Legislative Activity

Senate Appropriations Panel Approves Homeland Security Spending Bill

This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2016 Homeland Security spending bill. The measure, adopted 26-4, provides $40.213 billion in funds for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), $765 million above the FY 2015 enacted levels but $1.2 billion less than requested by the President. The bill increases funding for Customs and Border Protection to $11.08 billion, 3.5 percent above currently enacted levels. However, the Senate panel cut funding for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) by 1.5 percent to $4.72 billion.

Committee Vice Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (MD), the panel’s top Democrat, called the measure “a good bill,” but also emphasized it would be better if it matched the level requested by the Administration. All Senate appropriations bills are in limbo, as Democrats have joined the President in protesting the Republicans’ budget plan and are threatening to block consideration of any measure raised for debate by the chamber.

Senate Set to Vote on Transportation Security Administration Nominee

On Monday, June 22, the Senate will vote to confirm Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger to head TSA, after his nomination was advanced by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on June 15.

Vice Admiral Neffenger’s confirmation comes as the agency continues to address the results of covert testing that found airport screeners failed to detect prohibited items in 67 out of 70 test cases. In fact, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) voted against Vice Admiral Neffenger’s nomination due to his concerns that DHS leadership has not sufficiently admitted the depth of the agency’s problems and demonstrated the urgency posed by the uncovered weaknesses. Following the vote, Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) issued a statement calling Vice Admiral Neffenger “the right person for the job.”

House Considers DHS-Related Legislation, While Panel Addresses Airport Screening Concerns

This week, the House of Representatives will consider several bills impacting DHS operations, including:

  • H.R. 1633, the DHS Paid Administrative Leave Accountability Act of 2015;
  • H.R. 1615, the DHS FOIA Efficiency Act,
  • H.R.1640, the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act;
  • H.R. 1626, the DHS IT Duplication Reduction Act of 2015;
  • H.R. 2390, the Homeland Security University-Based Centers Review Act;
  • H.R. 2200, the CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear] Intelligence and Information Sharing Act; and
  • H.R. 615, the Department of Homeland Security Interoperable Communications.

On Tuesday, June 16, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security considered two bills addressing the weaknesses uncovered among airport screening facilities during covert testing. The first, H.R. 2750, would require TSA implement recent recommendations by the DHS Inspector General regarding airport worker vetting, while H.R. 2770 would require TSA develop a preventative maintenance validation process for security screening equipment, penalizing contractors who do not comply.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, June 24: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence will hold a hearing titled “Admitting Syrian Refugees: The Intelligence Void and the Emerging Homeland Security Threat.”