Legislative Activity

CFATS Bill Advances

On April 30, the House Homeland Security Committee reported out of committee by voice vote Rep. James Meehan’s (R-PA) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program Authorization and Accountability Act (CFATS) of 2014 (H.R. 4007). This bill would provide multi-year funding for DHS’s chemical facility security program, insure that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a record of and regulates all major U.S. chemical plants and storage facilities, and give chemical facilities access to federal programs to vet workers against federal terrorism and personnel security databases. The marked-up bill includes an amendment that would bar DHS from requiring chemical facilities to submit personnel information multiple times, in response to worker concerns about information privacy.

DHS Acquisition Reform Approved

On April 30, the House Homeland Security Committee advanced the DHS Acquisition Accountability and Efficiency Act (H.R. 4228), which is co-sponsored by Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency Chairman Jeff Duncan (R-SC). This bill would provide greater authority to the DHS Chief Acquisition Officer; create a DHS Acquisition Review Board to oversee major acquisitions; require scope, schedule, and cost benchmarks for all acquisitions; and mandate notification within DHS of anticipated major cost overruns.

House GOP Spars over Immigration and Border Security

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has continued to advocate for the House to take up immigration and border security before the November 2014 midterm elections, despite opposition from the conservative members of his caucus. Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) recently stated, “I believe there is a path that we can get a bill on the floor by August.” Republican immigration supporters calculate that an August timeline would allow the House to address the issue far enough in advance of the midterm elections to not damage members’ reelection prospects. If the House only moved one bill, it would likely be Chairman McCaul’s Border Security Results Act (H.R. 1417), which received bipartisan committee support. This bill would allow House Republicans to tout their strength on border security issues rather than address the politically volatile issue of legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Executive Branch Activity

GAO Criticizes TSA Body Scanners

On April 30, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled “Advanced Imaging Technology: TSA Needs Additional Information before Procuring Next-Generation Systems.” The report criticized the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for planning to upgrade airport body scanners without first conducting sufficient research or measuring current scanners’ and operators’ effectiveness. In particular, GAO criticized TSA’s 2013 installation of software in response to privacy concerns over advanced imaging technology (AIT) systems. GAO urged TSA to set benchmarks for the new systems and software and measure their effectiveness before procuring new scanners.