House to Create Homeland Security Oversight Committee

The U.S. House of Representatives plans to create a new committee to oversee the activities of the new Homeland Security Department. Speaker of the House Dennis J. Hastert (R.-Ill.) laid out the plan Monday night to fellow Republicans as part of a package of House rule changes, and the chamber is expected to approve the new select committee when Congress opens for business.

Last November, President Bush signed the Homeland Security Act, creating a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security combining 22 federal agencies with an estimated budget of $37.4 billion, including $2.12 billion for IT. Administration officials have already declared that IT spending and data gathering initiatives will be among the new Department’s earliest priorities.

Since the 107th Congress approved the Homeland Security Act, there has been some debate over which committees would oversee the new department. Unlike a standing committee, a select committee is charged with specific oversight duties.

Hastert will determine the membership of the new panel, which is likely to include standing committee members whose panels previously had jurisdiction over some of the agencies making up the new Homeland Security Department.

In the Senate, oversight of the new department will likely fall to the Governmental Affairs Committee.

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