Legislative Activity

House Panel Holds Hearing on FEMA Response to Louisiana Floods

On Friday, September 9, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Transportation and Public Assets held a hearing titled “Oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Response to the Baton Rouge Flood Disaster.” The hearing examined the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) response and recovery efforts following severe flooding in Louisiana, as well as how to more effectively provide disaster assistance to those in need.  The discussion focused on improving communication between FEMA and local government leaders, expediting the delivery of disaster assistance, and removing regulatory barriers to allow for a more robust response effort.

Chairman John Mica (R-FL), Ranking Member Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Representative Garrett Graves (R-LA), and Representative Cedric Richmond (R-LA) expressed frustration with the lack of coordination and efficiency in delivering disaster assistance. The lawmakers pledged to work together to ensure adequate resources and assistance are provided to Louisiana and focused on the need to improve response efforts in a number of areas, including by:

  • Enhancing communication efforts between State leaders, FEMA, and municipal governments to ensure all parties to the response effort understand and implement their respective responsibilities.
  • Removing arbitrary regulatory barriers to allow for more timely and efficient distribution of immediate disaster relief supplies such as food, water, and temporary housing units.
  • Providing an enhanced assessment model for flood insurance and increasing the amount of flood assistance an individual can receive for reconstruction and repair.
  • Ensuring increased flexibility for the federal and state shelter at home assistance program.
  • Examining ways to waive regulatory red tape to allow FEMA to more efficiently implement disaster response measures.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, September 13, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security will hold a hearing titled “Moving the Line of Scrimmage: Re-Examining the Defense-In-Depth Strategy.”
  • On Wednesday, September 14, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Subcommittee on Government Operations will hold a joint hearing titled “Radicalization in the U.S. and the Rise of Terrorism.”
  • On Wednesday, September 14, the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing titled “Shutting Down Terrorist Pathways Into America.”
  • On Thursday, September 15, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an Executive Business Meeting to consider pending legislation and nominations.

Regulatory Activity

Homeland Security Issues Terrorism Advisory Update to Law Enforcement

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued an update to the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) warning of an increased likelihood of terror attacks on “soft targets” in the United States. This week, law enforcement officials reportedly received an updated bulletin providing more detail on where such attacks may occur. While the bulletin was sent directly to law enforcement agencies and is not available to the public, Fox 5 in Washington D.C. reported that the advisory warns “ISIS inspired terrorists have shifted their focus away from government and military targets and towards civilian venues such as stadiums, arenas, concert venues, and music festivals.”

The advisory reportedly cites an analysis explaining that “more than 75 percent of homegrown violent extremists disruptions and attacks over the last 12 months have focused on civilian targets.” Local law enforcement agencies have been directed to be especially vigilant in the protection of civilian facilities and venues that may be particularly vulnerable targets for terror attacks.

On Sunday, in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” for the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson reiterated that the U.S. faces a “more complicated homeland security environment” characterized by greater risk from “self-radicalized attacks.” He also noted that there is no credible evidence of an imminent terrorist threat. However, he noted that “just saying there’s no specific credible threat doesn’t tell the whole story,” discussing the need for increased security at high-risk events, such as New York City memorial events for the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He also expressed confidence in law enforcement’s ability to “connect the dots” to counter possible threats.