Problems remain in Homeland Security oversight

Congress' failure to act on the 9/11 Commission's recommendation to reform and sharply simplify the overlapping maze of 17 congressional committees claiming jurisdiction over homeland security is the biggest problem remaining since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the co-chairmen of the panel said Tuesday.

Former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that while the nation's defenses have improved, the Christmas bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner showed that a lot more needs to be done.

"Enduring fractured and overlapping committee jurisdiction on both sides of the Hill have left congressional oversight in an unsatisfactory state," Kean and Hamilton said in their joint statement.

That complaint was quickly embraced by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman and ranking member Susan Collins. "The one institution Congress is less willing to reform is Congress itself," Lieberman said. "There is no excuse for that, except turf protection."

Other weaknesses cited by Kean and Hamilton were the lack of analysis of the intelligence pointing to the alleged terrorist and ambiguities in the intelligence reform law over the director of national intelligence's absolute authority over the array of intelligence organizations. They attributed that latter flaw to the lack of strong leadership by President Obama.

Kean and Hamilton also shared the "outrage" expressed by the committee leaders and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that no one in the national intelligence leadership was consulted before the Justice Department decided to handle the alleged bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, as a criminal rather than as a prisoner of war who could have been interrogated for information on other terrorist plots.

"I was shocked," Kean said. "Decisions of this kind should never be made without consulting the top intelligence officials."

Hamilton said what bothered him the most was the fact that there was no clear policy in place on how to handle the suspect.

Asked how Obama was dealing with these issues, Hamilton said he did not think the president "has a firm grasp of intelligence. ... He has to step in harder" or the current lack of clarity on the DNI's authority over the intelligence community would get worse.

"We've always thought the success of the DNI depends on leadership of the president," Kean said.

Kean and Hamilton co-chair the Bipartisan Policy Center's National Security Preparedness Group.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.