Washington Weekly – March 28, 2014

March 28, 2014 

The House and Senate passed different Ukraine aid and Russia sanctions bills, which leaders will have to reconcile before sending them to the President. Both authorize aid to Ukraine and sanction Russia for its takeover of the Crimean peninsula, but the Senate bill contains $100 million for security assistance to central and eastern Europe while the House bill authorizes U.S. international broadcasting to Ukraine and the surrounding region. The House also passed a one-year extension of the “doc fix” and a bill creating new hurdles to presidential designations of national monuments. The Obama administration announced this week that it will extend the March 31 deadline for signing up for health care for people who have begun the process before the deadline but who encounter problems or who have complicated family situations. 

FY2015 Budget

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) will hold a mark up next week in his committee on an FY15 budget resolution. Ryan’s budget will likely adhere to the $1.014 trillion level agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) signed into law last December, and may also seek to eliminate the projected deficit by the end of the decade. Republicans have ruled out new tax revenue, so those savings would have to come from spending cuts – either reducing discretionary spending after FY15 or making deeper or faster reductions in entitlement and assistance programs such as Medicare and food stamps. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that the budget resolution would be considered on the House floor the week of April 7. Passage of the budget resolution in the House may be difficult, as Republicans will need 217 votes. Out of the 233 Republicans in the House, 62 voted against the BBA in December. Ryan’s FY14 budget resolution also passed by a slim margin last year. Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) has said that her committee will not write a budget since the BBA already set the FY15 discretionary spending limit.

FY2015 Appropriations

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said that his committee would wrap up their hearings on the FY15 budget and begin mark ups in late April. The Senate is expected to follow a few weeks later with their first committee markup by May 22. The MilCon VA bill could be the first bill the Senate considers in full committee. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has set aside four weeks (two in June, two in July) of floor time this summer for the spending bills. While there has been a push to get the 12 spending bills done before the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30), Republicans who are thinking they may make gains in the Senate in the November elections and Democrats who are up for re-election and want to avoid tough votes may want to put off consideration of the bills until after the election. This is especially true for bills that are typically targets of contentious policy riders or are subjects of disagreement between the parties over the funding levels, such as the Financial Services, Interior-Environment, and Labor-HHS-Education spending bills.

As a reminder, the deadlines for members of Congress to submit their programmatic and language requests for the FY15 appropriations process are as follows:

Appropriations Subcommittee House Deadline Senate Deadline
Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies Mar. 31 Apr. 4
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Mar. 31 Apr. 11
Defense Apr. 2 May 2
Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Apr. 2 Apr. 4
Financial Services and General Government Apr. 2 Apr. 11
Homeland Security Mar. 31 Apr. 4
Interior Apr. 4 Apr. 9
Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies Apr. 4 Apr. 4
Legislative Branch Mar. 17 Apr. 3
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Mar. 17 Apr. 10
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Apr. 4 Apr. 9
Transportation, HUD, and Related Agencies Apr. 2 Apr. 4

Cybersecurity

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a hearing this week on Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships to Reduce Cyber Risks to Our Nation’s Critical Infrastructure. At the hearing, committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) said that the Administration’s recently released NIST cybersecurity framework is a blueprint or “living document” that will be continually updated; and commended the efforts of those trying to use the framework. However, he said that much more needs to be done and that he continues to believe that bipartisan legislation is the best long-term solution. Carper has been in discussions with Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-OK) and DHS in an attempt to produce legislation that would do the following:

  1. Modernize the way we protect our federal networks from cyber threats. (Federal Information System Management Act (FISMA))
  2. Clarify and strengthen the public private partnerships for the homeland security industry to have regarding cybersecurity.
  3. Make information sharing easier so that companies can share best practices and threat information with each other and with the federal government.
  4. Continue to develop the next generation of cyber professionals.

The primary reason Congress has yet to enact comprehensive cybersecurity legislation is differences over how much liability protection to grant businesses to get them to share cyber threat information with the government. Democrats prefer more targeted liability protection as they contend it would provide sufficient protection to enable businesses to share cyber threat information, and that businesses could potentially exploit broad liability protection for other matters. Proponents of broad liability protection, mainly Republicans, argue that businesses would not feel adequately protected under limited liability, and that their legal counsel would caution them that they could still be subject to legal action.

At the hearing, Sen. McCain (R-AZ) expressed his concerns that when the Senate is considering cybersecurity legislation they will bump up against the same issues they have been addressing in the past. McCain has been advocating for the creation of a select committee to overcome the jurisdictional issues in the Senate.

The SEC hosted a cybersecurity roundtable this week and discussed the cybersecurity landscape and cybersecurity issues faced by exchanges and other key market systems, broker-dealers, investment advisers, transfer agents, and public companies. They also discussed industry and public-private sector coordination efforts relating to assessing and responding to cybersecurity issues. At the roundtable, Commissioner Luis Aguilar recommended that the SEC create a new cybersecurity task force. Larry Zelvin, the head of DHS’ National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, said companies are mostly fearful of disclosing cyber incidents and generally only push information to the government after a problem has persisted for days. The roundtable kicked off a five-week public comment period on the issues discussed at the event.

Homeland Security

The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency marked up H.R. 4228, the DHS Acquisition Accountability and Efficiency Act this week. The bipartisan bill was introduced in the House on March 13 and has been endorsed by the Project Management Institute, the Security Industry Association, the Professional Services Council, and the Business Executives for National Security. The bill gives the agency’s undersecretary for management the power to approve, stop, change, or cancel any major acquisition program, and to review how such purchasing decisions are made. The bill creates an acquisition review board and requires quarterly reviews, multiyear acquisition strategies and congressional notification if the acquisition schedule is changed. Chairman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) said at the hearing, “Although DHS has taken steps to implement an acquisition policy with elements of commercial best practices and has put mechanisms in place to review programs, it has routinely failed to hold programs accountable. This must change.” The full committee is expected to consider and mark up the bill next month.

The panel adopted a few amendments including one that would require every major acquisition program to have a department-approved program baseline before continuing through the acquisitions process, allowing the CIO to provide recommendations to the acquisition review board. They also adopted two amendments offered by Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX). One would require that each program analyze its expected security benefit and how the program or system would be measured. O’Rourke’s second amendment would require program managers to have a life cycle cost estimate and a master schedule for the program’s implementation.

Political Updates

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) announced this morning that he is not seeking re-election to Congress, ending a 14-year career in Washington. Rogers is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Post retirement, Rogers will join Cumulus, a talk radio company. While Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) is next in line on the committee in seniority, he is considered the frontrunner to take over as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) next year. If Thornberry becomes HASC chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) would be the frontrunner to take the Intelligence gavel. Miller is currently chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) have both expressed interest in the position. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the committee may also be leaving the committee at the end of the year because his term on the panel ends. Mr. Ruppersberger said whether he can stay past this term is up to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced several Department of Defense Senior Executive Service appointments and reassignments this week:

  • Navy Rear Admiral Margaret “Peg” Klein, Senior Advisor for Military Professionalism, reporting directly to Sec. Hagel on issues related to military ethics, character, and leadership
    James P. Woolsey president, Defense Acquisition University, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics)
  • Thomas M. Brady, director, Department of Defense Education Activity, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness
  • Guy C. Beougher, executive director, operations and sustainment, Defense Logistics Agency
  • Iram A. Ali, special assistant to the secretary of defense for White House Liaison

Next Week

In addition to a few bills on the suspension calendar and completing action on the Ukraine aid measure, the House will consider HR 2575, the Save the American Workers Act of 2014, a bill amending the Internal Revenue Code to redefine “full-time employee” from 30 hours to 40 hours a week, for purposes of the mandate requiring employers to provide health care coverage for their employees. The House will also consider HR 1874, the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2013, a bill requiring the Congressional Budget Office to prepare a macroeconomic impact analysis for each major bill or resolution reported by any congressional committee (except appropriations). The Senate will complete work on the “doc fix” bill and continue debate on an extension to unemployment benefits.

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