Congress joins the cause

Flurry of new bills speeds funding, technology to anti-terrorism effort

Improved airport screening was among Congress' first homeland security initiatives.

Henrik G. de Gyor

The Senate is expected to take up legislation establishing a Department of Homeland Security this month. The House has already passed its version of the legislation, called the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

Although the House bill largely mirrors the president's proposal, a few significant differences must be resolved. For example, the White House proposed shifting all the Immigration and Naturalization Service's functions to the new department, while the House wants to abolish INS and move its law enforcement and border management groups to the new Department of Homeland Security. The House bill would leave the INS immigration service groups in the Justice Department.

While the proposals to establish the new department have attracted much attention, Congress also has passed or is considering other significant legislation related to homeland security. Here's a rundown of some of these bills, with an emphasis on technology provisions.

Bills signed into law

Otherwise known as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act
(H.R. 3162 became P.L. 107-56)

? Requires the Secret Service to create a national network of electronic crime task forces.

? Authorizes $100 million for border monitoring technology and equipment and $200 million annually through 2004 for the FBI's Technical Support Center.

? Directs development of a technology standard to identify visa and admissions applicants.

? In developing the INS integrated entry and exit data system, requires focus on use of biometric technology and development of tamper-resistant documents readable at ports of entry.

? Authorizes $150 million to extend a regional information sharing system for law enforcement and $50 million for regional computer forensics laboratories.

? Extends regional information sharing system grants to systems that enhance investigation and prosecution abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in addressing multijurisdictional terrorist activities. Authorizes $250 million annually through 2007.

? Authorizes $250 million annually through 2007 for anti-terrorism grants to state and local governments.

? Establishes the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center to address critical infrastructure protection through support for activities related to counterterrorism, threat assessment and mitigation. Authorizes $20 million.

Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002
(H.R. 3448, became P.L. 107-188)

? Requires implementation of a strategy to prepare for and respond to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies, including coordination with state and local governments.

? Requires assistance to state and local governments in a bioterrorism or other public health emergency, including their participation in secure communications networks to disseminate information to public and private entities.

? Requires an integrated system or systems of public health alert communications and surveillance networks between and among federal, state and local public health officials and health care facilities. Provides for necessary appropriations.

? Requires evaluation of new technologies designed to improve or enhance public health surveillance activities.

? Authorizes $1.6 billion for grants or cooperative agreements for systems to communicate information about public health emergencies and improve surveillance, detection and response.

Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002
H.R. 3525, became P.L. 107-173)

? Amends the USA PATRIOT Act to advance the deadline for development and certification of a technology standard to validate the identity of alien applicants for admission.

? Authorizes $150 million for INS border security technology improvements.

? Directs the INS to integrate its databases and data systems and develop and implement an interoperable law enforcement and intelligence data system for visa, admissibility and deportation determination purposes. Authorizes necessary funds.

? Sets forth technology standards and interoperability requirements for development and implementation of the integrated entry and exit data system and related tamper-resistant, machine-readable documents containing biometric identifiers.

? Directs development of an electronic means of verifying and monitoring the foreign student and exchange visitor information program.

Aviation and Transportation Security Act
(S. 1447 became P.L. 107-71)

? Establishes the Transportation Security Administration to oversee security in all modes of transportation.

? Requires screening or inspection of all people, goods and equipment before entry into a secure airport area, and requires a system to screen checked baggage and ensure cargo security at U.S. airports.

? Authorizes use of biometric or other technology to verify identities of those entering secure airport areas.

? Directs establishment of pilot programs in at least 20 airports to test new technologies for access control and security.

? Directs use of the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System to evaluate all passengers before they board an aircraft.

? Authorizes at least $270 million in grants for research, development and testing of technologies to enhance aviation security, airport security and to enable information sharing between federal agencies and law enforcement entities.

Bills to watch
Port and Maritime Security Act of 2001

(S. 1214)

House and Senate members agreed to a conference to resolve their differences.

? Would establish a program to ensure greater security for U.S. seaports.

? Would allow loan guarantees and grants for seaport security infrastructure improvements. Would provide funds for screening and detection equipment.

Pipeline Infrastructure Protection to Enhance Security and Safety Act (H.R. 3609)

Passed the House and referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

? Would improve the security and safety of pipelines.

? Would require pipeline operators to provide the federal government with geospatial data appropriate for use in the National Pipeline Mapping System.

Homeland Security Information Sharing Act (H.R. 4598)

Passed the House and referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

? Would provide for sharing of homeland security information by federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies with state and local entities.

? Would require information security and protection of classified information.

Source: Thomas, the Library of Congress' legislative Web site;

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