King, Thompson Call for End to Congressional Oversight Chaos

Aaron Greenberg /

One thing every parent knows is that no matter how many toys kids have, they will always end up fighting over one they all want. With children, this problem is usually resolved by adults. But what about when adults fight over a toy?

That is the problem House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY) and Ranking Member Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS ) confront in their letter to Speaker John Boehner (R–OH), in which they call for consolidation of legislative oversight over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

While this call for consolidation seems common sense, it has the potential to spark a turf war as every Member of Congress fights to maintain his or her piece of the homeland security pie.

This is not a new issue: In 2010, the former Chair of the 9/11 Commission Thomas Kean, Former Governor of New Jersey (R) and former Vice Chair Representative Lee Hamilton (D-IN) testified to a Senate panel that this hodgepodge of jurisdictions makes effective oversight problematic and “could make the country less safe.” This would seem to be common sense—it is not possible for Congress to give coherent instructions from 108 different entities. Certainly congressional oversight over DHS is important, but there can always be too much of a good thing, and this is true of oversight as with anything else.

That is why consolidating DHS’s oversight into six committees, three in each chamber, is the logical solution. From these six committees, Congress can give clear and concise oversight and guidance to DHS. This solution also avoids the wasted resources involved in requiring DHS to continually testify to the multiple, often repetitive, committees.

The chairman and ranking member identify an important problem. Let’s hope a turf war doesn’t get in the way of a common-sense consolidation of oversight.

Aaron Greenberg is a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: