Congressman Duncan Holds Hearing on DHS Communication Failures

June 14, 2013
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jeff Duncan, Chairman of the Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee, held a hearing entitled, “Why Can’t DHS Better Communicate with the American People?”

The hearing examined the Department of Homeland Security’s challenges communicating its goals, priorities, tactics, and missions. Chairman Duncan highlighted examples of DHS ammunition procurement, Sequestration, and ICE’s detainee releases as instances where the Department failed to adequately inform the American people. Mr. Robert Jensen, DHS’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, acknowledged challenges but noted tools DHS uses to inform the public, such as through social media. Ms. Tamara Kessler, DHS’s Acting Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, discussed the Department’s outreach efforts to ethnic and religious communities.

The hearing also highlighted private sector best practices in communication and public affairs, as well as, findings from a START Center report that found almost 60 percent of Americans are unaware of DHS’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign—a program to raise public awareness towards terrorism and emphasize  reporting suspicious activity. Mr. Doug Pinkham, Public Affairs Council President, stated that “because DHS deals with major national security and civil liberty issues, it has to be diligent about setting the record straight when the public is misinformed. Yet it must do so with compelling stories to supplement its facts.”

Chairman Duncan on the hearing:

“An uncommunicative Department of Homeland Security that is seen as consistently stonewalling increases people’s skepticism of DHS, strains the institution’s credibility, and makes people question the motivations of the Department’s leadership.”

“It seems to me that more than a decade after the September 11th attacks, and especially in light of April’s Boston Marathon bombings, that the American people are resilient and receptive and more than willing to do their part in securing the homeland. It is my hope that the Department will try to work to capitalize on this through enhancing its responsiveness and communication with the public and their stakeholders.”