Saturday, February 7, 2009

Homeland Security Reorganization II

The House Homeland Security Committee held their first meeting of the 111th Congress on last Wednesday. The Committee completed their reorganization, adopted an oversight plan, and looked at what they wanted to accomplish this session. Chemical Facility Security There were only brief mentions about pending chemical facility security legislation in the various sources reporting about the meeting (the meeting was open to the public, but not webcast so I did not get a chance to follow the meeting). The tone of the comments suggests that Chairman Thompson is not planning on re-introducing HR 5577 from last session. Rather it seems that the new Committee will write new legislation. That could prove interesting. Other Homeland Security Legislation Three pieces of homeland security legislation from Committee members has already been re-introduced and passed in the House this last week. All three were passed in the House last session but were not taken up by the Senate, nor was Chairman Thompson able to get them added to the DHS spending bill. None of them have a direct impact on the chemical community with the possible exception of Rep Harmon’s (D, CA) bill (HR 553) to prevent over-classification of Homeland Security produced information. This legislation would require that DHS produce unclassified versions of intelligence reports. This would allow for more sharing of such reports with security planners at high-risk chemical facilities. It looks like the House Committee is going to join with the Senate Homeland Security Committee in trying to pass the first DHS Authorization Bill. Authorization Bills provide guidance to Congress and , to a lesser extent, the affected Department on what the priorities will be for that Department. Spending guidelines are set, but not actually appropriated in these bills. Senators Lieberman and Collins introduced their version during the ending days of the 110th session. It will be interesting to see the differences between these two versions of that authorization

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