Sunday, April 21, 2013

HR 1535 Introduced – Port Security

As I mentioned a week ago, Rep. Hahn (D,CA) introduced HR 1535, the Gauging American Port Security (GAPS) Act. This bill would require the DHS Inspector General to prepare a classified report on the “remaining gaps in port security in the United States” {§2(a)(1)}. This bill is nearly identical to HR 4005 that was passed in the House in the last session, but was never acted upon in the Senate.

The only difference between this bill and the previous version is that the previous bill required the Secretary of DHS to produce the GAPS report not the IG. The change to requiring the IG to conduct the study is odd in that the bill also requires the report to address the “prioritization of such gaps and a plan for addressing them” {§2(a)(2)}. This is an inherently political decision and thus not normally under the purview of the IG.

Classified Report

Requiring the report to be made in classified form with an unclassified annex {§2(b)} will make sharing of the information problematic with the people at the local level that will most likely be responsible for fixing the identified problems. Section 3 of the bill attempts to address this by requiring the Secretary to “help expedite the clearance process, as appropriate” for ‘designated’ points of contact. Beyond the generic “Federal agencies and State, local, or tribal governments, and port system owners and operators” the bill does not define ‘designated’.

The one point that this bill (and to be fair most bills requiring the sharing of classified information) fails to recognize is that a person receiving classified information also has to have specially approved methods of storing the classified information. Obtaining the approval of the storage can be as time consuming as, and much more expensive than, obtaining a security clearance.

Additionally, State and local governments will inevitably have to go through a public funding process for any improvements that they will have to make to port operations. Having to rely on a classified report to justify those expenditures will make that funding process much more difficult.

Moving Forward

In the last session, HR 4005 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (the vote was 411 – 9) in the House, but was never addressed in the Senate. That was due, at least in part, to its late introduction and passage in the House. When this bill gets to the floor in the House and if it gets to the floor in the Senate, it will pass without significant opposition.

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