Oversight / Oversight Committee
Oversight: Committee review of the activities of a federal agency or program.
Oversight Committee: A congressional committee, or designated subcommittee of a committee, charged with general oversight of one or more federal agencies activities. Usually, the oversight panel for a particular agency also is the authorizing committee for that agency’s programs and operations.
A fundamental objective of congressional oversight is to hold executive branch officials accountable for the implementation of delegated authority. This objective is especially important given the huge expansion of executive influence in the modern era. If the Founding Fathers returned to observe their handiwork, they would likely be surprised by such developments as the creation of a “presidential branch” of government (the Office of Management and Budget, the National Security Council, and the like) and the establishment of so many federal departments and agencies. From three departments in 1789 (State, Treasury, and War, renamed Defense in 1947), a dozen more have been added to the cabinet. The newest creation in 2002, is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Formed from the merger of 22 separate executive branch units, it employs roughly 180,000 people. Clearly, given the role and scope of the federal establishment, the importance of Congress’ review function looms large in checking and monitoring the delegated authority that it grants to federal departments and agencies.
Congressional oversight of executive bureaucracy
Also see Congressional Leadership and Committees; Contempt of Congress; § 8.70, Congress and the Executive: Oversight and Investigation, in Congressional Deskbook; and Chapter 8.E. Congressional Oversight in Congressional Procedure.
- House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
- “A Review of Congressional Oversight: Critics and Defenders,” by James S. Van Wagenen, CIA, April 2007
- Congressional oversight – Wikipedia
- Oversight hearings – Wikipedia
- Project On Government Oversight (POGO)
- “Congressional Oversight: An Overview,” CRS Report R41079 (24-page PDF)
- “A Perspective on Congress’ Oversight Function,” CRS Report RL32617 (21-page PDF)
- “Congressional Oversight Manual,” CRS Report RL30240 (140-page PDF)
- “Congressional Oversight,” CRS Report 97-936 (11-page PDF)
- “Military Sexual Assault: A Framework for Congressional Oversight,” CRS Report R44944 (73-page PDF)
- “Inspector General Community Launches Oversight.gov to Increase Accessibility to Reports,” CRS Insight IN10752 (8-page PDF)
- “Midnight Rules: Congressional Oversight and Options,” CRS Insight IN10516 (2-page PDF)
- “Federal Reserve: Oversight and Disclosure Issues,” CRS Report R42079 (21-page PDF)
- “The Federal Cybersecurity Workforce: Background and Congressional Oversight Issues for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security,” CRS Report R44338 (35-page PDF)
- “Congress’s Authority to Limit the Removal of Inspectors General,” CRS Report R46762 (46-page PDF)
- “Congressional Oversight Is Broken. Here’s How To Fix It,” by Jason Foster, August 15, 2020
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