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House Intelligence Committee Unanimously Approves Intelligence Authorization Act

Washington, June 27, 2019

Washington, DC – Today, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence approved the Damon Paul Nelson and Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018, 2019, and 2020, by unanimous voice vote.  The bill authorizes funding and enables comprehensive congressional oversight of elements of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).  The legislation is named in tribute to two dedicated staff members on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Damon Nelson and Matt Pollard, who tragically passed away last year.

After passage, Chairman Adam Schiff stated:

“One of the most important duties that the House Intelligence Committee performs each year is ensuring that the Intelligence Community it oversees has the resources, authorities and proper oversight it needs to keep our nation safe. The Intelligence Authorization Act is the cornerstone of that commitment, and I’m proud to say that, once again, we’ve been able to pass it with strong, bipartisan support. This year’s bill will improve the IC’s collection and analysis capabilities against hard targets, will help the IC adapt to operate in an environment of rapidly advancing technologies, and will foster a culture in the IC to ensure that we can recruit and retain the best and brightest. I look forward to its passage on the House floor.”

This year’s IAA authorizes funding for the Intelligence Community at roughly 1.4% above the President’s FY 2020 Budget Request.  However, it rejects the Administration’s misguided use of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding as a budget gimmick to evade existing budget caps put in place on a bipartisan basis by Congress, and it authorizes in the base budget those programs the Administration has explicitly identified as “OCO for base.”  Funding enduring requirements in OCO, an inherently temporary mechanism, not only places the sustainment of those programs at risk, it also obscures the true cost of our Nation’s involvement in ongoing contingencies around the world.

The combined bill for the fiscal years 2018, 2019, and 2020 includes provisions:

  • Prioritizing the IC’s collection and analytic capabilities against hard target countries, namely China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, while sustaining critical intelligence capabilities that support counterterrorism and counterproliferation efforts;
  • Adapting the IC to operate in a strategic environment of rapid technological change, while posturing it to better leverage commercial innovation;
  • Securing the IC itself, through provisions intended to insulate it from supply chain risks and to mitigate insider threats, among many other things;
  • Reinforcing existing hiring pipelines, broadening engagement with nontraditional communities, and reducing barriers to onboarding, such as security clearance backlogs, to ensure the IC consistently recruits, hires, retains and promotes the most highly qualified, and most highly diverse possible workforce;

Specifically, the bill includes many new priorities:

  • Paid parental leave for IC employees: The IAA would obligate the IC to provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave for IC employees in addition to the 12 weeks of unpaid leave that all federal employees may take, under the Family and Medical Leave Act. 
  • Climate Security Advisory Council. The new body’s purpose would be, among other things, to ensure that IC analysts appropriately incorporate climate matters into intelligence analysis; and that the IC coordinates appropriately with executive branch departments with climate policy responsibilities.  The Council would be chaired by an official of the DNI’s National Intelligence Council; meet not less than quarterly; and be comprised of seven IC officials as well as three climate policy experts from outside of the IC.
  • Chinese influence campaigns directed at Taiwan: New IAA language would require a report to the congressional intelligence committees following presidential and vice presidential elections in Taiwan, regarding any influence operations conducted by China to interfere in or undermine such elections.  The report would further describe any efforts by the United States to disrupt such operations.
  • Report on domestic terrorism: The bill requires NCTC, FBI and DHS to furnish, on an annual basis and for five years thereafter, an exhaustive report on domestic terrorism.  The centerpiece would be a requirement to produce a strategic intelligence assessment of domestic terrorism trends in the United States for the past two years.  The provision also requires the publication of a significant amount of annual data regarding domestic terrorism.
  • Task force on illicit financing related to espionage and influence operations directed at the United States: Establishes an IC task force, chaired by the DNI, that would be charged with examining the extent of IC collection against the illicit financing of espionage and foreign influence operations; the methods used by foreign actors to conduct such financing, including for the purpose of disguising the relationship between any U.S. persons and foreign actors; and any resource or other constraints frustrating the IC’s activities.
  • Deepfakes and 5G prize competitions: The provisions instruct the DNI, through IARPA, to carry out prize competitions to leverage commercial innovation on two high-tech issues.  The first would “incentivize the research, development, or commercialization of technologies to automatically detect machine-manipulated media.”  The second would incentivize research associated with challenges regarding the transition to 5G technology.
  • KREMLIN ACT: Directs the DNI to submit intelligence assessments of the intentions of the political leadership of the Russian Federation, including with respect to potential military action against members of NATO; and potential responses to an enlarged United States or NATO military presence in eastern Europe or to increased United States military support for allies and partners in the region, such as the provision of additional lethal military equipment to Ukraine or Georgia.
  • Vladimir Putin Transparency Act: Seeks an intelligence assessment of the net worth and financial assets – legitimate as well as illegitimate – of Vladimir Putin and his family. 

The bill lastly includes key provisions authored by Democratic HPSCI Members, and included in the FY18 and FY19 bills that passed the House and were negotiated with the Senate.  These include strong initiatives intended, among other things, to:

  • Authorize CIA to appropriately compensate its personnel and their dependents, when they are injured in connection with wars, insurgencies, hostile acts, or other incidents;
  • Understand and counter Russian and other foreign interference in U.S. and foreign elections;
  • Renew the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) for ten years; and
  • Ensure that IC recruitment efforts extend to rural and underserved regions. 

For information on previously passed Committee IAAs, please click here.