By Lucia Bragg
The Senate Homeland Security Committee has passed HR 2825, which would reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the first time since its inception in 2002.
The House passed its version of the legislation in July 2017. The Senate version outlines a schedule for regular DHS reauthorizations and would rename and restructure the National Protection and Programs Directorate as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
The agency’s director would report directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the bill would designate assistant directors that each oversee cyber and infrastructure security. The agency would partner with industry sectors, academia, and other federal agencies to advance research and development in advanced encryption, cyber defense technologies, and insider threat monitoring methodologies.
The bill also emphasizes information sharing, encouraging DHS to increase dissemination of unclassified cyber threat details to state, local and tribal governments.
Other components of the Senate bill would order a report on results, challenges, and the future of DHS-provided cybersecurity grant funds in addition to one on potential security threats posed by Blockchain technology.
The bill would also establish a cyber workforce exchange between DHS and the private sector. However, the Senate bill leaves out a provision included in the House version allowing the president to station Secret Service agents at polling places across the country during federal elections.
The provision has attracted pushback from 19 bipartisan secretaries of state, who sent a letter to Senate leadership on March 9 voicing concerns against the provision’s potential inclusion in the final version.
Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) indicated his hope that his “Senate colleagues will quickly take up and pass this important legislation,” while Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) agreed that “when it comes to keeping Missourians and all Americans safe, there’s no room for politics — and I was glad that the committee worked together on a bipartisan and responsible basis to reauthorize the department for the first time.”
The bill awaits consideration by the full Senate.
Lucia Bragg is a policy associate with NCSL's State-Federal Relations Division.