Monday, March 26, 2012

Congressional Hearings – Week of 3-26-12

This week the battle for the FY 2013 budget officially begins with a hearing before the House Rules Committee. There will also be two markup hearings before the House Homeland Security Committee concerning port security and WMD intelligence. Finally there will two hearings about TSA; one looking at ‘Security Theater’ and one looking at ‘Rightsizing’.

Budget Hearing

While there have been a large number of hearings looking at the President’s budget request for FY 2013, no real action has been taken to date on the FY 2013 budget. The House Rules Committee will be meeting Tuesday to set the rule for the consideration of the as of yet un-numbered House Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for FY 2013. Once (if) this is passed it will form the basis for setting the amounts in the spending bills for each Departments of the federal government for next year.

It goes without saying that there will be some lively debate on this resolution and it will almost certainly pass in the House. If the past couple of years are any indication the Senate will not take up the resolution.

Markup Hearings

The Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security of the House Homeland Security Committee will be meeting on Tuesday to mark up the recently introduced HR 4251, the Securing Maritime Activities through Risk-based Targeting for Port Security (SMART Port Security) Act, that I discussed in an earlier blog. While Chairman Miller has a proprietary interest in seeing her bill move forward, it will be interesting to see how fast the Full Committee takes up this bill. The longer it takes the less likely it will be for DHS to meet the nearly impossible deadlines imposed in this bill.

On Wednesday the House Homeland Security Committee will be marking up four separate bills in a single hearing. They are:

• HR 2179; transferring unclaimed funds recovered by TSA to the USO;

• HR 2764; the WMD Intelligence and Information Sharing Act of 2011;

• HR 3140; the Mass Transit Intelligence Prioritization Act; and

• HR 3563; the Alert and Warning System Modernization Act of 2011.

The bill most likely to be of interest to the chemical security community is HR 2764. This is an intelligence and information sharing bill dealing with WMD issues. While it’s main focus is bioweapons it does provide some general guidance on intelligence collection for the whole range of CBRN weapons. The Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence took no action on this bill beyond reporting it with a favorable recommendation by a voice vote; it wasn’t even discussed before the vote.

TSA in the Spotlight

The House Transportation Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a joint oversight hearing Monday looking at the TSA; “Effective security or security theater”. A Transportation Committee press release notes that one of the foci of this hearing will be the TWIC program. Should be an interesting if not necessarily informational hearing; the security blogger Bruce Schneier will be one of the witnesses.

The House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation Security will be meeting on Wednesday to look at “Rightsizing TSA Bureaucracy and Workforce Without Compromising Security”. There is no information available yet on witnesses, but I suspect that this will be a further look at reducing the size of the TSA’s airport security operation by allowing, even encouraging, airports to hire their own security screeners. I will be very surprised if there is a mention of the surface security inspection force; it’s just too small to attract attention or really accomplish anything. Come to think of it I hope that isn’t a ‘rightsized’ inspection force.

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