Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 22, 2008

4 Administration HLS Officials Named

Filed under: DHS News,Organizational Issues — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 22, 2008

The Bush administration has named four candidates to fill top homeland and national security positions after a protracted effort to fill the top White House counterterrorism post, left open since January.

wanstein.jpg beckstrom.jpg leiter-nctc.jpg charbo.jpg

HLS Advisor to POTUS – Wainstein

Frances Fragos Townsend announced her resignation last November as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. In that position, Townsend also served as chair of the White House Homeland Security Council. News reports surfaced that known figures, such as retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, former CENTCOM Commander, and Adm. (Ret.) James Loy, former Coast Guard Commandant and Deputy Homeland Security Secretary, turned down offers by the White House to succeed Townsend. With one year left in this term, it is hard to blame them for declining to return to government service on that note. Townsend’s former deputy, Joel Bagnal, a former Army colonel, has served in an Acting position since her departure and according to those I’ve spoken with, he maintains a great deal of respect in the interagency.

On Wednesday, the President nominated Kenneth Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, to replace Frances Townsend at the White House. Townesend came from the Department of Justice, and Wainstein seems to fit the mold of stalwart Administration supporter and institutional insider that would serve Townsend’s successor well. Since the position is not Senate confirmed, his prickly relationship with the Senate Judiciary Committee is unlikely to be an issue. Wainstein’s main responsibility at this point, barring any attack on the homeland in the meantime, will be to shepherd a transition to the next Presidential administration.

Chief CT Advisor – Leiter

Vice Admiral (Ret.) John Scott Redd stepped down as director of the National Counterterrorism Center last October for health reasons. The post went officially unfilled until this week when the White House announced that the President is nominating Michael Leiter to become succeed VADM Redd. Leiter is well respected in the intel community and has served since Redd’s departure as Acting Director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Cyber Czars Named – Beckstrom, Charbo

The president announced a multi-agency cybersecurity initiative late last year after the director at the National Cyber Security Division, Amit Yoran, resigned in October 2007. The job was previously a White House position held by Howard Schmidt and Richard Clarke.

Four months later, President Bush picked Scott Charbo as Deputy Undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS, primarily in charge of the Department’s cybersecurity mission. It seems Charbo will have two roles: combating attacks on U.S. cyber netrworks and weathering attacks from the House Homeland Security Committee. Chairman Thompson is not a fan.

Last Thursday, Secretary Chertoff announced the appointment of Rod Beckstrom as Director of the National Cyber Security Center, which replaces the National Cyber Security Division that Yoran led.

As part of the Administration’s recently announced Cyber Initiative, DHS is responsible for leading federal efforts to protect government networks against cyber-associated threat. Beckstrom is the co-founder of the open-source wiki software system, TWIKI.net, founder of Cats Software, and author of The Starfish And the Spider, which is about the advent of leaderless, decentralized organizations and the power of networks (both human and electronic).

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 23, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

Whatever the merits of these appointees, and in my opinion they have the paper credentials to fill the positions, it is extremely important in the last year of an administration that key positions do get filled. Both parties have mistakenly fallen into the trap that unfilled key positions means that more rather than less will be accomplished in the long term, and in particular long-term vacancies are in the interest of the party that may come into power in the Executive Branch. My personal experience is the opposite. Sometimes the late-in-the-day appointments bring into power persons with far greater stamina, drive, skills, and even ambition than those in the early going. The Federal Vacancy Reform Act, monitored and enforced by GAO, needs to be made even stricter to ensure that Senate Advise and Consent power is not totally eroded by ACTORS. Typically the Plum Book (or Prune Book as called by some is published by May of an election year by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee (now Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs). A new designation should be added to that document for each position deemed a National Security Position under 5 CFR so that vetting can start now for potential appointees, not waiting for the election to be held. This could be a vast improvement on the chaos of transition just by having each Presidential candidate list his or her top 10 candidates for National Security Positions requiring Senate advise and consent (PAS jobs.) President Clinton, who obviously did not think he would win in 1992 until the very end of the campaign had no real stable of candidates beyond the most senior jobs and and incompetent White House personnel office made the job of filling PAS jobs even worse by its delays and ignorance of rules and thereby wasted most of Clinton’s first year in office. This is documented by the simple measure of dates of appointment of his top 300 appointees. Adoption of artificialities such as NO appointees from another party or no former civil servants reduces the already pathetically small number of qualified candidates for National Security jobs even less. By the way it is interesting that there is still no adquate updating of Title 5 CFR for Homeland Security positions interpreting those jobs as National Security positions. Obvious that smooth bureaucratic process is not a goal of either party and thus allows continuous disruption by the proverbial (and I don’t mean physically handicapped) lame, halt, blind that have money but not much else to offer. The end of politically appointed Ambassadors should be announced by all candidates since amatuer night must end if foreign relations are to be conducted successfully. There might be exceptions but they should remain minimal in number. Language skills must remain a basic ingredient in identifying competence.

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