It’s clear that when something doesn’t make sense to Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersburger (D-Md.), he is compelled to do something about it.
That’s why, as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee for four years until leaving in January, he worked to relax “outdated regulations” that hampered the U.S. commercial space industry. It’s why, even after leaving the committee, he introduced a bill in June to strengthen the authority of the Department of Homeland Security to monitor cyber activity within the networks of government agencies, conduct risk assessments and deploy countermeasures to fight a cyber threat.
It’s why he advocated to remove commercial satellites and their parts from the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and put them under the Commerce Department, “where they belong,” he said. The shift freed up trade that allows U.S. firms to regain global market share, which stood at 73 percent until ITAR mandates dropped it to 27 percent in two years. It also provided a greater incentive for technological development.
All of that and more are why Ruppersburger, who left the Intelligence Committee because of term limits after a 12-year run as member, shared the 31st “William Oliver Baker Award” for intelligence leadership with former committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich., now retired) in July. It’s the first time the award has had co-recipients, and that is an indication of how the two men approach intelligence.
“Early in our leadership, Congressman Rogers and I agreed that there is no room for politics when it comes to our national security,” Ruppersburger said in a release. “It is gratifying to see that our commitment to bipartisanship and responsible oversight did not go unnoticed.”
Ruppersburger has risen in prominence in his seven terms in Congress. A native of Baltimore, he was elected after a near-fatal car accident suffered while investigating a drug trafficking case as an assistant state’s attorney. He survived the accident with the help of doctors from the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, and help for shock trauma centers became part of his campaign platform.
Upon arriving in Washington, he staked out intelligence as a specialty and was the first Democratic freshman ever appointed to the House Intelligence Committee. Along with Intelligence Committee membership, he has served in the House Appropriations Committee. Ruppersburger left it to become ranking member on the Intelligence Committee. After leaving Intelligence, he resumed membership on Appropriations.
From an understanding gained in his role among those intelligence leaders, Ruppersburger sponsored the Federal Information Security Management Reform Act (HR 3402) in the wake of a massive cyber attack on the Office of Personnel Management earlier this year that jeopardized records of more than 22 million current and former government employees, contractors and their families.
“It’s absurd that the government agency required by law to protect these networks does not currently have the authority to conduct any of these common sense measures,” Ruppersburger said in introducing the measure in July. “This bill will give our federal government a fighting chance to prevent future cyber attacks.”
For four years, Ruppersburger also chaired the Technical and Tactical Intelligence Subcommittee, which oversees the country’s space program, cybersecurity and signal intelligence agencies. It offered him a keen insight into the United States’ efforts in space and helped establish his advocacy in the commercial sector’s role.
“We must continue to promote our commercial space industry,” Ruppersburger said during a House Intelligence Committee conducted while he was still a member. “I cannot emphasize enough that U.S. companies must also be allowed to compete in the free market. This competition will promote innovation in our space industry.”
Though he no longer is on the Intelligence Committee, Ruppersburger is far from removed from the Intelligence Community. And from his position on the appropriations subcommittee on defense, we can expect him to continue to demonstrate the kind of leadership required to keep this country preeminent in space, even in the face a new threats.