Disruption at DHS 'seriously troubling'

This is no way to run an administration.

Every presidential administration will have turnover, but the degree of churn in leadership in the Trump administration, the fact that it is happening at so many key departments and the number of “acting” directors that have been left in charge is cause for alarm.

The Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration are among the agencies led by an "acting" chief.

The latest instance hits close to home in New London, host to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, which comes under the province of the Department of Homeland Security. The sudden departure of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has put Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, in charge on an acting basis.

In addition to Nielsen’s departure, President Donald Trump dismissed the head of the Secret Service, Randolph Alles, and withdrew his pick of Ron Vitiello to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Both these operations come under the jurisdiction of DHS.

Having that level of upheaval in an agency responsible for keeping the nation safe and responding to threats is a situation that should not be tolerated for long. One must question how well coordinated would be the nation’s response if a potential serious threat to the homeland emerged or, worse yet, an attack happened.

But don’t just listen to us. Consider the words of Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, at Tuesday’s Homeland Security Committee meeting.

“It is dangerous, given what’s happening at the border. Dangerous given the broad responsibility that the Department of Homeland Security has for protecting our nation. It is seriously troubling,” Romney said.

Called for is quick action in nominating a permanent DHS leader, someone with a solid national security protection background and able to obtain bipartisan Senate support. But the record does not suggest that is going to happen.

Patrick Shanahan became acting defense secretary in January after the resignation of Jim Mattis. Trump has not brought forth a nominee. There is no nominee to head the FDA, either.

By appointing so many "acting" directors and leaving them in place for long periods, Trump undermines the constitutional duty of the Senate to give advice and consent on major appointments. Lacking a leader without some permanency invites disruption and generates uncertainty in organizational ranks.

Start filling these critical positions, Mr. President. 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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