Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano outlined the department's plans for this year in the third annual state of homeland security address. (Stephanie Yang/Medill)

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano outlined the department’s plans for this year in the third annual state of homeland security address. (Stephanie Yang/Medill)

WASHINGTON—Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano today said improving aviation security, immigration reform and cybersecurity are the main priorities of her agency this year in in her annual state of homeland security address.

However, Napolitano said the $85 billion in federal budget cuts scheduled for March 1, also known as the sequester, will hurt the Department of Homeland Security’s national security efforts. She said the cuts will cost the department up to 5,000 border patrol agents, and also  port and Transportation Security Administration officers.

“It means that we can’t continue to invent and build,” Napolitano said at the Brookings Institution. “I fear that we’re going to just work from crisis to crisis, which helps no one, but really affects a young, growing department like ours.”

Napolitano said with the Homeland Security’s 10th anniversary in March comes a new era of national security, which includes cybersecurity, immigration, and responses to natural disaster  as well as to terrorist attacks. Napolitano referred to the current state of the department as “DHS 3.0” to emphasize the advances it has made since its creation after the 9/11 attacks.

This year the DHS plans to improve information sharing among its partners to identify security threats sooner, Napolitano said. She said she wants to specifically focus on more efficient aviation security. By the end of this year, the Transportation Security Administration expects one out of four passengers to go through expedited screening, compared to the current ratio of one to 12, she said.

Another area of concern for Napolitano is passing common-sense immigration reform, which she said would relieve pressure on the border and decrease the flow of illegal immigrants.

“It is time for Congress to stop giving us more buckets, and instead fix the ship,” Napolitano said borrowing a line from Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.

Attempts to enter the country illegally are now at 40-year lows, she said, and last year security removed a record of more than 250,000 undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes. But the U.S. is also working to provide opportunities for young illegal immigrants, allowing them to defer deportation for two years and apply for work authorization.

Napolitano said the changing landscape of security threats requires fast and flexible responses from government and citizens alike. The DHS will do more to inform and engage the public in the shared responsibility of national security, she said.

“DHS 3.0 requires us to do more than ever to reach the public we serve,” Napolitano said. “This is a story I think of evolution and progress and lessons learned.”