Committee Passes Slate of Bipartisan Homeland Security Bills
(WASHINGTON) – Today, the Committee on Homeland Security, chaired by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), favorably reported seven critical, bipartisan homeland security bills. Three of these bills focus on protecting the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) frontline workforce and the traveling public now during the coronavirus pandemic and after it has abated. Additionally, the Committee voted to advance measures to the full House to bolster information sharing about threats to high-risk surface transportation systems, carry out critical research and development of technology for first responders, improve the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) ability to detect and mitigate cyber threats and vulnerabilities to industrial control systems, and increase transparency into TSA policymaking.
“It has been a little over a year since COVID-19 became a global pandemic. COVID has fundamentally changed the way people live, learn, congregate, and work. As American’s are eager to return to normalcy this summer, it’s critical we do more to ensure TSA is fully prepared to keep its frontline employees safe during this pandemic and in future outbreaks. Today, I am proud to say we favorably reported three critical pieces of legislation that will do just that. We also passed timely legislation to improve information sharing, preparedness, and response to threats to surface transportation systems, support R&D for technologies that first responders need, improve CISA’s ability to help protect industrial control systems against cyber-attacks, and enhance transparency in TSA policymaking,” said Chairman Thompson.
“I am pleased that there was broad bipartisan support for these critical pieces of legislation. I thank the Ranking Member for working with me ahead of today’s markup and I look forward to seeing these measures considered on the House floor.”
The seven bipartisan bills include:
The “Transportation Security Preparedness Act of 2021” (H.R. 1893), introduced by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ). This bill requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to survey its workforce on how it has handled COVID-19 and develop a transportation security preparedness plan for future communicable disease outbreaks. In addition, the bill directs the Government Accountability Office to review TSA’s plan.
The “Security Screening During COVID-19 Act” (H.R. 1877), introduced by Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO). This bill directs TSA to issue and begin implementing a plan to enhance security operations during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the spread of the virus at passenger screening checkpoints and among the TSA workforce. The TSA Administrator is required to consult with stakeholders and the TSA workforce when developing the plan and submit the finalized plan to Congress. GAO will review the implementation of the Act.
The “Strengthening Local Transportation Security Capabilities Act of 2021” (H.R. 1870), introduced by Congresswoman Nanette Barragán (D-CA). This bill would improve information sharing by putting more federal intelligence analysts and resources near high-risk surface transportation assets, including public transportation rail and bus systems. It would also provide new terrorism-focused training, and improve cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement partners. Nearly identical versions of this legislation passed the House in both the 115th and 116th Congresses.
The “Supporting Research and Development for First Responders Act” (H.R. 1850), introduced by Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (D-NY). This bill would ensure that DHS continues to carry out critical research and development of protective equipment and other technology needed by first responders. In the Fiscal Year 2018, 2019, and 2020 budget requests, the Trump Administration proposed cuts that would have closed critical Homeland Security laboratories and centers of excellence. In both the 115th and 116th Congresses, nearly identical versions of this measure passed the House.
The “DHS Industrial Control Systems Capabilities Enhancement Act of 2021” (H.R. 1833), introduced by the Ranking Member John Katko (R-NY). This bill is focused on improving CISA’s ability to detect and mitigate cyber threats and vulnerabilities to industrial control systems. The measure also requires CISA to maintain cross-sector incident response capabilities, provide technical assistance to stakeholders and collect, coordinate, and provide vulnerability information about industrial control systems to stakeholders. In the 115th Congress, a nearly identical version of the measure passed the House.
The “Transportation Security Transparency Improvement Act” (H.R. 1871) was introduced by Congressman Dan Bishop (R-NC). This legislation seeks to improve transparency in TSA policymaking. It requires TSA to review and improve the agency’s processes for designating Sensitive Security Information and communicating with stakeholders about Security Directives and Emergency Amendments. Last Congress, the Committee favorably reported an identical version of this bill.
The “Transportation Security Public Threat Preparedness Act” (H.R. 1895) was introduced by Congressman Carlos Gimenez (R-FL). This bill authorizes TSA to detail staff to other DHS components and Federal agencies to improve response efforts to public health threats to the nation’s transportation security system. This measure also requires TSA to conduct a risk analysis of the Department and other Federal agencies’ preparedness to respond to public health threats to the transportation security system.
Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978
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