H.R. 615, Department of Homeland Security Interoperable Communications Act

H.R. 615

Department of Homeland Security Interoperable Communications Act

Sponsor
Rep. Donald M. Payne

Date
February 2, 2015 (114th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Monday, February 2, 2015, the House will consider H.R. 615, the Department of Homeland Security Interoperable Communications Act, under a suspension of the rules.  H.R. 615 was introduced on January 28, 2015 by Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ) and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security.

Bill Summary

H.R. 615 is substantively identical to H.R. 4289, the Department of Homeland Security Interoperable Communications Act, legislation that previously passed in the House on July 8, 2014 by a vote of 393-0.  (See Roll Call #370)

H.R. 615 requires the Under Secretary for Management at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take actions to achieve and maintain interoperable communications among the components of DHS.[1]  Within 120 days of the bill’s enactment, the Under Secretary must submit to Congress a strategy for meeting this objective.  Within 220 days of the bill’s enactment, and biannually thereafter, the Under Secretary must submit a status report on progress made; new policies, directives, guidance, and training established by the Under Secretary to achieve the objective; an assessment of participation among the various DHS components; and information on additional resources or authorities needed to achieve and maintain interoperable communication among the DHS components.

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[1] H.R. 615 defines “interoperable communications” as “the ability of components of [DHS] to communicate with each other as necessary, utilizing information technology systems and radio communications systems to exchange voice, data, and video in real time, as necessary, for acts of terrorism, daily operations, planned events, and emergencies.”

Background

“In November 2012, [DHS’s] Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report entitled, DHS’ Oversight of Interoperable Communications, which found that despite $430 million invested in communications capabilities, DHS lacks Department-wide interoperability.  The report observed that [DHS] lacks effective oversight to achieve interoperable communications among [its] components, specifically with radio communications, and that DHS component personnel were unaware of how to access the common communications channel and radios were improperly programmed.  Finally, the report found that DHS did not establish a sufficient governance structure to ensure Department-wide interoperability. The report states that [DHS] believes that its current structure is sufficient to achieve interoperability; however, the OIG noted that the structure relies on cooperation, not authority, among the components, which OIG cautions could hinder future interoperability efforts.”[2]  H.R. 4289 requires DHS to develop a strategy for achieving this objective and implements accountability measures that will enable Congress to perform its necessary oversight role.

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[2] House Committee Report 113-484, at 2.

Cost

According to CBO estimates conducted for identical legislation in the 113th Congress, implementing H.R. 615 would not affect direct spending or revenues.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107