The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Reauthorization of the Department of Homeland Security Act, bill HR 2825. The vote was 386 for and 41 against, with 32 democrats and 9 republicans in opposition. It’s next up to the U.S. Senate to deliberate and vote.
“The threats we face have evolved in the past 15 years, and we must not only keep up with the evolution of the threats, we need to stay in front of them,” U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said. “The American people deserve the strongest possible and most efficient Department of Homeland Security, and this legislation will help provide just that.”
“Today’s reauthorization of the department is a major bipartisan accomplishment and an example of what Congress can achieve when we put the safety and security of our country ahead of partisan politics,” McCaul said.
Although McCaul implies that the legislation is getting bipartisan support, not everyone is for it. The House Liberty Caucus is against the reauthorization of the DHS, in line with their political platform of “limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty.” The major criticisms of the DHS have related to its bureaucracy (bloated), waste and a lack of transparency. One might argue about its budget or whether or not there are privacy issues associated with DHS policies, but there’s no disputing the agency is a behemoth. First established in November 2002, the DHS employs 240,000 people and is comprised of 22 different departments and agencies.
The 2017 act would make some changes to the program. The Director of the Secret Service would need to be confirmed by the Senate (versus the President); Secret Service agents would be getting more training (although it is not specified as to how or how much). The legislation also reestablishes the five-year term for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) although it is directed to decrease by 20% its number of senior executives, over the next two years. Funding for training and equipment for first responders would be up with UASI increasing by $195M to $800M through 2022. Also, support remains for fusion centers and for both state and local law enforcement deployment at airports. Meanwhile, we are waiting to see what the Senate does.
As security and terror threats continue unabated, it is hard to argue against the need for dedicated security agencies. The DHS is far from perfect and one wishes there were more ideas on the table for how to make it leaner and meaner.