemicals coming into the United States by improving our detection capabilities through personnel surges, advanced technology deployment, and increased information-sharing.  

  • CBP and HSI developed new, comprehensive strategies to combat fentanyl trafficking. In FY 2023 and the first two months of FY 2024, their combined efforts stopped over 48,500 pounds of fentanyl from hitting our streets, seized over 5,400 pill presses and more than $16 million in currency, and concluded investigations that led to over 5,600 arrests. DHS also surged cross-government efforts to interdict fentanyl and precursor chemicals:  

    • Operation Blue Lotus surged CBP and HSI resources to Southwest Border ports of entry and worked with state, local, tribal, and territorial partners to expose networks, seizing more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl and more than 10,000 pounds of narcotics like cocaine and methamphetamine. 

    • CBP’s Operations Artemis targeted the fentanyl supply chain and interdicted items required in the production of fentanyl, supported by HSI. This operation leveraged multidisciplined interagency jump teams at strategic locations with an enhanced focus on disrupting the supply chain used in the development and movement of fentanyl. 

    • Operation Rolling Wave surged inbound inspections at Southwest Border checkpoints, covering every sector and leveraging predictive analysis and intelligence sharing. 

    • Operation Apollo, a new CBP counter-fentanyl joint operation launched in October 2023, is concentrating law enforcement efforts on disrupting drug and chemical supply, collecting and sharing intelligence, and leveraging valuable partnerships in Southern California. 

  • As of the end of last year, CBP is operating 16 Forward Operating Laboratories to provide onsite, rapid testing for fentanyl to frontline personnel. These labs accelerate processing on the frontlines from weeks to seconds and provide real-time key results for quicker law enforcement intelligence, actions, and prosecutions. 

  • Tested new AI technology, including machine learning computer models, to help CBP officers determine which suspicious vehicles and passengers to refer to secondary screening, contributing to 240 seizures last year, including thousands of pounds of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl. 

  • Expanded collaboration with partners in the Western Hemisphere and Asia through 16 Transnational Criminal Investigative Units. In Mexico, this work resulted in the seizure of 64,138 pounds of precursor chemicals and more than 59 criminal arrests. DHS participated in the development of a new Counter Narcotics Working Group with China to disrupt the flow of illicit fentanyl precursor chemicals, delivering on the commitments made during President Biden’s meeting with President Xi in November 2023.  

  • Took down leaders of major transnational criminal organizations. This includes the arrest and extradition of Ovidio Guzman Lopez, part of the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico. His arrest is the result of a yearlong investigation led by HSI and ICE and demonstrates the U.S. government’s commitment to bring justice to those who seek to profit from international drug trafficking. 

DHS helped prepare for, prevent, or respond to 25 disasters that caused over $1 billion in damage each, more such disasters than any previous year. DHS is focused on providing our public and the private sector with the resources they need to reinforce our critical infrastructure, prepare response plans, and mitigate the impacts of natural disasters.  

  • Led whole-of-government responses to more than 90 natural disasters, including 25 that each caused over $1 billion in damages. In Maui, for example, more than 300 U.S. Coast Guard personnel responded to the crisis and led 22 search and rescue missions across nearly 800 square miles, saving at least 17 lives and assisting an additional 40 survivors. FEMA approved nearly $41million in assistance for survivors, including over $19 million in housing assistance and over $19.6 million in Other Needs Assistance. 

  • Reduced vulnerability to floods, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, extreme heat, and other climate-fueled hazards:  

    • Awarded $3 billion in resilience grants. This includes $1.8 billion for critical projects funded by the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grants expanding the program to 23 new states and $642 million for Flood Mitigation Assistance community-scale flood mitigation projects. These efforts advance the goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain covered federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment.   

    • Created a first-of-its-kind resource guide to help state, local, tribal, and territorial officials prepare their communities to face extreme heat and cold. These practical guides help save lives and protect critical infrastructure at risk from increasingly intense weather events due to the climate crisis and help advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to protecting communities from extreme weather.  

    • Helped target resources where they are needed most by announcing the first 483 Community Disaster Resilience Zones in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. FEMA used the National Risk Index and other tools to identify the census tracts across the country at the highest risk from natural hazards and those most in need and increased the share of BRIC funding to those areas.  

  • Made grants and disaster relief more easily accessible to communities who need it most. FEMA launched a new online disaster assistance application designed to reduce the time it takes for survivors to register for assistance. It also took steps to more efficiently assess damage to homes, buildings, and other property after a disaster by using AI technology. Using machine learning, data from past incidents, and pre-disaster imagery, FEMA can classify different levels of damage, allowing FEMA’s analysts to process images in days, as opposed to weeks, and provides assistance to survivors much faster. 

  • Deployed more than 200 prototype wildland fire sensors across the United States, Canada, Germany, and Peru. The sensors leverage artificial intelligence for early detection of particles and smoke and have had promising early results, including several wildfires identified within 30 to 60 minutes of ignition. FEMA and the Science and Technology Directorate prepared efforts to deploy new sensors across the island of Maui to enhance early warning capabilities and help prevent future wildfires.  

  • Supported America’s 27,182 registered fire departments which continue to be impacted by the increasing severity and frequency of natural disasters. To help recruit and train personnel, DHS awarded over $320 million via the Assistance to Firefighters Grants through FEMA in FY 2023. Additionally, in an effort to combat the increasing risk of wildfires spreading into communities, the National Fire Academy and the International Association of Fire Fighters collaborated on a training program for wildfire conflagration for structure firefighters.  

  • Joined the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). As the first new member of the interagency USGCRP body in nearly two decades, DHS joined as its 14th member. USGCRP’s membership consists of agencies that conduct global change research and use it to carry out their mission, creating opportunities for decision-makers to communicate information needs directly to scientists and for scientists to support informed decision-making. FEMA will have the opportunity to influence and provide input on climate change research that will allow the agency to better fulfill its mission, including es leading communities in climate resilience. 

In 2023, the Department identified “Combatting Crimes of Exploitation and Protecting Victims” as a sixth mission area for the first time in its Quadrennial Homeland Security Review and is dedicating the full weight of its resources towards combatting these heinous crimes. Increasingly sophisticated transnational criminal organizations, the misuse of new technologies, economic instability, and other forces are fueling an alarming increase in human trafficking, child exploitation, and labor exploitation. In response, the Department is redoubling its efforts to combat these crimes, support victims, and stop perpetrators. 

  • Identified or rescued 1,170 child victims through investigations supported by the HSI Child Exploitation Investigations Unit. 

  • Used AI and machine learning models to increase the efficiency of investigations related to child exploitation, leading to 68 individuals rescued, 47 arrests, eight life sentences, and eight trafficking networks dismantled in just a few months.   

  • Issued 4,907 notifications to foreign nations regarding international travel by convicted child sex offenders, resulting in more than 1,132 denials of entry by foreign nations, more than FY 2022. DHS also referred 3,624 U.S. passports to the U.S. Department of State for revocation and reissuance with a registered child sex offender endorsement through the Department’s Angel Watch Program, a joint effort with CBP and the U.S. Marshals Service.   

  • Increased international collaboration to address these crimes by establishing a Joint Council on Combating Child Sexual Exploitation with the Australian government. This council is leading joint research and development efforts, shared operations to go after criminals, implementing policy and legislation, and collaborating on prevention, awareness, and outreach efforts. 

  • Educated over 74,000 kids, teens, parents, and teachers about internet safety and how to stay safe from sexual predators through a revamped iGuardian program. HSI trained over 390 special agents, and since October 2023, completed presentations across 22 states and 2 countries. 

  • Increased community education efforts on internet and personal safety in 27 different states through approximately 736 presentations and outreach events for children hosted by USSS Childhood Smart Ambassadors. This is a more than 77.7% increase over FY 2022.  

  • Delivered 135 training and outreach events on human trafficking to more than 14,000 participants, including the second DHS-wide Human Trafficking Seminar and an Advanced Human Trafficking Training for HSI investigators. The DHS Blue Campaign, our national anti-human trafficking awareness campaign, delivered 194 human trafficking awareness presentations to nearly 20,000 federal, non-governmental organizations, law enforcement, and congressional partners and acquired 83 new partners. 

DHS has the third largest workforce of any federal agency and is home to more than 80,000 sworn law enforcement officers, the greatest number of law enforcement officers of any federal agency. DHS offices and agencies interact more frequently on a daily basis with the American public than any other federal agency, from travelers moving through air, land, and sea ports of entry, to businesses importing goods into the country, to immigrants applying for services.

  • Improved morale and job satisfaction of our 260,000 employees. DHS scores in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey increased from 2022, with those gains either matching or exceeding those of other departments across the government. The DHS Employee Engagement Index is a set of questions focused on morale, and it increased by 3%, from 64% to 67%, compared to a 1% increase governmentwide. The Global Satisfaction Index measures job, organizational, and pay satisfaction, and it increased 6%, from 54% to 60%, compared to a 2% increase governmentwide. Our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Index increased from 63% to 65%.

  • Made significant strides toward improving customer experience, including by establishing a Customer Experience office, the first-of-its-kind in the federal government, to better ensure DHS services that are simple to use, accessible, equitable, protective, transparent, and responsive. Examples of improved customer experience across the Department include:

    • FEMA’s redesign of the registration and intake process for disaster survivors applying for individual assistance online.

    • ICE’s launch of a new portal for noncitizens to have a central place for managing and tracking their responsibilities.

    • TSA’s facial recognition technology operational assessments on CAT-2 scanners for identity verification to enhance security effectiveness, operational efficiency, and the passenger experience, while protecting privacy and civil liberties, currently deployed at nearly 30 airports nationwide.  

    • AskTSA responded directly to 3 million traveler inquiries questions, typically within two minutes, over social media and via text message.  

    • Partnerships with Apple, Samsung, Google, and American Airlines are helping passengers us mobile driver’s licenses and ID cards in seven states (Maryland, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Utah, and California).  

    • DHS exceeded its Burden Reduction Initiative goal ahead of schedule and improved customer experience by reducing public burden by over 20 million hours annually. 

  • Exceeded our goal for new hires of women in the law enforcement field at 35%, an increase from 23% in early FY 2022. The Department also created a new Women in Law Enforcement Task Force and hosted a major hiring event with nearly 2,500 attendees. DHS is committed to keeping these critical positions staffed by building a diverse, resilient, and skilled workforce of the highest quality that mirrors and represents the public that we serve. 

  • Reconstituted the Homeland Security Academic Partnership Council with 20 new members who are providing strategic and actionable recommendations to the Secretary on campus safety and security, improved coordination, research priorities, hiring, and more. Members represent higher education associations, campus law enforcement, two- and four-year colleges and universities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges, and Asian American and Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions.   

  • Met with over 200 local officials to discuss ways DHS can support their cities. This increased outreach by the DHS Office of Intergovernmental Affairs allowed us to provide direct assistance and coordinate DHS component briefings to better serve these communities.  

  • The Homeland Security Advisory Council produced a record eight reports in 2023 for the Council on critical topics ranging from Customer Service to AI. These recommendations led to the development of new initiatives, like the Supply Chain Resilience Center, customer experience improvements across component agencies, and critical AI policy.  

  • Ensured the TSA’s workforce is paid comparably with their colleagues by implementing a new compensation plan in July, which, for the first time ever puts all TSA employees on the same pay level as their federal counterparts on the General Schedule (GS) pay scale. The agency’s attrition numbers have noticeably dropped, and numbers of applicants continue to increase.  

  • Championed the workforce through the Department’s 20th Anniversary celebrations, which included eight ceremonies across the country recognizing 20,000 employees who served in the Department since its creation. This included an event in Washington featuring remarks from President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., former President George W. Bush, and former Pennsylvania Governor and the first Secretary of Homeland Security Thomas J. Ridge. DHS also awarded more than 1,300 employees with Secretary’s Awards, the Department’s highest honor, for their extraordinary accomplishments last year. This was the highest number of annual award recipients in the Department’s history. 

  • Strengthened the transparency of our work by launching the Office of Homeland Security Statistics (OHSS) in November 2023 to advance the Department’s statistical reporting and analysis capabilities. The OHSS conducts independent statistical reporting and analysis Department-wide, supports evidence-based policymaking and data-driven decision making, and oversees the development of enterprise-wide data standards.  

  • Enhanced the Department’s work with law enforcement partners by elevating the Office for State and Local Law Enforcement to the Office of the Secretary. This ensures that law enforcement equities are represented throughout the Department during policy, program, and initiative development; that law enforcement and terrorism-focused grants are appropriately centered on terrorism prevention activities; and that DHS provides maximal information, resources, and operational support to its law enforcement partners.  

  • Strengthened Department-wide civil liberties protections:  

    • Established the Transparency and Oversight Program Office in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis to consolidate oversight functions that were previously dispersed throughout the organization, creating a stronger voice for oversight and compliance in all decision making.   

    • Issued the first comprehensive facial recognition guidance in the federal government. The guidance ensures that all uses of facial recognition and face capture technologies will be thoroughly tested to ensure there is no bias or disparate impact in accordance with national standards and include the right to opt-out of face recognition for specific, non-law enforcement uses. 

    • Became the largest federal agency to issue a comprehensive policy and training program governing the use of commercial generative AI tools for certain employees. This helps ensure our use of AI is responsible, advances equity, and appropriately safeguards privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.    

  • Took steps to further consolidate DHS leadership and agencies to one main headquarters, increasing cohesion and cross department collaboration needed to address the threats of today and tomorrow. DHS launched a new expansion of the DHS St. Elizabeths campus in Washington, D.C. that will provide additional office space for approximately 6,500 personnel, new offices for CISA and ICE, and a 1,500-space parking garage to support our employees.    

  • Implemented Executive Order (EO) 14074 on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety. To date, the Department has implemented 27 of 36 action items from the EO that included updates to the Department’s law enforcement policies, trainings, and procedures. 


Last Updated: 01/10/2024
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Originally published at https://www.dhs.gov/news/2024/01/09/2023-year-review-secretary-mayorkas-champions-department-wide-efforts-save-lives

USA - USA DAILY NEWS 24 originally published at USA - USA DAILY NEWS 24