Sunday, May 22, 2011

Congressional Hearings Week of 5-23-11

The House is back in town after a long week of checking the pulse back home and the Senate was in session the whole time. We’re now back to both houses working at the same time and that makes for an interesting week of hearings for the chemical security community. We have three hearings that will address cyber security, but I’ll be surprised to hear two minutes on control systems. There are two money bills being looked at, but we’re interested in the DOD bill just because of potential cyber security issues.

Cyber Security

The week starts off with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee taking an official look at the President’s new cyber security proposal that I talked about briefly last week. I focused on potential control systems issues, but that isn’t what the proposal was really about. The Administration is sending representatives from DHS (Reitinger), DOD (Butler), DOJ (Chipman), and DOC (Schwartz). The Lieberman-Collins team will sort out the details; I just hope they ask at least a couple of questions about control system security.

On Wednesday there will be two additional cyber security hearings on the other side of the Dome. The House Judiciary Committee will be holding an oversight hearing looking for ‘Innovative Solutions to Challenging Problems’. The House Science Committee will be looking at ‘Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Efforts’. Both hearing will be conducted by two separate sub-committees. The inevitable focus will be on information security, but some one may slip up and ask someone about a control system by accident. No word available yet on the attendees at either hearing.

Money Bills

The House Appropriations Committee is meeting on Tuesday to discuss their ‘Report on the Suballocation of Budget Allocations for Fiscal Year 2012’. Two bills will be discussed, but only the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill counts for this community. How far down they are going to ‘sub-allocate’ the money remains to be seen, but it has to get closer to the program level (CFATS, TSA Ground Security, MTSA, or CERT) than does the part of the draft bill that I’ve already reported on.

HR 1540 will be discussed in front of the House Rules Committee this week to formulate the rule to bring it to a floor vote in the House. I previously mislabeled this bill as an ‘appropriations’ bill; it is just an ‘authorization’ bill. Not much here for Homeland Security or chemical security folks, but there may be mention of the DOD and cyber security matters tacked on somewhere along the line; it makes it to the list.

The Missing Hearing

The big hearing that everyone in our community expected to watch this week was the House Energy and Commerce Committee markup of HR 908. This was originally scheduled the week before last, but got bumped because the markup of a medical funding bill went long (nothing controversial there…). It was postponed until this last week, but the House took the week off to visit home folks. As of noon today there was nothing on the Energy and Commerce web site about a markup hearing for this bill; that doesn’t mean one isn’t going to happen, its just that no one is talking about it yet.

There have been news reports about dissention in the ranks, with Rep. Green (D, TX) not getting to add some of wording that he would like to the bill that he co-sponsored. The Democrats can only pass so hard; they don’t think the current bill will make it through the Senate (nor do I), but too much in the way of IST, water facility coverage, worker involvement, whistleblower protection, or citizen law suits and the bill will not get to the Senate; it will die in the Republican controlled House.

Oh, and don’t forget the power play between the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Homeland Security Committee about who gets oversight authority for CFATS.

There’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff going on with this bill and its counterpart in the Homeland Security Committee (HR 901). It will be interesting to see if any of it makes it to the public side of the process.

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