Intelligence Authorization Act passes full House
On May 24, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 on a bipartisan 371-35 vote.
The bill (H.R. 5077), which passed unanimously out of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on April 29, ensures that the programs and activities of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), including Department of Defense (DoD) intelligence elements, are authorized in law and optimally resourced to protect the nation from threats at home and abroad. Equally important, this critical piece of legislation ensures rigorous congressional oversight of the IC, including over its most sensitive aspects.
In particular, this year’s IAA focuses resources on current challenges, such as the ongoing threat of terrorism from groups such as ISIL, while also prioritizing longer-term threats. The bill includes provisions to enhance congressional oversight of the IC, ensure good governance and fiscal responsibility, and strengthen our technical collection and analysis capabilities across domains as varied as outer space and cyberspace. It also fences significant amounts of funding to better ensure continuous IC accountability throughout the year.
The total funding authorized by H.R. 5077 is consistent with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 and is nearly equal to the 2017 President’s budget request. Many important provisions championed by the majority and minority are included in the bill. Specifically, the fiscal year 2017 IAA:
- Emphasizes the need to focus on long-term threats, such as those from an increasingly aggressive China, Russia, and North Korea, while maintaining focus on the immediate threats posed by terrorism and the security challenges in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia;
- Sustains critical capabilities to fight terrorism and counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
- Caps fees for mandatory declassification reviews to match costs of Freedom of Information Act requests, and preserves IC elements’ discretion to waive fees for mandatory declassification;
- Includes provisions aimed at better ensuring the integrity of DoD intelligence analysis, and improves procedures for IC whistleblowers to report complaints to Congress;
- Clarifies eligibility for death benefits for Central Intelligence Agency personnel;
- Requires a declassification review of intelligence on the past terrorist activities of certain individuals transferred out of Guantanamo Bay;
- Improves IC reporting to Congress by requiring the IC to provide:
- Statistics on IC personnel detailed to the National Security Council;
- Threat reports submitted to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and IC impact statements on CFIUS transactions;
- National Counterterrorism Center reporting on foreign fighter flows;
- Follow-up reporting on IC scholarship programs; and
- Reporting on defense intelligence acquisition milestones.
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said, “This bill provides the funding and resources our Intelligence Community needs to accomplish its difficult task of discovering, monitoring, and defusing a wide array of foreign threats to our homeland – including ISIL and al Qaeda, both of which are striving to inspire or carry out attacks on the United States. The large majority in favor of the bill shows there is a wide, bipartisan consensus in Congress for supporting the Intelligence Community with provisions for strict congressional oversight. I look forward to swift passage of the bill in the Senate.”
Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA) said, “The U.S. Intelligence Community does a tremendous job of protecting our nation from the large, diverse and relentless set of global threats we face. This year’s intelligence authorization bill makes sure our intelligence agencies have the resources, authorities, and capabilities they need to protect our nation, but it also enables the most thorough and tenacious oversight, particularly to make sure privacy and civil liberties are protected. The bill is strong, and I look forward to working with the Senate, the Administration and all my congressional colleagues to further improve it on its way to becoming law.”
The unclassified bill text and additional information are available here.