Then-Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper hosts the Defense Business Board Quarterly Meeting at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Nov. 6, 2019.

Then-Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper hosts the Defense Business Board Quarterly Meeting at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Nov. 6, 2019. Marine Cpl. Marcos A. Alvarado/Defense Department

Viewpoint: Keep Politics Out of National-Security Advisory Boards

Trump’s appointment of loyalists to DHS and DOD boards sets a dangerous precedent.

Although we are less than six weeks away from President-Elect Joe Biden’s swearing in, President Trump continues his federal government makeover. 

Twice this month, members of the Pentagon’s longstanding and apolitical Defense Business Board were replaced with partisan Trump loyalists, including two former campaign managers. It is a dangerous precedent, and if replicated in other federal agencies, will have a damaging impact on the security of the United States and the safety of the American public.

The Defense Business Board is one of many Federal Advisory Committees across 50 federal government agencies—hugely important, deeply influential, and virtually unknown outside the Beltway. Since their creation in 1972, they have been comprised of unpaid, private citizens who provide real-time real-world independent advice to Cabinet members and agency leadership on areas within their responsibility. The subject-matter experts serving on these committees deliver invaluable insight on critical issues, supporting and enhancing the work of the agency’s own team.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security, along with other newly installed Cabinet members across the government, will inherit them. The Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council, or HSAC, is one such advisory board, established by Executive Order in 2002 by then-President George W. Bush. 

Every DHS Secretary since 2002, Republican and Democrat alike, has sought nonpartisan HSAC counsel in the creation and implementation of critical policies for the security of the homeland. Since its creation, HSAC recommendations have ranged from examining emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the impact on the security landscape, to ensuring that interdependent infrastructure sectors can work together to restore critical services after a cyberattack.

In our respective roles as members of and executive director of the HSAC, we led a small nonpartisan group of experts to provide recommendations to U.S. Customs and Border Protection regarding model use of force policies and prevention of corruption, as well as how to increase transparency and stakeholder outreach about incident response and discipline issues. This HSAC report was apolitical, and informed work across the homeland security enterprise. Indeed, our previous jobs may have been political in nature, but our service to the HSAC and the nation never was.

One of the most important characteristics of advisory committees like the HSAC is their nonpartisan composition and apolitical operation. Members, selected based on their experience and expertise, are the volunteer workhorses behind the scenes. To be effective, their advice and recommendations have always been and should always be informed by facts and evidence and free of partisan political considerations.

Today, our threat landscape is more complicated than ever before. We are plagued not only by the obvious health and national security threat of the coronavirus but also by many related consequences, including the threat to data privacy and security during the pandemic. We also face future pandemic diseases requiring planning and investment in bio surveillance and outbreak systems. 

DHS is among the lead federal agencies with responsibility for addressing all of these homeland threats and preventing future terrorist attacks while handling natural disasters, election security, cybersecurity, aviation, border, port, and maritime security, plus a wide range of chemical, biological and nuclear threats. 

Even the U.S. Coast Guard, another DHS component, finds itself confronting an ever-changing threat landscape. We saw this play out recently when the icebreaker Polar Star was reassigned by the Coast Guard to the Arctic from its normal role supporting Antarctica affairs due to concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic

No matter who occupies the White House, bad actors continue to plot and plan attacks against America including domestic and foreign terrorists, international organized crime, cyber criminals just to name a few. These threats to our democracy do not just pose a hazard to Democrats or Republicans, but to everyone. 

As former Defense Business Board member Steve Blank, who resigned in protest of Trump’s actions said, “The abrupt termination of more than half of the Defense Business Board and their replacement with political partisans has now put the nation's safety and security at risk. My service to the Department of Defense was a service to the country, not to a party.” 

It takes a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach with experts in and out of the government to identify, stop, prevent, and build resilience against the complex and dynamic threats facing this country 365 days a year.

Americans should demand that all federal agency leaders inherit the same advisory council system of public-private service proven effective for decades: one built on experience not politics.

Karen Tandy is the Vice-Chair of the Homeland Security Advisory Council and was appointed by President George W. Bush as head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. She has served in Repulibcan and Democratic administrations. 

Sarah Morgenthau was the Executive Director of the Homeland Security Advisory Council and a Deputy Assistant Secretary at DHS under President Obama. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.