President Barack Obama has failed to fill 40 percent of the top positions in the Department of Homeland Security, leaving key slots empty or in the hands of acting managers in disregard of the 1998 Federal Vacancy Reform Act, according to an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal
by Rep. Michael McCaul.
Obama nominated former Defense Department general counsel Jeh Johnson in October to replace Janet Napolitano, who stepped down in August, as head of the Department of Homeland Security.
With so many senior positions vacant or held by "acting" placeholders, operations at DHS have been "impaired," writes McCaul, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
The situation "speaks volumes about this administration's commitment to homeland security," McCaul said.
The most "dire" vacancies at DHS are in the units responsible for cyber and national security where two key slots lack permanent managers, according to McCaul.
Among the units without confirmed managers are Customs and Border Protection – which has not had a Senate-confirmed commissioner during the Obama administration – and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. There is also no chief financial officer nor a confirmed inspector general at DHS.
The current acting inspector general is under investigation by a bipartisan Senate panel; while the administration's nominee for the No. 2 deputy secretary position is himself under investigation by the DHS Inspector General's office, writes McCaul.
For the most part, the vacancies should not be attributed to Republican senators delaying nominations over the 2012 Benghazi attacks.
"For many of these positions, including the inspector general and the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, the president has taken many months or years to nominate someone," writes McCaul.
The absence of "consistent management and a strong leader" has not helped DHS carry out its core mission, writes McCaul.
McCaul would like to see Johnson commit to "filling the gaping holes in the department's top ranks" in the course of his confirmation process.
DHS is "arguably" the most essential of federal agencies and "deserves real leadership, not empty chairs," he concludes.
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