The Cable

15 Top Slots At DHS Now Vacant With Napolitano's Resignation

Janet Napolitano is leaving the Department of Homeland Security. But she's not the only one who's gone. No less than 15 leadership positions across DHS are now vacant -- or soon will be. And there doesn't seem to be any hurry to fill them. Until two weeks ago, the President had not yet nominated a single official to serve at DHS in a Senate-confirmed position, and had only made one senior-level appointment to a position that does not require Senate confirmation - the selection of Julia Pierson to serve as the new director of the Secret Service.

Having a certain level of senior-level vacancies in a Cabinet department is normal, given the typical churn of confirmed and appointed officials.  But if enough positions are open for a long enough period of time, it can lead to significant operational and management risks to that Department, and also diminishes its accountability to the U.S. Congress.

I am afraid that the Department of Homeland Security is now at the point where it is facing these risks. Given this, I think that it is critical that the White House prioritize nominations and appointment for the key positions listed below, and that when nominations are made, that the Senate act quickly on nominations for qualified candidates.

Below is a list of the Senate-confirmed positions that are currently unfilled (or will soon be unfilled) at DHS. This list was put together yesterday, so it doesn't include the biggest vacany of all -- Napolitano.

1. Deputy Secretary: Former Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute stepped down in May 2013.  Under Secretary for NPPD Rand Beers is currently serving as Acting Deputy Secretary.  On June 27th, the White House nominated current USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas to become the new Deputy Secretary, and his nomination is pending with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.  His confirmation would open up a new vacancy at USCIS.

2. Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis: Former Under Secretary for I&A Caryn Wagner left DHS in December 2012.  Bill Tarry has been serving as Acting Under Secretary since that date, but his acting role will hit the 210 day limit under the Vacancies Act in the next ten days.  No nomination has been announced yet.

3. General Counsel:  Former GC Ivan Fong left DHS in September 2012.  Former Counselor to Secretary Napolitano John Sandweg was named as Acting General Counsel, but is now listed on the DHS website as Principal Deputy General Counsel, presumably because he had been in the acting position for longer than the 210 days allowed by the Vacancies Act.

4. Inspector General:  Former IG Richard Skinner left DHS in January 2011.  The President nominated Roslyn Mazer to serve in the position in July 2011, and her nomination was withdrawn in June 2012 following opposition by members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. It's now been over a year since her nomination was withdrawn, and no new nominee has been put forward.  Charles Edwards served as Acting IG until hitting the Vacancies Act limit and is currently listed as the Deputy IG on the OIG's website.  He is currently being accused of a range of abuses of his position in a letter sent last month by Sen. McCaskill and Sen. Ron Johnson.

5. Commissioner, Customs and Border Protection: Alan Bersin was nominated as CBP Commissioner in September 2009, and in March 2010 was put in the position via a recess appointment by the President.  The Senate Finance Committee held a nomination hearing for Bersin in May 2010, but his nomination was never reported out of the Finance Committee, and his recess appointment expired at the end of 2011.   Since that time, former Border Patrol chief David Aguilar and Deputy Commissioner Thomas Winkowski have served as Acting Commissioner, but no new nominee has been put forward.

6. Director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement: ICE Director John Morton announced his intent to resign in June and is departing at the end of July.

In addition to these six Senate-confirmed position, there are also senior leadership vacancies in at least eight other senior positions that do not require Senate confirmation, including Chief Privacy Officer, Officer for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Health Affairs, Director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, Chief Information Officer, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Legislative Affairs, and Executive Secretary.

Christian Beckner is Deputy Director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at the George Washington University. Follow him @cjbeckner.

 -- cross-posted from Homeland Security Watch

Whit House

The Cable

Dominicans Freak Out Over Obama's Gay Ambassador Pick

Opposition to President Obama's nominee for U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic reached a fever pitch this week as religious organizers stage a "Lunes Negro" or Black Monday protest against James "Wally" Brewster.

If confirmed, Brewster will be the first openly gay ambassador to the country, a prospect that is not going over well with some segments of this conservative Christian country of 9 million people. Local reports indicate that church leaders are pressuring the government to reject Brewster's nomination and calling on the faithful to dress in black on Monday in solidarity against him.

Praise Christian Church Pastor Sauford Medrano is quoted in Diario Libre as saying that Brewster could cause "the U.S. promotion of gender beliefs in the country." That supposedly violates a general education law in the country that "all the Dominican education system is based on Christian principles."

The report was flagged by Cable reader and Dominican expat Will Williams, an architect in New York City. He said he witnessed the animosity toward the ambassador in a visit last weekend. "I could confirm myself that the opposition has been even worse from what have been reflected in the news," he said. "As a Dominican, I feel ashamed this is happening in my country ... The evangelical church is convoking the general public to reject this ambassador ... [It's] asking the public to show a black band, black banner or ribbon on cars or dress showing rejection."

In a statement to The Cable, Monica Trasandes, director of Spanish Language Media at GLAAD, defended the president's pick. "We stand with LGBT advocates in the Dominican Republic, who are calling on leaders to quit categorizing their country's population as homophobic," she said. "We hope that James Brewster will help educate those still adversely affected by homophobia and applaud the work of LGBT advocates in the Dominican Republic."

When news of opposition to Brewster first began, the Dominican embassy in Washington told The Cable that the country supports the president's pick. "The Dominican Republic is a democracy with a vibrant media and a wide diversity of opinions on every conceivable topic," the statement read. "However, it is the position of the Government of the Dominican Republic that a person´s sexual preference is strictly a personal matter and it looks forward to working constructively with Mr. Brewster in his official capacity once his nomination is approved by the U.S. Senate."

In June, the AP spoke with Catholic and evangelical church leaders who opposed the nomination. "If he arrives, he'll suffer and will be forced to leave," Vicar Pablo Cedano, told the AP. He said the pick showed "a lack of respect, of consideration, that they send us that kind of person as ambassador." Rev. Cristobal Cardozo, leader of the Dominican Evangelical Fraternity, said the appointment was offensive. "It's an insult to good Dominican customs," he said.

Brewster was a fundraiser for Obama and currently works at the Chicago consulting firm SB&K.