TCS Daily

Homeland Security and Congress

By Jim Gilmore - April 27, 2004 12:00 AM

There is an important decision looming before the Congress. The question is whether to extend the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and, if so, what authority it should have. Unfortunately, a parade of powerful House committee chairmen -- most of whom are also members of the Select Committee -- argue that matters of Homeland Security might be handled just as well by existing Standing Committees with jurisdiction over various homeland security agencies and issues.

We suggest not. The congressionally-mandated Advisory Panel on which we served, starting with its first report to the President and the Congress in 1999, continuously argued for just such a structure in each House of the Congress -- one with legislative and oversight authority. Our five years of work underscored that homeland security budgets, legislation, and oversight cannot be effectively handled exclusively by the dozens of committees and subcommittees. Doing so simply increases the likelihood that scarce resources for securing the homeland will not be applied across the federal government -- and for that matter in states and communities -- in a way that promotes unity of effort.

There needs to be a focal point in the Congress for the Executive Branch to present a national homeland security strategy and supporting plans, programs, and budgets, plus a legislative "clearinghouse" where relevant measures are considered and coordinated. This requirement has obviously become more, not less, important with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the impact of securing the homeland and hometowns, on every function that government performs.

Homeland Security is too important to be caught up in issues of committee jurisdictional turf. Moreover, with concurrent or sequential jurisdiction with other committees, everyone could have ample opportunity to address, in the committee structure, homeland security matters. Congress has shown tremendous leadership in articulating the value of coordination among federal agencies and with states and communities to secure the homeland. The Select Committee on Homeland Security has, in very short order, proven to be the valuable internal tool for the House to practice what it preaches. It should continue to lead by example.

We urge the House of Representatives to make the Select Committee on Homeland Security a permanent Standing Committee with appropriate authority. We strongly recommend that the United States Senate follow suit.

James S. Gilmore III, George W. Foresman, James Greenleaf, Paul Maniscalco, William Reno, William Jenaway, Patrick Ralston, respectively Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Members of the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, 1999-2004.


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