(Adds committee vote in eight paragraph and Peters comment in 16th paragraph.)
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A top House Republican is setting his sights on a sweeping review of the Department of Homeland Security to restructure and reauthorize the agency — a formidable task amid bitter border politics and longstanding committee turf wars.
Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) said he plans to assemble a bipartisan group with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, plus some DHS personnel.
“We’re going to come up with what works for everybody to make the department more efficient,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the homeland panel’s first hearing of the year.
The goal, Green said, is to “resource, reorganize, and reauthorize” DHS, which hasn’t been subject to broad reauthorization legislation since its inception 20 years ago. The details of Green’s plan haven’t been previously reported.
Reauthorization bills allow lawmakers to make big-picture changes at agencies, such as changing their leadership structures or missions. Green is eager to update DHS’s leadership structure so the secretary doesn’t have so many component heads reporting directly to him.
DHS, cobbled together after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is one of the largest federal agencies and works on missions as diverse as border management, transportation security, cyber preparedness, and disaster response.
Lawmakers have repeatedly tried to overhaul the department but have struggled to build consensus across the dozens of committees and subcommittees with jurisdiction. The agency celebrates the 20th anniversary of its formal launch this week.
The Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday voted to adopt an authorization and oversight plan that makes reorganizing DHS a priority. The plan calls for creating a task force to review “inefficient management practices” and other problems across the department’s broad set of missions, and making a scorecard to evaluate DHS agencies and offices’ performance.
“While some elements of the Department have flourished since its establishment in 2003, many have failed to realize their full potential,” the plan says. “Other elements have simply floundered, unable to find and execute their mission.”
Green said he will to use his past experience as CEO of an emergency department staffing company to lead the consideration of DHS’s future.
“We’ll Lean Six Sigma the whole thing out,” he said, referring to a popular management approach for improving an organization’s performance.
The effort comes at a challenging time, with border politics perhaps more entrenched than ever. House Republicans are using border security as a primary line of attack against the Biden administration amid recent record migrant encounters, and dozens of House members are pushing to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Green told Bloomberg Government he’s confident his ambitious plan to review DHS can move forward despite the challenging political landscape.
The Homeland Security Committee held a hearing earlier Tuesday that put the partisan differences on display, with GOP accusations that Mayorkas lied about the border being secure and is responsible for fentanyl-related deaths of Americans. Democrats accused Republicans of dehumanizing migrants.
Rep. Carlos Giménez (R-Fla.) said he thinks the committee will advance a reauthorization bill, but he’s skeptical one would get across the finish line in the Senate.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who leads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he and Green have had discussions about their respective priorities for reauthorizing DHS but are still in “the early stages.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.), who led the House homeland panel in past congressional sessions and is now its top Democrat, said in a hallway interview he’s doubtful a reauthorization bill will get traction this Congress. He added, however, that “hope springs eternal” for Congress to overhaul DHS, and lawmakers can find some slivers of common ground, even on thorny border security issues.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” he said of DHS generally. “But we need to see what works, what doesn’t.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org