Legislative Activity

Homeland Security Nominations

President Barack Obama has announced his intention to nominate two more officials to fill senior homeland security positions. First, he will nominate Leon Rodriguez to serve as Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Rodriguez is currently the Director of the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, and previously served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice. Second, President Obama will nominate Eric Rosenbach to serve as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, which coordinates closely with DHS on joint homeland defense and responses to terrorist attacks, cyber-attacks, natural disasters, and other domestic emergencies. Rosenbach currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy. These nominations underscore the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to fill more senior-level homeland security vacancies in the face of Congressional criticism.

Senators Introduce Wildfire Legislation

Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have introduced the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2013 (S. 1875), which would revise the United States’ wildfire suppression budget to prevent agencies from using the funds for other purposes. The bill would require wildfire prevention funds to come from a different disaster relief account once costs exceed 70 percent of the 10-year average. Sen. Wyden argued, “Congress needs to fund the biggest, most catastrophic wildfires like the natural disasters they are, and free up funding to break the destructive cycle that underfunds fire prevention and shorts fire management.” However, this bill does not address appropriations shortfalls or the use of certain accounting techniques that may inflate the 10-year average costs.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, January 8: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will consider the nomination of John Roth to be Inspector General of DHS.

Regulatory Activity

FAA Announces Drones Research Centers

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced six unmanned aerial vehicle test sites in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia. Locations were selected based on their geographic and climatic diversity as well as proximity to infrastructure and research centers. Following passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, the agency is working with the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to implement regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles, known as “drones.” Eventually, the FAA plans to integrate drones into the existing National Airspace System.

DHS Plans Real ID Enforcement

Since Congress required increased security standards for drivers licenses and ID cards in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, only 21 states have fully complied with the mandated requirements; 15 states and territories are noncompliant, and the remaining states and territories have previously been granted extensions. The following 15 states and territories are noncompliant: Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Northern Marianas Islands, Oklahoma, and Washington. The original deadline of May 11, 2008 was extended to May 11, 2013. DHS has announced that it will begin enforcing these security standards in 2014 as a result, those individuals with noncompliant IDs will be unable to: 1) Access DHS facilities beginning April 21; 2) Access restricted areas of federal facilities beginning July 21; and 3) By 2016 they will be unable to board airplanes without presenting a second form of ID, such as a birth certificate. To manage these issues, DHS will no longer maintain a nationwide deadline for all states and will instead customize deadlines – and extensions – for each state to insure that its residents may still access the U.S. transportation system.