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FCW : January and February 2017
Congress created the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the 2001 attacks to provide a more coordi- nated defense of the U.S. against terror- ist threats. But since its 2002 creation — which stitched together such disparate parts of the government as the Coast Guard, the Secret Service and immigration agencies — Con- gress has not been able to pass a bill authorizing the agency’s operations. Part of the problem is the way DHS oversight functions in Con- gress. Although the House Homeland Security Committee is the primary authorizing agency, big chunks of oversight are dispersed among mul- tiple panels, with the Judiciary Com- mittee responsible for immigration and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee overseeing the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Manage- ment Agency. “With such a fractured jurisdiction, it’s hard to get an authorizing bill for DHS completed,” said Bradley Saull, a vice president at the Professional Ser- vices Council who has worked at DHS and for the House Homeland Security Committee. Without an authorizing bill, Saull said, “Congress doesn’t have its say. It really concedes authority to the executive branch to determine what the priorities are. And the agency and components get conflicting guidance from various committees on what those priorities should look like.” The problem has long troubled Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Com- mittee. He has made it clear that he wants his committee to have the same encompassing level of oversight over DHS that the Armed Services Commit- tee has over the military. Although McCaul did not get the complete authority he sought in the recently passed House rules package, he got the next best thing: a memoran- dum of understanding from eight com- mittee chairmen with jurisdiction over some aspects of DHS agreeing to a 10-point plan to support the agency’s authorization. “We are finally on a solid path to overhaul the Depart- ment of Homeland Security and make sure it stays ahead of threats to our country,” McCaul said. The problems with DHS authorization aren’t solely the fault of the murky and conflicting oversight. The large, powerful component agen- cies under DHS are still coming to grips with the agency’s structure. Some potential changes include a plan backed by McCaul and DHS lead- ers to rename, reorganize and elevate the National Protection and Programs Directorate as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency. It would take the lead on domestic civilian cybersecurity and infrastruc- ture security. McCaul backed a bill to do just that in the previous session of Congress, but the legislation failed to move out of committee. From the point of view of the IT community, an authorization of the full agency could give vendors a bet- ter view of what DHS wants to do. “Clearly having a statutory autho- rization as a foundation for agency operations and agency structure adds clarity to the marketplace and provides contractors with a clear roadmap of how they want to engage,” said Rich Beutel, a former senior congressional staffer who is now principal of Cyrrus Analytics. The Senate will also have a role to play. Unlike his House counterpart, Senate Homeland Security and Gov- ernmental Affairs Committee Chair- man Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has not publicly campaigned for an expansion of his authorities, so any House-passed measure would likely have to traverse multiple committees in the Senate. — Adam Mazmanian Trending Trusted Internet Connections now serve all civilian agencies, according to the CIO Council’s “State of Federal IT” report 65 Rep. Michael McCaul INK TANK House leaders back plan to authorize DHS operations MCCAUL.HOUSE.GOVTWITTER.COM 10 January/February 2017 FCW.COM 0217fcw_003-011.indd 10 1/25/17 9:30 AM
November and December 2016