Saturday, September 18, 2010

Committee Hearings Week of 09-20-10

This coming week the two Homeland Security committees will be holding separate hearings that might be of interest to the chemical security community. Neither hearing is specifically about chemical security issues, but will rather look at larger issues that could affect facility security issues.

Evolving Terrorism

On Wednesday, 9-22-10, at 10:00 am EDT, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing on “Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland”. Like last weeks House hearing this hearing takes the opportunity of the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 attack to look at how the current terror threat has changed since that ‘fateful day’.

The witnesses at the earlier hearing were essentially academics who researched terrorists, their organization, and their tactics. This week’s hearing, on the other hand, will have witnesses who have responsibility for preventing terrorist attacks. They include DHS Secretary Napolitano, FBI Director Mueller, and NCC Director Leiter. Presumably they will be telling the Senators about their view of the current terror threat.

Transportation Security

On Thursday, 9-23-10, at 2:00 pm EDT, the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on “The Target of Terrorists and TSA’s New Direction”. The new TSA Administrator, John Pistole, will be making his first appearance as Administrator before this Committee. Thus the Committee web site notes that “this hearing will give Mr. Pistole an opportunity to lay out his vision for TSA”.

Until now the primary focus of TSA has been protecting aviation. Since the 9/11 attacks were aviation based attacks, this is probably understandable. Now TSA is starting to take a harder look at security measures for other transportation modes, public transit (train and bus), freight railroads, and pipelines. Hopefully, Administrator Pistole will spend some time explaining that widened focus.

Missing Hearings

There are a couple of hearings that it is a little surprising not to see scheduled for this week. First Senator Boxer’s Environment and Public Works Committee should have a mark-up hearing for S 3598, Sen. Lautenberg’s water facility security legislation. If this has any chance of getting considered this session, it will have to be reported out of the EPW Committee very soon. The longer it takes to markup and report out the bill, the less likely it is to be passed before the November elections.

The second hearing that I have been waiting to see is the House Appropriations meetings on the DHS budget bill. Work was apparently stopped on this weeks before the recess for political reasons. If a DHS budget is to be passed before the start of the new fiscal year (October 1st) it will have to clear this committee. The longer things go before Appropriations introduces their FY 2011 budget bill, the more likely the budget will be postponed until the 112th Congress convenes in January via a Continuing Resolution.

The CFATS community is concerned about the DHS budget for a couple of reasons. First the current authorization for the CFATS program expires on October 4th. Since a comprehensive CFATS reauthorization bill is practically impossible at this point, an amendment of the expiration date is expected to be included in the DHS budget bill. Fortunately, a continuing resolution would effectively do the same thing while that resolution was in effect. Secondly, we can always hope that Congress would include in the DHS budget some increased funding for more CFATS inspection personnel.

Of course, either (or both) of these hearings could still happen this week. Since neither would require witnesses to testify, little coordination needs to be made to hold these hearings.

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