Portman Highlights Importance of Holding China Accountable, Securing Southern Border & Strengthening Cybersecurity at HSGAC Hearing to Consider DHS Nominees

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, delivered opening remarks at a hearing to consider the nominations of William Valdez to be Under Secretary for Management at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Dimitri Kusnezov to be Under Secretary for Science & Technology at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Kenneth Wainstein to be Under Secretary for Intelligence & Analysis at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Portman highlighted the important nature of these roles especially with regard to holding China accountable for its rampant theft of U.S. taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property; the need to secure our southern border as the United States continues to face the worst migrant and drug overdose crisis in recorded history; and strengthening the nation’s cybersecurity stance against emerging threats. 

A transcript of his remarks can be found below and a video can be found here

“Welcome to our nominees. Mr. Valdez, Mr. Kusnezov, Mr. Wainstein, and thank you for your willingness to serve. Each of you have significant background in public service already. You’ve been nominated for really important jobs at the Department of Homeland Security, and much of what you will do will provide other offices at the Department, should you be confirmed, with the tools they need to be successful in the critical mission that you have. 

“Mr. Valdez, you can oversee human capital, the Chief Financial Officer, the Chief Procurement Officer, Chief Information Officer, security readiness, biometric identity. Much of that, if not handled properly, of course, would affect and undermine the mission of the Department. We’ve got a lot of management challenges right now related to acquisition for border security aspects and capabilities. We’re concerned about the financial system modernization efforts. We haven’t seen an organizational structure that has been improved much since the creation of the Department, which I was strongly supportive back in the day, but I think it needs to be updated. So based on your 20 years of experience working on management issues at DOE and the private sector, we look forward to hearing what your plans are with regard to DHS. 

“Mr. Kusnezov, you’ve been nominated for Undersecretary for Science and Technology, I should say Dr. Kusnezov – strong background in physics and artificial intelligence, and other issues. So we are interested, obviously, in strengthening our position against emerging technology threats like deepfakes, like artificial intelligence being misused. And we’ve done some work on that here in this Committee, as you know. But we think the edge the S&T directorate gives the Department is very important, and we want to talk about prioritizing the right investments. And I know you talked about this in your interview, but we want to be sure that the research doesn’t fall in the wrong hands, particularly the research that you’re funding. And we’ll talk more about that. 

“Mr. Wainstein, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, obviously very important right now. The threat landscape has evolved a lot since you last served. This recent terrorist attack in the synagogue in Texas is an example of that. Foreign and domestic, we face so many challenges, and we’re also dealing with emerging cybersecurity and critical infrastructure threats, as you know, and particularly with what’s going on in Ukraine today. A lot of us are concerned about that and the potential for that escalating. And of course, concern of threats from places like China. So, I look forward to hearing from you about those issues. I will say I was concerned to hear some of your previous work for the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation, so I know you’re prepared to talk about that today, or you should be. So I look forward to asking a question about that. And again, if you’re confirmed you have a difficult job ahead of you. The critical and timely information we need, even here in the Hill we saw was lacking with regard to the January 6 attack, and I&A has also faced challenges in recruiting qualified talent, as you know, and has had high rates of attrition, consistently ranked among the lowest for morale. 

“So we want to talk to you about that as well. So again, I appreciate all three of you. Your willingness to step up and serve in really important roles at this point. And we look forward to your testimony today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”