Rich Cooper

Apr 28, 2010

If you wanted an example of Congressional oversight gone amuck, all
you had to do was watch the April 27 hearing of DHS Secretary
Napolitano in front of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. When I saw the
hearing title, “Oversight of the Homeland Security Department,” I had
hopes the hearing might possibly tackle the cumbersome issue of
Congressional oversight. My hopes were quickly crushed as the hearing
did not come close to dealing with this issue.

Instead the hearing ended up being a potpourri of questions fired at
the Secretary on the issues du jour that were on each of the Senators
minds. Committee members engaged in a broad-range Q&A, with
questions such as: what’s happening on the Southern Border; her views on the recently signed immigration legislation in her home state of Arizona; the status of a FEMA Grant to a California university; and the value of the Secure Border Initiative. As enlightening and informative as the give and take may have been,
particularly the back and forth with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and the
Secretary on border security, it was a complete waste of her time.

It’s expected that Senators and House Members will ask any Cabinet
Secretary or other senior official questions that relate to the
interests of the people back home. But to haul them in front of a full
committee to pepper them with a grocery list of random questions seems
like a complete disrespect of the principal’s time.

There are numerous Authorization and Appropriations Committees on
both sides of the Hill that are dedicated to homeland security and
where these questions would have been appropriate. God knows these
committees hold enough hearings to check up on things and to check into
programmatic details at the nano-level, but when you consider all that
Secretary Napolitano and her leadership team have on their plate, you
can’t help but wonder if a session like yesterday’s is worth it.

Maybe it’s just the Judiciary Committee reminding DHS that it still
has its hooks into the Department, and they are exercising their rights
to pull their chain for some face time. But they could send a better
message if they gave the Secretary and her staff the time back to work
on the overflowing inbox instead of the long-winded Q&A sessions
they have obviously perfected.

If there is one other take away from today’s hearing it’s the fact that just about anyone can show up at one of these events.  Even apparently desperate job seeking graduates wearing blue mortar boards looking to get the attention of the Secretary and all the other Senators.  Take a look at the screen shot from the webcast of the hearing to see what I mean.

This piece was originally posted on Security Debrief.


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