Impact of Government Shutdown on DHS
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) retained more staff than other agencies because many of its operations cover fields deemed “essential,” such as law enforcement and national security. However, DHS officials still report increased challenges due to the overall impact of the shutdown. In response, House Republicans passed targeted, short-term bills to fund the Federal Aviation Administration (H.J. Res. 90) and border security operations (H.J. Res. 79) through December 15. The Senate refused to take a piecemeal approach.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) has added his voice to the chorus of lawmakers expressing concerns about top-level vacancies at DHS. The vacancies causing the most concern include DHS Secretary and DHS Inspector General. Chairman McCaul noted that the position of inspector general had been vacant for two years, and the Obama administration had not nominated a successor to former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.
On Wednesday, October 9, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security postponed two markups which are to be rescheduled in the near future. The first bill, the Essential Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Assessment Act (H.R. 3202), was introduced by Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) and requires DHS to prepare a comprehensive security assessment of the TWIC program. The ranking member introduced this bill after the Government Accountability Office published a report criticizing the results of a TWIC pilot for not being sufficiently complete, accurate, or reliable. The ranking member had been expected to introduce an amendment in the nature of a substitute at the markup.
The second bill, the Biometric Exit Improvement Act of 2013 (H.R. 3141), introduced by Chairman Candace Miller (R-MI), requires DHS to move on a faster timetable to implement a biometric exit system. This bill would require DHS to produce a nationwide implementation plan and cost-benefit analysis within six months and require full implementation of a biometric exit pilot within two years. It would also require pilot programs for land border ports on the northern and southern borders. The chairwoman had been expected to introduce an amendment in the nature of a substitute at the markup.