Walberg Statement: Hearing on "Protecting America's Workers: An Enforcement Update from the Mine Safety and Health Administration"
Today’s hearing is timely for two important reasons. First, in just a few days, our nation will observe Workers Memorial Day, a time to remember the men and women who have been injured or killed at work. It is also a time to reaffirm our commitment to tough, responsible policies that will help protect the health and safety of America’s workers.
And secondly, just a few weeks ago, the people of Montcoal, West Virginia, and neighbors in surrounding communities observed the five-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mining disaster. There is no doubt that the families of the 29 miners who died live each and every day with the painful memory of this tragic event. Our thoughts and prayers are with these families and every family that has lost a loved one while on the job.
Upper Big Branch is a terrible reminder that bad actors will look for ways to cut corners and jeopardize the well-being of their workers, despite a moral and legal obligation to make safety the number one priority. I am pleased that those who had a hand in the Upper Big Branch tragedy are being held responsible. It is taking some time, but justice is being served.
An independent report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health underscored why bad actors must be held accountable. The report said: “If [the Mine Safety and Health Administration] had engaged in timely enforcement of the Mine Act and applicable standards and regulations, it would have lessened the chances of – and possibly could have prevented – the UBB explosion.”
That is why time and again this committee has urged MSHA to do better and use every tool it has to keep miners safe. Under your leadership, Assistant Secretary Main, the agency has implemented a number of changes to its regulatory and enforcement practices. The purpose of today’s hearing is to examine these efforts and determine whether they serve the best interests of America’s miners.
We have a lot of ground to cover in a short period of time, including controversial changes to the “pattern of violations” regulations, revised standards governing exposure to respirable coal dust, changes to the agency’s citations and penalty policies, and new rules on the use of proximity detectors on continuous mining machines.
Clearly, you have been busy, Assistant Secretary Main. As you know, we haven’t agreed on every issue, and when we haven’t, we’ve expressed our concerns and encouraged the agency to move in a different direction. However, when the agency does take responsible steps to improve health and safety enforcement, you have and will continue to have our full support.
Both your agency and this committee share the same goal: We want to ensure strong enforcement policies are in place so that every miner returns home to his or her loved ones at the end of their shift. I look forward to a frank and robust discussion today and continuing our work together to help reach that shared goal.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), today held a hearing to learn about the Bureau of Indian Education, housed under the Department of Interior, and the significant challenges facing the schools it has a responsibility to support.
“As reports from congressional committees, government watchdogs, investigative journalists, and academics have detailed, the state of [Native American] education is abysmal,” Chairman Rokita said. “Too many schools lack adequate infrastructure and educational resources, compromising the health, safety, and future postsecondary and professional opportunities of the children they are intended to serve. And it has been this way for far too long.”
“There is much room for improvement in the BIE system,” said National Congress of American Indians President, Brian Cladoosby. Explaining the disappointing history of federal Indian education policy, he continued, “At the very basic level, tribes are seeking the fulfillment of the … trust relationship with the federal government.”
As Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial writer and Pulitzer finalist Jill Burcum described in her four-part series on BIE schools entitled, “Separate and Unequal,” these vulnerable children were promised a quality education that preserves their heritage and have been forced to attend deplorable schools.
Falling ceilings, broken water heaters, and electrical hazards are just a few of the problems plaguing students and educators, Burcum noted at the hearing. “You’d think that conditions like this would inspire urgency at the federal agencies that oversee these schools,” she said. “They haven’t … there’s a longstanding defeatism within the [Department of] Interior about improving conditions at BIE schools and an entrenched, spread-out bureaucracy too often focused on red tape for red tape’s sake and not on progress.”
Education, Workforce, and Income Security Director at the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, Melissa Emrey-Arras, described how “organizational fragmentation and poor communication” have inhibited the ability of the federal government to uphold its commitment to Native American children. She concluded, “Unless these issues are addressed, it will be difficult for Indian Affairs to ensure the long-term success of a generation of students.”
“Congress should demand action from the Department of Interior,” said Burcum. “The agency needs to overhaul its confusing, rigid bureaucracy.”
“Nobody can visit one of these schools and not say, ‘we need to fix this,’” remarked Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN). “We have a bureaucratic mess. We all owe it to these kids to get past the confusing [bureaucracy] and stop saying it’s somebody else’s problem. It’s time now for it to be all of our responsibility.”
To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
The purpose of the hearing is to examine the current state of Cyber-Security for small firms and steps that can strengthen their efforts in information protection.
Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Witnesses and Testimony:
Nearly a century ago, the federal government made a promise to deliver to Native American children a quality education that preserves their customs and culture. Under the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education, the federal government is expected to support the education of more than 40,000 students through approximately 185 elementary and secondary schools located on or near Indian reservations.
Unfortunately, the federal government is failing to keep its promise to these vulnerable children.
As reports from congressional committees, government watchdogs, investigative journalists, and academics have detailed, the state of BIE education is abysmal. Too many schools lack adequate infrastructure and educational resources, compromising the health, safety, and future postsecondary and professional opportunities of the children they are intended to serve. And it has been this way for far too long.
A 1969 Senate report from the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare describes the federal government’s failure to provide an effective education as a “national tragedy and a national disgrace” that has “condemned the [American Indian] to a life of poverty and despair.”
Despite countless calls for change, all we have seen is decades of inaction. As one of today’s witnesses chronicles in an acclaimed Minneapolis Star Tribune series on the failing BIE system, “federal neglect [continues to handicap] learning at BIE schools nationwide … Kids shivering in thin-walled classrooms or studying under leaky roofs year after year aren’t getting the education they need or deserve.”
A report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office further details these concerns. Entitled the “Bureau of Indian Education Needs to Improve Oversight of School Spending,” the report reveals a chronic failure to fix and replace decrepit and antiquated schools. The GAO cites a bungling bureaucracy that includes a lack of information to effectively monitor and fix the problems plaguing school facilities, as well as confusion and poor communication about who is actually responsible for addressing the various needs of these schools.
The details of these reports are sobering. However, words on paper will never fully convey the troubling state of Native American education. That is why members of the Education and the Workforce Committee have visited these schools to learn firsthand about the challenges they face.
This year, I have visited several BIE schools, including the Theodore Roosevelt Indian School and John F. Kennedy Indian School in Arizona with BIE director Dr. Monty Roessel, as well as the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig (BUG-OH-NAY-GHEE-SHIG) School in Minnesota with Chairman John Kline.
The conditions at these schools are deplorable. Some classrooms lack desks, books, computers, pencils, and paper, while others lack proper flooring, roofing, and ventilation. Some schools are missing a working water heater. Others are missing front doors and are rodent-infested. And for many students, attending these unsafe and unhealthy schools is their only option.
Despite the many obstacles that stand in the way of these students and educators, their resiliency and determination to create better lives for themselves is nothing short of inspiring. They understand the importance of an education and the opportunities it will afford them. I’ve also met dedicated teachers and school administrators who are working hard to overcome these challenging conditions and help improve the lives of their students with quality educational opportunities.
It is paramount that we uphold our promise to provide Native American children an excellent education that preserves their tribal heritage. Though the current system poses significant challenges, turning a blind eye is not the answer. The federal government must live up to its responsibility.
We look forward to learning from our witnesses about the Bureau of Indian Education and the schools under BIE’s jurisdiction. I am confident today’s hearing will help advance real solutions that ensure Native American children have access to safe and healthy schools that support quality teaching and learning.
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Small Business, Big Threat: Protecting Small Businesses from Cyber Attacks
WASHINGTON—Cybersecurity experts, small business, and financial institution leaders addressed the growing threat of cyber-crimes against American small businesses at today’s hearing entitled, “Small Business, Big Threat: Protecting Small Businesses from Cyber Attacks.”
“The American government, American businesses, and Americans themselves are attacked over the Internet on a daily basis,” Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) said in his opening statement. “Sometimes they know, sometimes they don’t. These attacks come from criminal syndicates, “hacktivists,” and foreign nations. They’re after intellectual property, bank accounts, Social Security numbers, and anything else that can be used for financial gain or a competitive edge. But the majority of cyber-attacks happen at small businesses. In fact, 71 percent of cyber-attacks occur at businesses with fewer than 100 employees.”
Among those who testified at the hearing was Steve Grobman, Chief Technology Officer for Intel Security Group, saying, “Over the past decade, the attacker type has evolved from recreational “hackers” with limited capabilities to organized crime and state sponsored actors employing extensive resources and highly skilled personnel.”
The Committee also heard from Todd McCracken, President of the National Small Business Association, who discussed the fact that small companies currently have fewer resources to address cyber attacks. “Many small companies are not in a position to have a dedicated IT department, and many either outsource IT functions or assign such duties to an employee with other responsibilities—often the owner him/herself. In fact, the number of business owners who personally handle IT support appears to be on the rise,” McCracken said.
Dan Berger, President and CEO of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, who also testified said, “Data security breaches are more than just an inconvenience to consumers as they wait for their plastic cards to be reissued,” Berger said. “Breaches often result in compromised card information leading to fraud losses, unnecessarily damaged credit ratings, and even identity theft.”
“This isn’t the Internet of 1995, when most Americans simply got online to check e-mail,” Chabot said. “This technology – and our behavior with it – is the underpinning of our modern economy and the foundation for our future. This is why we must address cybersecurity now, so that as a country and as a leader in the global marketplace, we can operate without fear of attack.”
Chairman Chabot shared concern for the negative impacts of mounting cybersecurity pressures against the small business landscape and expressed the need to proactively combat these issues moving forward.
Today’s hearing comes as the House considers H.R. 1560, the Protecting Cyber Networks Act, and H.R. 1731, the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act.
For footage and testimony from today’s hearing, click here.
A night of celebration was held on Monday, March 30 as WCOE presented awards and hosted speakers. The Mobius Award for Influential Woman in Government was presented to Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall.
Deputy Secretary Sherwood-Randall commented on another award recipient, Senator Mikulski, who was one of only two women in the Senate when the Deputy Secretary was just starting out as a foreign and defense policy advisor for then-Senator Biden. “She has been a trailblazer for so many of us, and has fought on behalf of women for decades.”
After thanking Women Construction Owners & Executives, USA for the work the organization does to build a stronger America and provide strong role models for women and girls across the nation, the Deputy Secretary spoke about paying it forward to “inspire and motivate the next generation to lead in previously male-dominated fields like construction, energy and national security.”
“I’m delighted that you women who are leaders in the construction and building world are doing all that you can to inspire girls to dream big, including through toys, something I never saw in my childhood, pink princesses play with blocks and gears and engage in spatial reasoning – and learn to be bold, take risks, and be willing to fail…Because we all know that when we do, we emerge stronger for it!”
In speaking about the women and men of the Department of Energy who do much to build America, the Deputy Secretary said, “We’re called upon as the nation’s science and technology powerhouse to meet the challenges of climate change, energy security, and nuclear security. As Secretary Moniz likes to say, ‘We’re the solutions people.’ We are doing research that makes solar panels and wind turbines better, and makes home heating and cooling more efficient. We’re helping industry build pilot projects that turn wood chips into biodiesel, and inject carbon into spent oil wells. We’re helping finance utility-scale solar projects, retooled auto manufacturing facilities, and the first new nuclear plants authorized in this country in thirty years.”
“And working with industry, we developed the horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies that unlocked American natural gas production. All of these projects have helped make the American economy stronger, with a growing and diverse set of energy sources – and at the same time, we have helped reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.”
Speaking about DOE’s second mission area, the Deputy Secretary said, “Nuclear security calls for world-leading science. We work to ensure that our nuclear weapons are safe, secure and effective, to secure nuclear materials around the world, and to clean up the environmental legacy of our Cold War production lines. These challenges – and the work needed to meet them – make the Department of Energy the second-largest procurement agency in the Federal government. Much of this work happens in the field at our 17 extraordinary National Laboratories or our production sites.”
Citing the importance for women owned construction businesses, the Deputy Secretary stated, “We count on you – women-owned businesses and construction businesses, large and small – to help us achieve mission success. We need your assistance in delivering the results that taxpayers expect and deserve. You bring innovation and creativity and responsiveness to the table. You are the women who build America!”
“For example, in 2013 a woman-owned business called Group 14 Engineering, Incorporated helped DOE launch our OpenStudio software tools. The OpenStudio tools enable whole-building energy modeling. As a result. Building designers, researchers and software developers can quickly see how changes to building designs affect energy use. That work is already helping Xcel Energy – a major Midwestern utility – save a million dollars a year.”
“Another woman-owned architecture firm, Folio Architects, helped our Stanford Linear Accelerator Center keep projects under budget and on schedule.”
Continuing, she stated, “At DOE, we’re committed to supporting women building America. We make it a goal to work with women-owned small businesses. If you’re a small business owner here tonight, and I think that’s about half our audience – I hope you’ll reach out to John Hale and our Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. As you heard earlier today, he can help you figure out what the Department of Energy is doing in your area of expertise, and look for opportunities to bring your solutions to our work.”
“If you’re here from a large business, I hope you’ll take a look at our Mentor-Protégé Program, which encourages DOE prime contractors to assist small businesses, working together on DOE prime and subcontracts. And whether you’re with a small business or a large one, I hope you will join me in the many efforts supporting our next generation of women building America, through organizations like Women Construction Owners and Executive, or the White House Council on Women and Girls.”
“Reaching out to girls and young women in your community about careers in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – can change their lives. DOE and the White House Council on Women and Girls work together to organize mentoring opportunities, like STEM mentoring cafes that I have participated in here and that are happening in nine cities around the country. These events help today’s young people meet role models like you, and help them learn about the cool things you do. “
Women representing construction companies and related services converged on Washington, D.C. March 29 through 31 for the WCOE Annual Leadership Conference. The three days featured special events, panel discussions and keynote speakers.
To kick off the event, High Tea was held on Sunday in the Willard Hotel’s Crystal Room and featured Jim Hewes from the historic Round Robin Bar who shared fascinating stories about the hotel and its past. Karen Sweeney, Senior Vice President of Diversity for Turner Construction was the keynote speaker. She shared her valuable insights and experiences starting out in the construction industry as the only woman on a job site. Reflecting on current trends, Ms. Sweeney relayed that the biggest concern for today’s CEOs is human capital. Employers need to take a longer view to put the right people in the right positions.
Monday kicked off with breakfast and a panel discussion that addressed “Doing Business with the Federal Government – Building Public-Private Partnerships,” moderated by Jonathan Williams from PilieroMazza. The panel included John Hale, III, Director of the Office of Small Business Programs, Department of Energy,; Sharon Morrow, WOSB Office of Small Business Programs Department of Defense; and Justin Tanner, Senior Advisor to the Associate Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration. The panel shared information and insight into how women owned business can be successful in working on federal jobs, including access to capital.
Following breakfast, Mary Ellen Carter, Express Employment Professionals, spoke about the “Top Five Threats Facing Business Today” and presented ways to adapt and grow in the new economy. Her advice for overcoming threats included having the ability to innovate, maintaining competitive advantage, engaging the workforce, ensuring good “job fit,” and quality leadership and communication.
Two breakout sessions were offered on Monday morning. One addressed “Building Your Business with Prime Contractors” and featured Tom Esau, Senior Manager, Turner Construction and Penny Battles, Senior Director of Procurement with Gilbane. The other breakout session featured “Selling Yourself and Marketing Your Business – and How to Know the Difference” with Denise D’Agnostino, CEC, CPC Possibilities+ and Jane Lovas, author of “Put Your Big Girl Panties on and Kick Your Fears in the Ass.”
Jackie Robinson-Burnette, Associate Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration, was the keynote speaker at lunch in the Crystal Room. She addressed how business owners can use the SBA to expand their resources and access capital. She recommended that attendees “get engaged” by going to SBA-sponsored events and getting appropriate certifications. Ms. Robinson-Burnette closed her speech with very inspiring words of wisdom and support for women owned businesses across the nation.
The fast-paced afternoon breakout session covered the topics of Bonding, Capital, Risk Management. The featured panelists were Maria Randall, Vice President, Commercial Lending, Industrial Bank; Tamara Maxwell, Director of Minority and Woman Owned Business Outreach, US Export-Import Bank; Tiffany Finnegan, Adelphi Embassy Group; and Terrell Shepherd, T-3 Financial Group.
Also on Monday afternoon, a panel discussion covered major infrastructure projects and how the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) programs can help attendees. These panelists included Gloria Pualani of Northrop Grumman; DaVera Redmon, Manager of Procurement Assistance, OSDBU, U.S. DOT; and Warren Whitlock, Associate Administrator for Civil Rights, FHA, U.S. DOT.
Monday afternoon concluded with a session about doing business with the General Services Administration and featured Laura Stagner, Assistant Commissioner of the GSA.