Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 22, 2006

House Dems criticize DHS vacancies

Filed under: Congress and HLS,DHS News,Organizational Issues — by Christian Beckner on May 22, 2006

The minority staff of the House Homeland Security Committee released a chart last week that shows the extent of senior-level vacancies at the Department of Homeland Security:

The red bubbles on the org chart are agencies that have either a vacancy at the top of the office or a preponderance of vacancies in the next tier of leadership.

These vacancies are troubling, especially the ones at the second tier of leadership in agencies like TSA, FEMA, and ICE, which have a plethora of interim and acting appointees. The practical effect of leaving so many slots unfilled is that inertia sets in, and important agency initiatives stall. If this were the Department of Agriculture or Labor, then that would be no big deal; but DHS can’t afford these unnecessary delays, given the many critical priorities that it needs to address without delay.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 23, 2006 @ 3:00 am

The depth of the bench becomes important by the sixth year of any administration. Notice it is the House, not the Senate that has advice and consent authority, complaining. The real question has become for both parties how do you vet real knowledge, judgement, experience, and education (and probably financial responsibilty also) and get a stram of competent administrators. The days of relatively slow paced government senior level positions is long gone and the short duration is often the evidence of burnout not just revolving door syndrome. As an example, David Paulinson goes before the Senate for confirmation Wednesday as FEMA Director (a fictious title since he is actually being confirmed as Under Secretary for Federal Emergency Management) and he was originally brought into the government after a distinguished career as a Battalion Fire Chief in Miami/Dade County. But we have learned that someone expert in the legalities of Arabian Horses did not cut it for Hurricane Katrina. What is Chief Paulinson’s real experience in running a large-scale response and recovery operation, developing logistics systems, prioritizing and allocating resources in multi-state situtations, or dealing with recalcitrant Governors of Mayors and the White House. Is he never to be a PFO (Principal Federal Official) under the NRP (National Response Plan) and if not should he not be capable of being one or even being the best. Then he also has to deal with the tangle of the NFIP (the National Flood Insurance Program 42 U.S.C. 4001-4129) that now spends annually more money than EPA and may be making crucial technical (hydorologic) decisions on Gulf Coast reconstruction and housing and spending in excess of the EPA annual budget. EPA by the way has close to 12,000 employees and the former FIA (Federal Insurance Administration) blotted out as was FEMA by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 after existing since 1968 has never had more than 60 officials and employees. In the film with William Holder depicting the Michner book “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” the Captain of the carrier Holden’s carrier had flown off before its crash and his loss of life in enemy territory says at the end “Where do we get such men” (or now women) and the real answer may be we don’t. It might be a lot easier being a Congressman than head of a fictious agency. Just ask Porter Goss.

Comment by Brian

May 23, 2006 @ 10:17 am

Mr. Cummings comments are spot-on. Adding to that, we are also seeing the lack of foresight to develop an intuitional career path within the HS government sector. It took the Intelligence Community (IC) a little while to get going, but fortunately for the IC there was the large pool of experienced intelligence officers available after WWII. DHS does not have that pool at the national level.

One solution is to allow for DoD officers to move laterally to fill many of the positions. I think it would make more sense to allow Title 10 and 32 officers from the National Guard to serve in DHS rather filling positions in USNORTHCOM. Cleary with Katrina and the ballooning border and immigration problem the National Guard (NG) is the best answer. Coupled with the Coast Guard, the NG would bring the established organizational, staffing and leadership practices of DoD, while bringing the very much needed “State” perspective.

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