Legislative Activity

McCaul Unveils Counterterrorism Strategy, Including TSA Overhaul

On Tuesday, September 20, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) unveiled a counterterrorism strategy containing over 100 policy prescriptions and principles designed to combat the rise of global terrorism. The 35-page document, “A National Strategy to Win the War Against Islamist Terror,” follows on a number of recent terrorism scares, including a stabbing spree in St. Cloud, Minnesota, for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

The strategy criticizes the Obama Administration’s approach to counterterrorism and describes an increasingly severe terror threat environment facing the United States. The document cites a “decline in U.S. leadership on the world stage,” suggesting its proposed response would “keep pace with an evolving enemy.”  The proposal follows on a national security agenda revealed by House Republican leadership in June and focuses on a number of priorities to enhance the resilience of local governments, improve preparedness among the public, and expand law enforcement’s capacity to defend the homeland against the threat of terrorism.

Chairman McCaul specifically targeted the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for comprehensive overhaul, stating that the agency “has failed to provide the level of security and efficiency the flying public deserves” and calling for “sweeping reform at TSA.”  His strategy calls for more severe consequences for screening failures, improving the screening of foreign visitors, and the use of enhanced technologies and intelligence, including social media analysis, to keep terrorists from infiltrating the United States. Representative McCaul also stressed the need for improved vetting processes for TSA employees and a “greater effort to detect insider threats.” He similarly called for increased aviation security overseas and stronger security requirements for foreign airports with direct flights to the United States.

Lawmakers Advance TSA and Counterterrorism Measures

This week, the House of Representatives passed the Community Counterterrorism Preparedness Act (H.R. 5859), which would require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to carry out a grant program for emergency responders to enhance preparedness for active shooter scenarios and other attacks. The bill, which was sponsored by Chairman McCaul, was passed by a wide margin on a 395-30 vote and has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (R-FL) introduced legislation, the Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Act (S. 3379), requiring TSA to assess the risk of terrorist attacks on surface transportation facilities and take steps to ensure rail safety receives adequate attention. S. 3379 would direct the TSA to implement a risk-based security model for protecting surface transportation facilities, authorize an additional 70 canine explosive detection units to enhance surface transportation safety, and provide grant funding for the use of increased passenger manifest data to better identify rail passengers in an emergency.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, September 27, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security will hold a hearing titled “New Orleans: How the Crescent City Became a Sanctuary City.”
  • On Tuesday, September 27, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Fifteen Years After 9/11: Threats to the Homeland.”
  • On Thursday, September 29, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management will hold a hearing titled “Understanding the Millennial Perspective in Deciding to Pursue and Remain in Federal Employment.”
  • On Wednesday, September 28, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest will hold a hearing titled “Oversight of the Administration’s FY 2017 Refugee Resettlement Program.”