The House of Representatives has been in session 46 days so far this year. And in that time, officials from the Department of Homeland Security have testified at 45 House hearings.
The one-a-day average illustrates what former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean Sr. calls the “dysfunctional” way Congress treats a department intended to maintain a laser-like focus on keeping the homeland safe.
Rival committees battle over power, and sometimes provide conflicting instructions as division directors and undersecretaries scurry around Capitol Hill to hearings and briefings.
Every homeland security secretary since the department was created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks has urged Congress to cut a bureaucracy that gives more than 100 House and Senate committees and subcommittees authority over pieces of the agency.
Nothing changes, however.
“No one wants to give up on the fact that they can call the leader of Homeland Security to be at their beck and call,” said Kean, who was chairman of the 9/11 Commission and has testified repeatedly since then about the need to streamline and focus oversight. “It’s one of the great failures of Congress as far as homeland security goes.”
It may even be getting worse. When Senate hearings are included, DHS officials appeared 57 times this year, compared with 51 during the same period last year.
Other appearances, such as briefings, totaled 944, up from 648 last year. Congress also requires hundreds of reports from the department every year.