This week, the House passed six bipartisan bills to improve various Department of Homeland Security (DHS) efforts, including providing flexibility in the grant funds, ensuring first responder access to new and emerging technologies; improving information sharing between DHS and state and major urban area fusion centers; and better coordination by DHS’s efforts related to the security of agriculture products.
House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) “commend[ed] [that], “Passage of these important pieces of legislation … seek to provide necessary tools and flexibility to state and local first responders while improving DHS’s coordination and information sharing efforts. It is imperative that we support those working in defense of our nation and these bills do just that.”
The legislation passed by the House include:
H.R. 5943, Transit Security Grant Program Flexibility Act, introduced by Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), clarifies allowable uses of funds for transportation security grants and establishes periods of performance for such grants. This bill would amend the implementing recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 to permit the use of public transportation security assistance grant funds for backfill associated with security training.
Funds provided pursuant to such a grant for a specified authorized use shall, with two exceptions, remain available for use by a grant recipient for at least 36 months.
Any such funds used for security improvements for public transportation systems or security improvements for stations and other public transportation infrastructure, including those owned by state or local governments, shall remain available for at least 55 months.
H.R. 5459, Cyber Preparedness Act of 2016, introduced by Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), would enhance preparedness and response capabilities for cyber attacks and bolsters the dissemination of homeland security information related to cyber threats.
This bill would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to expand the responsibilities of the DHS’s state, local and Regional Fusion Center Initiative to include serving as a point of contact to ensure the dissemination of cybersecurity risk information within the scope of its information sharing environment with state, local and regional fusion centers.
Fusion center officers or intelligence analysts would be required to assist law enforcement agencies and emergency response providers in using such cybersecurity risk information.
DHS’s national cybersecurity and communications integration center would be able to include, and must share, analysis and best practices with state and major urban area fusion centers.
States, local or tribal governments, or high-risk urban areas receiving grants to protect against terrorism under the Urban Area Security Initiative or the State Homeland Security Grant Program would be able to use the funds to prepare for and respond to cybersecurity risks and incidents.
The bill expresses the sense of Congress that DHS should share actionable information related to cyber threats in an unclassified form to facilitate the timely dissemination to state, local and private sector stakeholders.
H.R. 5460, First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act, introduced by Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), would establishe a process to review applications for certain grants to purchase equipment or systems that do not meet or exceed any applicable national voluntary consensus standards.
This bill would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to implement a uniform process for reviewing applications that contain explanations to use grants provided under the Urban Area Security Initiative or the State Homeland Security Grant Program to purchase equipment or systems that do not meet or exceed any applicable national voluntary consensus standards developed under the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006.
FEMA would have to consider:
- Current or past use of proposed equipment or systems by federal agencies or the Armed Forces;
- The absence of a national voluntary consensus standard for such equipment or systems;
- The existence of an international consensus standard for such equipment or systems and whether such equipment or systems meets such standard;
- The nature of the capability gap identified by the applicant and how such equipment or systems will address such gap; and
- The degree to whichsuch equipment or systems will serve the needs of the applicant better than equipment or systems that meet or exceed existing consensus standards.
- The Inspector General of DHS also shall submit to specified congressional committees a report assessing the implementation of such review process, including information on the number of requests to purchase equipment or systems that do not meet or exceed any applicable consensus standard, the number of such requests granted and denied and the processing time for the review of such requests.
H.R. 5346, Securing our Agriculture and Food Act, introduced by Rep. David Young (R-IA), would make the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Health Affairs responsible for coordinating the efforts of the DHS related to food, agriculture, and veterinary defense against terrorism.
H.R. 5391, Gains in Global Nuclear Detection Architecture Act, introduced by Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to enhance certain duties of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.
The bill would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to require the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office in conducting research and development to generate and improve technologies to detect and prevent the illicit entry, transport, assembly or potential use within the United States of a nuclear explosive device or fissile or radiological material, to:
- Develop and maintain documentation that provides information on how the Office’s research investments align with gaps in the enhanced global nuclear detection architecture and with research challenges identified by the director, and that defines in detail how the Office will address such research challenges;
- Document the rational for prioritizing and selecting research topics; and
- Develop a systematic approach for evaluating how the outcomes of the Office’s individual research projects collectively contribute to addressing its research challenges.
H.R. 5065, Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Act, introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), would direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to notify air carriers and security screening personnel of the Transportation Security Administration of administration’s guidelines regarding permitting baby formula, breast milk and juice on airplanes.