Most Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee last Friday re-introduced legislation that they said is aimed at eliminating the politicization of the Department of Homeland Security by improving accountability and transparency.
“Under former President Trump, DHS became the face of his most extreme and politicized policies,” the Democrats, led by Bennie Thompson (Miss.), chairman of the committee, said in a statement. “This has damaged the department’s ability to address its national security mission while also eroding workforce morale and the public’s trust in it. We are introducing the DHS Reform Act today with clear and commonsense reform measures to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse, including violations of privacy, civil rights and civil liberties.”
The 263-page bill, originally introduced last November, contains a number of provisions, including limits on who can serve in an acting capacity to lead the department or a component by requiring prior service in a senior leadership position for 90 days before designated to an acting role. The bill would also authorize the under secretary for management for a five-year term to improve transitions between administrations.
Another provision would create a new “associate secretary” for the department’s law enforcement missions, positioning the role as third in command at DHS and focused on coordinating and overseeing Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service, and Federal Protective Service.
The legislation would also further integrate the DHS Privacy Office and Office for Civil Rights and Liberties with the components to prevent violations of privacy and civil rights and liberties. The bill would also authorize these offices to review DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis products and train intelligence personnel on protecting civil rights and liberties.
The bill also requires an update to the DHS use-of-force policy to “emphasize de-escalation tactics and training.”
Another section of the bill is targeted at improving the acquisition process by authorizing the Joint Requirements Council to review and prioritize capability needs across the department, and review technical support offices to ensure products and services DHS acquires meet the capability needs.
As part of acquisition reform, the under secretary for management would be designated the chief acquisition officer. Currently, the chief procurement officer within the management directorate oversees major acquisitions.