One of the most glaring weaknesses with our homeland security capabilities is not within the department itself, but due to the fragmented oversight of the department by Congress. The 9/11 Commission (See page 421) firmly recommended that oversight be consolidated, and numerous other studies and experts since (including former Secretary Ridge and current Secretary Chertoff) have identified this issue as a major hindrance on the department.  The Senate and House divide up jurisdiction differently but each has multiple committees involved with key DHS responsibilities: transportation, immigration, response, maritime, detection, etc.

Many had hoped the new Congress would work to improve this situation but one promising opportunity to do so went unfilled yesterday.  The House of Representatives passed its rules package governing House activities as a first order of business for the 111th Congress. However, the rules did nothing to streamline jurisdiction over DHS, except to give the Committee on Homeland Security formal access to agency reports submitted to the other committees of jurisdiction.

I am guessing that a capable executive like Governor Napolitano will recognize quickly upon her confirmation that having multiple committees pulling the department in conflicting directions, and having senior officials spending an inordinate time testifying before and briefing multiple committees, is untenable.  Perhaps at that point, the House, as well as the Senate, will revisit this critical issue.