Senators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS

Senators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS
© Greg Nash

The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday urged President TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE to fill multiple top leadership vacancies at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), citing concerns around the ability of the agency to function.

Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSunday shows preview: Supply chain crisis threaten holiday sales; uncertainty over whether US can sustain nationwide downward trend in COVID-19 cases Democratic incumbents bolster fundraising advantage in key Senate races Most Senate Republicans don't want to see Trump run again MORE (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Gary PetersGary PetersSinema fundraising in Europe as reconciliation talks 'ongoing': report Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Congress looks to strengthen government's aging cyber infrastructure Peters presses TikTok on how company addresses conspiracy, extremist content MORE (D-Mich.) sent a letter to Trump highlighting the need for Senate-confirmed leaders for the agency, in particular citing the need for a permanent secretary, which DHS has lacked since the departure of former Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFar-left bullies resort to harassing, shaming Kyrsten Sinema — it won't work Ex-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides MORE in April.

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“The Department of Homeland Security needs qualified, principled leaders to successfully carry out its many vital national security functions – which include securing our nation’s borders, preparing for and responding to disasters, protecting critical infrastructure, defending against cyber threats, and addressing the evolving threat of domestic terrorism,” the senators wrote.

Currently, seven of the 18 DHS offices that require a Senate-confirmed leader are vacant with no nominee put forward, with many positions being filled by individuals in an “acting” capacity. These include DHS secretary, DHS deputy secretary, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

Johnson and Peters warned that “this widespread use of temporary leadership—individuals who, though perhaps qualified, do not serve with the imprimatur of having been confirmed by the Senate—makes it more difficult for the Department to achieve its long-term strategic objectives.”

Concern over department leadership has been an ongoing issue, as many leaders of DHS agencies have stepped down over the course of the Trump administration. 

Trump announced last week that DHS undersecretary Chad WolfChad WolfSunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect Biden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan The border is shifting from a manufactured crisis to a national embarrassment MORE will take over as acting secretary this week when current Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan steps down.

Wolf is set to be the fifth person to serve as DHS secretary, in an acting or permanent capacity, since Trump took office.

House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle Bennie Thompson not ruling out subpoenaing Trump Jan. 6 panel to pursue criminal contempt referral for Bannon MORE (D-Miss.) last week voiced concerns about Wolf's qualifications for the post, arguing it "points to the dysfunction that has plagued DHS since the first days of the Trump Administration."

During a Senate Homeland Security Committee business meeting earlier on Wednesday, there was also some discussion of a potential second letter being sent to Trump signed by every committee member in order to further pressure Trump to nominate individuals for DHS positions.