By Katherine McIntire Peters, Government Executive
Washington, Sep 1, 2008
In January 2007, after years of wrangling with Republicans over national security issues and debating the findings of the 9/11 commission, Democratic leaders took control of Congress, pledging to fully implement the commission”s recommendations. And they mostly did, with one notable exception. That was the recommendation that Congress “create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security.” It turns out that it”s easier to re-organize hundreds of thousands of federal employees, dozens of bureaucracies and the entire intelligence establishment than it is for members of Congress to relinquish the perks of power that come with membership on key committees.
“This is truly a bipartisan problem,” says David M. Olive, a homeland security lobbyist and a principal in the Washington-based government relations firm Olive, Edwards & Cooper LLC. “The current oversight problem was created when the Republicans controlled the House” and failed to deal with it, Olive says.
When Democrats made a big deal about implementing the 9/11 commission recommendations after they took control, they only highlighted the problem by their unwillingness to address congressional reform, he says.
Olive excoriated lawmakers for the chaos in Homeland Security oversight in an op-ed in The Hill newspaper earlier this year. “Remember the pledge to end pork barrel spending? With 86 different committee chairmen all looking to get a piece of the DHS grant pie, everybody is grabbing and nobody is accountable,” he wrote.
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