H.R. 5391, Gains in Global Nuclear Detection Architecture Act

H.R. 5391

Gains in Global Nuclear Detection Architecture Act

Rep. Cedric Richmond

September 27, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On­­­­ Tuesday, September 27, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 5391, Gains in Global Nuclear Detection Architecture Act, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 5391 was introduced on June 7, 2016, by Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security, which ordered the bill reported by voice vote on June 8, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5391 directs the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) to develop and maintain documentation that provides information on how the Office’s research investments align with gaps in the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture (GNDA) and the research challenges identified by the DNDO Director. It further directs DNDO to document the rationale for prioritizing and selecting research topics and to develop a systematic approach for evaluating how the outcomes of the Office’s individual research projects collectively contribute to addressing the research challenges.


It is a top national priority for the United States Government to actively prevent terrorists from smuggling nuclear or radiological materials as a means to carry out an attack on the homeland. An improvised nuclear device has the potential to eliminate hundreds of thousands of lives if discharged in a densely populated urban setting, while the successful detonation of a radiological dispersal device has the potential to result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in the potential event of a city-wide evacuation.

Understanding these risks, the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is tasked with improving the United States Government’s ability to discourage, detect, respond to, and designate responsibility for all potential nuclear terror attacks. This overall strategy is carried out in coordination with both domestic and international partners and, as part of this mission, DNDO conducts extensive research and development (R&D) on radiation and nuclear detection devices. Specifically, DNDO R&D projects work to assess and improve gaps in the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture (GNDA), which is a U.S. Government framework used to detect and prohibit nuclear smuggling activities. [1]

In March, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) surmised that it is unclear to what extent DNDO’s protocol for planning and selecting which R&D projects to fund adequately aligns investments with gaps in the GNDA; this is because of limitations in DNDO’s documentation. Furthermore, GAO reported that DNDO develops high level goals, known as research challenges, during its annual process for planning and selecting R&D projects based on assessed gaps in the GNDA to guide its R&D selection and investment planning. However, there is not enough documentation available to demonstrate how well the research projects that DNDO chooses to fund align with the Directorate’s chosen research challenges.[2]

Therefore, by requiring DNDO to improve how it documents certain decision-making regarding nuclear detection R&D initiatives, this legislation aims to ensure that limited dollars allocated for research are better targeted to gaps in the GNDA and challenges identified by the DNDO Director.[3]

[1] See House Report 114-652, at 2.
[2] Id.
[3] Id.


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing the legislation would not significantly affect Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending as the department is currently carrying out activities similar to those required by the bill. Because enacting the legislation would not affect direct spending or revenues, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply. CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 5391 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2027.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact John Wilson with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-1811.