The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved a bevy of bills, including bipartisan measures to address border security technology gaps, creation of an industry cyber advisory panel, a commission to assess the nation’s counterterrorism policy, and other homeland security issues.
The Southwest Border Security Technology Improvement Act of 2020 (S. 4224), introduced by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), requires the Department of Homeland Security to assess technology gaps along the southwest border and how they could be addressed.
The bill also requires DHS to review technology advances that could benefit border security and technologies to help contend with drug smuggling and human trafficking.
The Cybersecurity Advisory Committee Authorization Act of 2020 (S. 4024), sponsored by Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), would establish within the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) an advisory committee consisting of members from industry, and state and local governments.
Suggested industry representation on the Cybersecurity Advisory Committee includes defense, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, media and entertainment, communications, information technology, healthcare, manufacturing and more. The committee would provide recommendations to improve CISA and the nation’s cyber security and would provide the agency with an annual report.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the ranking member on the committee, sponsored the National Commission on United States Counterterrorism Policy Act of 2020 (S. 4169), which would establish an independent commission within Congress to review the country’s counterterrorism objectives, priorities, capabilities, policies, programs and activities.
The bill requires the commission to study the evolution of threats the U.S. since 9/11, counterterrorism lessons learned since then, ongoing objectives, priorities, capabilities and policies and any tradeoffs among these, how these efforts are integrated into wider U.S. foreign and domestic policy, impacts on civil rights and liberties in the U.S. and internationally, and if resources are properly aligned across the range of terrorist threats facing the U.S. and the various government programs.
The Promoting Rigorous and Innovative Cost Efficiencies for Federal Procurement and Acquisitions (PRICE) Act of 2019 (S.3038), also offered by Peters, directs DHS to publish an annual report on its website of projects that have used innovative procurement techniques to accomplish goals such as improving competition, making awards faster, saving costs, meeting small business goals, and achieving better mission outcomes.
The bill also requires the DHS Management Directorate to share best practices across the department and provide guidance and training to personnel on innovative procurement techniques.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced two technology-related bills: the Safeguarding American Innovation Act (S. 3997), which is aimed at protecting U.S. research and intellectual property, and the Information Technology Modernization Centers of Excellence Program Act (S. 4200), which lays out the responsibility of General Services Administration Centers of Excellence harmonizes their roles to strengthen the government technology expertise beyond just artificial intelligence.
The Safeguarding American Innovation bill would punish individuals who intentionally fail to disclose foreign support on federal grant applications, require the State Department’s student visitor exchange program sponsors to have safeguards against unauthorized access to sensitive technologies, strengthen the department’s authority to deny visas to certain foreign nationals seeking access to sensitive technologies when it is contrary to U.S. national security and economic security, and lower the reporting threshold for U.S. schools and universities receiving gifts from $250,000 to $50,000.
The committee also approved the Real ID Act Modernization Act, which updates the existing identification law to include mobile and digital driver’s licenses and identification. Real ID, passed by Congress in 2005, establishes minimum security standards for the issuance and production of driver’s licenses.
The committee also approved an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) requiring DHS to notify Congress of changes to the department’s orders of succession within three days. Carper pointed to changes at DHS in 2019 that were done without timely notification to Congress, which has left a large number of acting officials at the department that haven’t been vetted by Congress.