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House Intelligence Committee Passes Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021

Washington, July 31, 2020

Washington, DC – Today, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) approved the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Year 2021.  The bill authorizes funding for and enables comprehensive congressional oversight of elements of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). The vote was 11-8.

“This year’s IAA builds on last year’s bill, which was one of the most progressive and reform-minded IAAs ever passed,” said Chairman Adam Schiff. “We reaffirm our commitment to the Intelligence Community by ensuring that it has the resources to compete against strategic adversaries like Russia and China, and that its workforce is able to do so in an unprecedented environment of a pandemic that has claimed over 150,000 American lives. We also add new safeguards to ensure that we protect the privacy and civil liberties of the American people and the pillars of our democratic institutions.

“While I am disappointed that our Republican colleagues chose not to join the Committee in supporting the bill because of its protections for whistleblowers and Inspectors General, and the provisions to safeguard against foreign interference,  I hope they will reconsider in the coming weeks and work with us to reach a compromise.  I look forward to the IAA’s passage on the House floor and conference with the Senate.”

This year’s IAA authorizes funding for the Intelligence Community at roughly 1.0% above the President’s FY 2021 Budget Request.  The legislation advances longstanding Committee priorities, including:

  • Prioritizing the IC’s collection and analytic capabilities against both hard target countries – such as China and Russia – as well as strategic, transnational threats such as climate change and pandemics;
  • Adapting the IC to operate in a strategic environment of rapid technological change, while posturing it to better leverage commercial innovation and academic expertise;
  • Investing in IC workforce initiatives, first to ensure that IC personnel can continue their critical work during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic; and further that IC elements can recruit, hire, promote and retain a highly qualified and diverse workforce; and
  • Safeguarding the pillars of our democratic institutions, from reinforcing protections of Americans’ civil liberties to securing our elections.

Specifically, the bill includes the following provisions:

  • Anticipating Future Global Health Threats.  The FY21 IAA requires a National Intelligence Estimate on the threat of global pandemic diseases; makes permanent an annual requirement for the IC to report on the national security effects of emerging infectious disease and pandemics; and requires a study on creating an outside advisory council to the DNI focused on disease outbreaks, pandemics, and other global health threats.
  • National Security Impacts of Climate Change. The bill makes permanent the Climate Security Advisory Council started by the Damon Paul Nelson and Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018, 2019, and 2020, establishing an outside advisory council to assist various elements of the IC that conduct analysis of the security impacts of climate change.  The bill also directs ODNI to explore whether such an outside advisory council model would be an effective one for better integrating outside expertise on strategic threats, such as for global health.
  • Intelligence Support Provided in Response to Protests or Disturbances. The bill requires notification to the intelligence committees before any element of the IC provides support to broader government responses to protests or civil disturbances.  The notification is also provided to the public in an appropriate form. 
  • Securing our Supply Chains and Telecommunications Infrastructure.  The FY21 IAA requires certain sensitive satellite components to be purchased in the United States; incorporates the USA Telecommunications Act, which would advance Open RAN technology and broaden competition against companies like Huawei and ZTE; and requires a report on national security risks posed by the pharmaceutical and personal protective equipment practices of China.
  • Report on the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi.  The bill reaffirms the requirement from the Damon Paul Nelson and Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018, 2019, and 2020 for the ODNI to provide an unclassified report, consistent with protection of sources and methods, on the murder of U.S. resident and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.  The bill also withholds funding for engagement with Saudi Arabian intelligence or security services until such report is provided.
  • Securing our Elections.  The bill incorporates a portion of the SHIELD Act, which requires federal campaigns to report certain foreign contacts, both in public filings and to federal law enforcement; and clarifies that opposition research and similar information may be considered a “thing of value,” which campaigns may not lawfully accept from foreign nationals.
  • Protections for IC Whistleblowers.  The FY21 IAA would make it generally unlawful for federal officials to share an IC whistleblower’s disclosure with any individual who has been accused of wrongdoing in the disclosure itself.  IC personnel and other officials likewise would be barred from revealing the whistleblowers’ identities as reprisal.  
  • Independence of IC Inspectors General.  Among other things, the FY21 IAA would ensure that IC inspectors general could be removed by the President on a “for-cause” basis only, pursuant to specifically enumerated criteria.  The firing of an IG would also trigger reporting to the intelligence committees about matters on which the fired IG was working at time of removal.
  • Paid leave for Serious Health Conditions.  The bill provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave for IC employees experiencing serious health conditions or to care for family members with serious health conditions.
  • Expand STEAM Hiring and Recruitment.  The FY21 IAA expands authorities to award grants and partnerships to support educational programs in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics, particularly for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions.
  • Annual Worldwide Threats Briefing.  The FY21 IAA affirms longstanding congressional notification requirements by specifically obligating the DNI, in coordination with the heads of each IC agency, to submit annually a Worldwide Threats assessment.  Upon the request of the congressional intelligence or defense committees, the DNI and the heads of IC elements would be required to appear for public hearings on the matter.
  • Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent Award.  The bill establishes an award in memory of Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, a Navy cryptologist and the first female U.S. Servicemember killed in action in Syria since the U.S.-led coalition’s campaign against ISIS began.

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