Key Democrat wants to revisit border fence act

The incoming Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says his top priorities would be ensuring that all cargo containers are scanned before arriving at U.S. seaports, increasing funding and security for rail and mass transit systems, passing an authorization bill for the Homeland Security Department, and possibly reversing legislation that calls for building a 700-mile fence along the border with Mexico.

"It's a good time to be a Democrat," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the ranking member of the committee who is poised to take over the helm when the new Congress convenes in January. In a post-election interview, Thompson said he is "convinced that technology is available" to scan all cargo containers at foreign seaports. GOP lawmakers and the shipping industry, however, contend that scanning all cargo is not technologically feasible and would disrupt commerce.

Thompson said he plans to meet with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff Tuesday, noting that establishing better communications between the committee and the department is at the top of his agenda for the meeting. "He cannot be a stranger before the Homeland Security committee," Thompson said of Chertoff. "He's going to have to be fully engaged and I'm going to demand that of him."

Thompson said he also plans to complete a Homeland Security authorization bill "very early" in the new congressional session. His committee has passed an authorization bill every year for the past three years. But a final bill has never cleared Congress because the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee never completed companion legislation.

The Senate, however, is expected to be controlled by Democrats come January. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ranking member Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., expects to become chairman of the committee, one of his aides said. Thompson believes Lieberman will do an authorization bill.

When it comes to border security and immigration, Thompson said he hopes to "re-visit" legislation that gives Homeland Security authority to put new fencing and barriers along the Mexican border. He said the new Congress could "perhaps do away" with the legislation or seek more virtual, rather than physical, fencing through technology, such as sensors and cameras.

Thompson also wants to create a grant program to fund interoperable communications, his aides said. He made an unsuccessful bid in September to authorize $3.1 billion for interoperable communications as part of a bill to reform the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.