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 John TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign 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 JohnsonBiden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' Trump lawyers urge senators to swiftly acquit Trump in impeachment trial Hillicon Valley: Barr asks Apple to unlock Pensacola shooter's phone | Tech industry rallies behind Google in Supreme Court fight | Congress struggles to set rules for cyber warfare with Iran | Blog site Boing Boing hacked MORE (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Gary PetersGary Charles PetersHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Bipartisan group of senators introduces legislation to boost state cybersecurity leadership The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial 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 NielsenActing DHS secretary says he expects Russia to attempt to interfere in 2020 elections House Homeland Security rip DHS's 'unacceptable' failure to comply with subpoena Trump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report MORE in April.


“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 WolfDemocrats press Trump administration to stop DNA collection from detained migrants Trump administration installs plaque marking finish of 100 miles of border wall Hillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' 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 ThompsonHillicon Valley: Trump turns up heat on Apple over gunman's phone | Mnuchin says Huawei won't be 'chess piece' in trade talks | Dems seek briefing on Iranian cyber threats | Buttigieg loses cyber chief House Democrats request briefings on Iranian cyber threats from DHS, FCC Democrats sound election security alarm after Russia's Burisma hack 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.