Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Times Square Bomb: Will Congress Finally Fix Homeland Security Oversight?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Times Square Bomb: Will Congress Finally Fix Homeland Security Oversight?

Article excerpt

The Times Square bomb is just the latest of more than 30 terrorist plots against the US since 9/11. Yet Congress still operates the way it did on Sept. 10, 2001.

A bomb in Times Square? Terrorists trying to kill us?

That isn't news. In fact, there have been at least 30 known terrorist plots against the United States since 9/11. New York City has been a target eight of those times.

So if terrorists keep trying to attack us, why is Congress still operating the same way it did on Sept. 10, 2001?

One of the 41 key recommendations of the 9/11 commission was to streamline congressional oversight of homeland security. The commission recognized that too many layers of bureaucracy in the halls of Congress would impede the development of smart security policies.

You would think Congress would embrace such a simple task wholeheartedly. In fact, many members have spoken out about the need to reform the oversight system. Both Democrats and Republicans have pushed for change. Everyone seems to know it's a problem, but neither party's leadership has taken any steps to solve it.

In fact, instead of decreasing the number of committees, subcommittees, and commissions with these powers, the number has actually increased to 108 entities with oversight over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Department officials, frustrated with the process, have often complained about the oversight structure in terms of workload, emphasizing the number of hours spent responding to congressional inquiries, phone calls, and e-mails - hours they say could be spent making DHS a better department.

While this is certainly a valid criticism, the problem is much bigger. The chaotic oversight structure has lead to conflicting priorities - with one committee telling DHS to go in one direction, and another committee recommending an entirely different course.

For example, when it comes to whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) should be within the Department of Homeland Security or be elevated to a cabinet-level agency, the House Homeland Security Committee has supported keeping FEMA in the department, while House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has pushed for it to be taken out. …

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