Terrorism on the Rise, Intelligence Committees Say

Is America safer than it was two years ago?  “No” according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) – Chairmen of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, respectively. The chairs appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” this week.

The decline in security is due, in part, to the changing structure of al-Qaeda: once-independent terrorist groups across the globe have affiliated with al-Qaeda, making the organization decentralized, however cohesive. “I see more groups; more fundamentalist, more jihadist, more determined to kill to get to where they want to get,” Feinstein said.

Chairman Rogers alluded to frustration over the battle between the public and government intelligence operations on domestic surveillance, and its consequences.

“We’re fighting amongst ourselves here in this country about the role of our intelligence community that it is having an impact on our ability to stop what is a growing number of threats. And so we’ve got to shake ourselves out of this pretty soon and understand that our intelligence services are not the bad guys,” Rogers said.

“Jobs for Heroes Act”

Two tax credits for businesses that prioritize hiring veterans are set to expire at the end of December.  Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) announced her “Jobs for Heroes Act” to will renew and extend the credits.

“Veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 have an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent. That is 5 percent higher than nonveterans of the same age. That is absolutely shameful,” Rep. Bustos said.

“I hope all Members of Congress will join me in supporting my commonsense bill to help put veterans back to work and to making sure that those who have served always remain a priority.”

Nation’s IT Security Needs Improvement

On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (DHS OIG) released its report on US information security.  While DHS has made progress in enhancing security, the report listed five recommendations for improvement.

“As the number of cyber-related attacks and information breaches continue to grow, it is critical that our federal agencies do all that they can to protect their systems and to ensure that sensitive information is properly secured,” said Sen. Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, in response to the report.

Sen. Carper pledged to pursue bipartisan legislation to address cyber threats, including updating the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

Next week in Congress

Defense Appropriations Debate Resumes – The Senate will return from recess at 2 p.m. and resume consideration of S. 1197, National Defense Authorization Act, and the Chairman and Ranking Member will provide a status update on the bill.

Kerry to Testify on Iran Deal – The House Foreign Affairs Committee will grill Secretary Kerry on the interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

What’s next for Afghanistan?  The U.S. will transition from combat operations to an advise and assist role in the country in 2014, and both the House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committees will hold hearings to examine the new approach and its consequences for combatting terrorism.

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