David Olive

Sep 21, 2010

Thanks to CQ’s Rob Margetta, we have a good report of former about when streamlining congressional oversight of DHS might occur. This is not the first time Secretary Ridge has weighed in on the problems of having DHS report to over 100 congressional committees and subcommittees, and his thoughts have been echoed by his two predecessors, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, and a chorus of other voices.

In fact, I cannot recall a single instance over the past two years where anyone has expressed an opposite viewpoint – at least in public. But yesterday, Ridge went further and suggested that the best time to address the issue is immediately after the upcoming elections when the parties will be engaged in organizing for the next session.

Margetta wrote:

If Congress is going to fix its fragmented jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security, it will have a narrow window to do so after the November elections, no matter which party is left with a majority, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Monday.

“If you don’t do it while they’re reorganizing, it’s not going to get done,” Ridge said, after a discussion on the state of U.S. homeland security hosted by the conservative Ripon Society.

As a former congressman, Tom Ridge knows the right leverage points and his suggestion is imminently workable – if there is the political will and sufficient leadership to risk tearing up some jealously guarded political turf.  

Representatives Peter King and Charlie Dent, both Republicans, were mentioned in the CQ article indicating their belief that congressional oversight reform was an act worth taking now. It would be good if some of their Democratic colleagues picked up on earlier comments by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, which are in line with Ridge’s remarks.

And that is a key issue the leadership of both parties seems to be missing (or ignoring) – the elimination of overlapping jurisdiction of DHS is supported on a bipartisan basis. Perhaps this is one of the few issues that members on both sides of the aisle agree upon this election year, but to date, the leadership of both parties has sat on their hands and ignored the calls for reform of the oversight morass.

Ridge is right. There is a narrow window of opportunity for Congress to implement the sole remaining recommendation of the 9-11 Commission. No matter which party controls the next Congress, Democrats and Republicans need to keep this issue in the forefront as they organize for next year’s session. It is time for action to resolve this debacle.

This piece was originally posted on Security Debrief.


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