Vacancies at DHS risky, report states

Critical Leadership Vacancies Impede DHS (.pdf)

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One of every four senior leadership positions is vacant at the Homeland Security Department, which represents a risk to national security, according to a new report from the House Homeland Security Committee.

As of May 1, 24 percent of the department’s executive resource positions, which include political appointees and senior career employees, were unfilled. The report found 138 vacancies among the 575 total executive resource positions.

Since DHS’ creation in 2003, “contracting abuses, poor leadership and low employee morale have been endemic,” the report states.

Furthermore, political appointees occupy a significant percentage of the senior leadership positions, presenting a risk to national security during the upcoming presidential transition in January 2009, the report states.

Because appointees typically lose their jobs after a presidential election, having a high proportion of them in charge of homeland security could put the country at risk in the months following the November 2008 elections.

“This identifies an enormous security vulnerability should an attack or disaster occur during the upcoming presidential transition,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.

DHS officials responded to the report by noting that the number of vacancies likely was inflated by the addition of 73 new positions March 1. However, the report states that little progress had been made on filling those new positions.

The highest vacancy rates are in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, where 48 percent of leadership jobs are vacant; the Office of General Counsel, at 47 percent; the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, at 36 percent; and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, at 34 percent.

Alice Lipowicz writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

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