NEWS

Transition to New Administration Could be Messy for DHS; Top 10 Positions at DHS That Must be Filled Quickly

By Matthew Harwood

The transition from the Bush administration to either a Barack Obama or a John McCain administration could spell problems for the Department of Homeland Security, thus leaving the country vulnerable to attack, reports The Daily Beast.

Jacob Goodwin writes:

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security are busily preparing a massive briefing book for the transition to a new administration, developing training exercises and anticipating difficulties, yet they have not yet had any formal contact with either the Obama or the McCain campaign.

At a round table discussion organized by the Aspen Institute a few weeks back in Washington, D.C., Rear Admiral John Acton, of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, who is leading DHS through the transition, explained some of the problems DHS will likely confront. 

Acton said the security clearance process could slow the ability of either administration's appointees to get to the Senate confirmation process. The quicker the background checks are processed, the quicker permanent appointees will take the reigns of their positions within the homeland security architecture.

Another problem Acton noted was the lack of experience in homeland security due to the discipline's recent birth. According to Goodwin, incoming officials may need to receive specialized training before assuming their responsibilities.

Attendees with ties to both possible administrations explained broadly what DHS would look like underneath a McCain or an Obama White House.

Lobbyist C. Stewart Verdery, Jr., former assistant secretary of DHS for policy and planning from 2003 to 2005, told the round table that he doesn't see many changes to DHS during a McCain presidency and that McCain may name his friend Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), current chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, as head of DHS.

Rachana Bhowmik, a DHS legislative aide for Obama, who also sat on the Senate homeland security committee, said DHS would not substantially change underneath an Obama administration because of the financial crisis. She did say, however, that an Obama administration would adopt more of an all-hazards approach to homeland security that emphasizes preparedness for natural and man-made disasters "that goes beyond counterterrorism."

In other news ... Congressional Quarterly outlines the top ten jobs at DHS that must be filled quickly (subscription only). According to Rob Margeta, there is no consensus on either candidate's side about who will be tapped to fill the top spot at DHS vacated by Michael Chertoff.

Outside the secretary of DHS, the top ten positions at DHS that must be filled quickly, according to CQ, are:

  1. FEMA Administrator, currently occupied by R. David Paulson
  2. Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis, currently occupied by Charles E. Allen
  3. Undersecretary for Management, currently occupied by Elaine C. Duke
  4. Undersecretary for National Protection and Programs Directorate, currently occupied by Robert D. Jamison
  5. Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Communications, currently occupied by Gregory Garcia
  6. Assistant Secretary for Policy, currently occupied by Stewart A. Baker
  7. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, currently occupied by Ralph Basham
  8. Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, currently occupied by Julie Myers
  9. TSA Administrator, currently occupied by Kip Hawley
  10. Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, currently occupied by Robert B. Stephan

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