The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Streamlining and Consolidating Congressional Oversight of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The Aspen Institute and the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania have released their Task Force Report on Streamlining and Consolidating Congressional Oversight of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"Nearly a decade after the 9/11 Commission issued its report on the greatest act of terrorism on U.S. soil, one of its most significant recommendations has not been acted upon. The need to consolidate Congressional oversight of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is, in the words of Commission co-chair Thomas H. Kean, 'maybe the toughest recommendation' because Congress does not usually reform itself."

From the report: "While the failure to reform DHS oversight may be invisible to the public, it is not without consequence or risk. Fragmented jurisdiction impedes DHS' ability to deal with three major vulnerabilities: the threats posed by small aircraft and boats; cyberattacks; and biological weapons."

The task force makes several recommendations:

  • DHS should have an oversight structure that resembles the one governing other critical departments, such as the Departments of Defense and Justice
  • Committees claiming jurisdiction over DHS should have overlapping membership
  • Subcommittee referrals should be time-limited to expedite matters of national security

In the words of Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton of the 9/11 Commission: "Congress needs to reform the way it oversees homeland security and examine the department with tough and direct scrutiny. As we said in the 9/11 Commission report, unless Congress does its job,  the American people will not get the security they want and need.'"