Saturday, September 7, 2013

Congressional Hearings – Week of 9-8-13

Well Congress actually came back to work yesterday, three days before their scheduled return from the summer recess because of the problems with Syria and use of chemical munitions. That will continue to dominate the news, but there are other things of import going on in Washington including two hearings that might be of interest to the chemical and cyber security communities; both deal with the Homeland Security enterprise.

Homeland Security Enterprise

On Tuesday the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing to take a look at the “Crisis in Syria: Implications for Homeland Security”. The witnesses include:

• Reuel Marc Gerecht , Foundation for Defense of Democracies;
• Joseph I. Lieberman, Former Senator from the State of Connecticut;
• General Robert H. Scales Jr. , Former Commandant of the US Army War College; and
• Christopher Shays, Former Representative in Congress from the 4th District of Connecticut

On Wednesday the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing to look at “DHS at 10 Years: Examining Challenges and Achievements and Addressing Emerging Threats”. The witnesses include:

• Thomas J. Ridge, Former Secretary of DHS;
• Jane Harman, Former Representative from the State of California;
• Admiral Thad W. Allen, Former Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard; and
• Stewart A. Baker, Former Assistant Secretary for Policy at the DHS

The subject of Syria and the topic of asymmetric response will almost certainly be raised in both hearings. If the Congress authorizes the use of military force against Syria, potential response could include attempts at serious cyber-attacks against the homeland by either Syria or Iran and the possibility of chemical attacks (either with smuggled CW or improvised CW or industrial CW) on US interests abroad or possibly here at home. The first will probably receive some attention in these hearings, but I suspect the second will conveniently be ignored.

FY 2014 Budget

It looks like the leadership in the House and Senate has officially given up on passing any of the FY 2014 spending bills. The House Majority Leader’s web site notes that the later in the week the House will consider “H.J.Res. __ - Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Appropriations Committee)”. This CR has apparently not yet been drafted, but it will almost certainly continue the authorization for the CFATS program through the life of the CR (no later than December 20th).  It will almost certainly continue program funding across the board at FY 2013 levels. I’ll keep an eye out for the Rules Committee Hearing on this CR.

It is unusual for a CR to be introduced this early in the month, but the House Leadership knows that there is no guarantee that they will have the votes necessary to pass the bill. Introducing it this early will allow them a second and maybe third chance before October 1st.

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