House passes check on Internet transition, multiple DHS measures
In addition to demanding review of any change to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, legislators pushed for IT consolidation, improved communications and other reforms for DHS component agencies.
The plan to transition a key Internet architecture function out of federal control will get a modest check by Congress if the Dotcom Act is passed into law. The bill cleared one hurdle on June 23, passing the House of Representatives by a vote of 378-25.
The bill would give Congress 30 legislative days to review any proposal to devolve the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority contract to a new organization proposed by international stakeholders acting under the auspices of the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
The IANA function is essentially the address book of the Internet, mapping numerical nodes to web addresses. Many have concerns that if the U.S. doesn't handle this key function, the basic architecture of the global Internet could become subject to governance by countries without strong traditions of freedom of expression, or by the International Telecommunication Agency at the United Nations. The bill also requires the National Telecommunications and Information Agency to extend the current IANA contract while deliberations continue -- something that was expected to happen with or without legislation.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), said the review period gives Congress a chance to consult with experts on a proposed transition scheme. "If... we find that ICANN and/or its proposals [don't] adequately protect the free and open Internet, Congress can then take action to either completely stop the transfer or require more safeguards be put in place," Shimkus said on the House floor. "We get one bite at the apple on this and we have to make sure it's done correctly."
The House also passed a slate of measures designed to improve management and operations at the Department of Homeland Security:
- The DHS Interoperable Communications Act, already passed by the Senate, passed the House on June 23 on a voice vote. It requires the agency to develop a strategy for improving radio communications among components. The strategy is intended to cover day-to-day operations, emergencies and planned special events that require the cooperation of multiple DHS components. According to a 2012 report by the DHS Inspector General, about $430 million worth of DHS radios could not connect different DHS components, due to poor governance and a lack of interoperability requirements.
- The DHS IT Duplication Reduction Act of 2015 requires the CIO of the agency to take an internal census of IT systems, report on whether systems are duplicative, and come up with a strategy for reducing the number of such systems. The bill was sponsored by freshman Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) who serves on the Homeland Security Committee and chairs the IT Subcommittee on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The measure passed on a voice vote.
- To counter the threat potentially posed by unmanned aircraft, the Homeland Security Drone Assessment and Analysis Act seeks new policies from DHS, in conjunction with other departments. Specifically, the legislation seeks policies on deterring or mitigating the risks posed by an attack from a small- to medium-sized drone. Under the bill, DHS would share anti-drone attack strategies with state, local and tribal authorities. The measure passed on a voice vote.
- The DHS Paid Administrative Leave Accountability Act of 2015 places new controls and oversight on leave taken by personnel. The bill tasks the Chief Human Capital Officer at DHS with monitoring employees on administrative leave for six months or longer. Lawmakers want DHS to end the practice of extending paid leave to employees with personnel issues, which was brought to light in an October 2014 GAO report. The bill passed on a voice vote.
- The Federally Funded Research and Development Sunshine Act of 2015 gives Congress new visibility into research projects being conducted under the Federally Funded Research and Development Centers at DHS. The bill requires the agency to give Congress a list of ongoing and concluded projects at FFRDCs. Currently the Science and Technology Directorate at DHS is under no obligation to inform Congress about ongoing research. The bill passed on a voice vote.
- The Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act provides measures for oversight of the development of a planned DHS headquarters campus for the agency in Washington, D.C. It passed on a voice vote.
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