Friday, July 7, 2017

HR 2825 Reported in House – DHS FY 2018 Authorization

Last month the House Homeland Security Committee published their report on HR 2825, the DHS Authorization Act of 2017, along with the amended version of the bill. These documents reflect the actions the Committee took in their markup hearing earlier last month.

Additional Changes

In addition to the changes I reported upon earlier a rather significant change was made by deleting Section 3, Definition of congressional homeland security committees. Readers might remember that this section limited (to some undefined extent) the oversight of DHS to four committees in Congress, the two homeland security committees and the two appropriations committees. I do not recall seeing an amendment offered in the mark-up hearing that would have deleted this section that was definitely in the substitute language (as §2) offered by Chairman McCaul (R,TX).

Explanation of Congressional Intent

One of the important aspects of committee reports is that they offer a brief explanation of the intent of the Committee in crafting the various sections of the bill. In looking back at the explanations for the sections about which I had previously reported, I found two that might be of specific interest to readers of this blog.

The first deals with §403, Cyber at ports. The report notes (pg 159):

“The Committee believes that our ports and the automated systems that control them are vulnerable to cyber-attacks, which could be devastating to the transit of international commerce. While USCG inspects and approves what are known as ‘‘facility security plans’’ at ports twice a year, these plans are not currently required to have a cybersecurity strategy. The Committee believes that requiring facility operators to have a cyber security plan, and providing them with a mechanism to share best practices and receive current intelligence, is critical to maintaining the uninterrupted flow of maritime commerce and the security of our ports.”

The second concerns §642. The report notes (pg 197):

“The Committee is concerned with findings from an August 2014 DHS Inspector General review of the Department’s medical countermeasure program, DHS Has Not Effectively Managed Pandemic Personal Protective Equipment and Antiviral Medical Countermeasures (OIG–14–129) [Link Added]. As a result, the section addresses the Inspector General recommendations related to medical countermeasure quantity determination; stockpile replenishment; inventory tracking; and cross-component standards for storage, security, dispensing and documentation.”

Moving Forward

Having the report prepared for this complex a bill so quickly after the mark-up hearing is usually a good indication that the Chair expects to be able to move the bill to the floor of the House relatively quickly. It is not currently on the schedule for the coming week, but there is a good chance that it could come to the floor for a vote before the summer recess.

The removal of the section limiting oversight will make it much easier for McCaul to convince the leadership to move this bill forward in the House. It will also increase (by some amount anyway) the possibility that the Senate could actually take up the bill once it is passed in the House.


I am disappointed in the explanatory language for §642. While Congress should be concerned with the results of the GAO investigation, this language ensures that DHS will limit their study and report required in §642 {essentially the same study required in the proposed HR 2922 (§302)} to those specific pandemic related measures identified in the report. As I noted in my post about HR 2922, I would prefer to see this specifically expanded to include medical countermeasures for chemical incidents (see here for example).

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