Seven years removed from the attacks of September 11, 2001, what are the key next steps for homeland security? In a testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Management, Investigations, and Oversight, I provided several answers to that question; my first answer, consolidation of congressional oversight of the Department of Homeland Security.
At a forum hosted by the Heritage foundation on the subject, Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL), ranking member of the same subcommittee, stated that “Congress has protected its prerogatives and privileges at the expense of oversight.” Articles in both the Government Executive and Congressional Quarterly (“Overhauling Oversight Will Require Leaders to Take Chances”) covering the forum, addressed the fact that Congressmen gain prestige and power from holding important committee chairs. Many congressmen would lose such a chair position by consolidation of oversight into one committee in each chamber, as suggested by the 9/11 Commission. Overcoming this obstacle to achieve such consolidation would require pressure from the outside and for the new administration to set a clear objective to do so from the outset.
“The current system is not based on sound management principles. Instead it imposes confusing and burdensome priorities and directives to the point that congressional oversight threatens the DHS mission.” Further concerns over such sprawling congressional oversight are many including—consumption of staff time and departmental money, as well as confusion caused by conflicting committee priorities. I also pointed out that such broad oversight also creates a lack of accountability; “nobody is really responsible when 86 subcommittees are responsible.” DHS has no specific entity to approach with concerns and the 86 entities that do exist only cause them problems.