menu

Unnecessary "Jurisdictional Turf Battles" Threaten to Derail WMD Bill

Earlier this week, the House Homeland Security Committee marked up the WMD Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2010 in an effort to implement recommendations from the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism (the so-called Graham-Talent WMD Commission). There were a number of good stories about the Committee action, but the one that caught my eye was from Martin Matishak at Global Security Newswire.

Despite the clearly recognized threat of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, congressional leadership still had not recognized that its failure to defragment congressional oversight of homeland security matters is contributing to our lack of preparedness for when this attack occurs. Shame on them if they don’t pay attention to the warnings from Representatives Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Peter King (R-NY) at the time of the WMD bill markup. According to Matishak’s article:

Both Pascrell and King argued for quick passage of the bill.

“My concern is that … this legislation could be stuck in the same jurisdictional turf battles we have been fighting” since Congress created the Homeland Security Department and the legislative panels to oversee that agency in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Pascrell said before the vote.

“If we simply shelve this legislation because of jurisdictional turf battles then we prove the idea that we are no safer today than we were on Sept. 10, 2001,” he said.

The measure has already been referred to five other House panels, according to King. They include: Energy and Commerce, Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure, Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“It’s just a glaring example of how the issue of homeland security is being bogged down in congressional bureaucracy,” the New York lawmaker said.

What I am afraid of, however, is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team in the House cannot be “shamed” into doing the right thing. One of the first public actions she took as Speaker was to push the implementation of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission – all but ONE, that is; the one that consolidated congressional oversight of homeland security issues. The House leadership has ignored the issue for far too long. Now we have another congressionally created Commission that has pointed out serious risks – and there is a probability that Congress will still do nothing about it.

If the United States suffers a WMD terrorist attack while Congress fiddles with “jurisdictional turf battles,” as Representative Pascrell warned, one would hope there is the same level of scrutiny over congressional malfeasance, as is the case with the BP Deepwater Horizon debacle. In that case, the message will no longer be, “Congress, Heal Thyself.” It will be “Congress, Blame Thyself.”

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
  • Prof Kelley

    The testimony before the House in April also warned that the natural inertia of government is a serious obstacle to preparedness. We cannot afford to be our own worst enemy here.