Congress

House Dems look to ramp up oversight of DHS operations

Image: Casimiro PT / Shutterstock 

House Democrats introduced a bill to change management and law enforcement practices at the Department of Homeland Security with a new bill that is an explicit condemnation of former President Donald Trump's handling of the agency.

"Under former President Trump, DHS became the face of his most extreme and politicized policies," Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. "The DHS Reform Act of 2021 will help build back DHS better, put it on a path to normalcy, and to help inoculate it from future misuse."

The bill limits who can serve in "acting" leadership roles to those who have served for at least 90 days in a leadership position, while authorizing the undersecretary of management to serve a five-year term. It requires DHS to update its use-of-force policies to emphasize de-escalation tactics and training, with a 180-day deadline to implement initial and recurrent de-escalation training procedures. The bill also requires congressional notification within 24 hours whenever DHS accepts a request to deploy law enforcement officers and mandates that any uniformed DHS personnel be deployed with agency insignia on display.

"The Department’s actions last summer, in support of President Trump's effort to escalate tensions around the protests for his political ends, further eroded the public’s trust in the Department and damaged DHS's reputation," committee staff stated in a fact-sheet explaining the new bill.

The legislation also creates a new associate secretary position who will serve as third in command at the agency, to oversee law enforcement missions, including those involving the U.S. Secret Service, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and more.

The bill establishes key responsibilities for specific positions, designating the undersecretary for management as the chief acquisition officer, and officially requiring the chief procurement officer to monitor and manage supply chain vulnerabilities. It also includes additional security limits for DHS procurement practices, including restricting any contracts for foreign-made drone aircraft systems. The legislation also provides for more congressional oversight of cost overruns in major acquisition programs.

Thompson introduced similar legislation last year.

About the Author

Chris Riotta is a staff writer at FCW covering government procurement and technology policy. Chris joined FCW after covering U.S. politics for three years at The Independent. He earned his master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he served as 2021 class president.

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