House GOP lawmakers introduce DHS authorization bill

The Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee wants to authorize the Homeland Security Department with legislation for the first time since it was created in 2003.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) along with other GOP lawmakers on the committee, introduced H.R. 3116 to authorize the department in a “fiscally responsible” manner, he announced on Oct. 6.

“This legislation will strengthen the mission of the department, encourage efficiencies and reduce waste,” King said in a statement. “Passing this legislation will provide much needed direction for the department.”

Congress created DHS following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. While the department opened its doors in March 2003 and has received appropriated federal funding from Congress each year, it has not had official annual authorizing legislation in the manner of other federal departments.

In 2007, the Democratic-led House committee approved an authorization bill, but no action was taken in the Senate that year.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) who chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, introduced an authorizing bill for DHS earlier this year, and his committee approved it on Sept. 21.

Lieberman said on Oct. 6 that his bill and King’s are “similar in many ways.”

“I welcome Chairman King’s introduction of House legislation to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security and I look forward to continuing to work with him on our shared goal of reducing waste within the department, consolidating overlapping functions, and improving the acquisition process,” Lieberman said in a statement.

King said his bill “further integrates the department and dispels the culture of stove-piped components, which leads to inefficiencies.”

Furthermore, King said his legislation creates an Acquisition Review Board that would centralize departmental oversight over all acquisitions, and it requires the department to independently verify the integrity of major acquisitions.

The also strengthens the Science and Technology Directorate’s role in technology acquisition to protect against acquisition of costly failures, the chairman said.

Lieberman also said his own legislation (S.1546) is not intended to be a traditional authorization bill, according to an article in Homeland Security Today.

"For those of us who are on the Armed Services Committee, this is a different kind of authorization bill,” Lieberman said. “Although there is some authorization of funding, our aim here was to make this a cost-neutral bill. It's not in the classic sense in an annual authorization to precede appropriations."

"But after this number of years, it is really an attempt particularly to go back and look at the department ... to conform the statute with reality and in some ways to try to improve it -- to eliminate offices that really have not functioned or functioned well and to try to consolidate in other ways. And all of it aimed in trying to help the department do its job in a more efficient way," Lieberman said in the article.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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