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DHS Secretary Outlines Priorities for 2014

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson gave his first major policy address Friday since taking office on December 23 of last year. Johnson focused on what he has done so far in office and also outlined his priorities as secretary for 2014, including pushing Congress to pass immigration reform.

�From the homeland security perspective, this is something we need to do,� Johnson said to the packed room at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C. �The answer is not simply to build longer or taller fences� but instead to focus on using American resources in areas where threats to the border exist and to �prioritize our resources on those who represent threats to our security.�

Since taking office, Johnson has visited the southwestern border of the United States, making trips to the Rio Grande in Texas and speaking with ranchers who work the borderlands in Arizona. He has also made visits to Capitol Hill in an effort to build relationships with members of Congress, which is crucial as Speaker John Boehner spoke to the media earlier this week and said that he doubted that immigration reform will pass in 2014.

Also on Johnson�s radar is the continuing situation in Syria. Currently, the country has called a three-day ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to reach those in need, according to reports by Reuters. However, the country�s civil war continues to be a major focus of DHS and Johnson is particularly concerned about foreign fighters heading to Syria.

According to Johnson, DHS is aware of individuals from the United States and Canada who have gone to Syria to fight in the civil war. The department is also worried about a growing trend of terrorist organizations recruiting westerners and having them return to their home country with an extremist mission.

Johnson just recently returned from Poland where he met with several European allies who also expressed concern about the situation of Syria. The secretary considers the situation a matter of homeland security and DHS, the FBI, and the intelligence community are actively working to identify threats from extremists originating from the country.

Additional priorities for Johnson in the coming year are increasing DHS�s role in keeping U.S. cyber networks safe, building partnerships with state and local law enforcement, and keeping an eye on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as it begins weekend. However, he said he is committed to protecting our values as a nation.

�We can build more walls and install more screening devices�but not at the cost of who we are as a nation of people,� he explained. �We cherish privacy and freedom, celebrate diversity, we carry our flag at the Olympics, and we are not afraid.�

For more information on Secretary Johnson or to watch his speech in full, visit DHS�s websitehere.