Is Congress Failing On Homeland Security Oversight?

For Immediate Release

Is Congress Failing On Homeland Security Oversight?

Despite calls for consolidation, more than 80 Hill Panels Still Have a Say

WASHINGTON - Five
years after the 9/11 Commission recommended that Congress create "a
single, principal point of oversight" for homeland security, the
Department of Homeland Security is still answering to more than 80
committees and subcommittees on Capitol Hill, according to a new
investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.

On
July 22, 2004, the commission, a congressionally mandated panel
investigating al-Qaeda's 2001 attacks, made 41 recommendations on such
topics as improving airport screening and creating a national
intelligence director. Commissioners say Congress and the executive
branch have enacted 80 to 90 percent of their suggestions. The
recommendation that Congress better organize its own homeland security
oversight is a notable exception.

While
insisting on changes in the executive branch, Congress did not demand
that its members make the same tough choices. The Center's report, “Is Congress Failing on Homeland Security Oversight?
details the brutal infighting and power politics that derailed proposed
reform. Under pressure from powerful committee chairs, congressional
leaders allowed a system of widely distributed oversight to remain
largely intact. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security is
still coping with an extraordinary number of demands from Capitol Hill,
which are tripping up the fledgling organization. And the crazy quilt
of oversight is making it difficult for Congress to provide cogent
guidance on budgeting, organization, or priorities for a department
still struggling on all those fronts.

“When
you have oversight conducted by numerous committees and subcommittees
you tend not to get the rigor you need in oversight," 9/11 Commission
Vice-Chair Lee Hamilton told the Center. "The more [committees] you
have engaged in the topic, the less robust it is. We think the
executive branch needs very rigorous, independent oversight that can
only really come from the Congress."

Support
for this partnership project of the Center for Public Integrity and the
Center for Investigative Reporting is provided by the Open Society Institute. Organizational support for the Center for Public Integrity is provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Park Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

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The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern. The Center is non-partisan and non-advocacy. We are committed to transparent and comprehensive reporting both in the United States and around the world.

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