News Home

Mike Rogers (R-Michigan): Returning Focus to Results

A Guest Column by Michigan’s Mike Rogers, Former Chair of House Intelligence Committee and LEAD Founder

A lot of news comes out of Washington these days. You can’t flip through the channels or scroll through Twitter without people yelling at each other and disagreeing. It has become the political norm. But should it be?

While politics will always be part of Congress’ DNA, the partisan fights seem to have surpassed the basic tenet of legislators creating good policy that advances our national interests and takes care of families. Congress’ job is to secure the national defense and ensure the federal government is focused on applying resources to the right tasks.

I was honored to represent Michigan’s 8th District in Congress for 14 years. For four of those, I served as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. When I became Chairman, I inherited a committee that, candidly, had fallen to these partisan pressures. The committee had repeatedly failed to pass an authorization act for the 17 agencies that made up our Intelligence Community. This was a dangerous precedent and one that needed to be corrected. I couldn’t do it alone, and I didn’t want to do it alone, either. We may disagree on the details, but both Republicans and Democrats agree on the importance of national security to our country. And without that security, we risk losing our democracy.

Working with my Democrat counterpart and Ranking Member on the Committee, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, we sat down and hammered out an agreement between us on how we would work together. We forced our staffs to work together, becoming one Committee staff as opposed to two distinct tribes. We definitely disagreed, but we did so professionally; our disagreements were never personal. It wasn’t always easy and there was a lot of grumbling, but it worked.

On the day we finalized our first authorization agreement, Dutch and I reached across the table and shook hands. At that very moment, the whole building began to shake—we thought we broke Congress, but it turned out it was the 2011 earthquake that struck D.C.

Working across the aisle to create good policy should not be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, it needs to be the political norm.

Our Intelligence Community needs critical guidance and resourcing to tackle the tough challenges they face. But our intelligence professionals also need oversight, monitoring, and accountability for the resources that are entrusted to them. If the Committee (and others) are to function properly, politics cannot be the primary objective. Scoring partisan points may be satisfying in the near term, but it is too often done at the expense of the day-to-day workings of the committee, and while all committees are important, the Intelligence Committee can’t afford to fail. The political posturing must stop, and we must refocus our attention on the American people. I urge the new leadership of the Intelligence Committee to focus first and foremost on the mission of the Committee and ensure that our intelligence professionals have both the resources and the oversight they need. There will, undoubtedly, be disagreements. But allowing politics to become the primary focus of the Committee – and of Congress as a whole – is to fail our great nation. We can do better. We must do better.