One concern with the newly established Department of Homeland Security was that there were too many “political” positions in the leadership, jobs that were not filled by career professionals but went to folks brought in by the administration. The problem was not just the potential to politicize homeland security, but also that when an administration was replaced there would be no one left to run the department. Even Secretary Chertoff recognized the problem and sought a better balance, filling some of the 200 political positions with career professionals or leaving the political positions vacant and putting deputy career professionals in charge.
In the homeland security policy shop, for example, all the appointments below the assistant secretary level were given to career officials, including the four deputy assistant secretaries under the Assistant Secretary for Policy.
That policy may be changing. Reports are the new Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development are going to be political appointments. The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development appointment is really interesting since it oversees immigration policy and is reportedly going to a former staffer of Senator Kennedy (one of the co-sponsors of the failed 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill).
Unlike assistant secretary and higher appointments, deputy assistant secretaries are not subject to review and confirmation by the Congress.