The House of Representatives unanimously passed by voice vote a bill to replace the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office at the Department of Homeland Security with the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office.
The legislation to create the new office was introduced by Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) in June and is co-sponsored by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas).
The new office, if approved by the Senate and sent to President Trump for his signature, would be led by an assistant secretary for the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office appointed by the president.
“The Office shall be responsible for coordinating with other Federal efforts and developing departmental strategy and policy to plan for, detect, and protect against the importation, possession, storage, transportation, development, or use of unauthorized chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear materials, devices, or agents in the United States and to protect against an attack using such materials, devices, or agents against the people, territory, or interests of the United States,” reads the mission statement in the bill.
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen established the DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office in December 2017; it’s led by Assistant Secretary James F. McDonnell, appointed this past May.
Legislation is needed to expand the office’s mandate and authorization to cover the full scope of threats.
“The United States faces rising danger from terrorist groups and rogue nation states who could use weapons of mass destruction to harm Americans,” Nielsen said in a statement Thursday. “Although DHS has broad authorities to guard against radiological and nuclear dangers, we don’t have the authorities we need to do the same against biological and chemical threats. We must stay a step ahead of our enemies, and this legislation would help us do that.”
Nielsen lauded Donovan, McCaul and the full House Homeland Security Committee “for their leadership in developing this legislation… and all House members who voted to enhance our defenses against WMD threats.”
“I now urge the Senate to do the same — to pass this legislation and send it to the president’s desk for signature,” she added.