Thursday, January 31, 2019

HR 542 Introduced – Urban Security Lab

Earlier this month Rep. Rice (D,NY) introduced HR 542, the Supporting Research and Development for First Responders Act. The bill would authorize the current DHS National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL). This is essentially the same bill as HR 4991 from last session. That bill passed in the House by a voice vote under the suspension of the rules process.


The NUSTL has been in the DHS Science and Technology Directorate since 2003. As outlined in this bill the purpose of the NUSTL is to “test and evaluate emerging technologies and conduct research and development to assist emergency response providers in preparing for, and protecting against, threats of terrorism” {new §321(a)}. The bill would require the NUSTL to {new §321(c)}:

• Conduct tests, evaluations, and assessments of current and emerging technologies, including, as appropriate, cybersecurity of such technologies that can connect to the internet, for emergency response providers;
• Conduct research and development on radiological and nuclear response and recovery;
• Act as a technical advisor to emergency response providers; and
Carry out other such activities as the Secretary determines appropriate.

Moving Forward

Rice is the Chair of the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee. As such she certainly has the influence to ensure that the bill is addressed in Committee, if it does not go directly to the floor of the House. There is no reason to suspect that last sessions bipartisan support for HR 4991 would not be transferred to this bill.

As always, the question is whether or not the bill would be considered in the Senate. In the last session the bill was referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee which never took up the bill. This may be because of the efforts of the Trump administration to close the NUSTL as a budgetary move.


I did not cover HR 4991 last year as there did not seem to be enough of a connection to cybersecurity concerns. The wording of the bill has not changed, but there has been a significant increase in cybersecurity concerns with a variety of urban security technologies. I suspect that the Lab is going to be spending more time on cybersecurity research in the coming years.

An interesting political aspect of this bill is that the greatest support for the NUSTL comes from officials in New York City. The lab is located in NYC and has always received strong support from the NY congressional delegation.

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