Confirmation of DHS intelligence head is too important to politicize
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Most Americans have never heard of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Yet, in January, acting Under Secretary for I&A David Glawe found himself on national television attempting to explain in less than two minutes what the office he leads will do in the face of the Trump administration’s much-debated “travel ban.”

For the lay viewer with no awareness of I&A, it suggested political participation where there is none. With Glawe’s nomination to permanently lead I&A, there is more politicking on the horizon, but this is a mistake — one that can be avoided if we put security before partisanship.

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I&A is the only member of the intelligence community charged with sharing threat intelligence with state, local, tribal, territorial and private sector partners, as well as receiving information from those partners to share with DHS and the intelligence community. This mission is a direct answer to problems identified in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

 

After 9/11, it was discovered that the FBI, the CIA and other government organizations individually held information suggesting a plot against the United States, but no single agency had a complete picture of what that plot entailed. Taken together, that intelligence could have allowed us to detect and even prevent the attacks. The creation of DHS was a response to this revelation, pulling together homeland security agencies under one roof. And I&A is at the nexus of the information-sharing solution.

To this day, the FBI, the DEA, the CIA and DHS continue to struggle with information sharing, both among themselves and with state and local partners. Each agency often wants to conduct their investigations alone so they can claim all the credit for a bust. They even sometimes trip over the same case, suddenly realizing another agency that is supposed to be a partner is acting more like keystone cops. Under strong leadership (such as Glawe’s), I&A can help bridge these gaps, but not if the agency is mired in politics.

In Glawe’s upcoming Senate confirmation hearings, Democratic legislators will zero in on his comments on the travel ban, which were benign, no matter your political leanings. Glawe said, in part:

“I’m taking a look at how law enforcement, the intelligence community, the Department of Defense, and our federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations share information and how we run those data against not just refugee populations but anyone trying to come inbound into the United States.”

Grilling Glawe on the ban is just an opportunity for legislators to levy political opinions largely unrelated to the under secretary’s role. Legislators are also going to ask about a leaked draft I&A report that seemed to suggest the seven countries named in the travel ban do not necessarily pose a threat — a draft that was not allowed to move forward because it did not incorporate data from the FBI and other intelligence agencies.

Democratic senators will claim Glawe killed the report because it did not align with the president’s views. And when Glawe explains why the report did not meet I&A standards, they will brush away testimony as cover for politicizing intelligence work, effectively challenging Glawe’s honesty. This would be a slap in the face for a person who has spent his entire career in public service.

Glawe is uniquely suited to lead I&A, having worked in nearly every area where intelligence is used and shared: Customs and Border Protection, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspective Service, and even as a Houston Police Department. Each of these organizations uses and generates intelligence, which means Glawe has a firsthand understanding of how we can better collect and distribute intelligence to achieve greater security.

Over the years, I have met various times directly with Glawe, and through our conversations, I discovered long ago that he is not afraid of going against the grain to shake up outdated methods used by some intelligence gathering agencies. We live in different times, and it is time many of these agencies were brought into the 21st Century in their methods. And sharing information for the benefit of our law enforcement community at all levels is paramount.  

Glawe’s leadership is essential to addressing threats to the nation, particularly those emerging along the southwest border. His vision is one that has the full endorsement of the Border Commerce and Security Council. Legislators are prone to playing games, but Glawe is not. And neither are our adversaries. I urge a speedy confirmation process, one that should be spared the political back and forth so he can focus on the work that keeps the country safe.

Nelson Balido is a former member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, chairman of the Border Commerce and Security Council, and managing principal at Balido and Associates.  Follow him on Twitter: @nelsonbalido.


The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.