Legislative Activity

House Approves DHS Provisions in Defense Authorizing Bill

On Friday, December 2, the House of Representatives approved the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 2943) conference report by a vote of 375 to 34. The bill’s homeland security provisions:

  • Direct the Secretary of Defense to coordinate unmanned aerial systems training missions along the southern border to support the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) counter-narcotic trafficking efforts;
  • Grant preference to DHS for the transfer of excess Department of Defense (DOD) equipment to strengthen security along the southern border;
  • Direct the DHS Secretary to work with the Secretaries of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture to develop a national biodefense strategy and implementation plan for U.S. biodefense;
  • Direct DHS to provide cyber assistance to small businesses by sharing cybersecurity risk information and developing a Small Business Development Center Cyber Strategy to address concerns among small businesses relating to the development or enhancement of cybersecurity protections;
  • Enhance DHS efforts to assist members of the Armed Forces separating from active duty service in receiving transportation security cards; and
  • Strengthening DHS international security efforts by requiring the development of a Department-wide, risk-based strategy for overseas screening and vetting programs.

Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), who was selected this week to continue serving as Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee in the 115th Congress, released the following statement after the NDAA’s passage:

America is currently in the highest threat level environment since 9/11. It is imperative that our nation’s military and security agencies have the funding they need to carry out the critical task of protecting our homeland and the American people. This bill, which includes numerous provisions that were authored by the Committee, provides the Department of Homeland Security with the necessary capabilities and direction to better secure our borders, prevent foreign fighter and terrorist travel, and enhance our cybersecurity capabilities to defend against future threats. I would especially like to commend Chairman Thornberry for his strong leadership on this authorization bill.

Chairman McCaul Introduces DHS Reform Measure

Chairman McCaul recently introduced a comprehensive DHS reform bill, the DHS Reform and Improvement Act (H.R. 6381). The bill was referred to nine Committees of jurisdiction in the House and includes provisions improving border and maritime security coordination, cybersecurity protections, aviation security, surface transportation and critical infrastructure security, and homeland security drone programs.

Notably, the bill:

  • Requires a study on how small and medium-sized unmanned aircraft could be used to perpetrate an attack on the United States and the development of protocols and guidelines to prevent such an attack;
  • Increases border and maritime coordination between foreign governments and U.S. government agencies to increase cooperation and efficiency in the identification of threats to U.S. security;
  • Provides grants, training, and enhanced coordination to promote resilience and efficiency in preparing for attacks and responding to U.S. security emergencies;
  • Creates a Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency to lead national efforts to protect and enhance security as it relates to U.S. critical infrastructure;
  • Directs the DHS Secretary to develop a Border Patrol Strategic Plan that mitigates threats along the southwest border and details efforts to increase surveillance capabilities and intelligence collection to increase public safety and disrupt transnational criminal organizations; and
  • Reforms the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to enhance TSA PreCheck, screening capabilities, passenger biometric identification, the exchange of security screening equipment, and vetting processes for aviation workers.

The reform bill was introduced amid speculation that Rep. McCaul remains under consideration to serve as President-Elect Trump’s DHS Secretary.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, December 7, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing titled “Examining the Costs of Over Classification on Transparency and Security.”
  • On Wednesday, December 7, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security will hold a hearing titled “Assessing the Security of our Critical Transportation Infrastructure.”