Congressional Oversight in Theory and in Practice

01.23.06 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The rudiments of Congressional oversight — its legal basis, its functions, and the diverse forms it takes — are concisely described in a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service.

“Congressional oversight refers to the review, monitoring, and supervision of federal agencies, programs, activities, and policy implementation…. Congress’s oversight authority derives from its ‘implied’ powers in the Constitution, public laws, and House and Senate rules. It is an integral part of the American system of checks and balances.”

See “Congressional Oversight,” updated January 3, 2006.

Integral though it may be, there is a widespread perception that congressional oversight has atrophied in recent years.

“Everyone recognizes that the failure of congressional oversight was one of the reasons why we have some of the problems in the intelligence community today,” said Sen. John McCain on NBC Meet the Press on November 21, 2004.

“We really don’t have, still don’t have, meaningful congressional oversight,” McCain said.

Last week, Rep. Henry Waxman released two reports that compare Congress’ relentless probing of the Clinton Administration with the anemic oversight of the present Administration.

“On issue after issue, the Congress has failed to conduct meaningful investigations of significant allegations of wrongdoing by the Bush Administration,” Rep Waxman wrote. “This approach stands in stark contrast to the breadth and intrusiveness of congressional investigations of the Clinton Administration.”

See “Congress’ Abdication of Oversight,” January 17, 2006.

See all publications
Nuclear Weapons
New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship: Creative Perspectives on Rethinking Nuclear Deterrence 

To empower new voices to start their career in nuclear weapons studies, the Federation of American Scientists launched the New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship. Here’s what our inaugural cohort accomplished.

11.28.23 | 3 min read
read more
Science Policy
Expected Utility Forecasting for Science Funding

Common frameworks for evaluating proposals leave this utility function implicit, often evaluating aspects of risk, uncertainty, and potential value independently and qualitatively.

11.20.23 | 11 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear Notebook: Nuclear Weapons Sharing, 2023

The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]

11.17.23 | 1 min read
read more
Social Innovation
Community School Approach Reaches High of 60%, Reports Latest Pulse Panel

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ August 2023 pulse panel, 60% of public schools were utilizing a “community school” or “wraparound services model” at the start of this school year—up from 45% last year.

11.17.23 | 4 min read
read more