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Mayor of Capitol Hill Convenes Oversight Hearing With House Officers

Miller wants to look at Capitol Police chain of command and cybersecurity. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As part of her informal role as mayor of the chamber, House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., is ramping up oversight of some of the daily operations of the institution.  

Three top officials who work largely behind-the-scenes in the House, handling everything from floor proceedings and Capitol security to office furnishings, payroll and cafeteria operations on a budget of around $150 million, will talk to Miller about their priorities during a Wednesday congressional hearing. At the low-profile panel's second major hearing in two weeks, House Clerk Karen L. Haas, House Chief Administrative Officer Ed Cassidy and House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving will sit at the witness table. Miller said she thinks it's "time for us to have oversight" of the nonpartisan, institutional leaders appointed by Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.  

“I know a lot of the things that happen with our committee are sort of under the radar, but they’re very important for making sure that the House operates efficiently and effectively,” Miller said Monday in an interview outside the House chamber, giving an animated preview of the agenda. She said to expect Haas to discuss electronic voting, and Cassidy to update the committee on procurement and inventory practices.  

"In the case of the sergeant-at-arms, there will probably be some more questions about the gyrocopter or what have you," Miller added. On May 20, the Administration Committee grilled Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine about the incident in which a Florida man landed a gyrocopter on the Capitol grounds. Irving was one of seven witnesses to testify during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing provoked by Douglas Hughes' April 15 landing on the West Front.  

Miller said she might bring up "the idea of some sort of using the radar, which is a [unmanned aerial vehicle] type of an eye in the sky for security purposes here," reviving an idea she floated with Dine. "I’m not talking about the blimps that are floating, but [they are] using this kind of technology at the southern border."  

Capitol Police's chain of command is another issue Miller wants to discuss, following high-profile security lapses including officers leaving their guns behind in bathrooms. She told CQ Roll Call she wants to look at who hires the chief and who he reports to. Currently, the Capitol Police Board consists of Irving, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank J. Larkin and Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers.  

Lawmakers also want to discuss cybersecurity with Cassidy, who oversees the CAO's Information Systems Security Office and its attempts to confront threats such as spyware and intrusion attempts. Cassidy, a longtime Boehner confidant who was picked to be CAO after serving as director of House Operations for the speaker's office, has identified cybersecurity as his highest priority.  

"Probably our biggest challenge here, in many respects, is managing our internal activities effectively," he told legislative Branch appropriators during a February subcommittee hearing. "... When you serve 10 or 11,000 individuals who all have multiple devices and operating in 900 different offices around the country — our organization, in the House, like any other public or private large enterprise, is constantly at risk from intrusions that could result in something as simple as a staffer clicking on a link in an email that looks perfectly legitimate from somebody they think they know."

The CAO recently stiffened password policies and its requirements for cyber-training. It's now required once per year for House staffers, as is ethics training. Recruiting top talent to the information security team is difficult, Cassidy acknowledged during the hearing.

"We face the same challenges that every government organization faces, competing for those highly skilled individuals against private sector entities that have much deeper pockets than we do," he said.

Cassidy declined a request to comment for this story.

"We have to stay in front of the hackers," said Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., another member of the panel. "We have a lot of work to do."

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.  Related: Gyrocopter Looked Like a Kite or Balloon on FAA Radar Blimps Over Capitol: Just Hot Air? The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.