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Public Statements

Federal Information Systems Safeguards Act of 2016

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chairman, the Federal Government's most important responsibility is to protect this Nation and our citizens, particularly when it comes to defending against cyber attacks.

In June and July of last year, 2015, the Office of Personnel Management announced the largest government data breach in history. The personally identifiable information of over 22 million Americans was compromised, including background investigation and fingerprint data.

The national security impact of the OPM data breach will resonate for decades.

Under the Federal Information Security Management Act, or FISMA, the head of each agency is responsible for securing its information systems from unauthorized access and other threats posed to our Nation's security and economic vitality.

But under a mistaken interpretation of FISMA, the Federal Labor Relations Authority determined Federal employee unions can block agencies from taking action to implement cybersecurity protections against direct risks until the agencies first negotiate on them.

Mr. Chairman, the security of Americans' data is nonnegotiable and should not be eligible for bargaining. Securing hundreds of millions of Americans' data and millions of Federal employees' data is more important than the convenience of a few Federal employees in using government computer systems for personal use.

This bill ensures that the head of a Federal agency does not just have the responsibility to swiftly secure the agency's networks, but also has the authority to do so, and without having to go through collective bargaining.

The next time a Federal agency acts in the interest of securing Americans' data, the head of the agency should be confident the action will not be challenged because the agency did not engage in bargaining over cybersecurity.

I believe this is an important step that we can take to empower Federal agencies to act quickly to secure agency networks and protect Americans from cyber attacks.

I urge my colleagues to support this bill.


Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chair, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Jody B. Hice).


Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chair, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Ross).

Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chairman, I would like to make the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cummings) aware that I have no further speakers and I am prepared to close.


Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time. First of all, I thank my colleagues who have spoken in support of this legislation and say that this is sensible and responsible legislation to increase Federal agencies' ability to protect their data systems and, thus, increase the protections offered every Federal employee.

This bill also increases accountability for Federal employees, and it requires the IRS to adhere to the same recordkeeping requirements that it imposes on every taxpayer.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, this bill would end the practice of subjecting Americans to a barrage of regulations imposed by an outgoing administration that can no longer be held accountable.

I urge adoption of the bill.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chairman, this amendment makes technical changes to the bill to reflect the text of H.R. 4612, the Midnight Rule Relief Act of 2016, as it was reported out of committee.

Mr. Chairman, my manager's amendment simply makes a few technical and conforming changes to this important legislation. The amendment corrects a technical error in the language of title VI, and it also fixes references to several other sections within the bill, to reflect the obvious intent of the bill text.

Mr. Chairman, I support this amendment and I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of it.


Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chairman, I claim the time in opposition to the amendment.


Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the proposed amendment of the gentlewoman from the District of Columbia.

Her amendment would eliminate provisions in the Government Reform and Improvement Act that deal with holding members of the Senior Executive Service, or SES, accountable.

For example, the amendment would strike section 402 of the bill, which extends the probationary period for individuals appointed to the SES from 1 to 2 years. Extending the probationary period allows Federal agencies to ensure that senior executives they hire are suitable for the job they hold. After the probationary period ends, it becomes much harder to remove an SES employee not suited for the position. It is in the best interests of the American people that the members of the SES be fully vetted before their appointments become final.

I should also note that section 1105 of the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act established a 2-year probationary period for new civilian hires at the Department of Defense. This good government reform is already in place at one of the largest Federal agencies, and we should extend it to the rest of the Federal Government as well.

The amendment in question would also strip provisions that allow SES appointees to be removed for such cause as would promote the efficiency of the service and to be suspended without pay for less than 2 weeks for misconduct. These rules already apply to the vast majority of the Federal civil service, and they should apply to SES appointees as well.

In addition, the gentlewoman's amendment would eliminate a portion of the bill that gives agency heads authority to place on mandatory annual leave SES appointees facing removal for misconduct and prohibits the accumulation of additional leave during this period. It would also eliminate a provision that gives agency heads the authority to seek removal or transfer of senior executives based on poor performance or misconduct, and that would provide an expedited appeal process for the aggrieved employee.

The American people deserve an accountable Senior Executive Service that plays by the same rules as other Federal civil service workers. They also deserve an SES staffed with highly qualified employees who can be efficient and effective in their jobs.

Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to reject the gentlewoman's amendment.


Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chairman, I claim the time in opposition to the gentlewoman's amendment.


Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chairman, the amendment fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of this bill. It creates a loophole in the moratorium period for midnight regulations. The bill establishes a regulation moratorium period between election day and the start of a new President's term to allow a new administration to start with a clean slate.

This amendment would undermine that principle by allowing outgoing Presidents to simply put a marker down a year before the end of the term to circumvent the moratorium entirely. Further, pushing regulations out the door at the last minute reduces the effectiveness of regulatory review at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs regardless of whether the public is aware that an agency is working on the regulation.

The unified regulatory agenda, while very important for notice and transparency, does not provide details on the regulation or the expected impact on the economy and small businesses. Simply notifying the public that an agency is considering regulating in a particular area is insufficient to ensure that regulatory analysis at the agency and at OIRA has been thoroughly evaluated. Agencies can simply wait until the start of the next President's term to issue regulations, giving everyone more time to make sure they have gotten it right.

Mr. Chairman, I oppose this amendment, and I urge my colleagues to vote against it.

Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. PALMER. Mr. Chair, I move that the Committee do now rise.

The motion was agreed to.

Accordingly, the Committee rose; and the Speaker pro tempore (Mrs. Lummis) having assumed the chair, Mr. Hultgren, Chair of the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union, reported that that Committee, having had under consideration the bill (H.R. 4361) to amend section 3554 of title 44, United States Code, to provide for enhanced security of Federal information systems, and for other purposes, had come to no resolution thereon.


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