Chairman Green Delivers Opening Statement in Committee Markup
July 12, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, MD (R-TN) delivered the following opening remarks during a Committee markup on H.R. 4470, the “Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act of 2023”; H.R. 4467, the “DHS Border Services Contracts Review Act”; and H.R. 2577, the “DHS Suicide Prevention and Resiliency for Law Enforcement Act.”
As prepared for delivery:
First, I want to thank Ranking Member Thompson and all our Members for their cooperation leading up to today’s markup. This bipartisan markup reflects our ability to come together to do the work necessary to secure the homeland. We have three important matters to discuss today, and though we may not agree on every aspect of today’s proceedings, I am confident that each bill will receive broad support and these measures, which are needed to improve the Department of Homeland Security, will be advanced.
I would like to speak on the bills offered by my Republican colleagues. H.R. 4470, the Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act of 2023, reauthorizes DHS’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (or “C-FATS”) program until July 2025. This program identifies and regulates high-risk chemical facilities within the United States to ensure they have security measures in place to reduce the risks associated with Chemicals of Interest. It is the only federal program focused specifically on site-security at facilities with Chemicals of Interest.
I want to thank Rep. Lee for her attention to this important program and regard for her constituents, as her district hosts many of these chemical facilities. We are on a very short timeline as the program expires at the end of this month, so it is of the utmost importance that we act as swiftly as possible. Members on both sides of the dais have expressed concern with certain aspects of the program and the need for changes, which is why I have requested a report from GAO due back within the coming year to look at the program’s methodology for reducing facility risk, cost, and potential redundancies.
This shorter, two-year reauthorization will give us enough time to consider issues and challenges with CFATS and make the necessary reforms. Anything longer will only allow Congress to do what it does best – kick the can down the road and ignore the program until it needs to be reauthorized again.
As you all know, there are a lot of strong opinions in this body about reauthorization length and reforms. We have in this chamber, and in the Senate, colleagues who want a much longer reauthorization, and we have colleagues who want no reauthorization.
We have painstakingly worked to come up with something that can pass both the House and the Senate—a two-year clean reauthorization.
I know many of us have ideas and changes we would eventually like to see with CFATS, and in reviewing some of the amendments, I find several I like personally. However, our counterparts in the House and Senate have made it abundantly clear that any changes to the program or amendments to H.R. 4470 at this juncture would be a poison pill and will certainly end any chance of the program’s extension. That’s why we are doing a two-year reauthorization, to give members a chance to come together—Democrats and Republicans—House members and Senators—to reach agreement on the reforms needed. I urge all Members to support the bill.
Next is H.R. 4467, the DHS Border Services Contracts Review Act. This bill is an important measure that directs the Undersecretary for Management of DHS to assess active contracts for covered services performed by contractor personnel along the United States land border with Mexico and to submit to Congress a report with recommendations on active contracts utilized for border support services. I would like to extend my great appreciation to Rep. Brecheen for introducing this legislation and addressing the red flags raised by DHS’s Office of Inspector General about a lack of transparency and oversight concerning DHS border contracts. This bill passed through the Committee in the last Congress with broad bipartisan support, including an amendment by Rep. Jackson Lee that is part of the base text of the current bill. I strongly encourage all Members to support this legislation as it will bring additional accountability to DHS.
Lastly, I’m very happy to support another bipartisan measure today – H.R. 2577, the DHS Suicide Prevention and Resiliency for Law Enforcement Act. This bill amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to establish the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Program. Ranking Member Thompson introduced this as an amendment to the Border Bill from our markup in April. While we did not include it in that bill, I told the Ranking Member that I was committed to work with him on it and get it back up in front of the Committee.
H.R. 2577 provides a comprehensive approach to address the mental health and wellness of Department law enforcement officers and agents. When suicide is at an all-time high, and morale at an all-time low for DHS’s Border Patrol, this measure is very timely, and I encourage all Members to support it.