Senate Intel Committee Passes 2019 Intelligence Authorization Act

Bill helps fix our broken security clearance process and includes measures to protect the integrity of the election process, including from Russian threats

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich voted to advance the Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019. This legislation, which unanimously passed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday, authorizes funding for key intelligence priorities, including programs to address threats emanating from Russia, North Korea, China, and Iran, and enhances congressional oversight of the U.S. Intelligence Community. 

In particular, the bill helps fix our broken security clearance process and includes measures to reduce the 700,000-person clearance backlog.

“The bill’s security clearance reforms are especially important for those who work in New Mexico’s Department of Energy labs and other facilities across the state,” said Sen. Heinrich. “Too many qualified people wait for months, and sometimes years, to get their security clearances – which in turn hurts the labs, agencies, and companies that rely on these workers. It’s time for this to change.”

This bill also includes measures to protect the integrity of the election process, including from Russian threats.

“We all recognize that our democracy fundamentally hinges on protecting Americans’ ability to fairly choose our own leaders. Until we set up stronger protections of our election systems and take the necessary steps to prevent future foreign intervention, our nation’s democratic institutions will remain vulnerable to attack. This bill begins that work, though we still have a long way to go,” said Sen. Heinrich.

The bill includes an amendment offered by Senator Heinrich and others to provide security clearances for eligible state or local election officials to increase their awareness of threats to elections systems. The Committee also supported Senator Heinrich’s amendment to extend authorities protecting the Intelligence Community’s supply chain from sabotage and counterintelligence threats.

Senator Heinrich also offered an amendment to prohibit the government from spending any funds to limit or cease any existing intelligence exchange activities or agreements between the U.S. and South Korea – unless the Director of National Intelligence submits a report explaining the reason for and national security value of limiting or ceasing such activities. However, the amendment was blocked by a vote of 7-8.

“Following the Singapore Summit, the president quite suddenly announced a suspension of the large-scale U.S.-South Korea military exercises scheduled for this summer. I wanted to ensure that before our president gets any ideas about possibly dispensing with other aspects of the U.S.-South Korea alliance – such as intelligence sharing activities – we first look at the risks of isolating or sidelining our long-time ally South Korea, and the risks to our troops based there,” said Sen. Heinrich.