Yesterday, the House Homeland Security Committee held the first in what will likely be a series of hearings on the Boston Marathon bombing. It is likely that other congressional committees will want to hold separate (and probably duplicative) hearings on the tragic event. As a former White House official once opined, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Questions on when information was shared and with whom draw from the 9/11 Commission recommendations on how U.S. intelligence, counterterrorism, and law enforcement agencies should coordinate in the 21st-century security environment. While a thorough review of the bombings is important for elevating the U.S. security posture and ensuring that “lessons learned” are actually “learned,” Congress continues to ignore the only remaining unaddressed recommendation from the Commission – that is, “create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security.”

As I (and others) have written before, in an era when all federal agencies are being forced to cut programs and spending, it would behoove Congress to lead by example and consolidate its oversight, per the Commission’s advice offered nearly a decade ago.

Adding to our understanding of how the congressional oversight dysfunctionality has real-world impacts, the Center for Public Integrity published an in-depth review of the challenges wrought by duplicative congressional oversight, entitled, “Is Congress failing on Homeland Security oversight?

This report is well written, thoroughly researched and compelling in its message. Protecting congressional jurisdiction “rice bowls” seems to be the driving force behind inaction, and the Center’s report highlights the history of how this protection racket survives. The report is well-worth reading for this reason alone.

Yet, the report is also worth a review because it shows (in a very diplomatic way) how a narrow-minded, self-centered Chairman like John Mica can talk about his alleged transportation expertise. In my view, it is more Mr. Mica’s loud temper-tantrums that have stymied the 9/11 Commission recommendation on eliminating jurisdictional overlaps. But whatever the cause, the problem will not be fixed any time soon, the CPI report concludes.

Congress needs to heal itself from the debilitating “disease” of arrogance and hubris. Until such time as it can do that, we are all required to endure ineffective congressional oversight and duplicative DHS briefings.


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