Senators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS

The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday urged President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden allies see boost in Tuesday’s election results Sanders vows to end Trump’s policies as he unveils immigration proposal Republicans warn election results are ‘wake-up call’ for Trump MORE to fill multiple top leadership vacancies at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), citing concerns around the ability of the agency to function.

Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS Hillicon Valley: TikTok faces lawmaker anger over China ties | FCC formally approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Silicon Valley lawmakers introduce tough privacy bill | AT&T in M settlement with FTC Cyber officials tout reforms with one year to Election Day MORE (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Gary PetersGary Charles PetersSenators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS Overnight Health Care: Studies show teen e-cig users favor Juul products, mint flavors | Warren offers plan to reduce veteran suicide rate | WH official calls Pelosi drug plan ‘unworkable’ Poll: Gary Peters leads GOP opponent by 6 points in Michigan MORE (D-Mich.) sent a letter to Trump highlighting the need for Senate-confirmed leaders for the agency, in particular citing the need for a permanent secretary, which DHS has lacked since the departure of former Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenSenators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS Trump taps Chad Wolf as new acting DHS secretary FBI chief warns of possible 2020 interference from Russia, China MORE in April.

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“The Department of Homeland Security needs qualified, principled leaders to successfully carry out its many vital national security functions – which include securing our nation’s borders, preparing for and responding to disasters, protecting critical infrastructure, defending against cyber threats, and addressing the evolving threat of domestic terrorism,” the senators wrote.

Currently, seven of the 18 DHS offices that require a Senate-confirmed leader are vacant with no nominee put forward, with many positions being filled by individuals in an “acting” capacity. These include DHS secretary, DHS deputy secretary, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

Johnson and Peters warned that “this widespread use of temporary leadership—individuals who, though perhaps qualified, do not serve with the imprimatur of having been confirmed by the Senate—makes it more difficult for the Department to achieve its long-term strategic objectives.”

Concern over department leadership has been an ongoing issue, as many leaders of DHS agencies have stepped down over the course of the Trump administration. 

Trump announced last week that DHS undersecretary Chad WolfChad WolfSenators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS Trump plans to name DHS undersecretary as agency’s acting head: report MORE will take over as acting secretary this week when current Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan steps down.

Wolf is set to be the fifth person to serve as DHS secretary, in an acting or permanent capacity, since Trump took office.

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House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonSenators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS Hillicon Valley: TikTok faces lawmaker anger over China ties | FCC formally approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Silicon Valley lawmakers introduce tough privacy bill | AT&T in M settlement with FTC Cyber officials tout reforms with one year to Election Day MORE (D-Miss.) last week voiced concerns about Wolf’s qualifications for the post, arguing it “points to the dysfunction that has plagued DHS since the first days of the Trump Administration.”

During a Senate Homeland Security Committee business meeting earlier on Wednesday, there was also some discussion of a potential second letter being sent to Trump signed by every committee member in order to further pressure Trump to nominate individuals for DHS positions.

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