Security experts call for reforming DHS oversight

Former top national security officials warned that the U.S. is not “as safe as it could and should be” because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is forced to report to too many congressional committees.

More than 60 former public figures, including both Democrats and Republicans, called on Congress to streamline and reduce the number of committees overseeing the agency, in an open letter published in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

“Cut the number of committees overseeing the Department of Homeland Security and consolidate primary oversight under one committee in the House and one in the Senate with coordinated jurisdiction,” they wrote.

Former DHS chiefs Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, as well as members of the 9/11 Commission, former lawmakers, and former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta are among those who signed the ad.

They said Homeland Security officials have to report to more than 100 congressional committees, subcommittees and other groups.

“Congress oversees homeland security with a tangle of overlapping committees, leading to political paralysis and making our nation vulnerable to cyberthreats, biohazards, and small boats and planes carrying unknown cargo,” they warned.

The former officials called the current system in Congress “duplicative and wasteful, byzantine, antiquated, balkanized and dysfunction and a failure.”

Both the Senate and House have primary homeland security committees, but a number of other panels have subcommittees that partially focus on national security issues as well.