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October 01, 2020

Chairman Thompson Urges House Rules Changes to Streamline Homeland Security Jurisdiction

“DHS does not need dismantling, it needs reforming. But for that to happen, the Committee on Homeland Security must have adequate legislative authority to produce and bring to the floor a DHS reform package”

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, testified before the House Rules Committee in favor of long-overdue changes to the House of Representative’s Rules to give the Committee on Homeland Security primary jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). During the Member day hearing, both Republicans and Democrats expressed openness to revisiting House Rule X and considering jurisdictional changes for the next Congress – ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.


  • In 2004, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission recommended that “There should be one permanent standing committee for homeland security in each chamber” to have “a single, principal point of oversight.”
  • In 2005, the House established the Committee on Homeland Security as the first new standing committee since 1974. Unfortunately, the jurisdictional statement for the Committee did not give the Committee jurisdiction over DHS but limited its jurisdiction to six narrow DHS activities.  Over the past 15 years, there have been no changes to the jurisdictional statement.
  • In 2011, the Bipartisan Policy Center described jurisdiction over DHS as being “carved up to accommodate antiquated committee structures” and in 2012, the Heritage Foundation labeled it as downright “byzantine.”
  • In 2013, the Aspen Institute and Annenberg Foundation issued a task force report that called for streamlining and consolidating Congressional oversight over the Department.
  • In 2020, the Atlantic Council, in its “Future of DHS Project,” recommended reform, explaining that “more than 90 committees and subcommittees have jurisdiction over all or part of DHS” and that the time for reform is now.

Testimony excerpt:

“This lack of consolidated jurisdiction has left DHS without strong direction – and we are seeing how it contributes to chaos under the Trump administration. In the absence of focused leadership from Congress – including consistent reauthorization of the Department – Secretaries have been able to carry out wrong, ineffective, and dangerous policies.

“I am proposing – as Chairs on both sides of the aisle have in the past – that Congress reorganize the Committee’s jurisdiction to bring it in line with the goal of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations, and to give the Department a true authorizing Committee with the authority to advance reform legislation and put it on a positive path.

“I recognize the challenge that presents and remember the difficulty in simply creating the Committee in the first place. However, it is the right thing to do and the time to do has come.”

Entire written testimony

Testimony video

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