Is Congress Our Number One Threat to Homeland Security?
Riley Walters /
Currently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reports to over 100 committees and subcommittees in Congress. Could you imagine reporting to over 100 bosses?
The Heritage Foundation has long advocated for reform of DHS oversight. Because of DHS’s involvement in various sectors in immigration, agriculture, transportation, and disaster assistance, to name a few, its area of coverage ends up overlapping with those of multiple committees and subcommittees. And it seems every Member of Congress feels the need to have a say in how DHS is run.
The saying “Too many chefs in the kitchen” comes to mind.
To put the sheer size of DHS oversight into perspective, the Department of Defense, which has a budget 10 times the size of DHS (yet similar organizational structure), reports to only about one-third of the number of committees and subcommittees as DHS does.
Between 2009 and 2010, DHS testified at congressional hearings more than 285 times. All that time DHS spends in congressional hearings means less time DHS officials can spend actually doing their jobs. During 2009, congressional oversight cost DHS thousands of wasted hours and an estimated $10 million in taxpayers’ dollars.
Proposed reform could simplify DHS oversight tremendously. Following the Defense Department oversight structure, DHS oversight could be moved under six—yes, just six—committees. The process would help streamline the legislative process while allowing Congress to keep an adequate oversight over DHS.
Excessive oversight only hinders DHS’s abilities, but meaningful reform would allow DHS officials the freedom of making our daily lives more secure. And it would allow Members of Congress to stop fighting useless turf wars.