Letter from former DHS Secretaries Michael Chertoff and Jeh Johnson focuses on provisions for a study commission that includes members of both Houses of Congress
Contact: Meryl Chertoff
Justice & Society Program Executive Director
202-736-5849 | [email protected]
Washington, DC, March 28, 2018 –– In connection with the proposed re-authorization of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), former DHS Secretaries Michael Chertoff and Jeh Johnson sent a letter last week to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urging the Senate to pass provisions that would streamline and consolidate congressional oversight of the Department. Their letter focused on provisions for a study commission that includes members of both Houses. It would make recommendations on how best to streamline and consolidate the congressional oversight function from the 92 congressional committees and subcommittees currently exercising oversight during the 112th Congress.
“This is a critical matter of homeland security, as to which there is broad bipartisan agreement,” wrote Secretary Chertoff and Secretary Johnson. “Congress and DHS must work in tandem to protect the nation.”
The Senate bill, the first-ever reauthorization for the 16-year-old DHS, has been passed out of committee and is headed to the Senate floor. It is a re-write of House-sponsored H.R. 2825, which was approved in the last session. Experts have criticized the oversight structure, a legacy of the rapid consolidation of 22 departments and agencies after the 9/11 terror attack. There is nearly unanimous agreement among homeland security experts that DHS has been hampered by redundant and overlapping oversight from scores of congressional committees, subcommittees, caucuses, and groups.
A task force organized by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) and the Aspen Institute, including 9/11 Commission co-chairs Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, issued a report on September 11, 2013, urging Congress to re-authorize the department and to streamline oversight. “While it has taken several years, we’re gratified to see movement,” said APPC Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Meryl Justin Chertoff, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Justice and Society Program, agreed, adding that “the devil will be in the details of implementation.”
The Justice & Society Program has convened individuals from diverse backgrounds for over four decades to discuss the meaning of justice and how a just society ought to balance fundamental rights with the exigencies of public policy in order to meet contemporary social challenges and strengthen the rule of law. The annual Justice and Society Seminar, held in Aspen and co-founded by the late Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, continues to be led by preeminent judges and law professors. Through our public programming component—which includes the Sandra Day O’Connor Conversation in Aspen, periodic roundtables at the Aspen Institute’s Washington office, and presentations by leading jurists—we bring to the table public officials, established and emerging opinion leaders, and public interest advocates to share their perspectives in a neutral and balanced forum. Our goal is to foster civil and respectful dialogue, seek compromise, and develop strategies for positive change. Justice and Society Program conversations pose open-ended questions, elevate the public discourse, and enable participants to find common ground. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org/jsp.
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.