Homeland Security faces continued vacancies in high-level jobs

Vacancies in senior leadership positions at the Homeland Security Department are a vulnerability demanding immediate attention, the House Homeland Security Committee stated in a report released Monday.

According to the report, the department has 575 positions in the highest federal salary bands, referred to as executive resources. These include positions filled by presidential appointment, Senior Executive Service members and other appointments for nonexecutive positions above the GS-15 level. Of the 575, 138 were vacant as of May 1, the committee said.

The report said the vacancies are "a critical homeland security issue that demands immediate attention," but did not make specific recommendations for action.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was overhauled after Hurricane Katrina and has faced extensive pressure to meet hiring goals, continues to have the largest number of senior level vacancies despite several hiring frenzies in anticipation of hurricane season. FEMA does not, however, have the largest number of vacancies relative to the number of total executive resources.

With 24 of its 77 executive resources vacant, FEMA ranked fifth for percentage of senior positions vacant. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, the Office of the General Counsel, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Citizenship and Immigration Services all had a greater percentage, according to the report. With 11 of 23 senior slots vacant, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy had the highest percentage, at 48.

DHS spokeswoman Laura Keehner said these agencies, along with several others falling directly behind FEMA on the list, were approved for senior level expansion by the Office of Personnel Management in March. While new positions have been created, many have not been filled, as the hiring process generally takes months, Keehner said. She said the department is actively recruiting for all of the 130 or so executive resource vacancies that remain.

The report acknowledged the March expansion as a possible step toward resolving vacancies but urged the department to fill them quickly and with nonpartisan federal employees.

"Unless these positions are filled in the next few months mainly by qualified and experienced career civil servants who will have time to assume the main department functions, the problem will remain. And so will the enhanced threat to homeland security," the report said.

"Homeland Security was bruised when the country learned that Michael Brown, an Arabian horse aficionado, was running FEMA," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the committee, in a statement. "But what's worse than a Homeland Security organization with poor leadership is a homeland security organization with no leadership."

The executive summary of the report, prepared by the Democratic staff of the committee, expressed concern over the unusually high number of "critical national security jobs" at DHS filled by political appointment. The summary cited a National Journal article warning that the high level of political appointees in the department could lead to chaos during the transition to a new administration in 2009.

Keehner said only nine of the 138 senior vacancies will require political appointments.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.