The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday introduced a bill to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office and authorize and transfer the new Office of Health Security, which currently resides within the CWMD Office.
DHS proposed in its fiscal year 2023 budget request to transfer the Office of Health Affairs to the Office of the Secretary and Executive Management and rename it the Office of Health Security and Resilience, which will continue to be led by the chief medical officer of the department.
The Offices of Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction and Health Security Act clarifies the roles of the CWMD Office to address chemical and biological threats, including working with other DHS components and state, local, tribal and territorial authorities. The bill also expands congressional oversight of the office, including requiring the office to submit a report to Congress every four years on the strategy to counter WMD and other emerging threats.
“This bipartisan legislation will ensure our federal government can formulate a comprehensive strategy to protect all of our communities from weapons that can have catastrophic effects, as well as other public health threats,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the committee, said in a statement. “It will also ensure that the offices within DHS that are responsible for tackling these significant issues are more accountable to Congress and the American people.”
The bill also codifies the responsibilities of the Office of Health Security.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the ranking member on the committee, said in a statement that the “legislation will authorize the strategic repositioning of the DHS Chief Medical Officer as head of the newly formulated DHS Office of Health Security to bolster oversight efforts of all medical, public health, and workforce safety of the department while also performing a pivotal role in all health matters related to DHS’s broad mission set.”