Even the expectations that we all assumed within hours of the attack on that dark day have changed. At the time, the question was not if another attack on our country would occur, but when. Few would have predicted that we’d be looking back 11 years later to find that 9/11 was a one-time catastrophic event. It took a lot of sacrifice and hard work, but we’ve gotten much closer to “normal” life than many thought possible.
That’s in large measure because of the steps we’ve taken together as a nation to ensure our safety. We’ve become more alert and coordinated in facing the daily and ongoing threat of terrorism. We know that security requires constant vigilance -- not only from our armed forces, which have done an exemplary job hunting down terrorists worldwide, but from the combined efforts of federal, state and local governments striving to keep us all safe.
The 2004 9/11 Commission made 41 important recommendations on ways to improve U.S. homeland security. Nearly all were implemented. But one major one goes unheeded to this day: “Congressional oversight for intelligence -- and counterterrorism -- is now dysfunctional… Congress should create a single principal point of oversight and review for homeland security.”
Eight years later, nothing has changed. Actually, that’s not true. When it comes to oversight, the problem’s gotten worse.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reports to 108 committees and subcommittees. That’s up from 86 in 2003. The Department of Defense, by contrast, reports to only 36 committees and subcommittees, yet its budget is 10 times higher. Worse, many of these 108 committees, such as Small Businesses, Financial Services, and Aging, hardly seem to a sensible role to play where homeland security is concerned.
It might be easy to shrug off this oversight problem. It’s the usual Washington bureaucracy, something that hardly affects the rest of us, right? Wrong. The slowdowns and turf battles that go hand-in-hand with excessive oversight actually hamper DHS’s efforts to better protect the nation.