Katko Opening Statement in DHS Oversight Hearing
Thank you for holding this important hearing, today, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to our witnesses: Dr. Cuffari, the DHS Inspector General, and Chris Currie, a Director in the Homeland Security and Justice Team from GAO.
Mr. Chairman, as you and I know, the most important mission of this Committee is to help protect the homeland. That job has never been more critical or complex as it is today. With highly sophisticated adversaries only getting smarter, bolder, and stronger, we must not only account for the threats of today but also the emerging risks of tomorrow.
You and I have spent much of our lives working to protect our nation and hold responsible those who seek to threaten it or cause harm. One important aspect of that is ensuring a strong Department of Homeland Security by giving the men and women of the Department all the tools and resources they need to do their jobs with integrity and respect.
An important element of DHS, and of other federal agencies, is the Office of Inspector General, or OIG. Originally created through the Inspector General Act of 1978, the Act created Inspector General positions and offices in more than a dozen specific departments and agencies. The DHS OIG was stood up with the Department after 9/11. The Act gave these inspectors general the authority to review the internal documents of their departments or offices, investigate fraud, give policy advice, handle certain complaints by employees, and to report to the heads of their agencies and to Congress on their activities.
Although we all wish there was not waste, fraud, or abuse within DHS, the reality is we all know it exists. It is the mission of the IG’s office to help the rest of the Department identify and address waste, fraud, and abuse as much as possible.
As a former federal prosecutor, I am fully supportive of the role that the IGs play throughout the federal government. They are vital to ensuring accountability and transparency into each department or agency’s activities.
This is especially important in a department like DHS with a mission so paramount. DHS is tasked with safeguarding the American people, our homeland, and our values, against enemies foreign and domestic. To do this on a daily basis, we must ensure that the men and women of the Department are able to carry out their mission, and the IG’s office helps ensure that this is done with integrity and honor.
As both our witnesses and the Chairman know well, in 2019 this Committee, along with others, requested that the GAO conduct key oversight of the DHS OIG’s management and operations.
GAO has now completed this review, which spanned from 2015-2020, and has led to this hearing today.
GAO evaluated the OIG’s management and operations against audit quality standards, relevant federal standards for internal control, and leading practices for human capital management and organizational change.
I have to say, after reading many GAO reports over the years, this one is very disturbing. I don’t think that I have ever seen a GAO report that pinpoints so many weaknesses within an agency or department. GAO made 21 recommendations in total.
GAO found weaknesses in multiple areas within the OIG that included: Organizational Performance, Quality Assurance, Reporting Timeliness, and Coordination with the DHS components of the OIG audits.
The line that stuck out to me the most was, “Without addressing these and other long-standing management weaknesses, the DHS OIG is not well positioned to fulfill its oversight mission.” This is very concerning and certainly warrants further scrutiny.
Dr. Cuffari, I know that you inherited some of these problems, and have made some changes, but this is a very serious problem, and one that we must address immediately for the reasons I’ve stated.
Without a fully functioning OIG, the Department will never live up to its full potential, nor will it have the full trust of the American people – something it needs to succeed and something it absolutely cannot afford to lose.
Reports like this also impact employee morale. The men and women of DHS need to have confidence in their leadership, including the IG.
I am willing and want to hear you out on these findings and look forward to your testimony. I want to hear what you have done, what you are doing, and your vision for the future.
This matter is very important to the Committee. I want you to take this report and its recommendations very seriously and know that, while I commit to working with you, I plan to make this one of our oversight priorities this Congress.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for holding this hearing. Thank you, also, to Mr. Currie and his team at GAO for conducting this important investigation. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.