Lieberman, Collins Offer Future Vision for DHS

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., have laid out their vision for a more effective and efficient Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a guide for the next Administration and the 111th Congress.

Since the creation of DHS, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has passed significant legislation authorizing particular programming at DHS, such as last year’s homeland security legislation, the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act, the SAFE Port Act, chemical facility legislation and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. The authorization bill, however, represents the first Senate authorization bill for the 5-year-old Department.

Through the bill, the Lieberman and Collins said they hope to improve the ability of DHS to carry out its missions and become “the mature and effective” DHS “the nation demands.”

“We knew when we passed the Homeland Security Act in 2002 that the process of creating a new, unified department out of many diverse component agencies would be both challenging and time consuming – and the process is not yet complete,” Lieberman said. “This committee has been working hard for five years to give DHS both the support it needed and the oversight – sometimes harsh – to steadily improve its capacity to carry out its critical mission. With this authorization act, we continue that important work. This bill would improve the integration, accountability, and effectiveness of the department to help it perform its missions at a level that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Collins noted, “This bill represents a comprehensive package of homeland security improvements. These reforms will help ensure that our nation is better prepared to prevent terrorist attacks and respond to disasters. With reforms improving cyber-security, bombing prevention, coordination with state and local governments, and the acquisition process, the Department will be better equipped to protect the American people.”

As written, the bill would:

• Create an under secretary for Policy, to ensure policy coordination across the department.
• Strengthen the chief information officer’s authorities to give that position greater control over IT investments.
• Facilitate the process to establish a consolidated headquarters for DHS.
• Strengthen the authority of the Office of International Affairs at DHS to improve coordination with the department’s international activities and employees.
• Strengthen contract oversight by requiring DHS to certify program managers for all major acquisitions and directing the Department to report to Congress on its use of various contracting authorities.
• Help ensure the accountability and cost-effectiveness of major acquisitions projects by requiring a formal investment review process, and for investments with significant technological challenges, requiring formal testing and evaluation prior to investment.
• Establish a National Cyber Security Center – a key component of the National Cyber Initiative – to coordinate efforts to protect government networks; strengthen the department’s ability to hire cyber security experts; and establish a private sector board to advise the secretary of Homeland Security on cyber security policy.
• Authorize an increase in the number of Customs and Border Protection officers and agriculture specialists, which will help facilitate travel and commerce at the ports of entry.
• Create mobile teams to assist residents of border communities in obtaining passport cards at a reduced cost.
• Authorize a program to improve federal-state cooperation on border security through state or regional task forces and provide grants to states and localities assisting with border security efforts.
• Create a Test, Evaluation, and Standards Division within the Science & Technology Directorate to ensure thorough testing of homeland security technology before acquisition by the department.
• Create a director for Operational Testing, to enhance oversight of high-risk acquisition programs.
• Authorize the Office of Bombing Prevention and increase its budget to $25 million.
• Require DHS to work with other federal agencies to develop plans for responding to potential catastrophic scenarios and authorize a pilot program to assign National Guard planners to state emergency planning offices.
• Authorize the Metropolitan Medical Response System to help states and localities prepare for mass casualty events and reauthorize the Pre-Disaster Hazard Mitigation Program, which provides grants to states to take advance measures to minimize damages from disasters.
• Authorize the Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program (CEDAP), which provides first responders in smaller jurisdictions with equipment, training, and technical assistance.

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