Depart. of Homeland Security Is Leaderless

Monday, 14 Oct 2013 08:35 AM

By Bradley A. Blakeman

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Almost a year ago, rumors swirled around Washington, D.C., that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano would be resigning in 2013.

Then on July 12, 2013, Napolitano made it a reality when she announced that she would be stepping down.

Her resignation came at a critical time as President Obama was hoping to advance extensive immigration reforms, the 12th anniversary of 9/11 was approaching, and rising tensions between the U.S. and Syria made it possible that the president would be ordering attacks on Syria.

After Napolitano’s announcement the White House offered no hint as to whom the president would nominate to replace her.

Within days of the anniversary of 9/11 on Sept. 6, 2013, Napolitano walked out of DHS without a replacement.

At the time Secretary Napolitano’s departure, the Department of Homeland Security had more than 15 key positions vacant. The president had not named any key replacements that would require Senate confirmation and cannot blame Republicans who were not even given the opportunity to consider replacements.

Homeland Security is one of the most important agencies, charged with preserving, protecting, and defending our nation.

This is how Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, describes DHS: “It's one of the biggest agencies that we have, [and] it's got one of the lowest levels of morale on record.”

Here is a list of just a few of the most important senior level positions in the Department of Homeland Security that remain open:

1. Deputy secretary: Former Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute stepped down in May 2013. On June 27, the White House nominated Alejandro Mayorkas to become the new deputy secretary, and his nomination is pending with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

2. Former Under Secretary for I&A Caryn Wagner left DHS in December 2012. Bill Tarry has been serving as acting under secretary since that date. No nomination has been announced yet.

3. General Counsel: Former GC Ivan Fong left DHS in September 2012. Former counselor to Secretary Napolitano John Sandweg was named as acting general counsel, but is now listed on the DHS website as principal deputy general counsel, presumably because he had been in the acting position for longer than the 210 days allowed by the Vacancies Act.

4. Inspector General: Former IG Richard Skinner left DHS in January 2011. The president nominated Roslyn Mazer to serve in the position in July 2011, and members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee withdrew her nomination in June 2012 following opposition. It's now been over a year since her nomination was withdrawn, and no new nominee has been put forward.

5. Commissioner, Customs and Border Protection: Alan Bersin was nominated as CBP commissioner in September 2009, and in March 2010 was put in the position via a recess appointment by the president. The Senate Finance Committee held a nomination hearing for Bersin in May 2010, but his nomination was never reported out of the Finance Committee, and his recess appointment expired at the end of 2011.

Since that time, former Border Patrol chief David Aguilar and Deputy Commissioner Thomas Winkowski have served as acting commissioner, but no new nominee has been put forward.

6. Director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement: ICE Director John Morton announced his intent to resign in June and is departing at the end of July.

In addition to these six Senate-confirmed position, there are also senior leadership vacancies in at least eight other senior positions that do not require Senate confirmation, including chief privacy officer, officer for cvil rights and civil liberties, and assistant secretary for the Office of Health Affairs.

It is gross negligence for the president of the United States to not have nominated and shepherded through the Senate qualified replacements to the key senior level management of the Department of Homeland Security including, and most importantly, the secretary.

One reason for the president’s refusal to nominate and replacements at DHS may be the fact that any nominee will be grilled about the DHS budget and living under the rules of sequester.

Seems to me that any nominee would tell the Senate that the cuts to DHS are not significant enough to make America more vulnerable to harm. Unlike the gloom and doom that was preached by Secretary Napolitano.

Which is worse for the nation and DHS? Not having a secretary and senior leaders or the sequester? I would argue it is the lack of leadership that is the most harmful to our nation.

The president had better hope that America in not attacked or that some other harm does not befall our nation while DHS is devoid of leadership. If it does it will be in part due to his own incompetence and indifference.

You cannot “connect the dots” unless you have the people skilled enough in place to do it.

Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. Read more reports from Bradley Blakeman —
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