When the 9/11 commission released its report 10 years ago, one of its recommendations was for Congress to sharply reduce the number of committees and subcommittees that have jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security and its 22 components.
Not only has this problem not been addressed, the commissioners said in a recently released 10th anniversary report that it has grown worse. There were 88 bodies overseeing DHS in 2004. There are now four more.
The congressional jurisdiction issue has impeded DHS from fulfilling its duties to secure the nation, said Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, at a hearing on Capitol Hill.
Jamie Gorelick, former 9/11 commissioner, said Congress has not reformed oversight.
“In 2004, we remarked with astonishment and alarm that DHS reported to have 88 committees and subcommittees of Congress. Incredibly, DHS reports that that number has since increased to 92,” said Gorelick.
Riley Walters, a research assistant for The Heritage Foundation, said in an interview that change for DHS reform could happen with a newly elected Congress in January. “That would probably be one of the best times to reform the oversight,” said Walters.
The problem is convincing committees to give up power, he said. It is hard to decide which bodies should retain jurisdiction and which shouldn’t, but the high number of oversight committees is eating up money and man hours. “For [committees] it would be giving away power, but the only people who can reform DHS are the exact same ones who refuse to. It’s basically a power struggle,” said Walters.
McCaul said: “Safe havens for terrorists not only still exist, they have expanded well beyond the regions where the 9/11 attacks originated. The continued fragmentation of congressional oversight of the Department of Homeland Security makes us less agile in the face of these growing threats.”
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