It’s Taking Too Long to Reauthorize DHS, House Homeland Chair Says

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas Jacquelyn Martin/AP

The House passed reauthorization last year; the Senate is taking it up now.

It’s taken “too long” for Congress to reauthorize the Homeland Security Department, the department’s chief House overseer said Monday, arguing it’s “demoralizing” for agencies to work for years on end without Congress’s official backing.

The House passed legislation to reauthorize the department for the first time in its 15-year history in July.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday as it prepares its version of the reauthorization plan.

These actions have taken too long and were overly encumbered by congressional jockeying and jurisdiction fights, House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said during a “state of national security” address at George Washington University.

McCaul’s reauthorization bill, for example, only came after bargaining and a memorandum of understanding between competing House committees that all have a stake in department oversight.

The result is that many Homeland Security divisions that have launched, grown or shifted their missions since 2002 lack specific congressional authorization to operate, McCaul said. That includes the department’s main cybersecurity and infrastructure security components.

As a result, those divisions might be more vulnerable when agencies compete for money and authorities, McCaul said.

“A lot of these offices … really don’t exist,” he said. “It’s kind of demoralizing to a department when Congress has not officially authorized it or recognized it in law.”

A separate McCaul bill that would reorganize and rename that cybersecurity and infrastructure protection division also passed the House in December. The bill would change the division’s name from the National Protection and Programs Directorate to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA.

McCaul is in his final term as Homeland chairman because of Republican party term limits.

During Monday’s address, McCaul also:

  • Urged the Senate to pass another House-passed bill that would restore a top cyber diplomat post inside the State Department.
  • Criticized laws in Russia and China that require some companies to reveal their source code to regulators. He said the laws put the U.S. at a competitive and security disadvantage.
  • Called for additional actions to prevent Russian meddling in the 2018 elections and urged consequences for Russia’s 2016 meddling. The Trump administration has yet to enact additional sanctions against Russia that Congress passed as a punishment for that meddling.

Defended House Intelligence Committee Republicans’ decision to release a controversial memo that alleges FBI and Justice Department officials were dishonest in seeking a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign official. McCaul said he hopes the much lengthier spying warrant will be made public after it’s redacted to remove intelligence sources and methods.