Washington, D.C. – Today the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved several agenda items championed by Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia. 

“I am pleased that the committee passed my legislation to strengthen the agricultural specialist workforce so that they can continue defending our borders against foreign pests and diseases,” said Senator Akaka.  “In Hawaii and across the country, invasive pests cost our economy billions of dollars, hurt our environment, and lower our quality of life.  Foreign diseases like dengue fever can lead to illness and death.  We must make sure our focus on keeping foreign pests and diseases out of our country matches the grave threat they pose to our economy, environment, health, and lifestyles.”

Senator Akaka’s Safeguarding American Agriculture Act of 2012 (S. 1673) would enhance agricultural import and entry inspection functions.  The legislation would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection to strengthen its agricultural specialist workforce by creating a career track for advancement within the agency, improving recruitment and retention efforts.  The bill would also authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Agriculture to establish interagency rotations to strengthen expertise and working relationships between the two agencies.  Approved by the committee today, the bill now moves to the Senate floor for final passage. 

Also today, the committee passed Senator Akaka’s resolution to designate May 6-12 as Public Service Recognition Week and commend public servants for their dedication and continued service to the United States.  This resolution is expected to pass the full Senate by unanimous consent later this week.

“For the 28th year in a row, the Senate will honor America’s dedicated hard working public servants and the important work they perform to keep our nation strong,” Senator Akaka said.  “A big Mahalo – thank you – to our federal, state, and local workers for all they do.”

The committee also approved two nominees whose confirmation hearing Senator Akaka chaired: Mark Robbins, nominated to be a Member of the Merit Systems Protection Board; and Roy McLeese III, nominated to be an Associate Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.