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Secretary Napolitano tells The American Legion
“preparedness, not fear” is DHS guiding principle

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Aug. 26, 2009) – Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano says her agency wants to be identified as a resource for preparedness rather than a purveyor of fear. In an address before thousands gathered at The American Legion's 91st national convention in Louisville, Ky. today, she said that members of the nation's largest veterans service organization can play an important role in that mission.
With its disaster preparedness education programs already in place, “the Legion is in a unique position to help,” she said. Napolitano appealed for the Legion's assistance in meeting not just threats posed by terrorists, but by weather – and evidenced by recent flooding in Louisville itself – and disease, such as the expected outbreak of the H1N1 or “swine” flu this fall. “The Legion and its Auxiliary (have) been supporters (of our efforts) in the past and I am asking you to re-energize that participation and that partnership with us,” she said.
The DHS Secretary also delivered a status report on what her agency is doing to benefit military veterans. “We have now 2,100 service disabled veterans that we are employing at the Department of Homeland Security,” she announced to warm applause. She then vowed to have 50-thousand vets in the DHS work force by 2012. “But wait, there's more, she continued, “…and this was an idea we hatched in a meeting with your commander -- we held our first ever job fair for veterans. We had 745 veterans and their spouses attend…and I am pleased to report that we were able to actively assist (many) in getting employment or improving their current employment situation.” She said her agency was also working with the veteran-owned small business and the service-disabled small business communities assist their members in securing government work contracts.
As Napolitano intimated, her department's assertive actions to assist job-seeking veterans were prompted, in part, by a meeting last spring with The American Legion's national commander, David K. Rehbein. The meeting was convened after the Legion objected to the tone of a hastily released DHS report which some interpreted as characterizing military veterans as possible threats to national security. The Secretary apologized for the errant document at the time and reiterated her explanation and regret today.
Napolitano is no stranger to The American Legion. As a young woman she was very actively involved in the Legion's Girls State and related programs. The former Arizona governor credits that participation with inspiring her career in public service.
With a current membership of 2.5-million wartime veterans, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 14,000 posts across the nation.

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