March 07, 2018

Harris Amendments on Training, Emergency Alerts and Oversight Adopted in Bipartisan DHS Reauthorization Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris introduced five amendments into H.R. 2528, legislation to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Harris’ amendments were adopted through bipartisan consensus and include modifications to strengthen training, communication and guidance for DHS law enforcement, provide for innovative partnerships with the private sector to tackle cybersecurity challenges, increase oversight of DHS grants, and provide for more effective emergency alert systems.

“I’m pleased that this bill would, among other things, require the DHS Secretary to ensure better training and development opportunities for DHS law enforcement, and develop and implement timely written guidance for any policy change regarding how law enforcement engages with the public,” said Harris. “We also know some of the best tech companies in America are ready and willing to participate in talent exchanges with DHS, and this bill would leverage the expertise of the private sector to make our federal cybersecurity workforce stronger.”

Harris continued, “The American people rely on receiving emergency alerts to stay safe and informed. The ALERT Act of 2018, which I introduced with Senators Schatz, Gardner and Sullivan would modernize and standardize the current patchwork system to ensure that the public can be informed quickly and accurately in the event of an emergency. Additionally, this committee and the DHS IG has previously highlighted mismanagement and poor accountability for the Operation Stonegarden Grant Program, and this bill would require greater oversight and reporting to ensure that performance metrics are being measured and met.”

In addition to Harris, Senators who voted to advance the bill include U.S. Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), John McCain (R-AZ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Rob Portman (R-OH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), James Lankford (R-OK), Gary Peters (D-MI), Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Hoeven (R-ND), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Doug Jones (D-AL).

Harris’ amendments that were adopted include:

1. Modifications to Training

  • Requires DHS headquarters to conduct an inventory of training and continuing education programs for all DHS law enforcement personnel, and develop a detailed plan to 1) enhance, modernize and expand such programs and 2) reduce duplications and increase efficiencies. The amendment would also require that guidance and communications are provided expeditiously to law enforcement personnel within DHS following the issuance of any new executive orders, memos or policy directives. This is in response to a 2016 and 2017 Major Management and Performance Challenges reports that found persistent problems within DHS on policy clarity; communication between employees and management; and training. The amendment is supported by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Border Patrol Council, and the National Treasury Employees Union

2. Modifications to the Rotations Program

  • Strengthen rotations programs that provide employees with development and leadership opportunities, and strengthen inter-agency collaboration. Requires regular evaluations by DHS’s Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) of the DHS rotations program to ensure it is effective and robust. The rotations program provides opportunities for DHS personnel and leadership to rotate between components to enhance employee development and leadership, and facilitate stronger communication across DHS.

3. Establishing a Cyber Workforce Exchange

  • Establishes a talent exchange between DHS and the private sector to the Department of Homeland Security through the transfer of knowledge and skills.

4. ALERT Act of 2018

  • Amends the IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning Systems) Modernization Act of 2015 in two primary ways: (1) Expands the responsibility of the IPAWS Subcommittee to determine best practices for and standardize emergency alerts; and (2) Designates the federal government as the authority (as opposed to the states) for issuing ballistic missile emergency warnings.

5. Oversight of the Operation Stonegarden Grant (OSG) Program

  • Requires the FEMA Administrator, in coordination with CBP, to establish and implement guidelines to ensure that OSG funds are used in accordance with grant guidance and Federal laws, and improve program performance reporting and measurement requirements for OSG.