Media Contacts: Shane Wolfe (Royce) 202) 225-5021
Lauren Claffey (McCaul) 202) 226-8477
Allen Klump (Duncan) 202) 225-5301
Washington, D.C. – This week, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, called on Secretary of State John Kerry to put on hold the Department’s current plans to construct a costly new Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FAST-C) while their requested Government Accountability Office (GAO) review is completed.
In order to ensure critically important improvements to embassy and diplomatic security are completed in the most effective, efficient, and timely manner, Royce, McCaul, and Duncan have requested a GAO review of the State Department’s pending proposal to construct the new FAST-C in Blackstone, Virginia and the Homeland Security Department’s proposal to expand its own Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia to meet the State Department’s needs. The Homeland Security Department estimates that its proposal would save U.S. taxpayers nearly $1 billion over ten years.
While there is an urgent need to increase and improve diplomatic security training following the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, and the rising anti-American militancy in North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and elsewhere, the State Department’s proposed brand new FASTC would not be completed for at least 5 years at a cost of $450-$900 million. The GAO review will determine whether DHS’s FLETC is an already operating suitable alternative.
In their letter to Secretary Kerry, Royce, McCaul, and Duncan wrote: “By leveraging existing facilities to meet State’s training needs, FLETC estimates its proposal could save the U.S. government almost $1 billion over 10 years. With such a substantial amount of projected cost savings, we believe it is critical that FLETC’s estimate receive thorough consideration and a full, independent analysis…. It is critical that an independent and unbiased analysis be conducted to determine which agency’s proposal offers the required training at the best value to the American taxpayer.”
The text of the two letters follows:
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We are writing to express our concerns regarding the Department’s plan to move forward with construction of the new Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (“FAST-C”) at Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Virginia. Our Committees have asked the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) to review the proposals put forward by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and the Department of State (“State”) to determine which proposal meets the State’s security training requirements in the most effective, efficient, and timely manner. Our Committees request that State not move forward and expend any funding for development at the Fort Pickett site until the GAO review is complete.
Embassy security and the safety of U.S. personnel abroad are areas of great concern to us. Over the past two years, our Committees have conducted oversight through full Committee hearings and staff briefings, and we assess that the State Department’s existing Diplomatic Security (“DS”) training facilities may be insufficient to meet recommendations put forward by the Accountability Review Board (ARB) that was convened following the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi. Specifically, we are concerned about the implementation of the ARB’s recommendations that State develop courses for DS agents and other State personnel integrating high-threat training and risk-management decision processes and provide Foreign Affairs Counter Threat (FACT) training for all personnel assigned to high-risk, high-threat posts.
We understand that State, in an effort to comply with these ARB recommendations, has proposed that the General Services Administration (GSA) construct a new FASTC at Fort Pickett, an Army National Guard facility in Blackstone, VA. This proposal aims to consolidate State’s eleven security training facilities, improve instructional efficiency, and provide training to an estimated 9,000-10,000 DS and other State personnel. The initial cost for this project was over $950 million, but a reduction in scope lowered that estimate to approximately $907 million and then to $460 million, including a commensurate reduction in projected capabilities. We understand from State that the cost could change further.
We are mindful, however, that DHS already operates FLETC, which provides security training for DHS and 91 law enforcement and military partner agencies and organizations including DS. FLETC currently possesses extensive existing infrastructure that could be expanded and upgraded – including construction of new buildings, weapon ranges, and driving tracks – to meet the requirements in State’s original plan at a cost of $272 million. By leveraging existing facilities to meet State’s training needs, FLETC estimates its proposal could save the U.S. government almost $1 billion over 10 years. With such a substantial amount of projected cost savings, we believe it is critical that FLETC’s estimate receive thorough consideration and a full, independent analysis.
We are further concerned by the widely differing cost estimates provided by State and DHS to satisfy State’s security training needs. Our Committees have received varying information about which requirements are critical to improving the safety of personnel and facilities overseas and how each proposal would satisfy those requirements. It is critical that an independent and unbiased analysis be conducted to determine which agency’s proposal offers the required training at the best value to the American taxpayer.
Last year, in the annual State Reauthorization legislation (H.R. 2848) the House conveyed its bipartisan desire to see an independent analysis precede any expenditure of funding. It is our understanding that the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) has reviewed both State and DHS proposals and our Committees have repeatedly requested access to any documentation related to the OMB review. Unfortunately, the Administration has not responded to those requests. Instead, the General Services Administration (GSA) recently posted a notice for a supplemental environmental impact statement to be conducted on State’s Fort Pickett site. This indicates State’s intent to expend existing funds to move forward with FASTC without additional analysis of alternative sites, including FLETC, which the GAO study would provide.
We look forward to seeing the results of the GAO review and trust that the Department will not embark on such an expensive undertaking without allowing for the completion of a thorough, transparent, and unbiased review process.
The Honorable Gene Dodaro
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20548
Dear Mr. Dodaro:
We understand that the Department of State (“State”) is moving forward with plans to construct a new Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (“FAST-C”) in Blackstone, Virginia. The selection of the Fort Pickett site comes after more than a decade of failed proposals to develop property at other sites in the Washington-Metro area and the inability to expand current use at the Bill Scott Raceway in Summit Point, West Virginia. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has submitted a proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) to retrofit an existing law enforcement training center in Glynco, GA (the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center or “FLETC”) to service the Department of State’s needs. The FAST-C and FLETC proposals vary considerably in cost, scope, and projected completion time, which we believe warrant an impartial review before the Administration moves forward with either.
It is our understanding that State has proposed that the General Services Administration (GSA) construct a new FAST-C at Fort Pickett, an Army National Guard facility in Blackstone, VA. This proposal aims to consolidate State’s eleven security training facilities, improve instructional efficiency, and provide training to an estimated 9,000-10,000 Diplomatic Security (“DS”) and other State personnel. The initial cost for this project was over $950 million, but a reduction in scope lowered that estimate to approximately $907 million and then to $460 million. We understand from State that the cost could change further.
DHS already operates FLETC in Glynco, GA, which provides security training for DHS and 91 law enforcement and military partner agencies and organizations. DHS has proposed to expand and upgrade the current FLETC facility – including construction of new buildings, weapon ranges, and driving tracks – to meet the requirements in State’s original plan at a cost of $272 million. By leveraging its existing facilities to meet State’s training needs, FLETC estimates its proposal could save the U.S. government almost $1 billion over 10 years. With such a substantial amount of projected cost savings, we believe it is critical that FLETC’s estimate receive thorough consideration and a full, independent analysis.
We thereby request that the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) review both the Department of State’s FAST-C proposal and the DHS proposal to expand the existing FLETC site to meet State’s requirements. A review should consider the strengths, weaknesses, and risks of each agency’s existing capabilities, proposed new infrastructure, and any other relevant tangible factors.
In order to ensure the highest quality security training is provided at the best price to the American taxpayer, we request that GAO address the following questions during its review:
1. Does the State Department have a strategic capital planning process and, if so, how does it conform to leading practices and how do its plans for a new DS training center fit into it?
2. What requirements has the State Department established for a new DS training center, and how do the different proposals, such as the status quo, FAST-C, FLETC, and others fulfill those requirements?
3. To what extent do the cost estimates for the project conform to leading practices?
4. What are the potential consequences of any changes in scope being considered for the project on the effectiveness of State Department training and for meeting project requirements?
Tomorrow, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency will hold the following hearing to examine the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) new report, which examines the management of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) headquarters project at St. Elizabeths.
FRIDAY, September 19 at 9:30 a.m.
Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency
Oversight of the DHS Headquarters Project at St. Elizabeths: Impact on the Taxpayer
311 Cannon House Office Building
Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Duncan, R-SC, on the hearing: “Since 2006, the Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration have spent over a billion taxpayer dollars to construct a new DHS headquarters on the St. Elizabeths campus in Southeast Washington, D.C. The goal was to consolidate leadership and operations to make the department more efficient. However, a majority staff report released by our subcommittee earlier this year showed significant cost increases, schedule delays, and questionable decisions. Because of these concerns, I asked our congressional watchdogs to conduct a comprehensive review of the project. This hearing will thoroughly examine the findings from the Government Accountability Office’s report.”
*LIVE video of the hearing will be available here.
Today, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, held a hearing entitled “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland,” which focused on the government’s efforts to combat the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) threat both at home and abroad, as well as cybersecurity threats.
FBI Director James Comey, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and NCTC Director Matt Olsen testified on the challenges the government faces in tracking terrorist travel to and from the region, and the danger radicalized Americans pose. The U.S. estimates that about 15,000 foreign fighters have flown to Syria, up from a previous estimate of 12,000. Over 100 of these are Americans.
In the United States, the FBI has arrested more than half a dozen individuals seeking to travel from the U.S. to Syria to join the fighting there, possibly with ISIS. However, more needs to be done to gain intelligence on these foreign fighters. “These radicalized Westerners represent an exceptionally grave threat to the U.S. homeland because of their militant training, extremist connections, ease of travel, and intimate knowledge of the West,” said McCaul.
“In February, I said that Syria had become a matter of homeland security. Principally, because of this issue of foreign fighters. And so, monitoring, interdicting the travel of those who might want to leave this country and go there is an area of top concern right now,” said Johnson. “I think we have a reasonable degree of confidence - not a high degree of confidence, but a reasonable degree of confidence - that we know the numbers [of foreign fighters with Western passports] and we know who’s attempting to travel.”
Comey added “There’s thousands of ways to get from the United States to Syria and there are tens of thousands of American who travel for legitimate purposes every single day. So, sorting among that group to find the bad guys is something we spend every single day focused on. We’ve had good success, but I’m not overconfident, given the nature of the challenge.”
“Once in Syria, it's very difficult to discern what happens there,” confirmed Olsen.
McCaul also expressed his concerns regarding the government’s efforts to stop ISIS’s recruitment of Americans: “The ideological struggle against violent Islamist extremists is taking place not just overseas, but also here at home. There have been more than 70 homegrown violent Jihadist plots or attacks in the United States since 9/11. More than two thirds of them have been uncovered or have taken place in only the past five years. Many of the suspects were radicalized, at least in part, by online Islamist propaganda, including the Boston Marathon bombers and the Fort Hood attacker, a tool ISIS excels at and utilizes. Additionally, federal authorities just yesterday indicted a U.S. citizen from Rochester for raising money, recruiting and facilitating training for ISIS.”
“These are the home-grown violent extremists that we worry about, who can get all the poison they need and the training they need to kill Americans, and in a way that's very hard for us to spot between the time they emerge from their basements and maybe kill innocent Americans,” said Comey.
The witnesses detailed DHS’s outreach programs for at-risk communities and the FBI’s joint terrorism task forces that work with state and local partners to identify and arrest individuals before they carry out attacks.
“A fundamental tenet of the strategy that we all work on together with respect to countering violent extremism is that the neighborhoods and communities that are at risk, they're in the best position to identify someone who's on the path to radicalization. So, an important part of this effort is to give them the tools, the education, the knowledge, the information to understand how magazines like the ones you just showed can influence an individual, and then be able to work with their state and local law enforcement community and federal law enforcement community to intervene when someone is on that path,” said Olsen.
For video of the hearing and the written testimonies click HERE.
Tomorrow, the Subcommittee on Transportation Security will hold the following hearing to examine the processes and procedures surrounding the federal government’s consolidated Terrorist Watchlist, including the No Fly List.
THURSDAY, September 18 at 2:00 p.m.
Subcommittee on Transportation Security
Safeguarding Privacy and Civil Liberties While Keeping our Skies Safe
311 Cannon House Office Building
· Mr. Stephen Sadler, Assistant Administrator, Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
· Mr. Christopher M. Piehota, Director, Terrorist Screening Center, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice
· Ms. Jennifer Grover, Acting Director, Homeland Security and Justice, Government Accountability Office
Subcommittee Chairman Richard Hudson, R-NC, on the hearing: “The thousands of foreign fighters, including U.S. citizens, affiliated with terrorist groups like ISIS are a growing and serious threat to the security of U.S. aviation and the homeland. It is imperative that we accurately identify individuals who pose this threat. The Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) maintains the U.S. Government’s consolidated Terrorist Watchlist, including the No Fly List, which helps agencies like TSA identify known or suspected terrorists and take the appropriate steps to prevent them from entering the country, boarding an airplane, or obtaining a visa.
“This hearing is an opportunity to examine TSA’s and TSC’s efforts to safeguard the homeland using this counterterrorism tool, while at the same time protecting passenger data and offering redress to individuals who are incorrectly identified or matched to the list. The Subcommittee looks forward to hearing testimony from the TSA, FBI, and GAO on how the government is working to secure our skies while ensuring that adequate privacy and civil liberties protections are in place for the millions of people who fly every day.”
*LIVE video of the hearing will be available here.
Today, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security delivered the following opening statement at a hearing entitled “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland.” Watch the hearing live on c-span.org HERE.
Chairman McCaul: “Secretary Johnson, Director Comey, and Director Olsen—we’ve asked you to come before the Committee today to discuss the array of threats facing the U.S. homeland and the government’s response.
“A chief concern of ours is the proliferation of terrorist safe havens around the world. The 9/11 Commission’s number one recommendation was to use ‘all elements of national power’ to deny sanctuary to terrorist groups, yet we have seen safe havens spread with alarming speed in recent years. Such territory makes it far easier for terrorist groups to train recruits and hatch plots against the West.
“During this Administration, no less than three extremist sanctuaries have emerged or expanded—in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. In Afghanistan, if the Administration goes forward with its plan to withdraw our troops like they did in Iraq, we might see terrorists reclaiming the territory from which they planned 9/11.
“Our obvious and most immediate concern is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. I agree with the President that this group does not represent a legitimate ‘state’ but is rather a cabal of butchers peddling a violent and perverted brand of Islam. However, it should never have taken the beheading of two Americans for our government to wake up the American people to this menace. We have known for many months that ISIS was surging and represented the top threat to the United States. But the White House dithered without taking action, and the President played down the danger.
“Despite recent U.S. strikes against the group, ISIS still holds onto thousands of square miles of territory where they are able to operate their terrorist army. Recent estimates indicate that they may have up to 30,000 fighters, of which 2,000 or so are Americans and Europeans. These radicalized Westerns represent an exceptionally grave threat to the U.S. homeland because of their militant training, extremist connections, ease of travel, and intimate knowledge of the West.
“Today, we expect to hear about the Administration’s strategy to deter, detect, and disrupt the return of these foreign fighters to U.S. territory and that of our allies.
“Let us be clear: our Nation is at war with this group and the twisted ideology it is seeking to spread. We must consider all instruments of national power to rollback and defeat these fanatics now and destroy them wherever they emerge. Or, if we don’t take the fight to the enemy overseas, we risk having to fight them here at home.
“Our military efforts must include airstrikes in Syria to cut of the head of the snake. Top military advisors to the President, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey, have said that to defeat ISIS its safe haven in Syria must be destroyed. I agree with him, and I hope the President is taking the advice of his top commanders and Generals.
“But ISIS is not the only threat we face. I hope we hear today how your agencies are working to address the wider danger from Violent Islamist Extremism here at home and abroad.
“The White House has presented a false narrative in recent years about this threat, claiming for instance that al Qaeda was ‘on its heels,’ ‘on the path to defeat,’ and had been ‘decimated.’ While, in reality, the al Qaeda network has grown and materialized into a deadly global franchise, with a spider web of affiliates and ideologically similar groups attempting to fill the power vacuums across the Middle East, Africa, and South East Asia.
“The ideological struggle against Violent Islamist Extremism is taking place not just overseas, but also here at home. There have been more than 70 homegrown violent jihadist plots or attacks in the United States since 9/11, according to the Congressional Research Service. More than two-thirds of them have been uncovered or have taken place in only the past five years. Many of the suspects were radicalized at least in part by online Islamist propaganda, including the Boston Marathon bombers and the Fort Hood attackers, a tool ISIS excels at utilizing.
“Additionally, last night federal authorities indicted a U.S. citizen from Rochester, NY for raising money, recruiting and facilitating travel for ISIS.
“While the United States continues to battle ‘physical threats’ posed by terrorist organizations, we must also be vigilant in protecting the homeland against asymmetric threats like cyber attacks from state and non-state actors. President Obama recently noted that the ‘cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.’ Sadly, many experts believe the nation is woefully underprepared to protect itself in this domain. In a recent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, former 9/11 Commissioners described the U.S. cyber preparedness as being at pre-September 11th levels.
“Last month, Defense Secretary Hagel said ‘The world is exploding all over.’ I agree with his assessment and we look forward to your testimony today surveying the threat landscape, and elaborating on how we are countering those set against us and our interests.
“Before I turn it over to Ranking Member Thompson, I would note this is the first time the FBI Director has appeared before this Committee, and we very much appreciate your presence. Additionally, this is likely one of the last Congressional appearances for NCTC Director Matt Olsen who has announced his retirement. We thank you for your service, Director Olsen, and appreciate you being here. It has been a true honor to work with you. Secretary Johnson, you’ve been on the job at DHS for nine months. I appreciate our good working relationship and look forward to having you appear before the Committee for some time to come.”
Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) on the hearing: “The brutality of ISIS shocks the international conscience as they continue to carry out gruesome attacks in Iraq and Syria. Of major concern to our security is the rapid expansion of this terrorist organization and its recruitment of foreign fighters, many of whom have Western passports that could ease their travel to Europe and the United States to carry out attacks. At this hearing, DHS Secretary Johnson, FBI Director Comey and NCTC Director Olsen will testify on the threats the United States faces from ISIS and highlight the efforts of the federal government to counter such security concerns here at home. We will also examine the continuing danger posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates, particularly in Yemen and Syria, as well as the rising threat of homegrown terrorism and the ever present and growing cyber security risks facing the United States.”Read More
Tomorrow, the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security will hold the following hearing to examine global threats to homeland security and the federal government’s efforts to protect the United States from these threats.
WEDNESDAY, September 17 at 10 a.m.
Committee on Homeland Security
Worldwide Threats to the Homeland
311 Cannon House Office Building
· The Honorable Jeh Johnson, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
· The Honorable James B. Comey, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice
· The Honorable Matthew G. Olsen, Director, National Counterterrorism Center
Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) on the hearing: “The brutality of ISIS shocks the international conscience as they continue to carry out gruesome attacks in Iraq and Syria. Of major concern to our security is the rapid expansion of this terrorist organization and its recruitment of foreign fighters, many of whom have Western passports that could ease their travel to Europe and the United States to carry out attacks. At this hearing, DHS Secretary Johnson, FBI Director Comey and NCTC Director Olsen will testify on the threats the United States faces from ISIS and highlight the efforts of the federal government to counter such security concerns here at home. We will also examine the continuing danger posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates, particularly in Yemen and Syria, as well as the rising threat of homegrown terrorism and the ever present and growing cyber security risks facing the United States.”
*LIVE video of the hearing will be available here.
Hudson: Robert Reid
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC, chairman of the Transportation Security Subcommittee, introduced H.R. 5462, a bill to limit the fees charged to passengers of air carriers and clarify Congressional intent. U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-TX, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, joined in co-sponsoring the legislation.
“Americans can’t afford excessive burdens from Washington’s heavy taxing hand, yet federal taxes for a flight are higher than taxes on alcohol and tobacco. Rolling back aviation user fees and reducing taxes on airline passengers benefits everyone – from helping families save money when taking a vacation to cutting costs for our small businesses whose employees travel for work,” said Subcommittee Chairman Hudson.
“Despite the intent of Congress to simplify the fee structure, TSA misinterpreted the language and has begun collecting additional fees, above and beyond the increase authorized, by eliminating the cap on fees for round trip travel. This regulatory change will significantly increase fees for some air passengers, especially those who must take multiple flights to get to their final destination, such as those in small, rural communities. I remain committed to finding commonsense solutions that reduce taxes and make air travel more accessible, leading to more frequent trips, increased tourism and more dollars invested in our local economies.”
“TSA should not collect additional passenger security fees beyond what Congress has authorized. H.R. 5462 is common-sense, bipartisan legislation to clarify the fee structure that Congress intended and protect the traveling public from excess charges on their flights. I applaud Subcommittee Chairman Hudson for his leadership on this issue,” said Chairman McCaul.
To view industry support, please click here.
H2-176 Ford HOB
Washington, DC 20515