Congressional Oversight of the Intelligence Community

Congressional Oversight of the Intelligence Community

What do you consider to be the greatest challenge facing Congressional Oversight of the Intelligence Community? Are the authorities and requirements enough to ensure that the Intelligence community operates within their established lanes?

What do you consider to be the greatest challenge facing Congressional Oversight of the Intelligence Community? Are the authorities and requirements enough to ensure that the Intelligence community operates within their established lanes?

To supplement the readings this week, be sure to also watch this thought-provoking video clip (13 mins):

U.S. Intelligence Oversight: Is Congress the Problem?

Discussion Guidelines 

With the advancement of technology and the ever-growing increase of threats that the Intelligence Community (IC) handles daily, the greatest challenge for Congressional Oversight is funding for the committee to be fully capable, impartial, and provide complete oversight for the IC and it’s expanding investigations. Budget allocation in both the House and Senate could mean for lack of attention to detail in an investigation brought to the committee or even trouble with providing conclusions to investigations brought forth to the committee. Without the proper budgeting for the Oversight Committee and the threat of Congress flipping majority in subsequent elections, crucial institutional knowledge could be gone and the expertise in oversight irreplaceable (Improving Congressional Oversight, n.d.). 

Unfortunately, the committees do not have all the authorities and requirements needed to thoroughly complete their duties. It’s not a surprise that the political parties are extremely divided in both the House and Senate, however the Congressional divide is so narrow that Congress could flip majorities and minorities at any time (Improving Congressional Oversight, n.d.). Aside from that harsh reality, the House committee budget follows a one third-two thirds allocation in funding, meaning that the political party majority in that committee receives over 65% of the funding for that committee (Improving Congressional Oversight, n.d.). While some may be in favor of that allocation, it is not equal and does not allow the committee to work effectively and impartially to the oversight they are providing. 

“Improving Congressional Oversight.” n.d. Fedsoc.org. https://fedsoc.org/commentary/fedsoc-blog/improving-congressional-oversight.

While having congressional oversight of the Intelligence Community (IC) is important, the execution of that oversight is extremely tricky for several reasons.  The Intelligence Community is made up of over 1,000 agencies, and nearly 2,000 private contractors (U.S. Intelligence Oversight: Is Congress the Problem?, 2010).  Expecting congress to be able to effectively provide oversight of all these agencies is a very big ask.  In an effort to accomplish this there are roughly 100 congressional committees and subcommittees.  The problem with this is that those committees have very little actual authority and the reports they receive are not much different than what can heard on the news.  However, even as challenging as this can be, I believe the most significant challenge when it comes to executing oversight is the sensitive nature of intelligence work in the first place.

                So much of what the IC does is classified at various levels, and the Top Secret (TS) material must be controlled very tightly.  Intelligence officials must be careful when creating reports for the oversight committees to ensure everyone has appropriate clearance and need to know, the reports are scrubbed as necessary, and transmitted in the appropriate manner.  Due to this sensitive nature, the press and other watchdog organizations are unable to provide the same depth of scrutiny into the IC as they can other government departments (Ott, 2010).  It is very easy for the IC to simply label something as TS and say they can’t share it as a matter of national security.  Even when former Senator Slade Gorton was on an intelligence oversight committee, only Senator Stevens and Senator Inway were in the know because they controlled the money and the rest of the committee didn’t know what was happening (U.S. Intelligence Oversight: Is Congress the Problem?, 2010).

-LG

Ott, Marvin C. (2010). “Partisanship and the Decline of Intelligence Oversight.” International Journal of Intelligence and Counter Intelligence 16 (1): 69-94. https://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy2.apus.edu/doi/pdf/10.1080/713830378?needAccess=true

“U.S. Intelligence Oversight: Is Congress the Problem?”. (2010). PBS NewsHour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTAMEcgUHBg

Answer preview for What do you consider to be the greatest challenge facing Congressional Oversight of the Intelligence Community? Are the authorities and requirements enough to ensure that the Intelligence community operates within their established lanes?

APA

447 Words