House passes Donovan anti-terror bills
Lawmaker focuses on fighting transit, cyber dangers
Two anti-terror bills sponsored by the lone Republican in New York City’s congressional delegation were passed by the House this week as lawmakers turned their attention to securing transportation systems and cyber space in the wake of the bombing in Chelsea.
U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) sponsored the Transit Security Grant Program Flexibility Act and the Cyber Preparedness Act.
Donovan, who is the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, said both bills were a direct response to feedback that he received during recent subcommittee hearings he chaired to explore ways to defend transit and cyber infrastructure against terror attacks.
The Cyber Preparedness Act seeks to streamline the nation’s cyber-security procedures to improve cyber-threat information sharing and coordination between federal, state and local authorities.
In testimony at a cyber-security hearing in May, Lt. Col. Daniel J. Cooney, assistant deputy superintendent for the New York State Police Office of Counterterrorism, said that federal cyber-security intelligence is not shared as quickly as counter-terror information with state and urban fusion centers. Fusion centers are physical workplaces that bring together federal, state and local agencies to share intelligence.
The Cyber Preparedness Act would allow representatives from state and urban fusion centers to operate jointly out of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. The bill also seeks to clarify that homeland security grants can be used to fund state and local cyber-security initiatives.
The Transit Security Grant Program Flexibility Act is aimed at improving the ability of transit agencies to prevent and respond to terror attacks, Donovan said.
Under the bill, there would be an expansion of the allowable uses for which transit agencies can use Transit Security Grant program funds. The legislation would permit recipients to use grant funds for additional security training costs such as security drills and exercises.
In addition, Donovan’s bill would extend the timeframe in which grant recipients would have to spend their funding from two years to three years. The change will allow transit agencies to use their grant funds without having to worry about unrealistic deadlines, Donovan said.
“Your government’s chief responsibility is to protect you and your family from attack. Last weekend’s bombings in New York and New Jersey, as well as attacks on mass transit systems in Europe and the Iranian hack of a U.S. dam, remind us that oceans no longer insulate us from threats,” Donovan said. “Congress must constantly reevaluate federal policies to allow agencies and law enforcement to most effectively secure the homeland.”
Both bills, which Donovan said passed the House with bipartisan support, will be sent to the Senate for consideration.
Thirty-one people were injured in the terrorist bombing that took place on West 23rd Street in Chelsea on Sept. 17. The suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, was arrested and has been charged in federal court with using a weapon of mass destruction.
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