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Congressional Oversight: An Overview
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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A fundamental objective of congressional oversight is to hold executive 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 Congresss review function looms large in checking and monitoring the delegated authority that it grants to federal departments and agencies. The goals of this report, then, are essentially six-fold 1 highlight several reasons for the expansion of the federal government 2 discuss a few definitions of oversight 3 spotlight three essential purposes of oversight 4 comment upon a few oversight laws and rules 5 review several important oversight techniques and 6 identify several incentives and disincentives to the conduct of congressional oversight. The report concludes with summary observations.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE