Oversight

•Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee: (4/16/07) – Chairman Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) said he was “deeply disturbed” by reports indicating the Department of Education granted marketing firms access to a confidential database containing information on 60 million students.

“The Department’s response so far has been anemic,” Lieberman said. “Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a long string of incidents that remind us the federal government is simply not doing enough to guarantee the security of confidential information that we must all provide to federal agencies at one time or another for tax, medical, lending or other purposes.”

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Lieberman said he intends on investigating whether the department had in fact violated the Privacy Act of 1974 or similar laws.

•Senate Finance Committee: (4/17/07) - Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said the IRS was mishandling concerns about its tax audit system. According to the New York Times, the IRS, since 2000, has tripled the amount of tax audits it performs on middle-class taxpayers receiving incomes between $25,000 and $100,000, more than any other income group.

“There is concern, however, that this approach is resulting in time spent on audits that do not necessarily uncover any additional taxes due,” Kerry wrote to Mark Everson, the IRS’s commissioner.

Kerry said the IRS should focus more on fraudulent forms. Last week, a witness told the Finance Committee about being able to secure over $43,000 in one year from the IRS.

•House Armed Services Committee: (4/10/07) – Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) is questioning the Army’s readiness and preparation to deploy National Guard brigades into Iraq later this year. The Defense Department on April 9 announced it would deploy over 12,000 soldiers in Iraq as replacements for forces already there.

“Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee has confirmed that the Army is under enormous stress and strain because of frequent deployments to Iraq…” Skelton wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. “I write this letter to you with the highest respect and affection for the American soldier. This is a sentiment that I know you share. But I must ask you, Mr. Secretary, where does this end?”

Skelton added the Army’s other decision, to extend deployments from 12 months to 15 months, “will have a chilling effect on recruiting, retention, and readiness” of U.S. troops.