Government Executive: Are Underqualified Congressional Staff Impeding Oversight, Wasting Agencies' Time?


McGehee said low pay on Capitol Hill increases turnover. “Too often, going to work on the Hill is seen as a way to get your ticket punched on your way to a lucrative career on K Street,” she said.

The decline in congressional staff expertise has a negative effect on many agencies, McGehee told Government Executive, citing the “amount of time the executive branch spends on worthless reports. If you’re on the Hill and have a question and don’t know the answer, rather than dig into it, it’s much easier to say, ‘Let’s let the agencies deal with it,’ ” she added. “They then get political credit for addressing the issue without having to do any of the work, and the agencies spend enormous amounts of staff time responding to these mandated reports.”

McGehee called for a return to the days when the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations had a nonpartisan staff that stayed for years. “In this era of extreme partisanship, dragging executive branch folks up for a hearing to make political points is a waste of the taxpayers’ dime,” she said. Many today view oversight as “just another arrow in the quiver of partisan bickering, but that is not what most observers of Congress think of as true oversight.”