WASHINGTON – Bipartisan legislation to strengthen national and homeland security by encouraging government-wide integration of Executive branch employees working in those areas cleared the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday.  The bill is sponsored by Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii.

The Interagency Personnel Rotation Act of 2011, S.1268, was approved by voice vote.  The legislation would promote the temporary rotation of certain national and homeland security employees to other agencies in an effort to break down government stovepipes and improve communications across agencies.

A companion bill, H.R. 2314, has been introduced in the House by Representatives Geoff Davis, R-Ky., and John Tierney, D-Mass.

“This bill will help tear down the stovepipes of government information that contributed to the 9/11 disaster,” Lieberman said.  “And it will promote greater understanding and better communications among the professionals who dedicate their careers to our security.

“The national and homeland security challenges our nation faces in the 21st Century are far more complex than those of the last century.  Threats such as terrorism, nuclear and biological weapons proliferation, insurgencies, failed states, and organized crime know no borders and are beyond the capability of any single agency of our government.

“Our bill will promote integration among national and homeland security agencies to help counter these 21st century threats.

“There is an obvious need for this bill, and we have worked to ensure it will have little, if any, cost to the taxpayers.”

Collins said: “In an ever-more complicated national security and homeland security environment, data and knowledge are now being shared across what had been bureaucratic silos.  We can’t truly overcome these silos without a fundamental culture shift among national and homeland security personnel.  That shift can only come when personnel are able to interact with other security partners, learn their cultures, adopt their best practices, and develop relationships and a greater understanding of how best to work together to protect our nation.”

Akaka said: “The Committee’s approval of this important legislation will help America defend against complex threats. The bill establishes a framework to encourage the rotation of our nation’s best and brightest security experts, which ultimately will lead to a safer America.”

In other action, the Committee also approved the following legislation: the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act, S. 1409; the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, S.743; the Government Accountability Office Improvement Act, S.237; the D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Act, S.1379; the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act, S. 1487; a bill to protect the safety of judges by extending the authority of the Judicial Conference to redact sensitive information contained in their financial disclosure reports, S.1509; and a bill to extend the authority of the U.S. Postal Service to issue a semi-postal to raise funds for breast cancer research, S.384.

The Committee also approved four nominations: Ronald McCray to be a member of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, Corrine Beckwith to be an Associate Judge of the D.C. Appeals Court, Catharine Easterly to be an Associate Judge of the D.C. Appeals Court and Ernest Mitchell Jr. to be Administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration; and five postal naming bills.