House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) last Thursday introduced an authorizing bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that his committee will begin marking up Wednesday, Oct. 12.

The Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 3116) follows approval last month by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee of similar legislation (Defense Daily, Sept. 15 and Sept. 22).

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I/D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate panel, said in a statement last Thursday evening that the two bills are “similar in many ways, so I hope we can get a DHS reauthorization through Congress in the near future.”

The two bills represent the first time Congress has attempted near comprehensive authorization legislation for DHS since it stood up in 2003. The bills are not fully comprehensive because of the fractured policy oversight of DHS within Congress. For example Lieberman’s committee has no jurisdiction over the Transportation Security Administration.

Similar to the Senate bill, the pending House measure would strengthen acquisition oversight within DHS. The House bill would create a Capabilities and Requirements Council of DHS personnel that would provide inputs into the department’s senior acquisition oversight panel, the Acquisition Review Board, “and recommend investments for the [Homeland Security] Secretary and seek to harmonize investment strategies across the department.”

The House bill also proposes an acquisition professional career program and strategic plan for the acquisition workforce, and would extend until 2016 the department’s authority to expedite the start of research and development projects using “other transaction authority.”

In the area of border security, the House bill calls for DHS to create a comprehensive strategy for gaining operational control of the nation’s borders and ports of entry within five years. It would also maintain the current level of Border Patrol staffing for two more years, require Customs and Border Protection to work with the DHS Science and Technology (S&T) branch to identify technology to detect tunnels, the use of unauthorized vehicles, low-flying aircraft, unmanned vehicles and illegal entries between ports of entry.

The bill also calls for a pilot test of autonomous unmanned vehicles to examine their effectiveness at patrolling the maritime and land areas of the northern border.

The bill also authorizes the S&T branch to assess the need to have screening capabilities at ports of entry for biological agents, pandemic influenza, and other infectious diseases. The authorizers also want S&T to have an analytic capability that can be exercised across the department and its components “to examine major acquisition programs, define technological gaps, and examine alternatives.”

The bill also authorizes the Securing the Cities program, which is currently deployed in the New York City region to help state and local authorities guard against the introduction of radiological and nuclear devices. The bill also requires the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to support state and local authorities with “equipment, training and exercises that implement preventive radiological and nuclear detection capabilities.”

The House bill also tackles the homegrown terrorism issue, requiring DHS to designate an official to coordinate the department’s efforts to counter “Islamist homegrown violent extremism.” King has held several hearings on the issue of Islamist homegrown terrorism.

On Friday Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano said that she has named John Cohen, the principal deputy Counterterrorism Coordinator, to lead DHS’ efforts against violent extremism. Lieberman and his colleague Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said that creating a point person to deal with violent Islamist extremism is positive step but said they want additional action.

“Although John Cohen has performed well in his current position, we do not knowyet if an official who is not accountable to Congress through the confirmation process will be effective in coordinating the DHS effort to counter violent Islamist extremism,” Lieberman and Collins said in a joint statement. “We also need a better understanding of the resources—offices, programs, personnel, and funding—dedicated to the effort. And we need to understand how the department will measure success.”