NPR put out a story this week on congressional oversight of homeland security. Currently, 108 Committees and Subcommittees have oversight over the Department of Homeland Security. The story includes a diagram of this oversight that should make heads spin.
For some, this might seem like cute clip-art, but this is actually a nightmare for policy implementation at DHS. The oversight is a huge workload for the Department—and it also leads to conflicting messages from Congress. For example, one committee says X, another subcommittee says Y, and neither Committee nor Subcommittee has anything to do with homeland security. What’s a Department to do?
Not surprisingly, there isn’t a lot of desire in Congress to fix the problem. Having oversight over the Department gives Members the opportunity to look good on security—something that often equates to votes on Election Day. So in an election year, with incumbents widely unpopular, this oversight issue isn’t likely to change—at least not without a push by top-level leaders of Congress.
Yet, time and time again, Congress has reminded the nation that our security is dependent on DHS getting policy right. Congress, however, must do its part.