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After weeks of speculation, long lists of potential candidates and plenty of public debate, the Secretary position at the Department of Homeland Security is still unfilled. There are plenty of reputable, competent people to choose from, but the empty chair at the head of DHS is about par for the course in a federal department whose leadership roster looks like Swiss cheese.

For now, the DHS Secretary position is filled by an “Acting Acting Secretary,” Rand Beers. Using an “acting” leader in the absence of a “confirmed” leader is also the case for the DHS general counsel, the deputy secretary, leaders at CBP and many other positions.

In one positive development, Dr. Huban Gowadia was recently appointed to head the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). Yet, as my fellow contributor David Olive wrote yesterday:

“It is unconscionable for the White House to take 15 months to make a decision about such an important position. And the DNDO position is just one of nearly 20 DHS openings that deserve effective, full-time leadership but don’t have it.”

The real kicker here is that not all of the vacant positions require Senate confirmation. It’s not that potential candidates are getting stuck in the quagmire of congressional approval, and it’s not that America lacks professionals who can effectively fill these critical positions. It’s that when it comes to nominating the right people for tough jobs, the administration has fallen well short of its obligation to pick leaders for one of America’s most important federal departments. Here is a piece I wrote forDefense Media Network about this ongoing challenge.

The Acting, Acting, Idling DHS

On the week we remember the 12th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now being led by an “Acting, Acting Secretary.” If that sounds unusual, if not unprecedented, it is. With the departure of Janet Napolitano this past week for her new position as Chancellor of the University of California system, there is no confirmed DHS deputy secretary to step into her position. We presently have Rand Beers serving as the Acting Deputy Secretary of DHS, and since he’s the most senior person in the department’s leadership chain that makes him the Acting, Acting Secretary.

For those who may have never heard of Rand Beers, he’s a smart, accomplished and very experienced hand in national security matters. His solid record of service and performance speaks for itself. It’s one of the reasons he was for all intents and purposes the real deputy secretary during Napolitano’s tenure in office. She took no major trip or program action, issued a policy directive or did anything of DHS consequence without his close involvement or proximity to it. Under his acting stewardship, the department will be well served in its day-to-day operations, even as the number one seat sits officially vacant. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing about the Obama White House’s stewardship on these matters.

Read the full article.

Rich Cooper blog primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More