Thursday, March 27, 2014

Markup Results on DHS Communications Bills

This morning the Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee met to conduct a markup hearing on three communications related bills. Those bills were:

HR 3283, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act of 2013;
HR 4263, the Social Media Working Group Act of 2014; and
HR 4289, the DHS Interoperable Communications Act.

The Subcommittee agreed to all three bills by voice vote. The first two were amended before being agreed to, but the last was agreed to without change.

HR 3283 Changes

As I noted earlier, Rep Brooks (R,IN) offered an amendment in the form of a substitute. This revised language was further amended by four amendments from Rep. Payne (D,NJ) that were considered en bloc; four amendments from Rep. Clarke (D,NY) that were considered en bloc; and a single amendment from Rep. Higgins (D,NY). All amendments were agreed to by voice vote.

Most of the Payne amendments were minor word changes, but the last one would require DHS to determine which commercial wireless devices were capable of receiving the warnings broadcast under the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System and to annually publish a list of those devices.

All four of the Clarke amendments were related to cybersecurity concerns. They included:

• A requirement to ensure that the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System is hardened ‘to the greatest extent practicable’ against cyber-attack (listed in two separate places);
• A requirement to add Under Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications of the Department of Homeland Security to the members of the Advisory Committee; and
• A requirement for the Advisory Committee to conduct an assessment of the cybersecurity of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.

The Higgins amendment would require the Advisory Committee to consider lessons learned each time the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System is used.

HR 4263 Changes

Again, I reported earlier that Ranking Member Payne had offered an amendment in the form of a substitute for this markup. That language was further amended by a separate amendment from Mr. Payne that added the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination of FEMA to the Working Group.

An amendment from Higgins would add an additional requirement in the Working Group’s report to Congress about recommendations about how public awareness of the Department’s social media communications could be increased.

Moving Forward

The next step in the legislative process will be the full committee markup hearing and I expect that all three bills will again be marked up in a single hearing. How soon that hearing takes place will be a rough measure of the likelihood that this bill will make it to the floor of the House. If these bills don’t get to the floor before the summer recess, the only way they will likely make it to the President’s desk will to be included in the DHS spending bill.

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