DHS faces shake-ups next year

As he begins his new job as Homeland Security secretary, Bernard Kerik could face a congressionally mandated reorganization of the sprawling department'a move that could further complicate attempts to consolidate DHS systems.

If he is confirmed, Kerik, a former commissioner of the New York Police Department, will have his hands full managing DHS systems, said James Carafano, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.

'His biggest challenge will be getting leadership involvement in major IT programs,' Carafano said. 'The key is he needs to leverage and empower the CIO office.'

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the House Homeland Security Select Committee soon will become a permanent standing committee with expanded powers and fewer members.

The panel's chairman, Rep. Christopher Cox, told reporters recently that the committee might consider reorganizing Homeland Security to remove some functions that do not directly pertain to counterterrorist missions.

The California Republican did not specify which activities would be candidates for removal but mentioned that some immigration benefit functions might not directly affect the terrorism mission.

Both the 9/11 Commission and members of the select committee have recommended forming a standing Homeland Security Authorization Committee, with full oversight and legislative powers. Both houses of Congress already have Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittees that consolidate review of the department's budget.

Cox said the standing committee would have 29 members, rather than the 50 representatives who now make up the select committee.

'We know from experience that it was impossible to bring a [Homeland Security] authorization bill to the floor' under the former select committee structure, he said.

The committee reorganization would take effect when the new Congress adopts its organizing rule in January. The rule also would define the scope of the Homeland Security Committee's powers, some of which it likely would gain by absorbing powers now held by other panels.

Other committees still would have some jurisdiction over parts of DHS that do not directly relate to counterterrorism. For example, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee would retain oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's responses to natural disasters.

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