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Senate confirms DHS management nominee; two vacancies remain

Earlier today the U.S. Senate confirmed Russell Deyo to be the Under Secretary for Management at the Department of Homeland Security, the third most senior position in the Department. Both Secretary Jeh Johnson and Senator Tom Carper released statements praising his confirmation this afternoon.

Deyo’s confirmation is long overdue – a point that I made in an op-ed published by The Hill last week that called for the Senate to finally act on his nomination. As I had predicted in that piece, Deyo received near-unanimous support, with 95 Senators voting in favor of his confirmation, and only two opposed.

Deyo will find himself with a full agenda when he is sworn in as Under Secretary, including needing to address such issues as (a) management-related issues that are part of the Unity of Effort initiative, (b) making key decisions about the St. Elizabeths DHS headquarters project, (c) overseeing the Department’s efforts to address morale and other workforce effectiveness issues, and (d) continuing to strengthen the Department’s oversight of major acquisitions.

This confirmation represents further progress in addressing the senior-level vacancies problem that was seriously impairing the Department in 2013 and early 2014. With Deyo’s confirmation, by my count only two Senate-confirmed positions are currently unfilled at DHS:

1. Administrator, Transportation Security Administration. The TSA Administrator position has been vacant since John Pistole’s departure at the end of the 2014, with TSA being led by Acting Administrator Mel Carraway in the interim. At a recent House Appropriations hearing, Secretary Johnson told members of the Committee that a nominee was in vetting and would be announced soon.

2. Assistant Secretary, Office of Policy. The lead Policy position at DHS has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since David Heyman departed the position in May 2014, nearly a year ago. Alan Bersin was named as Acting Assistant Secretary after Heyman’s departure, but Bersin would have been limited by the Vacancies Act to serving in that acting role for a maximum of 210 days, i.e. until mid-December 2014. Notably, the DHS Leadership page now lists this position as “vacant” rather than being filled in an acting capacity – a recent change.

Hopefully the President will soon nominate highly capable individuals to fill these two positions; and if such nominations are made, I would hope that the Senate will act with a greater sense of urgency then it did with respect to Deyo’s 7 1/2 month nomination process.