- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 26, 2002

The Heritage Foundation announced its recommendations for ensuring an efficient and effective Department of Homeland Security at a panel discussion yesterday.

Panelists called on Congress to make internal reforms, particularly in congressional structure, to cut down on redundancies within existing departments. But politically, the speakers said, such reforms would be difficult because they require changing the mind-sets of legislators.

Because most reform efforts emerge as a response to crisis, implementing structural changes before another crisis occurs "will require the most powerful people to resist the temptation to maintain business as usual," said Michael Franc, vice president of government relations at Heritage.

Mr. Franc said congressional committee members will be reluctant to give up power.

"Universal laughter is the response when asked to do something noble like give up a little jurisdiction for the common good," Mr. Franc said.

Former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III said 88 congressional committees and subcommittees handle legislative, budgetary or oversight responsibilities for homeland security. He suggested both the Senate and House establish new committees and said a unified approach by Congress would be a "key way in which Congress can show its commitment."

A Heritage report said Congress should "recognize that its own organizational structure is part of the problem."

"All Members have a responsibility to conduct the people's business in an efficient manner and to develop policies that protect them from international terrorism, even if doing so disrupts Congress' hierarchy of power," the report says.

Panelists also said that establishing a single committee in each house of Congress to oversee homeland-security matters would make it more difficult for legislators to create budget earmarks, which reserve money for individual constituencies.

President Bush announced the plan for the department June 6 after news emerged of information-sharing failures surrounding the September 11 terrorist attacks.

In other recommendations, the foundation said Congress and the White House should promote information-sharing within the Office of Homeland Security and secure the nation from terrorism while protecting civil liberties.

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