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.
By Lora Ries and Chris Wiesinger
At pivotal points in the nation’s history, immigration reflected an openness to the world and the possibilities of the American future. Current immigration reform initiatives also reflect a vision of the future, but that vision is static and lacks optimism because it aims to fix the mistakes of the past instead of building a foundation for the future. The House of Representatives has key opportunities to shape immigration into something that reflects an optimistic vision of America’s future.
The shooting at the Washington Navy Yard this morning stole the lives of 12 Americans who expected nothing more than another Monday spent serving their country. As with other tragic, violent incidents, there is a fog of facts and speculation circulating in the media. In the coming days, debates will rise in the press, in government and among the public. While debate and discussion is important, it will not diminish a repugnant reality. No place in this country is ever completely safe from the threat of violent actors.
On October 10, 2001, I stood in the field of wreckage of the World Trade Center. Now, a dozen years later, I returned to the site of that destruction and terror. The memory of 9/11 persists, but the wreckage is long gone, replaced by the One World Trade Center. On this 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, building a resilient nation is as important as it has ever been. The World Trade Center site offers many lessons in that regard.
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.
As the United States and other world powers weigh the risks and rewards of a strike against Syria, there are rising concerns that destabilizing the Assad regime could give extremists – particularly al Qaeda – an opening to gain strength and weapons. The embassy closures earlier this month threw a spotlight on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), with some suggesting the terrorists in Yemen are more powerful than ever. So are they?
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.
Last week, a Las Vegas couple was arrested for plotting to kidnap and kill police officers. This conspiracy to kill police officers is a case of homegrown terrorism, a growing threat to U.S. national security. When we look at the diversity of violent extremist ideologies and thousands of followers who present a threat to the United States, we are looking into a mirror.
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