Legislative Activity

Jeh Johnson Nominated for DHS Secretary

President Barack Obama has nominated former U.S. Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson to serve as the next secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The position has been empty since former Secretary Janet Napolitano stepped down on September 6, and the vacancy has drawn criticism from members of Congress. Johnson has garnered respect throughout the Administration and Congress, and both sides of the aisle expect him to be confirmed. However, as a principal member of President Obama’s counterterrorism team, he is likely to face tough questions on targeted drone killings, the detention of terror suspects, and digital surveillance.

Impact of Government Shutdown on CFATS Authority

The recent extension of the FY 2014 Continuing Resolution also included a provision to extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATs) program. The CFATs program authorization expired in 2006 and Congress has not moved to extend the authorization since then despite various efforts by both chambers. Since that time, DHS appropriations bills have continued to provide funding for the program, and efforts continue to focus on a longer term authorization.

Regulatory Activity

DHS Releases Hazardous Emergency Response “Playbook”

The Chemical Sector Coordinating Council – a public-private partnership created by DHS – has released the first edition of its “Playbook for an Effective All-Hazards Chemical Sector Response.” In conjunction with the American Chemistry Council, the Chemical Sector Coordinating Council developed the document to outline the roles and responsibilities of DHS and industry in order to ensure a coordinated response in the event of a disaster, including implementing chains of communication and information-sharing between the government and industry partners. This “Playbook” was the result of a disaster modeling exercise hosted by the American Chemistry Council, which was based on Superstorm Sandy.

Health Concerns of Backscatter Scanners

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials have been called before the National Research Council to discuss the radiation output of “backscatter” body imagine machines. Although the machines are currently warehoused, after being removed from U.S. airports due to privacy concerns, federal scientists are questioning TSA, Food and Drug Administration, and National Institute of Standards and Technology officials over potential health concerns in case TSA plans to reinstate this technology. Led by former Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chair  Susan Collins (R-ME), many lawmakers criticize TSA for introducing the machines instead of waiting until the agency could procure millimeter wave technology machines that would subject travelers to lower levels of radiation.