The Department of Homeland Security, the largest agency in the federal government, soon will have at least 15 vacancies in top posts once Secretary Janet Napolitano leaves in September.
Lawmakers are concerned not only about the departure of Napolitano, but also of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton and other directors of various immigration departments, according to The Washington Times.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas told the Times that Napolitano's departure "is a substantial addition to the growing list of unfilled key leadership positions within the department, and the administration should move swiftly to fill the gaping holes in its management."
But as Congress continues to work on overhauling the immigration system, Morton's departure is drawing the most attention. Once he leaves, immigration enforcement efforts will be without top leaders not only at ICE but also at Customs and Border Protection and at Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"Frankly, it doesn't matter what is in the [immigration] bill because there's no one to enforce it," Janice Kephart, a national security researcher at the nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies, told the Times.
Since his second term began in January, President Barack Obama reportedly has made only one DHS nomination for jobs that are to be confirmed by the Senate. Immigration and national security experts worry that if Homeland Security vacancies are not filled soon, it could lead serious problems.
"If enough positions are open for a long enough period of time, it can lead to significant operational and management risks," said Christian Beckner, deputy director of George Washington University's nonpartisan Homeland Security Policy Institute. "I am afraid that the Department of Homeland Security is now at the point where it is facing these risks."
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