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Senator Hassan Questions DHS Secretary Mayorkas on Strengthening Border Security and Addressing International Terrorist Threats

Senator Hassan Also Highlights Her Efforts to Strengthen Critical Cyber Infrastructure for Federal Agencies and State and Local Governments

WASHINGTON - During a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan questioned Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on resources at the Southern border and a resurgence of international terrorist threats. In addition, Senator Hassan highlighted her work to strengthen cybersecurity for federal agencies and state and local governments.

To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.

Resources at the Border

Senator Hassan continued to express her concerns with the Biden Administration’s decision to prematurely lift Title 42.

“While your April 26 memo summarizing the Department of Homeland Security’s Plan for Southwest Border Security and Preparedness in anticipation of the lifting of Title 42 included more detail than it had before, I remain concerned about the Department’s ability to get additional, much-needed resources to the border,” said Senator Hassan. “Your memo states that the Department has ‘been able to manage increased encounters because of prudent planning and execution.’ But during my trip to McAllen, Texas and Nogales, Arizona in early April, I heard from border security personnel on the ground that they were still struggling to manage the historically high number of people who they were already encountering – and that they anticipate a significant increase in attempted crossings if the Title 42 restrictions are lifted.”

Although Secretary Mayorkas shared details of DHS’s plan to address the expected increase in attempted crossings and strain on border security personnel, Senator Hassan continued to emphasize the necessity of actually delivering resources at the Southern border.

“… A plan does not necessarily deliver resources. We need to make sure that the actual resources for the anticipated increase are there, and I will continue to push to make sure that happens,” said Senator Hassan. The Senator went on to share, “My issue is making sure that we have the resources in place and the execution capacity before Title 42 is lifted. And a plan and that capacity are two different things.”

International Terrorist Threats

“I am concerned, I think as we all are, about a resurgence in threats from international terrorism in the face of a potential resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan,” Senator Hassan also said, in addition to asking Secretary Mayorkas about what procedures DHS needs to have in place to disrupt these threats. 

In response, Secretary Mayorkas stated that DHS’s Office of Intelligence Analysis will continue to focus on this issue and maintain vigilance in coordination with the entire intelligence community.

In 2018, Senator Hassan successfully worked to pass the bipartisan DHS Data Framework Act into law to help ensure that analysts at DHS can more efficiently identify terrorist threats. 

Strengthening Cybersecurity

In addition, Senator Hassan discussed her bipartisan bill, which she reintroduced with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), which would codify the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program (CDM) and strengthen local, state, and national cyber defenses.

“CDM is supposed to provide foundational cybersecurity capabilities to all federal agencies, such as the ability to quickly and accurately know all of the devices on agency networks,” Senator Hassan said. “Without the foundational capabilities provided by CDM, other federal cybersecurity efforts will be ineffective at best.”

“We so very much appreciate your support of CDM - Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation,” responded Secretary Mayorkas. “It is a critical tool. We have been pushing it out across the federal enterprise.”

Senator Hassan went on to highlight her work to bolster state and local cybersecurity capacities.

“It’s extremely important that we protect the cybersecurity of our nation’s critical infrastructure too,” said Senator Hassan. “… I worked with my colleagues in both parties to create a state and local cybersecurity grant program in last year’s infrastructure bill to protect government-owned computer systems and critical infrastructure such as public schools and water utilities.”

Secretary Mayorkas shared that the additional Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity Grant Program that is in DHS’s proposed budget would complement her program, focusing on under-resourced critical infrastructure.