Two House and Senate committees that oversee the Department of Homeland Security approved a number of measures related to homeland security, mostly with bipartisan support, including bills for cyber security and acquisition reform.
The House Homeland Security Committee cleared 10 of the bills, including the DHS Cyber Incident Response Teams Act (H.R. 1158), which would authorize existing cyber incident response teams within the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to provide support to owners and operators of critical infrastructure if they request help responding to or recovering from cyber incidents and in creating mitigation strategies for preventing and deterring cyber attacks.
The cyber bill, which was introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), would also allow DHS to include cyber security specialists from the private sector on the teams. The bill passed the House by voice vote in the last Congress.
The DHS Acquisition Review Board Act of 2019 (H.R. 2609) authorizes the Acquisition Review Board to be chaired by the Under Secretary of Management to “strengthen accountability and uniformity” throughout the acquisition process. The board currently exists to review acquisition programs at key milestones in the design, development and production stages. The bill was introduced by Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas).
The McCaul and Crenshaw measures would codify existing practices within DHS. The bills were approved unanimously.
Another acquisition-related bill that passed unanimously was the Homeland Procurement Reform Act (H.R. 2083), which applies to uniforms, body armor, tactical gear, and other apparel and gear worn or carried by front line operational personnel. The measure requires at least one-third of funds obligated for purchases of this gear and apparel must be for items manufactured in the U.S. The bill was introduced by Rep. J. Louis Correa (D-Calif.).
The Unifying DHS Intelligence Enterprise Act (H.R. 2589) was introduced by Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) and approved without dissent. It calls for DHS to develop and implement enterprise-wide guidance for the processing, analysis, production and dissemination of homeland security and terrorism information.
The Strengthening Local Transportation Security Capabilities Act (H.R. 2539) requires DHS to prioritize the assignment of officers and intelligence analysts from the Transportation Security Administration and Office of Intelligence and Analysis to locations with participating state, local and regional fusion centers in areas with a high-risk surface transportation asset to boost security through more timely sharing of classified information. The bill was introduced by Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) and approved unanimously.
Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) introduced a bill requiring DHS to routinely brief Congress on department personnel deployed overseas regarding their contributions to the homeland security mission and on challenges in communicating counterterrorism information between these personnel and their host countries. The DHS Overseas Personnel Enhancement Act (H.R. 2590) passed unanimously.
A bill introduced by Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) would codify the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL), which is part of the Science and Technology Directorate and supports first responders. The NUSTL tests and assesses current emerging technologies such as cyber security, and response and recovery related to radiological and nuclear events. The Supporting Research and Development for First Responders Act (H.R. 542) passed without dissent.
The committee also approved by voice votes a bill prohibiting the use of homeland security grants funds for the purchase of guns and related accessories for teachers and another requiring the Under Secretary for Intelligence Analysis to report annually a terrorism threat assessment on the availability of “ghost guns” in support of an act of terrorism. Ghost guns lack a unique serial number or are made through 3D printing without the identifier. Both bills received Republican no votes.
A bill offered by committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) would authorize a grant program at up to $75 million annually for non-profit organizations to strengthen their security. It passed unanimously.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee also unanimously approved several security bills including the Supply Chain Counterintelligence Training Act (S. 1388), the Counterterrorism Advisory Board Act (S. 411), and the Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel Exercise Act (H.R. 1590), which passed the House in April with strong bipartisan support. The supply chain bill, introduced by Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), requires the Office of Management and Budget to establish and implement a counterintelligence training program for officials with supply chain risk management responsibilities.
The Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Act, authored by McCaul, requires DHS to work with other federal agencies to conduct an exercise related to the detection and prevention of terrorist and foreign fighter travel.
The advisory board bill, introduced by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), would codify an existing board consisting of senior representatives of operational components and headquarters elements to coordinate intelligence activities and policy and information related to the DHS mission to counter terrorist threats.