National defense leaders urge Congress to reform homeland security

A bipartisan group of more than 60 national defense leaders used a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal last week to urge Congress to reform the way it oversees homeland security.

The 61 signatories said the current system jeopardizes national security and leaves the nation vulnerable to bioterrorism, cyber attacks and other threats. The group said the system is dysfunctional and the nation is not as safe as it could and should be.

The signatories included the past three secretaries of the DHS; all the members of the 9/11 Commission; former members of Congress; former heads of the FBI, CIA and the National Security Agency; and former homeland security advisors to presidents.

The group said that more than 100 congressional committees, subcommittees and other groups claim jurisdiction over the DHS, resulting in political paralysis and a lack of oversight on key security issues.

The national defense leaders said vulnerabilities not being addressed include unregulated small boats and planes, cybersecurity and biological threats. The federal government's list of 75 biological threats fails to give the most dangerous agents greater scrutiny.

While the need for simpler oversight was one of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, the recommendation has not been acted upon by the federal government. The group said that for a DHS oversight reorganization plan to succeed, Congress must begin working on the plan soon.