Today, the House Committee on Homeland Security passed by a bipartisan vote of 19 to 13 the "Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012" (H.R. 3116) to authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to carry out key functions and missions and provide DHS with the necessary tools, guidance, and direction to fulfill its responsibilities.
U.S. Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, and other Republican Members of the Committee introduced the legislation last week, and the Committee marked up the bill beginning Wednesday and concluding today. During the markup, the Committee processed a Committee record 122 amendments, including Republican amendments to eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in wasteful DHS spending and require the Department to operate more efficiently.
Upon passage of the authorization bill, Chairman King said: "One of the most important functions of a Congressional committee is to authorize -- to direct -- the Federal department it oversees. Passage of this legislation today is an essential step to finally sending a solid DHS authorization bill to the President.
"Since earlier this year, we have worked in a bipartisan fashion with Chairman Lieberman, Ranking Member Collins, and their Senate Committee to align our authorization bill as closely as possible with the bill they moved late last month. We also included many provisions from Committee Democrats in drafting the bill and at markup accepted more than 50 Democratic amendments.
"While I was hoping that more Democrats would support this vital homeland security legislation, I am optimistic about the bill's prospects for passage in the House, conference with the Senate, and enactment by the President."
As reported for consideration by the Full House, H.R. 3116:
* addresses the threat of domestic radicalization by requiring the Secretary to designate a coordinator for the Department's efforts to counter homegrown violent Islamist extremism, particularly resulting from the ideology of al-Qaeda and its affiliates. During the markup, Committee Democrats sought to eliminate this important provision, despite the fact that the Obama Administration has recognized that al-Qaeda and its affiliates are actively working to recruit and radicalize individuals within the United States;
* allocates the D Block communications spectrum to public safety for the development of a national interoperable public safety wireless broadband network;
* provides that any person who, in good faith, reports suspected terrorism activity to law enforcement cannot be sued for making that report (See Something, Say Something);
* requires a reexamination of the conclusions and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to determine how the ideology and forces that attacked the U.S. homeland on 9/11 have evolved over the last decade and whether our homeland security approach has adequately adapted to that change;
* authorizes the Securing the Cities Program, which helps prevent a nuclear or radiological attack in New York City and other high-risk metropolitan areas;
* continues the Committee's support for first responder grant programs and provides additional direction to the Department regarding the administration and permitted uses of these funds;
* directs the Department to provide assurances that it is expeditiously working to develop and implement measures and metrics for the evaluation of grant expenditures;
* integrates Department operations, dispelling the culture of stove-piped components by ensuring that the Department's chief operating officers will oversee the operations of their counterparts in the components;
* creates an Acquisition Review Board that will centralize departmental oversight of all acquisitions to eradicate wasteful spending, and requires the Department to independently verify the integrity of its major acquisitions and to notify Congress of any major acquisition;
* strengthens border security by requiring a strategy for gaining operational control of the border; requiring interdepartmental and interagency consultation of border security technology; and allowing for the Border Patrol to have regular access to Federal borderlands;
* improves U.S. efforts to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) attack in the United States;
* requires the Department's Science and Technology (S & T) Directorate to undertake strategic planning to define its homeland security needs and priorities, and requires greater involvement from the end users;
* strengthens S & T's role in technology acquisition and helps the Department's operational components avoid costly failures in deploying ineffective or premature technologies.
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