25 March 2004

Housekeeping and Homeland Security

Housekeeping and Homeland Security

A year after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the House leadership ponders whether it needs a permanent committee to oversee the department. The answer is yes.

When the President proposed the Homeland Security Act to Congress, it was referred to 12 standing committees in the House thought to have jurisdiction over the legislation. That was the right thing to do. Domestic security missions touch every federal agency and cut across national programs. Even today, a year after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, virtually every federal department has responsibilities for protecting the nation.

Safeguarding the lives and property of Americans remains a mission that cuts across the federal executive and correspondingly the committees of Congress. Officials in the Department of Homeland Security will always find themselves—and rightly so—scurrying from committee room to committee room, testifying on their efforts to integrate a plethora of activities into a coherent, integrated national structure of systems and programs.

The House Select Committee on Homeland Security has already demonstrated that there could be value added in consolidating oversight in a single committee. They’ve held productive hearings and rapidly assembled a capable staff with the energy, expertise, and dedication that make for good congressional oversight. Last week, the full committee passed out H.R. 3266, Faster and Smarter Funding for First Responders, a necessary piece of legislation and a great example of the kind of leadership needed from a permanent oversight committee.

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