Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) announced Tuesday that the U.S. House of Representatives passed five bipartisan homeland security measures. Collectively, these bills not only seek to enhance transparency and accountability regarding substantiated allegations of whistleblower retaliation or misconduct within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and when an investigation of a terrorist incident is completed, but also to improve coordination within DHS regarding school security and supply chain security and better remediate illicit cross-border smuggling tunnels.
“I am glad the House came together to pass these five bipartisan homeland security measures to improve the Department of Homeland Security’s operations and make it more transparent and accountable to the American public and Congress,” said Chairman Thompson. “With these votes, the House expressed support for DHS’s efforts to improve school security, supply chain security, communication with the public after a terrorist incident, and its program targeted at shutting down illicit cross-border tunnels used by smugglers and criminal syndicates.
“I am also proud that the House passed my legislation – the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Transparency Act – that aims to ensure that when the IG substantiates wrongdoing within the Department, particularly as relates to senior officials or whistleblower retaliation claims, timely information is shared with Congress and the public to ensure accountability at all levels. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure each bill becomes law.”
The five bipartisan bills that passed the House were:
The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Transparency Act (H.R. 5633) was introduced by Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS). This bill requires the DHS Office of Inspector General to publicly release and produce to Congress any report that substantiates a violation of whistleblower retaliation or an allegation of misconduct waste, fraud, abuse, or violation by a member of the Senior Executive Service or politically appointed official of the Department.
The School and Daycare Protection Act (H.R. 6387) was introduced by Congressman Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-NJ). This bill establishes a council within DHS to ensure the coordination of activities, plans, and policies to enhance the security of schools and preschools against acts of terrorism.
The REPORT Act (H.R. 1540) was introduced by Congressman Pete Aguilar (D-CA) in response to the December 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. It seeks to improve policymaking in the wake of terrorist acts by requiring the DHS Secretary to report to Congress one year after an investigation into an attack is complete. The report will include any recommendations for policy changes, focusing on preventing future attacks.
The DHS Trade and Economic Security Council Act of 2021 (H.R. 4476) was introduced by Congressman Peter Meijer (R-MI). This bill would authorize the Trade and Economic Security Council within the Department to provide advice to the Secretary of Homeland Security on matters relating to trade and economic security.
The DHS Illicit Cross-Border Tunnel Defense Act (H.R. 4209) was introduced by Congressman August Pfluger (R-TX). This bill would authorize $1 million annually for Fiscal Years 2023 and 2024 for DHS’s program to remediate illicit cross-border tunnels and requires the issuance of a strategic plan that addresses resource needs, including technology and staffing needs, to identify, assess, and remediate illicit cross-border tunnels.