Cleared Congressional Round-Up: The week’s latest from Congress on legislation, hearings and oversight affecting those in the cleared world, including Senate testimony by the DHS secretary nominee, where issues involving Department of Homeland Security personnel arose.
Senators Grill DHS Secretary Nominee
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee questioned Jeh Johnson on Wednesday, President Obama’s pick for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Mr. Johnson previously served as Assistant U.S. Attorney from the Southern District of New York, General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force, and General Counsel of the Department of Defense.
If confirmed, Johnson told Senators one of his first actions would be hiring critical staff at DHS. “As I speak, the department of government charged with the vital mission of homeland security has no secretary, no deputy secretary and a number of other senior positions are vacant,” Johnson told the committee.
While his nomination is opposed by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – who are concerned with border security and the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, respectively – Johnson is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate soon.
More Proposed Reforms to Domestic Surveillance
Senator Al Franken (D-MN) summoned support and practical guidance for his bill to intensify transparency on certain controversial NSA practices in a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Thursday.
Administration security officials, academics, and one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), testified on “The Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013.” Among other things, the bill would
- require the NSA to disclose how many people are having their data collected under each key foreign intelligence authority;
- require the NSA to estimate how many of those people are American citizens, and how many of those Americans have had their information actually looked at by government agents; and
- lift restrictions on Internet and phone companies, permitting them to provide the number of government orders for information they receive and the number of users whose information has been produced in response to those orders.
Appropriators Consider Sequester’s Effect on Defense Industry
Top defense industry leaders were invited to Capitol Hill Thursday to testify on “Sequestration and the Defense Industrial Base” before the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
During 2013’s partial sequester, the procurement account was decreased by $9.8 billion and the research and development account was cut $6 billion. Total defense cuts for fiscal year 2014 are projected to be $52 billion.
“We see reductions in staffing at the largest firms averaging about 6%, with at least one company reducing staff by over 16%,” testified Marion C. Blakey, President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. “As more contracts come up for renewal, we expect to see these numbers increase.”
Members of the House Committee on Homeland Security took their turn scrutinizing a GAO report on the security clearance process, two weeks after their Senate counterparts.
Veterans’ groups and Senators participated in a roundtable discussion to review programs for veteran entrepreneurs in the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
After updates from a State Dept. official, House members examined the current state of U.S. policy toward Iraq.