This morning DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano made her first appearance before the House Homeland Security Committee. As one would expect, Chairman Bennie Thompson set a cordial tone in his opening statement and the rest of the committee members, including the Republicans, did nothing to alter that tone. She is making a good first impression and her ability to answer questions directly seems to be appreciated.

The best answer of the morning, however, came in response to an inquiry by Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-Or) who tried to force Napolitano to cave in to Congressional micro-management that all maritime cargo must be inspected in foreign ports by 2012. Secretary Napolitano was forthright and direct in telling DeFazio that her initial assessment was that “2012 is not going to work.”

HOORAY!  She said it. Good for her – and good for the Administration to have someone who is not afraid to commit candor.

Congress set an arbitrary deadline on cargo scanning that was made without any semblance of a risk-based analysis, without regard to the sovereignty of foreign governments with whom the Obama Administration says it wants better relations and without any economic analysis of the impacts of their mandate. Congress had a knee-jerk reaction and acted stupidly (in my opinion) in mandating measures that do not measurably add to the safety or security of the supply chain.

Napolitano also, being respectful of the separation of powers doctrine, encouraged the Committee to consolidate DHS oversight and eliminate the ridiculous hodge-podge of congressional committees before whom DHS officials must appear. She’s right on this – as was Secretary Chertoff before her.

Chairman Thompson and Ranking Member King are in bipartisan agreement that this needs to occur. Whether they can convince Speaker Pelosi to go along is still an open question. But if today’s hearing is any indication, Secretary Napolitano is not afraid to speak her mind – and that is a wonderful thing for the Obama Administration and the country.

David Olive focuses his blogging primarily on the “business of homeland security” — the interaction of the private sector with the Department of Homeland Security and other national security agencies. Read More