In likely its last markup this year, the House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday unanimously approved five bills dealing with cyber and border security and countering drones, sending them to the House for consideration.
One bill, the Hack the Department of Homeland Security Act of 2017 (S. 1281), passed the Senate earlier this year. The legislation would create a bug bounty pilot program within the DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer to minimize cyber security vulnerabilities by enabling approved individuals, organizations and companies to look for any vulnerabilities in websites and applications that are publicly accessible.
In the Senate, the bill was introduced by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and in the House by Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Scott Taylor (R-Va.).
“This legislation ensures DHS will execute a bug bounty program and reap the cost-effective benefits to the security of their networks and systems,” Portman said in a statement following the committee’s passage of the bill.
The bug bounty bill is modeled after a similar measure that is already in place for the Defense Department. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), said during the markup that during the first four-weeks that the Pentagon effort was in place, 138 vulnerabilities were found “for half the cost the department had been paying to discover less than a tenth as many.”
Another cyber bill, the Public-Private Cybersecurity Cooperation Act (H.R. 6735), would direct DHS to establish a vulnerability disclosure policy for when individuals, organizations and companies report security vulnerabilities on DHS information systems. The bill was introduced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the majority leader in the House.
Langevin said the DoD created its own vulnerability disclosure policy and that DHS could do so as well without additional legislation but that “Unfortunately, it appears they will not do so unless Congress requires it of them.”
The countering unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) bill would require the DHS Intelligence and Analysis branch to reach out to the federal government, state and local agencies, and the private sector to gather information about threats from UAS and within a year of the legislation becoming law, produce a report on the treat from these systems.
The Protecting Critical Infrastructure Against Drones and Emerging Threats Act (H.R. 6620) also requires the intelligence office to create a security threat assessment related to UAS. The bill was introduced by Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and John Ratcliffe (R-Texas).
The House earlier this month passed separate counter UAS legislation that directs DHS to coordinate among its components for the development of polices and plans to counter drone threats. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this summer passed a bill that for the first time would give DHS and the Justice Department limited authorities to mitigate threats posed by UAS in certain situations. Downing an aircraft is the national airspace is prohibited although the Secret Service, and DoD and Energy Department also have limited authorities to mitigate UAS threats in the U.S.
The committee also approved two other bills, including the Border Tunnel Task Force Act (H.R. 6740), which would create task forces from DHS and other federal, state, local and tribal agencies aimed at addressing cross-border tunnel threats. The Secure Border Communications Act (H.R. 6742) ensures that Customs and Border Protection officers have secure, interoperable radios.
Separately, on Wednesday, the House approved by voice vote the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 2018 (H.R. 6198), which authorizes the new Office of Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction within DHS. The office consists of the former Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and Office of Health Affairs.
“A WMD attack in the United States could kill millions of people and bring economic mayhem,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chairman of the committee, said on the House floor during debate on the bill. “We cannot allow these weapons to be used on our soil. To prevent that from happening, we must give the Department of Homeland Security the structure, authority, and tools it needs to counter this threat.”
The Countering WMD bill was introduced by Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.)
McCaul, whose six-year tenure as chairman of the committee ends this year per House Republican rules limiting chairmanship terms, said that the committee in the current Congress that began in January 2017 has passed 116 bills, 83 initiated by Republicans and 33 by Democrats, adding that 105 have passed the House. However, only seven have been signed into law.
McCaul pointed to a logjam in the Senate, which is has “nearly 90 bills” to act on, calling them “good governance bills.” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the ranking member on the committee, said “the Senate is absolutely dragging its feet.”