Homeland Security Committee Passes Legislation on WMD Prevention and Preparedness, Transportation Security, Maritime Security
Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Committee on Homeland Security, chaired by Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY), passed multiple bills, including bipartisan legislation to improve the Federal government’s efforts to prevent and prepare for a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) attack, as well as bipartisan maritime security and transportation security legislation.
The Committee passed, by unanimous consent, H.R. 2356, the “WMD Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2011,” which was introduced last year by Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), along with Chairman King.
Chairman King said: “This legislation implements many of the recommendations of the WMD Commission, which in 2008 delivered the dire warning that terrorists are likely to deploy a weapon of mass destruction somewhere in the world by the end of 2013. Today’s Committee passage of this vital legislation is an important step in further securing our homeland against such an attack here. I am pleased to have joined Rep. Bill Pascrell, who has been an effective proponent in moving WMD legislation through Congress.”
H.R. 2356, as amended, implements many of the recommendations of the WMD Commission, co-chaired by former Senators Bob Graham and Jim Talent. The legislation will improve U.S. efforts to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from a WMD attack in the United States by:
· establishing a special assistant to the President for biodefense to coordinate Federal biodefense policy;
· developing a national biodefense plan and a coordinated budget that assess capability gaps and spending inefficiencies;
· requiring DHS to establish a national biosurveillance strategy;
· ensuring the safety of our first responders through voluntary vaccinations and response guidance for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear incidents; and
· authorizing the Securing the Cities program to allow for interdiction of a radiological device in high-risk cities.
The legislation received the support of Committee Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Subcommittee Chairmen Daniel E. Lungren (R-CA) and Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL), and Subcommittee Ranking Members Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) and Laura Richardson (D-CA). Other original co-sponsors of the legislation are Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL), Hansen Clarke (D-MI), Candice Miller (R-MI), and Patrick Meehan (R-PA), all Members of the Committee on Homeland Security.
The Committee also passed H.R. 3857, introduced by Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY), which, as amended, allows Transportation Security Grant Program funding to be used to sustain specialized patrol teams, such as the NYPD’s Transit Operational Response Canine Heavy Weapons (TORCH) team, in addition to creating new teams as is currently allowed.
Rep. Turner said: “From 1997 to 2010, five out of the fifteen terrorist plots against public transportation were in New York. With the ever increasing sophistication of these terrorists we must ensure that law enforcement has the equipment and manpower to keep our commuters safe. This bill will streamline the process to ensure that specialized patrol teams such as NYPD’s TORCH team have access to funding necessary to keep them operational. This is a crucial step in helping the NYPD protect our citizens and visitors from all over the world who come to New York. I will continue to advocate for New York’s security through programs like TORCH and look forward to voting for this bill on the House floor.”
H.R. 3857, as amended, passed by voice vote.
In addition, the Committee passed:
· H.R. 4005, the “Gauging American Port Security Act,” introduced by Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA), directs the Homeland Security Secretary to conduct a study and report to Congress on gaps in port security in the U.S. and a plan to address them. H.R. 4005, as amended, passed by unanimous consent.
· H.R. 3173, introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), directs the Homeland Security Secretary to reform the process for the enrollment, activation, issuance, and renewal of a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) to require not more than one in-person visit to a designated enrollment center. H.R. 3173, as amended, passed by unanimous consent.
For more information on today’s markup, including roll call votes, visit the Committee on Homeland Security website.