Homeland Security

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TOUGH & SMART APPROACH TO HOMELAND SECURITY

As a former state and federal prosecutor, Kathleen worked throughout her career to show that law enforcement can be tougher and smarter – matching aggressive enforcement with innovative crime-reduction strategies, utilizing new technologies and intelligence-driven investigations, and forming strong community partnerships to help prevent crime.

In Congress, protecting our country remains Kathleen’s top priority, and as a member of the Homeland Security Committee, she is a vocal advocate for a tougher and smarter approach to fighting terrorism and protecting our country. Kathleen knows we must be prepared to do whatever it takes to defeat anyone who threatens the American people and our interests and allies abroad, and we must do so in the smartest way possible – utilizing advanced technology and intelligence tools to target and attack our enemies, supporting our international partners in their efforts to combat terrorists, and developing innovative strategies for countering radicalization around the world.

ELECTION SECURITY

Our elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, and Russia’s interference in the 2016 Presidential Election should have been a wakeup call that Congress needed to make election security needs to be a top, bipartisan priority. And Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation into President Trump’s campaign only further confirmed what we already knew and feared – that Russia launched a sweeping and systematic effort to interfere in and influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

Since 2016, Kathleen has been vocal in her support of stronger election security measures, and has strongly opposed President Trump’s attempts to delegitimize and undermine our government’s efforts to secure our elections and hold Russia accountable for their actions.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency: In November 2018, the Administration established the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Formerly known as the National Protection and Programs Directorate. As a Member of the Homeland Security Committee, Kathleen helped to introduce and pass the legislation that officially changed the agency’s name and policy priorities to focus on cybersecurity and protecting our critical infrastructure.

Election Security Legislation: Since January of 2017, Kathleen has cosponsored several critical pieces of legislation that would bolster our election security capabilities at the federal and state level, including legislation that provides funding and support to local election boards to secure their vulnerable infrastructure.

In March 2019 Congress passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which enacted critical election security measures to protect the integrity of our democratic process. Kathleen was an original cosponsor of  H.R. 1, which passed by a vote of 234-193. Among other measures, this H.R. 1 would:

  • Modernize our election security systems by providing new resources to improve election infrastructure, provide for the adoption of paper ballots, and bolster our election systems.
  • Heighten  election system defenses by implementing risk-limiting audits, ensuring the accuracy of the vote tallies in an efficient manner.
  • Improve oversight and disclosure of political advertisements, helping to block illicit foreign political activity online.
  • Upgrade law enforcement tools to police and rein in foreign agents who operate in our democracy.
  • Protect our democratic institutions from foreign intrusion by developing a national strategy to combat foreign interference.

In June 2019 Congress took further action to safeguard our elections form foreign interference and hacking by passing the Securing America's Federal Elections (SAFE) Act, for which Kathleen was also an original cosponsor. The SAFE Act would enact several steps to ensure our election systems are safe from hostile foreign actors, including:

  • Authorizing $600 million in Voting System Security Improvement Grants for states to modernize and secure their election infrastructure, which was appropriated by the FY 2020 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill.
  • Authorizing $175 million every two years to states to maintain the state’s election infrastructure.
  • Mandating that voting systems use individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballots – a widely agreed upon reform to protect our elections from manipulation.
  • Requiring states to conduct post-election risk-limiting audits to ensure election integrity; whether it is a programming error or a cyber-attack, these audits help detect inaccuracies.
  • Setting strict cybersecurity standards for election technology vendors.
  • Fostering accountability for election technology vendors by creating a “qualified election infrastructure vendor” designation.
  • Requiring voting machines to be manufactured in the United States.

Election Security Coordinator: In July 2018, Kathleen and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) led a bipartisan group of members in urging President Trump to appoint an Election Security Coordinator within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) to oversee and organize all U.S. election security efforts across the federal government. Even after overwhelming definitive evidence that Russia meddled in our elections, our federal government still lacks a centralized approach to combating this continued and growing threat. Currently, there are multiple federal agencies, task forces and commissions working to counter foreign interference and electronic hacking in our elections, but there is no formal government entity responsible for facilitating inter-agency coordination or ensuring government-wide information sharing and cooperation. The threat of continued election interference is urgent and real, and these agencies cannot do their jobs effectively if they are working in a silo. An Election Security Coordinator would consolidate our election security strategy and bring federal agencies together to combat all forms of election meddling in an organized and concerted manner.  Their letter can be found here.

BORDER SECURITY

As the Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations, Kathleen is committed to holding the Trump administration accountable for its inhumane border and immigration policies, while also ensuring that the men and women of Customs (CBP) and Border Protection have the resources and support they need to facilitate legitimate trade and travel .

OversightOver the last two years, Kathleen has led several trips to the southern border to conduct oversight of the Trump Administration’s harmful immigration policies.

Family Separation: In June 2018, at the height of the Trump Administration’s family separation policy, Kathleen joined a bipartisan group of members on a visit to a detention facility in Tornillo, Texas where hundreds of separated children were being held. During her visit she also met with CBP and HHS officials who were charged with caring for the minors. Kathleen was vocal in her opposition to this policy and called for the President to halt all further family separations. As a direct result of this policy, Kathleen called for former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to resign.

Conditions at Detention Facilities: In 2019, Kathleen led two separate oversight visits to the southern border in her capacity as Chair of the Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations. Both trips were part of the Committee’s efforts to conduct oversight of the conditions in which migrants and asylum seekers were being held and CBP operations at various ports of entry. The delegations  also met with local officials and non-profit organizations working to support migrants families and children in the area. Kathleen visited detention facilities in El Paso, Brownsville, and McAllen, Texas where they inspected conditions, met with migrants and asylum seekers and heard from CBP officials.

Border Security Legislation: Kathleen has introduced and supported several pieces of legislation that would ensure oversight and accountability for this administration's policies at the southern border.

The Rescinding DHS’ Waiver Authority for Border Wall Act (H.R. 1232): In light of President Trump's repeated attempts to build a wall along protected parts of the southern border, Kathleen introduced H.R. 1232, which would strike a 2005 law that allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to unilaterally waive all local, state, and federal laws to expedite construction of border barriers. DHS has used this authority to waive important environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act to build new border barriers in multiple locations across the southern border.

The Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act (H.R.3239): Kathleen was an original cosponsor of the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act, which was passed in the aftermath of a DHS Office of Inspector General report that exposed the inhumane and dangerous conditions in which thousands of migrants were being held. The bill, which passed the House in July 2019 by a vote of 233-195, would require CBP to enact strict safety and hygiene standards for migrants in their custody. Under H.R.3239,  CBP would be required to conduct health screenings, provide emergency care and ensure access to medication, translators and emergency transportation for migrants in their care. The legislation would also ensure clean drinking water, toilets, waste disposal and hygiene products are made available, in addition to implementing nutrition and shelter standards.

TRANSPORTATION SECURITY

As the former top Democrat on the Transportation Security Subcommittee, Kathleen has been a leader in the effort to strengthen the security of our nation’s aviation and ground transportation sectors, which are and will always be top targets for terrorists.

Enhanced screening for airport workers: After several high-profile incidents in which airport and airline workers smuggled weapons, drugs and other dangerous items past airport security and onto commercial flights, Kathleen and Subcommittee Chairman John Katko (R-NY) introduced H.R. 3102, the Airport Access Control Security Improvement Act of 2015, which streamlines and strengthens TSA’s vetting and screening procedures for airport and airline employees. The bill passed the House in 2018 as part of the 5-year FAA reauthorization bill. 

Maintaining TSA Screening Equipment: In May 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General issued a report that found that TSA’s failure to maintain sensitive screening technology threatened the life of the equipment, which could force TSA to rely on less effective equipment, creating significant security risks. In light of this report, Kathleen authored H.R. 2770, the Keeping Our Travelers Safe and Secure Act, which TSA to develop and implement a comprehensive preventive maintenance process for airport screening equipment, including specific maintenance schedules, guidance for TSA personnel and contractors on how to conduct and document maintenance actions, mechanisms to ensure compliance, and penalties for noncompliance. The bill also passed the House in 2018 as part of the 5-year FAA reauthorization bill.

Sounding Alarm on Chinese State-Owned Rail Car Manufacturer: In May 2019, Kathleen led a New York Delegation letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) expressing concerns over a Chinese state-owned company’s plan to design a new set of subway cars. Over the past five years, a Chinese state-owned enterprise has won four major contracts to build metro cars for transit systems across the United States. These rail cars would include modern train control technology, Wi-Fi, and other systems that could be susceptible to cyber-attack, hacking, or left vulnerable to backdoors in key systems.  Kathleen sent specific questions to the MTA regarding the agency's cybersecurity protocols and whether it has conducted a threat assessment of these companies. With millions of passengers riding on the New York City Subway system every day, it is important that we take steps to ensure the integrity of our systems and mitigate any cyber risks before attacks happen.

LOCAL HOMELAND SECURITY GRANTS AND PROGRAMS

Throughout her time in Congress, Kathleen has fought to protect and expand several Department of Homeland Security grants and programs that support local law enforcement agencies and vulnerable non-profit organizations, such as mosques and synagogues.

Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP): The NSGP provides funding through the Department of Homeland Security to support target hardening and other physical security enhancements to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack. The program also promotes emergency preparedness collaboration among nonprofit organizations, local community leaders and broader state and local government agencies.

Over the past five years, Kathleen has helped nearly 40 Jewish community organizations in NY-04 secure more than $4 million in federal funding for critical security enhancements to their facilities. This funding helps  support critical security enhancements at organizations like these, such as forced-entry-resistant technology, security-modified doors, alarm systems, and surveillance cameras. These grants have provided thousands of organizations and communities across this country with the safety they need and the peace of mind they deserve.

Kathleen has written to both the Obama and Trump Administrations to ensure funding for this grant is included in inclusion in multiple Homeland Security appropriation bills and has consistently cosponsored legislation to authorize NSPG funds.

National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL): NUSTL directly supports first responders in New York City, Nassau County and in cities across the country by testing and evaluating new technologies and systems that would be used in the event of a terrorist threat, industrial accident or natural disaster. NUSTL is constantly developing and testing new tools for first responders to use in the event of a terrorist attack, industrial accident or natural disaster. NUSTL organizes simulated scenarios with first responders to test new emergency systems, sponsors research for cutting-edge technology and works with first responders in the field to evaluate and assist with new tools. It is the only lab in this country that is focused entirely on helping first responders carry out their mission.

After the Trump Administration twice proposed eliminating NUSTL in its FY 2019 and 2020 budget proposals, Kathleen introduced and passed H.R.542, the Supporting Research and Development for First Responders Act, which would permanently authorize the NUSTL and protect it from future funding cuts. H.R.542 passed the House on June 10th, 2019 by a vote of 395-3.

The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI): UASI assists high-threat, high-density urban areas in efforts to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism. The UASI program provides funding to local law enforcement agencies in these areas in an effort to help them acquire the training and equipment they need to build these mitigation and response capabilities. The NYPD, FDNY and Nassau County Police Department have all received substantial support through the UASI program.

Kathleen has strongly opposed funding cuts to UASI and has helped ensure that the program remains fully funded in annual DHS appropriations bills.

CLIMATE CHANGE & NATIONAL SECURITY

Kathleen knows that climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels are not only threats to our environment and public health – they’re threats to our national security. Our military leaders aren’t waiting around for politicians to stop debating whether or not climate change is real – they know it’s real, and they’re taking action, leading the transition towards alternative energy sources and more diverse, more resilient power grids. Right now, our dependence on fossil fuels places an enormous burden on our servicemembers operating around the world. American troops on the ground are forced to spend massive amounts of time, effort and resources delivering, retrieving and protecting fuel – and that leaves them in danger. In the Iraq War, between 2003 and 2007, one out of eight U.S. Army casualties was killed while protecting fuel convoys.

That’s the burden that climate change and fossil fuel dependence are imposing on our military, and it’s only going to get heavier as fossil fuel emissions continue to lead to rising sea levels and more frequent, more intense extreme weather events. When Superstorm Sandy struck Long Island, we got a glimpse of the extreme weather events that we’ll see more frequently if we fail to take action to combat climate change. We saw the vulnerabilities of our power grid and critical infrastructure, and we saw how the military responds to help recover from such events. And if climate change continues at its current pace, our military will be forced to devote more and more people, more and more money, and more and more time to assist with recovery efforts – leaving them with fewer resources to protect our country from all the other threats to our national security. That’s why Kathleen is working to raise awareness of the national security risks of climate change so that we follow the military’s lead and take a unified, comprehensive approach to developing renewable energy sources and clean technology.

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