In his first year as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has worked hard to ensure that Ohioans and all American taxpayers receive the transparency, accountability, and sound policies they deserve from the federal government.
Working to Secure the Southern Border and Protect Unaccompanied Children
Portman has continually made clear that the Biden administration’s border crisis is a direct result of its dismantling the previous administration’s policies with no consideration of the ramifications of removing those policies and how it would incentivize migration. Since March, the southern border has faced the worst unlawful migration crisis in more than twenty years. In September, Portman participated in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee annual “Threats to the Homeland” hearing and discussed how the ongoing crisis at the southern border has resulted in a historic surge of unlawful migrants, unaccompanied children, and deadly narcotics like fentanyl coming into our country.
Witnessing the Ongoing Unlawful Migrant Crisis. In April, Ranking Member Portman traveled to the southern border in El Paso, Texas, where he witnessed firsthand the ongoing unlawful migrant and unaccompanied children crisis and visited overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities for housing unaccompanied children with bipartisan colleagues and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. In an op-ed for RealClearPolitics, Portman highlighted the crisis at our southern border and called for the Biden administration to implement critical policy changes to stop the flow of unlawful border crossings.
Improving Federal Response to Increased Migration at Border. In May, Portman introduced the Border Response Resilience Act to require the Department of Homeland Security and federal partners to create a strategic plan and to conduct exercises to improve the federal response to increased migration at the border. The bill gives DHS access to contingency funding to activate the plan in case of future increases in unaccompanied children, asylum-seekers and migrants at the border.
Holding Biden Administration Accountable for Migrant Crisis. As Ranking Member, Portman has pressed Secretary Mayorkas in multiple hearings on the need to address the worst migrant crisis in more than two decades. Portman called on Mayorkas to take responsibility for the crisis, change course, and put in place policies to slow the surge of unlawful migrants and deadly narcotics over our border.
- In a June op-ed for Roll Call, Portman and Representative John Katko (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, called on the Biden administration to address the ongoing surge in illicit narcotics like fentanyl coming across the southern border and into the United States resulting in an increase of overdose deaths.
- At a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management hearing in November, Portman pressed federal witnesses on the increase in deadly narcotics like fentanyl coming into the United States over the southern border, after CBP operational statistics from October showed a 42 percent increase in fentanyl seizures at the southern border from September to October.
Protecting Vulnerable Unaccompanied Children. As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Portman has continued his record of bipartisan oversight on the safety of unaccompanied children crossing the border which he started as Chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI). As Portman’s oversight has shown, federal agencies must collect background information, including fingerprint checks, to ensure the safety and security of vulnerable unaccompanied children. Portman has been critical of reports that the Biden administration has removed vital protections of unaccompanied children in an effort to expedite processing and placement with sponsors.
In March, Portman and Senator Carper (D-DE) sent the Biden administration a letter reiterating the administration’s duty to ensure these children do not fall victim to trafficking, abuse, or other harm and reminding them of the bipartisan recommendations to accomplish that goal as outlined in their bipartisan PSI reports.
Also in March, Portman introduced bipartisan legislation – the Responsibility for Unaccompanied Minors Act – which requires HHS to keep better track of and care for unaccompanied children. This measure will help both ensure the children’s safety and that they appear at their immigration court proceedings.
In November, in an effort to ensure the safety of unaccompanied children at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facilities, Portman introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Safe Shelters Act to ensure that shelters operated by HHS are thoroughly vetted and licensed by the state in which they operate. This legislation stems from a bipartisan December 2020 report Senators Portman and Carper released as Chairman and Ranking Member of PSI that identified HHS’s failures to conduct adequate oversight of companies seeking to operate shelters for unaccompanied children. The report found that HHS awarded Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter grants to two companies with a documented history of failing to provide adequate care of children.
Protecting American Taxpayer-Funded Research and Technology from Foreign Entities
In June, the Senate passed Portman’s Safeguarding American Innovation Act as a part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. The Safeguarding American Innovation Act is bipartisan legislation to help stop foreign governments, particularly China, from stealing American taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act invests $250 billion of taxpayer funds to solidify the United States’ leadership in scientific and technological innovation critical to national security and economic competitiveness. The bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act will protect the $250 billion investment American research and IP from global competitors, like China. The legislation awaits House passage.
Portman crafted the Safeguarding American Innovation Act in response to the findings of PSI’s November 2019 bipartisan report that documented how China has a strategic plan to acquire knowledge and intellectual property from researchers, scientists, and the U.S. private sector, and the U.S. government does not have a comprehensive strategy to combat this threat. The report showed that American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Over the course of an eight-month investigation, the Subcommittee examined seven federal agencies’ efforts to combat the theft of American taxpayer-funded research and technology through Chinese talent recruitment programs.
The legislation also addresses the findings of PSI’s February 2019 report, which highlighted the Department of Education’s lack of enforcement of foreign gift reporting at U.S. colleges and universities, which the department admitted was “historically lax.” This bill gives the department increased authority to enforce foreign gift reporting rules and lowers the reporting threshold to increase transparency and prevent foreign interference on U.S. campuses.
Strengthening National Cybersecurity and Promoting Responsible Use of Emerging Technology
As Ranking Member of HSGAC and co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, Portman is continuing his efforts to promote increased cybersecurity and responsible use of artificial intelligence both inside and outside the federal government.
Improving Federal Cybersecurity. In August, Portman released a bipartisan report reviewing cybersecurity at eight federal agencies and documenting the continued failure of seven of those agencies to comply with the baseline cybersecurity requirements in the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) and safeguard America’s data. The report titled Federal Cybersecurity: America’s Data Still at Risk shows that, two years after Portman’s bipartisan 2019 report on federal agency cybersecurity, which he released as then-Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, there are still systemic failures to safeguard American data. These include failing to: protect personally identifiable information adequately; maintain accurate and comprehensive IT asset inventories; maintain current authorizations to operate for information systems; install security patches quickly; and retire legacy technology no longer supported by the vendor. The report reviewed FY 2020 Inspectors General reports on compliance with federal information security standards and found that seven federal agencies still have not met the basic cybersecurity standards necessary to protect America’s sensitive data. The report also included a cybersecurity report card for all the cabinet departments and the largest independent agencies. The average grade of the large federal agencies’ overall information security maturity was a C-.
In October, Portman introduced the bipartisan Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2021 (FISMA) to strengthen cybersecurity across the federal government, ensure attacks on federal networks and contractors are reported to CISA and Congress in a timely manner, and clarify roles and responsibilities in federal information security. The bipartisan legislation significantly reforms the Federal Information Security Modernization Act, which has not been updated since 2014, to ensure our nation has the tools and resources it needs to protect federal information technology systems. It includes four out of six recommendations from Portman’s 2021 FISMA report and seven out of nine recommendations from his 2019 report. The legislation was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee the same month.
Examining National Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities. As Ranking Member, Senator Portman has led multiple hearings examining current cyber vulnerabilities and the need for improved national cybersecurity to deter future cyberattacks.
- In March, the Committee held a hearing examining last year’s SolarWinds hack and subsequent cyber breaches that compromised critical federal agencies, private companies, and several state and local governments. The Committee heard testimony from federal cyber experts on the insufficient federal, state, and private cyber defenses and what actions lawmakers can take to address federal cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
- At a hearing in May, Portman pressed Brandon Wales, then-Acting Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), on the need for a single point of accountability for federal cybersecurity. Portman pointed out that despite increased funding for cybersecurity and bipartisan legislation from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, none of the major cyberattacks on federal entities in the last six months were discovered by the federal government.
- In June, the Committee held a hearing examining the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack and the ongoing cyber threats to critical infrastructure. Portman highlighted that these attacks have real-world consequences; the need to determine if ransomware victims should pay the ransom; the importance of identifying the gaps in information sharing between impacted private organizations and the federal government, and that these ransomware attacks are a serious national security threat.
- At a hearing in September, Portman pressed Biden administration cybersecurity officials on the need for accountability in federal government cybersecurity to ensure a more effective national defense against cyberattacks. In response to Portman’s questions, Jen Easterly, Director of CISA, disclosed that CISA worked with the U.S. Coast Guard on the ManageEngine vulnerability at the Port of Houston which they believe was the work of a nation-state actor.
Improving Federal Response to Cyberattacks. In September, Portman introduced the bipartisan Cyber Incident Reporting Act requiring critical infrastructure owners and operators to report to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) if they experience a cyberattack, and most entities to report if they make a ransomware payment. The bill will improve federal agencies’ understanding of how to best combat cyberattacks, help our nation hold hackers accountable for targeting American networks, and bolster the federal government’s ability to help prevent these attacks from further compromising national security and disrupting the lives and livelihoods of Americans. The legislation was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in October.
In November, Portman’s bipartisan Cyber Response and Recovery Act providing additional resources for better coordination against serious cyberattacks or breaches that risk the safety and security of American data was signed into law as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The legislation will help improve the federal response to cyber breaches, such as recent and serious attacks by foreign adversaries including the Chinese and Russian governments that penetrated both federal networks and private companies’ servers.
Assessing and Addressing the Rising Issue of Deepfakes. Portman’s bipartisan Deepfake Task Force Act, introduced in July, will assist the Department of Homeland Security in its mission to counter deepfake technology. The legislation will create a task force within DHS charged with producing a coordinated plan to explore how a “digital content provenance” standard could assist with reducing the spread of deepfakes, develop tools for content creators to authenticate their content and its origin, and increase the ability of civil society and industry leaders to relay trust and information about the source of the deepfakes to consumers. It has received strong support from national stakeholders and was passed by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in August.
Safeguarding Our Nation’s Critical Infrastructure Networks. In July, Portman introduced the bipartisan DHS Industrial Control Systems Capabilities Enhancement Act, legislation to help safeguard our nation’s critical infrastructure networks against cybersecurity threats. The bill will require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to better identify and address threats to Industrial Control Systems – the operational technology involved in operating the function of critical infrastructure networks like pipelines, and water and electric utilities.
Ensuring Artificial Intelligence Training for Federal Employees. In July, Portman introduced the bipartisan Artificial Intelligence Training for the Acquisition Workforce Act to help bolster the federal workforce’s understanding of artificial intelligence (AI). The bill will create a training program to help federal employees responsible for purchasing AI technologies better understand the risks and benefits it poses to the American people. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the legislation unanimously in August and the Senate passed the legislation in December.
Promoting Information Sharing Between State and Local Governments. To encourage federal cybersecurity experts to share threat information and resources with increasingly targeted states and localities, Portman introduced the bipartisan State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the legislation in August.
Equipping National Cyber Director with Qualified Staff. The National Cyber Director (NCD) is a brand new position tasked with coordinating the implementation of national cybersecurity policy and strategy. With cyberattacks increasing in both scope and consequence, it is crucial to provide the NCD the people necessary to accomplish this important mission. In July, Portman introduced legislation to address urgent personnel needs by permitting the NCD to bring in detailees from other agencies on a non-reimbursable basis to fulfill their cybersecurity mission. The legislation passed the Senate in July and was included in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act and $21 million for the Office of the NCD was included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was signed into law in November.
Securing Information Handled by Federal Contractors Using AI. While there are clear benefits to using AI, experts remain concerned that if used improperly, this technology could harm Americans and compromise national security. Portman’s bipartisan Government Ownership and Oversight of Data in Artificial Intelligence (GOOD AI) Act secures and protects information handled by federal contractors using artificial intelligence technology, such as biometric data from facial recognition scans. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the legislation in November.
Investigating the January 6th Capitol Attack
On January 6, 2021, the U.S. Capitol was attacked as the Vice President and Members of Congress were completing the certification of the 2020 election results. As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Portman, along with Chairman Gary Peters and the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Rules Committee, co-authored the only bipartisan congressional report on the security, planning, and response failures leading up to and on January 6th that allowed the Capitol to be breached.
Uncovering Security, Planning, and Response Failures Related to the January 6th Attack. In June, Senator Portman and Senators Gary Peters, Roy Blunt, and Amy Klobuchar released a bipartisan report on the security, planning, and response failures related to the violent and unprecedented attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. The report included information gathered from two hearings that were held relating to the attack, as well as interviews with officials from across federal and local governments, including officials from the United States Capitol Police (USCP), Senate Sergeants at Arms, the Architect of the Capitol, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), DHS, DOD, DC National Guard, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). The report also included a series of recommendations for the Capitol Police Board, USCP, federal intelligence agencies, DOD, and other Capital region law enforcement agencies to address the failures that led to January 6th and make the necessary reforms to ensure it never happens again.
Oversight of Biden Administration’s Catastrophic Afghan Evacuation
Portman has repeatedly expressed his support for the resettlement of Afghans who stood in battle with the U.S. over the last 20 years, but has pressed the Biden administration for answers on the evacuees who were paroled into the U.S. without being vetted.
Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor in September discussing his amendment to the continuing resolution which would have required that Afghan evacuees follow normal vetting procedures before receiving REAL IDs. The amendment failed, and the continuing resolution, which passed in September, granted Afghan evacuees access to REAL IDs. In November, Portman spoke on the Senate floor again and highlighted how gaps in the vetting of Afghan evacuees have endangered national security.
In October, Portman sent a letter to the Inspectors General of the Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Agency for International Development requesting they launch a joint review and audit of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program considering the backlog and issues Afghans who worked with US forces and our allies over the 20-year conflict.
Finally, Portman’s amendment to the Inspector General Independence and Empowerment Act of 2021 passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to ensure thorough oversight of the efforts to screen, vet, and process the evacuees from Afghanistan prior to their resettlement in the United States. The amendment directs the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security to carry out the oversight of the screening, vetting, and processing of the evacuees, an operation that is being coordinated by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. By ensuring independent oversight of the vetting process, this amendment will work to increase the safety and security of both the evacuees and the American communities receiving them.
Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations
Portman has long worked to support the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which helps nonprofits plan and prepare for potential attacks, He successfully reauthorized the program through the Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act which was enacted in 2020. In addition to hardening facilities, this program has improved efforts to keep at-risk nonprofit organizations safe by promoting emergency preparedness coordination and collaboration activities between public and private community representatives, as well as with state and local government agencies.
Working to Increase Funding for Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations in Ohio. The NSGP provides grants to faith-based and other nonprofit organizations to help secure their facilities against potential terrorist attacks and acts of hate. Portman helped double the amount of funding available for the NSGP in the FY 2021 bipartisan funding agreement that was signed into law late last year.
- In July, Portman announced that the Department of Homeland Security’s NSGP will distribute nearly $5 million to synagogues, churches, religious education facilities, and charity organizations across Ohio during FY 2021. This FY 2021 final allocation for Ohio is nearly double the initial FY 2021 target allocation announced earlier this year.
Creating a Federal Clearinghouse to Provide Safety Information to Houses of Worship. In an effort to ensure that faith-based organizations and houses of worship have the resources, assistance, and training they need to secure their facilities in the face of unnecessary violence that has tragically become increasingly common, Portman introduced the bipartisan Pray Safe Act. This legislation establishes a federal clearinghouse through which faith-based organizations and houses of worship could access information on safety and security best practices, available federal grant programs, and training opportunities. It has received widespread support from faith-based leaders across Ohio and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the legislation in July.
Reforming Federal Permitting to Ensure Infrastructure Upgrades
Since 2015, when Portman’s bipartisan Federal Permitting Improvement Act was signed into law as Title 41 of the FAST Act (FAST-41), the Senator has consistently worked to update our aging infrastructure and create good jobs while expanding transparency in the permitting process and promoting better coordination between federal agencies.
In November, Portman’s Federal Permitting Reform and Jobs Act to make FAST-41 permanent, improve the federal permitting process for some of the largest infrastructure projects, and build on efforts to update this process created in 2015 was signed into law as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The legislation received widespread support from national business and union leaders.
Increasing Transparency and Accountability Within the Federal Government
As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Portman has worked hard to ensure that American taxpayers receive the transparency and accountability they deserve from the federal government.
Requiring Federal Agencies to Publish Easily Accessible Annual Budget Justifications Online. Portman applauded the Senate and House passage of his bipartisan bill, the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act, to help make information about how the federal government is spending taxpayer dollars more accessible to taxpayers. The legislation will improve government transparency by requiring federal agencies to publish easily understandable justifications for their budget requests on a single, central website each year. Congressional budget justifications are plain-language explanations of how agencies propose to spend money that they request from Congressional appropriators. The materials would also be posted on each agency’s website. It was signed into law at the end of September.
Requiring the Executive Branch to Provide Just Cause Before Relieving Inspector Generals. Portman introduced the bipartisan Inspector General Independence and Empowerment Act which clarifies the 2008 Inspector General Reform Act by requiring any administration to provide a “substantive rationale, including detailed and case-specific reasons” prior to removing an IG. It also limits the use of administrative leave for IGs, including during the 30 days following the removal announcement. HSGAC passed the legislation in November.
- During a Committee hearing in October, Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz highlighted the importance of holding federal officials accountable at all levels of the government and agreed with Portman on the necessity of his legislation to bolster protections for IGs.
Improving Transparency of Federal Advisory Committees. Advisory committees are generally composed of individuals outside government who advise, and consult with, federal agencies on policy-making. In an effort to impose stricter ethics requirements on advisory committee members, Portman introduced the bipartisan Federal Advisory Committee Transparency Act in March. The legislation will require agencies to make more information about advisory committees public, make the procedures for establishing a committee and selecting members more transparent, and extend the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) to cover additional advisory committees that are currently exempt.
Establishing a Publicly Accessible Website for Congressionally Mandated Reports. Portman introduced the bipartisan Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act to increase government transparency by establishing a publicly accessible website with a library of all non-confidential agency reports mandated by the legislative branch. The bipartisan legislation requires federal agencies to submit to the Government Publishing Office (GPO) all congressionally mandated reports after each agency redacts information that would not be publicly disclosable under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). GPO would publish all reports submitted by agencies to said website and ensure that all federal agencies submit their reports. The legislation passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in November.
Strengthening Transparency and Accountability for the Postal Service. In May, Portman introduced the bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act, legislation to set the United States Postal Service on more sustainable financial footing and support the goal of providing long-term reliable service across the country. The bill strengthens transparency and accountability for Postal Service performance, eliminates unnecessary financial burdens, and helps ensure the Postal Service can better serve the American people.
Working to End Human Trafficking
Portman is the author of six federal anti-trafficking laws designed to better serve victims and help law enforcement end this horrific crime, including the high-profile Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) law that is already making a significant difference in combating online sex trafficking of women and children – resulting in the shutdown of numerous websites that knowingly facilitated sex trafficking. As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Portman has continued his longstanding work to combat human trafficking and help trafficking survivors.
Making Permanent DHS’s Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT). In October, Portman introduced the bipartisan Countering Human Trafficking Act to make permanent the CHHT, which oversees DHS’s efforts to combat human trafficking and the importation of products that are made with forced labor. The Center also ensures the Department is leveraging and coordinating its capabilities and resources to fight back against traffickers. The legislation will also expand and improve national public awareness and law enforcement training initiatives to boost efforts to counter trafficking. The legislation passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in November.
Increasing Coordination Between DHS Components and the Blue Campaign. Portman introduced the bipartisan DHS Blue Campaign Enhancement Act to require the Director of the Blue Campaign to develop online, interactive training videos and other web-based training opportunities for federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officers. This will help to raise public awareness about the indicators of human trafficking and ensure law enforcement can respond quickly and effectively. The legislation passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in November and passed the Senate in December as part of the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.
Enhancing American Investments and Prioritizing American-Made Goods
Portman believes that the American people should not rely on foreign countries for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other manufactured products, especially for any federally funded projects. As we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, America is too reliant on foreign-made products and Portman believes we should bring production back home to the United States.
Prioritizing American-Made Goods. In March, Portman introduced the bipartisan BuyAmerican.gov Act, legislation that will establish a centralized online hub to increase transparency and ensure federal agencies prioritize the purchase of American-made goods in compliance with existing law. The legislation passed the Senate in June and was signed into law as a part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act in November.
Incentivizing American-Made Projects. In an effort to ensure that American taxpayer dollars are used to buy American-made iron, steel, and manufactured products for any federally funded infrastructure projects, Portman introduced the bipartisan Build America, Buy America Act that will implement Buy America rules across the board. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the legislation in May and it passed the full Senate in June. It was signed into law as a part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act in November.
Strengthening Efforts to Onshore PPE Production. As we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, America is too reliant on foreign-made personal protective equipment. Portman introduced the bipartisan Make PPE in America Act to strengthen efforts to onshore production of PPE in the United States by requiring agencies to issue long-term contracts for American-made PPE. The legislation received widespread support from national business and union leaders and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee the legislation in May. The legislation passed the Senate in June and was signed into law as a part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act in November.
Understanding How Supply Chain Vulnerabilities Threaten America. In July, Portman introduced the bipartisan Domains Critical to Homeland Security Act to direct the Department of Homeland Security to conduct research and development into the ways that supply chain vulnerabilities threaten our homeland security. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the legislation in August and in December passed the Senate as a part of the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.
Increasing Preparedness for Natural Disasters
In an effort to increase preparedness and help save lives in the event of a natural disaster, Portman worked to include a $1 billion investment in Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program or the BRIC Program in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Biden in October. In September, Sima Merick, President of the National Emergency Managers Association and Executive Director Ohio Emergency Management Agency, agreed with Portman at a Committee hearing that this legislation will increase readiness for natural disasters and ultimately save lives.
Ensuring Disaster Victims Are Protected. In May, Portman introduced the bipartisan Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act, legislation that prevents the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from taking back assistance it has provided to victims of disaster due to an error made by the agency. The legislation passed the House in June and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the legislation in July.
Protecting Full-Time Employment of Federal Emergency Management Agency Reservists. FEMA reservists assist communities impacted by natural disasters as long as each situation requires, taking them away from their full-time employment for varying lengths of time. In June, Portman introduced the Civilian Reservist Emergency Workforce Act, bipartisan legislation to protect FEMA reservists from losing their full-time employment when they are called up to assist communities with disaster response. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the legislation in July and passed the Senate in December.
Improving Transparency of Federal Disaster Relief Spending. While agencies are required to report online how much each spends, there is no requirement to identify and track how much funding goes to federal disaster response. In December, Portman introduced the bipartisan Disclosing All Spending That Ensures Relief Act (DISASTER Act), legislation that will direct federal agencies to track all spending and financial damages related to disasters and emergencies – including pandemics, wildfires, and extreme flooding. This information would be reported to Congress and posted online to help make information about how much the federal government is spending on disaster response and recovery more accessible to the public.