DHS Vacancies Hurt National Preparedness

The House Homeland Security Committee released a report today detailing "critical leadership vacancies" at the Department of Homeland Security due to the department's seeming "overpolitization" of top posts.

The report says:

This is evident in the fact that some 24 percent of all department top positions are now vacant. This could lead to heightened vulnerability to terrorist attack when the new administration is installed in January of 2009 and the political appointees who now run the department exit without ensuring continuity of operations. The gaping hole in department executive resources is a homeland security issue that must be addressed and rectified immediately.

Some of the "startling facts" of the report are these:

*Thirty-four percent of the executive resource positions at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are vacant.
*Thirty-one percent of the executive resource positions at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are vacant.
*Twenty-nine percent of the executive resource positions at the U.S. Coast Guard are vacant.

Today, the Washington Post reported:

A DHS spokesman challenged the report's tally, saying that it is skewed by a sudden expansion this spring in the number of top management jobs. Before then, only 12 percent of positions were unfilled in a department that has always been thinly staffed at headquarters, spokesman Russ Knocke said.

The report, though, does note DHS has added some new executive resource positions, but still concludes the vacancies are a disturbing cause of concern if "qualified and experienced career civil servants" do not staff these positions soon.

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