The Senate by voice vote on Tuesday evening passed a measure codifying an office within the Department of Homeland Security that will oversee the strategy, policy and development and acquisition of technologies designed to protect the U.S. from weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
DHS stood up the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office in late 2017 but the bill passed by the Senate, which was approved by the House last week, ensures the status of the office, which combines the former Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and Office of Health Affairs.
The Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 2018 (H.R. 7213) must still be signed into law by President Trump.
“I applaud today’s congressional action, which will provide DHS with the authorities needed to guard against biological and chemical threats, and which will build on our already broad authorities to protect against radiological and nuclear dangers,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement Tuesday night. “The United States faces rising danger from terrorist groups and rogue nation states which could use weapons of mass destruction to harm Americans.
The Countering WMD Office has been led by Assistant Secretary James McDonnell since it stood up in December 2017.
The bill codifies the Securing the Cities program within the office. Under the program, DHS helps major urban areas on the U.S. with training and technology and planning to mitigate, and if necessary respond to, radiological and nuclear attacks. Within a year of enactment, the legislation requires the office to provide Congress with an implementation plan for the Securing the Cities program and with a strategy and implementation plan for all of its programs.
The bill also directs the Government Accountability Office to review the implementation plan for Securing the Cities.