Sunday, June 19, 2011

Congressional Hearings Week of 6-20-11

Two weeks in a row with both houses of Congress in Washington, what a concept. The hearing schedule is beginning to reflect the approach of the summer vacation period with lots of increased activity with seven hearings this week of potential interest to the chemical and cyber security communities. As I mentioned yesterday there will be a markup of HR 901; additionally there will be two cyber security hearings, a budget hearing, a rail security hearing, a suspicious activity reporting immunity hearing and the political favorite, a WMD hearing. There will also probably be a House Rules Committee hearing on the rule for HR 2219 that I mentioned last night.

Cyber Security

Two different committees will be looking at the Obama Administration’s cybersecurity proposal. On Tuesday the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold their hearing with witnesses scheduled from the Department of Justice, DHS-NPPD, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

On Friday the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold their hearing on the subject. There is no witness list available yet for this hearing.

As I noted in an earlier blog, there are significant a control systems provisions in the President’s cybersecurity proposal, but that is no guarantee that they will even be mentioned in these hearings. The inclusion of NPPD and NIST witnesses does provide the possibility that this topic will be covered in the Senate hearing, but a lot will depend on the questioning from the Senators. Being a Judiciary Committee panel, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the Senate hearing, but I do expect a better chance of substantive covereage of control systems security issues in Friday’s hearing.

Coast Guard Budget

The Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee will be holding an oversight and budget hearing on Thursday looking at the Coast Guard. This is kind of late in the season for a budget hearing, but the Senate is way behind the House in the budget process this year. I doubt that there will be much in the way of MTSA coverage in this hearing. No witness list is currently available, but we can certainly expect the Commandant to be on hand.

Rail Security

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing on Wednesday looking at rail security operations. The recovery of information from the Bin Laden compound indicating an interest in attacking rail targets on the 9/11 anniversary is bringing some attention to this neglected area. If last week’s hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee is any indication, there will be no substantive discussion of the existence of a freight rail threat; but we can always hope. Those hopes are partially dashed by the fact that there is no railroad witness on the current witness list.

See Something Say Something

The Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on HR 963, the See Something, Say Something Act of 2011, on Friday. This is bill introduced by the Judiciary Committee Chair to provide immunity to people making good-faith suspicious activity reports. There are no witnesses currently listed for this hearing.


Late last session Rep. King (R, NY) introduced HR 5057 that dealt with defenses against terrorist uses of weapons of mass destruction. King’s bill focused almost exclusively on nuclear and biological weapons to the exclusion of chemical weapons. That bill is apparently pending re-introduction and will be the subject of a hearing before the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies Subcommittee of King’s Homeland Security Committee on Thursday.

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