The anticipated nomination of Jeh Johnson to become the fourth DHS Secretary is welcomed news almost any way you look at it. Johnson’s prodigious resume and professional history is being chronicled by the homeland security, defense and legal establishment writers. Most of those stories will focus on Johnson’s past experience at the Pentagon, but here are the five most pressing issues he ought to address in his confirmation hearing, as well as his tenure as Secretary (should that occur).
At Wednesday’s Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee confirmation hearing for Stevan Bunnell as DHS General Counsel and Suzanne Spaulding as Under Secretary of NPPD, both Chairman Tom Carper and Ranking Member Tom Coburn decried the number of leadership vacancies at DHS. Senator Carper and Coburn’s comments are a positive development, even if the political headwinds are very strong.
Another 9/11 anniversary is upon us. Looking back over the last 12 years, the United States has made a lot of progress in securing the country, and much of this progress grew out of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Yet, one of these recommendations has not received much action – indeed, no action at all. Congressional oversight of homeland security is as duplicative, wasteful and counterproductive as ever.
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.
The Department of Homeland Security has been at the mercy of the White House, and nowhere has there been a greater concern than in the seeming lack of urgency in filling vacant positions. What else (other than incompetence) could explain the failure of this Administration to fill the multitude of vacant and dual-hatted positions in DHS leadership? As President Obama is likely to say in his Tuesday night national address, America must take action. Concerning DHS, the President should follow his own advice.
There is no conclusion yet on who President Obama will nominate to take over at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) when Janet Napolitano leaves next month. While Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff (both former governors) and Napolitano (a Federal judge) did an admirable job leading the Department, perhaps the next Secretary should bring a stronger law enforcement background. A top cop – like a police chief or commissioner – could be just what the Department needs.
With the recent court ruling calling New York’s “Stop and Frisk” tactic “unconstitutional,” there is no way this White House has the political capital to pull off Ray Kelly’s confirmation for the DHS position. Ray Kelly is a tough guy. He helped keep the city that doesn’t sleep safe for nearly a dozen years, but in Cabinet nominations, timing and politics are essential ingredients.
For those homeland security soothsayers who have burned up the traditional and social media wires since the announcement that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano is leaving, most have regurgitated the same short list of qualified candidates to assume the position. There are three names that have not yet been mentioned publicly but deserve a close look: Juliette Kayyem, Alan Bersin and Jim Sinegal.
For all of the names being bounced around for DHS Secretary, a couple have caught me by surprise, but none of them was as jaw dropping as the news that the Congressional Black Caucus is encouraging President Obama to nominate Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee as a replacement for outgoing-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. I can only hope that others see her consideration for one of the toughest jobs in the world for what it really is – an unrealistic and unfunny joke.
There’s a lot of talk about who is best suited to take Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s spot when she leaves the department. Less commonly discussed at present is what this new secretary should do. Napolitano has done an admirable job during her tenure, but there is always room for improvement. Here is my wishlist for what the next DHS Secretary can and should accomplish.