WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) – Lawmakers held a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday to discuss the implementation of a new office within the Department of Homeland Security dealing with weapons of mass destruction.
The new office within DHS will be called the “Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office.” The office has already begun the process of reorganizing and implementing some of the new changes of the consolidation to their current workflow.
The House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications expressed an interest in understanding more about the establishment of this new office.
Subcommittee Chairman Dan Donovan, R- N.Y., said the threat of weapons of mass destruction has changed and become more diverse.
“The scope of the threat has changed dramatically. It has become much more diverse and diffuse,” Donovan said. “We know that terrorist groups have long strived to employ chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials in their attacks.”
The congressman mentioned a number of increased attacks; including the use of chemical weapons by Syrian government involving mustard, Sarin and chlorine gas as well as a plot to release hydrogen sulfide uncovered by the Australian police and a laptop retrieved from ISIS in Syria in 2014 with plans for weaponized bubonic plague.
“As the world of threats becomes more complex, it is incumbent upon the Department of Homeland Security to assess whether or not it is optimally organized to best confront the variety of threats it is expected to counter,” Donovan said.
Ranking Member Congressman Donald Payne, D- N.J., felt strongly that the Department of Homeland Security should have consulted the committee before implementing the reorganization. He reminded the department that the DHS will soon no longer have the ability to make those changes under the section 872 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, as the committee has taken action to repeal section 872.
The section states that secretary of the department may “may establish, consolidate, alter, or discontinue organizational units within the Department.”
“I appreciate the congressional authorization process takes time, but it also has value. And this committee has proven itself to be willing to partner when DHS has wanted to reorganize,” Payne said. “DHS officials spoke in generalities about how reorganization advanced the then secretaries unity of effort initiative and created a center point of contact for stakeholders. Such vague explanations are little justification for setting a disrupt.”
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