A growing, urgent and bipartisan consensus is emerging to demand that Congress implement the recommendation by the 9/11 Commission that it reform its maze of eighty-plus committees that set competing and often conflicting priorities.
A few must-read articles include:
Sept. 11 commissioners said that if Congress wants to find an example of flagrant disregard for their recommendations, it needs only to look in the mirror.
They said Congress seems to have ignored a crucial recommendation in their report: consolidate DHS oversight to one authorizing committee and one appropriations subcommittee in each chamber.
“Congress needs to establish for the Department of Homeland Security the kind of clear authority and responsibility that exist to enable the Justice Department to deal with crime and the Defense Department to deal with threats to national security,” the report said.
[9/11 Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton] said that just because DHS needs to step up its performance doesn’t let Congress off the hook.
“When you have that many committees and subcommittees to report to, it’s an absurdity,” he said. “Congress has to get its part in order, too.”
In a NY Times Op-Ed, DHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Stephen Heifetz Pleads with Congress to Take Action and Reform Its Conflicting Maze of Oversight Committees (“The Risk of Too Much Oversight”)
In a city known for paralyzing bureaucratic turf fights, one of the most debilitating and potentially disastrous has received scant attention: it’s the Congressional mess that produces tangled homeland security laws. This tangle obstructs our ability to prioritize risks at the Department of Homeland Security, where I work alongside more than 200,000 colleagues, almost all of us civil servants (not political appointees) who will remain in place after the election.
Despite the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that Congress consolidate oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) into a single, principal point of oversight, Congress has done little to implement this recommendation.
Congress’s commitment to the status quo threatens the DHS’s ability to identify and respond effectively to security threats. The current oversight system is impractical, constitutionally deficient, and simply poor management. Congress should immediately take steps to streamline oversight of the DHS.
Dating back to 2004, the Center for Strategic Studies hosted a Task Force sponsoring the bipartisan Tom Foley, Bob Livingston, Warren Ruddman and CharlesRobb reprimanding Congress for failing to take action and reform its mangled system:
Congress has failed to remove a major impediment to effective homeland security: the balkanized and dysfunctional oversight of the Department of Homeland
When Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff met with a group of bloggers earlier this year, he was asked about impact of Congress’s conspicuous failure to streamline its oversight functions:
“Our department reports to 86 congressional committees. Over the last year my colleagues and I have been called to testify 224 times; that averages to about four times a week. Since the department’s creation, DHS officials have testified 761 times, provided roughly 7,800 written reports and answered more than 13,000 questions for the record.”
Proper oversight is necessary to ensure both accountability and the public trust. What Secretary Chertoff described, however, is not oversight — it is overkill. This overkill affects more than the overworked staff at DHS, who find themselves scrambling to meet the conflicting demands of 86 different masters. It affects an entire industry that is still trying to get its sea legs under it — and an American public that must navigate the attendant confusion.