The Department of Homeland Security, the largest agency in the federal government, will soon have at least 15 vacancies in top posts with the departure in September of Secretary Janet Napolitano.
In addition to Napolitano's leaving, lawmakers are particularly concerned about the departure next month of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, according to The Washington Times,
as well as other directors of various immigration departments.
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. His leaving means 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, as well.
"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 Obama has reportedly made only one DHS nomination for jobs that are to be confirmed by the Senate. Immigration and national security experts worry that the Homeland vacancies if not filled soon 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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