Senate Intel Committee Unanimously Passes Intelligence Authorization Act with Key Collins, King Provisions Included

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine), both members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, applauded the Committee’s passage of the Damon Paul Nelson and Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018, 2019, and 2020 on a unanimous and bipartisan 15-0 vote.  The bill, which includes key provisions authored by both Senators Collins and King, authorizes funding and enables comprehensive, congressional oversight for the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).  It is named for two dedicated staff members on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Damon Nelson and Matt Pollard, who passed away last year.


“The brave and vigilant members of our Intelligence Community never cease working to identify and neutralize threats and keep our country safe,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement.  “Our committee is known to seek consensus and foster bipartisanship.  This legislation, which is the product of such cooperative efforts, will enhance our national security, increase congressional oversight, and ensure the men and women of the IC have the resources and support they need to do their jobs effectively.  We are proud to have worked on this legislation, and we urge Senate leadership to take up this bill quickly.”


The bill includes a provision authored by Senators Collins and Mark Warner (D-VA) to ensure that the security clearance process is fair, objective, transparent, and accountable by requiring decisions to grant, deny, or revoke clearances to be based on published criteria.  It also includes language authored by Senator Collins requiring semiannual reports of unauthorized disclosures of classified information.  Finally, Senator Collins supported an amendment requiring the Director of National Intelligence to submit to Congress an unclassified report on the death of Jamal Khashoggi, adding language to it that ensured the IC’s sources and methods would not be exposed because of the publication.


The bill includes a provision authored by Senator King that aims to remove vulnerabilities that could allow cyber adversaries to access the U.S. energy grid through holes in digital software systems. Specifically, it would examine ways to replace certain digital systems with low-tech redundancies, like manual procedures controlled by human operators. This provision matches legislation introduced by Senator King and Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho). It also includes a provision authored by Senators King and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) that requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to review matters related to former U.S. intelligence officials going to work for foreign governments. Senator King also successfully included a provision he authored requiring the Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis to develop a strategic plan for government-wide “bug bounty” programs based on the “Hack the Pentagon” pilot program and similar private sector programs – such programs use vetted U.S. hackers to find security vulnerabilities. Finally, it includes a King-authored amendment to improve oversight of the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP), which is the primary process for deciding whether or not a government agency must disclose to private companies information about security vulnerabilities in their products.


Other key provisions of the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal years 2018-2020 will improve the IC’s ability to protect and defend our country in the following areas:


·         Countering aggression from Russia and other foreign actors by increasing our capabilities to detect Russian activities, including active measures campaigns, illicit financial transactions, and other intelligence activities.


·         Securing our elections from foreign meddling by requiring strategic assessments of Russian cyber threats and influence campaigns, and facilitating increased information sharing between state, local, and federal government officials.


·         Improving the security clearance process by requiring a plan to reduce the backlog, increase efficiencies, create an interagency information sharing program for positions of trust, and ensure compliance with uniform clearance eligibility procedures within the Federal government.


·         Protecting the U.S. Government technology supply chain by creating a task force within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and improving the procurement process to defend against intrusion and sabotage.


·         Bolstering the recruitment and retention of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals by enhancing career path flexibility and benefits for cybersecurity experts working within the Intelligence Community.


·         Enhancing the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s oversight by establishing an effective appeals panel process and enabling consistency among Intelligence Community agencies’ processes and procedures.


·         Advancing the Intelligence Community workforce by requiring a plan to implement 12 weeks of paid parental leave for civilian IC personnel, and by establishing a Public-Private Talent Exchange to foster professional experiences and growth.