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Update on Homeland Security Issues (11-25-02)

The terrorist attacks of September 11th have changed US operations, attitudes, and priorities on many levels. National security has been a prominent issue throughout much of the post 9/11 politics and legislation in Washington, DC. On June 18th, President Bush presented Congress with his draft of the Homeland Security Act, which calls for the one of the most extensive restructuring of the federal government to date. The Homeland Security Act calls for the creation of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that will consolidate various programs from within twelve established federal agencies. It also seeks the expansion of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and flexibility to shift money appropriated to the DHS within the agency. The implications of this act and the creation of a DHS will have unavoidable implications for many sectors, including the earth sciences.

Most Recent Action
President Bush signed the bill establishing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) into law on November 25th. In his comments at the signing, Bush stated that "This essential reform was carefully considered by Congress and enacted with strong bipartisan majorities." After H.R. 5005 was held up in the Senate over personnel provisions, Congress passed the bill just before adjourning for good. Two provisions of interest to the geoscience community relate to the Office of Science and Technology (OST), which will be headed by the DHS Under Secretary of Science and Technology, and the incorporation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) into DHS. OST will be responsible for developing a national plan to counter "emerging terrorist threats." The plan includes ". . . the development of [a] comprehensive, research-based" program to meet the needs of the nation. Also included in the bill is a section regarding the inclusion of FEMA as the core of the DHS Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response. Stakeholders have expressed concern about how FEMA's natural hazards programs would be incorporated in DHS. Partially in response to this concern, the bill notes that the first function of FEMA, once incorporated into DHS, will remain that authorized by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Other programs transferred to the new directorate include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Integrated Hazard Information System along with other programs from the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Health and Human Services. A pespective on how the DHS affects the geosciences is available from the Geotimes November 2002 Political Scene column. (11/25/02)

July was a busy month for homeland security legislation. While the Senate and the House have moved at very different paces, both chambers have taken considerable action on the president's Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposal. The House bill (H.R. 5005) was passed on July 26th by a 295-132 vote, and the Senate bill (S. 2452) was passed out of the Governmental Affairs Committee on July 25th. It is expected to be on the list of topics for Senate floor debate once they return from the August recess.

House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) has led efforts to see that science and technology play as key a role in the new department as they do in the nation's security. To guarantee that role, members of the House Science Committee voted unanimously at a July 10th markup of the bill to offer two key amendments to H.R. 5005, both adopted as part of the final bill. An amendment offered by Boehlert and Science Committee Ranking Democrat Ralph Hall (TX) called for the appointment of a DHS Undersecretary for Science and Technology responsible for the coordination and organization of all research and development pertaining to homeland security. The other amendment was offered by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and would establish a Homeland Security Institute in response to a recently released National Academy of Sciences report calling for a body to provide independent technical and policy analysis to the DHS.

There are also other provisions within H.R. 5005 of interest. An amendment introduced by Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) establishes an advisory committee for the Undersecretary of Science and Technology. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) introduced an amendment that would ensure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is slated to become part of DHS, continues to carry out all of its responsibilities -- including natural disaster relief -- in addition to its focus on homeland security issues. Similar concern regarding Coast Guard responsibilities has resulted in ensuring the continuation of its non-homeland security duties such as oil spill response and recovery and fisheries enforcement. S. 2452 contains comparable language on this subject.

At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing in early July, the transfer of several Department of Energy (DOE) responsibilities to the DHS was discussed. Concerns were raised for the scientists currently employed in these positions - for change in duties, salary, and location. Linton Brooks, Acting Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) assured members that employees would continue to work in the same capacity that they had before the transfer.

The administration's request for a broad Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption for DHS has produced a strong partisan response in both the House and Senate with Republicans supporting the president and Democrats expressing concern that the exemption would create an even larger loophole allowing non-sensitive information to be kept quiet under the disclosure law. Of particular concern was the potential for industries to be able to withhold information on their risk management plans, part of the Clean Air Act. H.R. 5005 has maintained the original exemption but an amendment to increase the freedom of the DHS to make additional exemptions failed. S. 2452 also includes a provision requiring the DHS to comply with all environmental, safety, and health regulations. This provision is not present in the House version. (8/5/02)

Markup of H.R. 5005, Homeland Security Act of 2002
House Science Committee
July 10, 2002

Markup Summary
On July 10th, the House Committee on Science held a full committee markup of H.R. 5005, the Homeland Security Act of 2002.  Twelve of the 19 suggested amendments were accepted before the bill was passed out of committee.  Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) complemented the group on the manner with which they had approached the writing and markup of the bill.  The majority of decisions made were bipartisan, including the creation of a new position, the Undersecretary of Science and Technology.  Throughout the markup, Boehlert did his best to ensure that H.R. 5005 remained flexible and non-convoluted.  He discouraged amendments that would create additional offices or centers and amendments that required specific numbers to be met.  Other amendments to H.R. 5005 included the creation of an office to aid in the transmission, from scientists to policy makers, of information and ideas on products to increase national security; the establishment of a certain number of flagship, research-based universities to partake in homeland security research; and the transfer of the Hazard Support System, a satellite wildfire detection program, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Tensions rose during discussion of this last amendment, as the committee had been supplied with misinformation on the issue.  At the time of the vote, however, the committee was almost unanimously in favor of it.

Members Present
Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-NY), Chairman Ralph M. Hall (D-TX), Ranking Member
Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) Bart Gordon (D-TN)
Connie A. Morella (R-MD) Jerry F. Costello (D-IL)
Christopher Shays (R-CT) James Barcia (D-MI)
Curt Weldon (R-PA) Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
Joe Barton (R-TX) Lynn Rivers (D-MI)
Ken Calvert (R-CA) Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Nick Smith (R-MI) Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) Bob Etheridge (D-NC)
Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) Nicholas V. Lampson (D-TX)
Gil Gutknecht (R-MN), Vice Chairman John B. Larson (D-CT)
George R. Nethercutt, Jr. (R-WA) Mark Udall (D-CO)
Frank D. Lucas (R-OK) David Wu (D-OR)
Gary G. Miller (R-CA) Anthony David Weiner (D-NY)
Judy Biggert (R-IL) Brian Baird (D-WA)
Todd Akin (R-MO) Joseph M. Hoeffel lll (D-PA)
Timothy V. Johnson (R-IL) Joe Baca (D-CA)
Felix J. Grucci, Jr. (R-NY) James David Matheson (D-UT)
Mellissa A. Hart (R-PA) Steve J. Israel (D-NY)
John Sullivan (R-OK) Michael M. Honda (D-CA)

Sources: Greenwire, E&E News, American Institute of Physics Bulletin, House Science Committee Press Releases, AGU Science and Legislative Alerts, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and hearing testimony.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at

Contributed by Summer 2002 AGI/AIPG Intern Sarah Riggen and Margaret A. Baker, AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted August 6, 2002; Last Updated November 25, 2002.

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