Sunday, September 16, 2012

Congressional Hearings – Week of 9-17-12

Barring some unforeseen emergency session this should be the last week that Congress is in session until after the November election and it will be a short week, starting on Wednesday. The Senate will take up the continuing resolution on Wednesday and there are currently three hearings scheduled that might be of interest to my readers; a CFATS continuation hearing and two hearings in the Senate that look at the threat picture.

CFATS Hearing

The Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee is going to try on Thursday to finish the hearing they started back in July. The witness testimony has already been given we just have the pointed questions from what is essentially already a lame-duck committee. With the FY 2013 spending bill in the hands of the Senate, this Committee has no power over the folks at DHS until the new Congress is seated in January.

The two witnesses that will be grilled Deputy Under Secretary Spaulding and Director Wulf are new enough to NPPD-ISCD that they will be unlikely to be able to effectively explain how the CFATS program got to its current sorry state of affairs. They will only be able to address how they have been able (or not able as the case may be) to fix the current problems. The GAO has already given them substantial cover on that topic in their report on the progress on the 95-point plan.

It will be interesting to see if anyone on the Subcommittee raises questions about the current complaint that has been made to the DHS IG about the personnel issues in the Office of Infrastructure Protection; some of which have to specifically deal with ISCD. If that is addressed, the hearing might get interesting.

The Threat Picture

Two different Senate committees will be looking at the current threat picture from slightly different directions on Thursday. Both hearings are currently scheduled to be open hearings so there is little in the way of juicy intel that we will be hearing. It will be just the broad intel picture painted in bold strokes with no thought given to the upcoming Presidential election. Still security managers and planners need to hear this stuff from time to time to have some idea of what to expect.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s hearing will address “Homeland Threats and Agency Responses”. Three witnesses are currently scheduled; Secretary Napolitano, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and National Counter Terrorism Center Director

Matthew Olsen. Given the worldwide response to the anti-Muslim film this week, I would be sure that we will hear some discussion about the potential for violence here in the United States from that reaction, though by Thursday that may have blown over.

The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights of the Senate Judiciary Committee will look at the topic from a slightly different perspective in their hearing on “Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism”. No witnesses have yet been announced, but I would not be surprised to see the same three witnesses since the scheduled times are so far apart.

HJ Res 117

The Senate has a cloture vote scheduled on Wednesday afternoon to allow consideration of HJ Res 117. As always, this ‘purely procedural’ vote will effectively determine the outcome of this version of the Continuing Resolution. If it passes this vote (and I have seen nothing to indicate otherwise, but you can never tell with the Senate) then the FY 2013 spending bill will have been effectively punted to the 113th Congress. If this vote fails, we have a new election year hot potato that will push everything else off the news until it gets resolved.

As long as both parties are convinced that they will control the Congress and the Oval Office next year, this six-month CR makes all sorts of political sense. This election is still way too close to call this early, but at least one of these two are cruising for a fall and it really does, in my opinion, remain unlikely that anyone is going to win the Trifecta. We are almost certainly going to see a replay of the budget battles of the first session of the 112th Congress with slightly different actors.

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