Rich Cooper

Jul 16, 2009

Kudos to Politico, and in particular Sarah Laskow of the Center for Public Integrity for their FRONT PAGE story in today’s issue (July 16, 2009) on the perpetual and ongoing train-wreck that is Congressional oversight of the Department of Homeland Security.  Ms. Laskow and Politico point out in their opening two paragraphs:

For a group of people always quick to point out fault with any number of programs, policies, grant funding allocations, technology challenges, and so on, I would think it would feel a bit uncomfortable, if not ashamed to look in the mirror and realize that all of the 9/11 Commission recommendations have been acted upon except for the one that deals with them.   

Let’s put some facts on the table to assess this situation. 

One of failings of the Republican leadership running Congress in the
immediate post-9/11 era was dealing with this situation in a
thoughtful, effective and efficient manner.  Their lack of courage and
leadership in doing so has allowed an incredibly cumbersome and
ineffective oversight approach to take root and continue to operate
dysfunctionally today.  

Only making the situation worse is the lack of courage and leadership
of the current Congressional Democratic leaders to address this
situation and fix it.  There was much bally-hoo and cheers by these
leaders when it came to passing HR1, the Implementing the
Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act, as it dealt with all of the
recommendations but when it came to getting their own shop in working
order they chickened out and skipped doing anything about it.

For all of the right reasons, the 9/11 Commission Report has been used by 9/11 families, citizens, government agencies, the media and more as the ultimate yard stick to measure our progress in improved intelligence operations; increased governmental agency coordination; information sharing and more.  In every category of that Report, huge progress has been made with the exception of one – Congressional oversight.  By any sense of measure or metric – that is FAILURE.

Politico’s and Ms. Laskow’s exceptional reporting is not the first time this condition has been made shared on this issue either.  The Heritage Foundation, the Center for American Progress, The Hill, Roll Call, CQ, Government Executive, the Washington Post and more have all reported on this ongoing condition.  They’ve all reported the same thing too – FAILURE.  

In addition to these reports, previous and current DHS leaders have also gone on the record to detail the extraordinary burdens, ineffectiveness and distraction that effective oversight has brought to their fulfillment of one of the government’s most critical functions.  In response, Congress has offered perpetual lip service, bobbing heads going up and down and empty pledges and promises to do better.  

In the end though the only thing that matters is action.  

If that is the metric we have to use, the grade is obvious.  It’s an F.

This piece was originally posted on Security Debrief.


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