Monday, September 9, 2019

Committee Hearings – Week of 09-08-19

This week both the House and Senate will be back in Washington after their long summer recess. Spending bills will be the big news this week, but congressional committees will be tackling some other issues as well. Of concern here will be a Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) hearing, DOE security, homeland security threats, and TSA oversight.


With spending bills (or continuing resolution) due by the end of the month, the Senate Appropriations Committee will start marking up spending bills this week (they were waiting on the budget deal to be completed before they started their work). The following hearings are scheduled:

Defense Subcommittee – 9-10-19;
• Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee – 9-10-19;
• State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee – 09-11-19; and
• Full Committee – 09-12-19

It looks like the Full Committee bill will be minibus combining the bills from the three committees listed above. This would be the equivalent of the first minibus (HR 2740) that was passed in the House back in June. We are likely to see this bill next week on the floor of the Senate. Even if it is passed then, it will likely have to go to conference with the House before it can be sent to the President. That is unlikely (possible though depending on how partisan the bill is) to happen before the end of the month.

Homeland Security Threats

On Tuesday the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on "Global Terrorism: Threats to the Homeland, Part I". No witness list is available. I doubt that there will be much (if any) focus on cybersecurity or specific threats against chemical facilities, but we will have to wait and see.

CFATS Hearing

On Wednesday the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on "Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks". The witness list includes:

• David Wulf, DHS;
• Matthew Fridley, Brenntag North America, Inc;
• Michele Roberts, Environmental Justice Health Alliance (EJHA);
• John Paul Smith, United Steelworkers (USW); and
• Scott Welchel, Dow Chemical Company

NOTE: Wulf is listed as the “Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection” not the Director of the DHS Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD). This is a recurring problem for Wulf, every there is a vacancy up the chain of command at DHS Wulf moves up to the IP position.

The ‘missing’ witness here is a representative from the GAO. We typically see the GAO representative on these CFATS hearings. The other, oddly refreshingly, thing about the witness list is that it presents a balanced list of witnesses, two activist organizations and two industry organizations. Typically, a committee controlled by Democrats has three activist and one industry representative on the witness panel (and to be fair, Republican controlled committees generally reverse the ratio).

This is being billed as a ‘legislative hearing’ focusing on HR 3256, Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act of 2019. In other words, the Committee would expect to hear the witness opinions about the provisions of the bill. Interestingly, the copy of the bill is the copy of the bill as introduced, not the amended version that was passed in the Homeland Security Committee. The summary provided in the Staff Briefing Memo, however, refers to the amended version of the bill.

DOE Security

On Wednesday the Senate Energy Subcommittee of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a legislative hearing looking at nine pending bills. The witness list includes:

• Mark Menezes, DOE; and
• Anton Porter, FERC

One of the nine bills one has been covered here: S 2095, Enhancing Grid Security Through Public-Private Partnerships Act.

TSA Oversight

On Wednesday the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on “Protecting the Nation’s Transportation Systems: Oversight of the Transportation Security Administration”. The current witness list has only one witness, Patricia Cogswell, Acting Deputy Administrator, TSA,

As with most TSA related hearings, I suspect that this vast majority of the discussion at this hearing will be targeted at passenger air security, not surface security issues.

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