The nation’s first Critical Infrastructure Protection Act legislation included in the National Defense Authorization Act was passed by the House.
It stands as “the first major legislation to produce a strategy to protect the critical infrastructure of the homeland against threats of electromagnetic pulse and geomagnetic disturbance, two of the most dangerous short term national security threats facing America,” said an announcement by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the bill’s sponsor, who noted, “I am grateful to Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX) for their critical roles in the passage of this historic legislation. I am especially grateful to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul for shepherding this vital legislation through his committee. It is efforts like this that make Mike McCaul the kind of individual we need as Director of America’s Department of Homeland Security.”
“It is my hope that this legislation will ultimately effect the protection of America’s vital electrical grid against the highly dangerous threats of weaponized electromagnetic pulse and natural geomagnetic disturbance,” Franks said in a statement.
The House also voted on the Conference Report for S. 2943, the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Authorization Act which includes bipartisan legislation authored by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, to strengthen international border security efforts, including Customs and Border Protection’s Preclearance program and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Visa Security Program.
This legislation would required the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a department-wide strategy for overseas screening and vetting programs. Thompson’s office said, “This strategy will help ensure that when DHS prioritizes expanding preclearance or seeks to establish Visa Security Units, these efforts are coordinated and aligned with the department’s risk-based priorities. Currently, DHS has 1,800 personnel overseas assisting in these efforts. The original legislation, the department of Homeland Security Strategy for International Programs Act (H.R. 4780), originally passed the House in May 2016.
“Passage of the Defense Authorization Act contains bipartisan language I included to ensure DHS is on a solid footing as it ‘pushes out’ our borders in its mission toprotect the homeland,” Thompson said. “It is imperative that DHS have a risk-based strategy to expand its presence and partnerships around the world to prevent terrorist travel and ensure proper vetting of US-bound passengers. I thank my colleagues for working with me on passage of this legislation and look forward to continuing our work together to ensureDHS is operating as effectively as possible.”
Still other legislation authored by Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), ranking member of the Committee’s Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies Subcommittee, was also included in the Conference Report which would require DHS to develop a comprehensive department-wide strategy to carry out its cybersecurity responsibilities to resolve vulnerabilities and avoid future cyber-attacks.
The Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity Strategy Act of 2015 (HR 3510)) was introduced in response to a September 2015 report by the DHS Inspector General that recommended DHS develop a comprehensive, cross-departmental strategic implementation plan to make progress in unifying cyber incident response and coordination efforts.
The State and High-Risk Urban Area Working Group Act (HR 4509) was also included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 passed by the House which would require decision-makers involved in disaster response planning to work together to gain a complete understanding of a community’s vulnerabilities so that homeland security grant investments can be prioritized appropriately.
“In my capacity as ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, I have seen benefits realized, across the nation, from DHS’ homeland security grant programs,” said Rep Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ. “Communities throughout my district—from Newark to Jersey City—have built robust capabilities to prevent, protect against, and respond to terrorist attacks and natural disasters with State Homeland Security Grant and Urban Area Security Initiative grant funding. As successful as DHS’ homeland security grant programs have been, however, more needs to be done to ensure those who are responsible for various aspects of disaster response plan, train, and exercise together before a disaster strikes.”
- Require any state or high-risk urban area receiving funding under the State Homeland Security Grant Program or the Urban Area Security Initiative to establish a state planning committee or urban area working group to assist the state in preparation and revision of threat and hazard identification and risk assessments and determining effective funding priorities for grant funds;
- Require state planning committees and high-risk urban area working groups to include representatives from each of the following stakeholder communities: local and tribal government officials; emergency response providers (fire service, law enforcement, emergency medical services and emergency managers); public health officials and appropriate medical practitioners; individuals representing educational institutions, including elementary schools, community colleges and other institutions of higher learning; state and regional interoperable communications coordinators, as appropriate; and state and major urban area fusion centers, as appropriate;
- Require members of the state planning committee or urban area working group to be from the counties, cities, towns and Indian tribes within the state or high-risk urban area, including rural, high-population and high-threat jurisdictions; and
- Clarify that states or high-risk urban areas that already use a multi-jurisdictional planning committee or commission that meets the requirements of this act are not required to create a new State Planning Committee or urban area working group.