Barletta’s Bill to Improve Law Enforcement Access to Intelligence Passes Committee
WASHINGTON – The House Homeland Security Committee yesterday passed legislation introduced by Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) to strengthen information sharing between local, state, and federal law enforcement. The DHS Classified Facility Inventory Act, H.R. 2443, requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to maintain an inventory of all “SCIFs,” or facilities that are certified to store information classified above the Secret level.
Law enforcement officials at all levels of government commonly share counterterrorism information. However, a recent report by the Inspectors General of the Intelligence Community, DHS, and Department of Justice found that, while counterterrorism information is usually classified at the Top Secret level, DHS personnel lack sufficient access to SCIFs where this information can be shared in the field.
Barletta’s bill addresses this issue by ensuring that the physical locations of all DHS-certified SCIF facilities will be known and accessible to DHS personnel.
“The importance of information sharing across the government cannot be overstated,” Barletta said. “As a former mayor, I understand that our local law enforcement officers are the first line of defense against terrorism. We need to make sure they are getting all of the information they need to keep us safe in a secure and timely manner. This bill eliminates unnecessary roadblocks that could prevent or delay efforts to protect our communities.”
The DHS Classified Facility Inventory Act calls for greater transparency in the locations of all SCIF facilities certified by DHS to store classified infrastructure or systems above the Secret level. Additionally, the bill reduces wasteful spending by requiring DHS to maintain and update a list of all SCIF facilities to ensure that DHS does not unnecessarily invest in new facilities in areas already covered by a pre-existing facility.
This bill compliments Barletta’s Fusion Center Enhancement Act, which passed the House in January of this year. That bill clarifies and enhances the partnership between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the national network of fusion centers, which are collaborative efforts of two or more agencies – including federal, state, and local entities – which share resources and information regarding terrorist or criminal activity. Pennsylvania is home to three fusion centers – the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center in Harrisburg, Delaware Valley in Philadelphia, and Southwestern PA Region 13 in Pittsburgh.
Barletta’s full statement from the mark-up of his legislation can be found below:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We’ve worked together on this committee to make sure that our local law enforcement officers have the tools they need to help keep our communities safe. As we have repeatedly discussed, I have long believed that it will be a local law enforcement official on the street, not an analyst in Washington, who will recognize when a member of their community has radicalized or been recruited a transnational gang.
That’s one of the reasons why I worked with the committee to introduce H.R. 2443, the DHS Classified Facility Inventory Act. This bill compliments “The Fusion Center Enhancement Act of 2017,” which I first introduced last Congress, and has successfully passed the committee and the House.
As a former mayor from a state with three fusion centers -- the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center, “Pay-sick,” in Harrisburg, Delaware Valley in Philadelphia, and Southwestern PA Region 13 in Pittsburgh, H.R. 2443 reflects my efforts to advocate for greater information sharing and transparency within DHS and between DHS and its state and local partners.
The importance of information sharing across the government cannot be overstated. We have seen improvements in information sharing at all classification levels. A greater number of state and locals are now getting the security clearances they need to access important national security information. However, gaps remain. This bill addresses particular issues surrounding the ability for DHS and State and local personnel to access information at the Top Secret level, which is often the venue used to store and exchange counterterrorism information.
To be honest, it’s frustrating that this legislation is even needed. The Congress and Department share the same goal of keeping our communities safe. We must make it clear that information must be shared to allow for proper oversight, both now and in the future. Our state and local law enforcement officials are professionals and leaders of our communities. Far too often, I have heard complaints that federal officials do not take their information seriously simply because someone has not been able to obtain a certain security clearance. This legislation will help address this concern.
Specifically, this bill calls for greater transparency in the locations of all facilities certified by DHS to store classified infrastructure or systems above the Secret level. The facilities are commonly knowns as “Skiffs.” In doing so, this bill will ensure DHS is tracking the specific locations of all the Department’s secure facilities and making this information available to DHS and State and local personnel, when appropriate.
Additionally, by requiring DHS to maintain and update a list of all of these facilities, this bill will ensure that DHS does not unnecessarily invest in new facilities in areas already covered by a pre-existing facility. This will reduce the chances for wasteful spending.
The significance of counterterrorism information sharing was the focus of a recent joint Intelligence Community, DHS, and Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General report which reviewed the domestic sharing of counterterrorism information. The study found that while this information is usually classified at the Top Secret level, DHS personnel lack sufficient access to “Skiffs” in the field. Significantly, the report assesses that the effectiveness of DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis “as an IC member in particular, is hampered by its limited access to classified systems and facilities.”
This bill will ensure that the physical locations of all DHS-certified facilities at the Top Secret level will be known to DHS personnel, including field personnel, and that arrangements can be made for access.
In regards to state and locals, DHS requires that any of these partners applying for a DHS sponsored Top Security clearance provide documentation that clearly states the facility where Top Secret information will be accessed. However, I’ve heard first hand from fusion centers that there is confusion on where the closest “Skiff” is located and often, they are only aware of FBI “Skiffs.”
It is one of my top priorities to ensure that state and local law enforcement in Pennsylvania know where they can go to review and discuss classified material, and to ensure that those with the appropriate clearance and “need to know” do not encounter any problems with DHS or other Federal agencies in gaining access to secure facilities.
By requiring the locations of these facilities be made available to state and local personnel, when appropriate, this bill helps to eliminate unnecessary roadblocks that could prevent or delay these important members of our community from applying for Top Secret security clearances. This bill will also aid State and locals with active Top Secret clearances who are trying to locate the nearest DHS-certified facility in which they can access systems and information above the Secret level.
As the oversight body for DHS, it is critical that we remain vigilant in our attempts to improve information sharing efforts at the Federal, State and local levels.
I urge my colleagues to support this measure and I yield back my time.