Former Department of Homeland Security Secretaries Urge Senate to Streamline Congressional Oversight in Reauthorization Bill

March 29, 2018

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
Aspen Institute
202-736-5849 |

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.”

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