Squeezing every last drop of opportunity out of the BP oil spill disaster, the White House recently announced it would create a new regulatory agency-The National Oceans Council.  The council’s role?  Coordination, of course (because really, the oil spill would never have happened if we’d just had this handy dandy agency up and running and coordinating everything).

Last year, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco told ABC news that ocean policy “is done on a piecemeal basis, one agency regulating fisheries, one shipping, one water quality, another national security and there’s no real mechanized thinking on how sectors interact with each other.”

Well, how’s this for “mechanized thinking;” how about some Congressional oversight?  Isn’t that what Congress is supposed to be doing?  Checking in on the executive branch of government-making sure agencies are coordinating, talking to each other, and sharing information? 

Hey, I even found a Senate Subcommittee with the word “oceans” in the title: the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard.  Here’s the subcommittee’s mission statement:    

Responsible for legislation and oversight of matters that impact our oceans, coasts, and climate, including: coastal zone management; marine fisheries and marine mammals; oceans, weather and atmospheric activities; marine and ocean navigation; ocean policy and NOAA. The Subcommittee is responsible for overseeing the Coast Guard, which includes the safe and secure operations of vessels entering the United States or transiting through our Exclusive Economic Zone and the enforcement of maritime laws to support maritime commerce and protect marine living resources. 

Huh…maybe they could hold a hearing and see if these different agencies Ms. Lubchenco is so concerned about are talking to each other?  Perhaps instead of creating a whole new federal agency to regulate ocean policy, Congress might do a little oversight work. 

But the reality is, Congress really isn’t in the business of oversight anymore, they exist solely to grow government and to create councils and task forces to do the job they should be doing.  Heaven forbid they shrink government by actually dismantling or merging some of these regulatory agencies.

Sound familiar?  It should.

This was the exact same argument largely democratic members of Congress made after the September 11 terrorist attacks when pressing for the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.  DHS merged 22 federal agencies, more than 166,000 personnel, and roughly $40 billion in budget and resources. 

And while DHS was supposed to act as a coordinating agency for federal, state and local law enforcement, it has only complicated matters at the state and local level and perhaps more troubling it has made emergency response largely a federal responsibility because states and localities rely on federal grant dollars for a greater portion of their funding.