Rich Cooper

Feb 2, 2010

On Tuesday morning, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) lashed out at Senate Republicans for their on-going procedural holds on a number of the Obama Administration’s nominees for critical positions at the Pentagon, DHS and elsewhere.

While the Senate has been back for two weeks, this seems to be the first real public utterance by the senior Senator from Nevada on this issue. Prior to his verbal salvo, all we’ve had to date have been his press release pledges to take action on nominees since the Christmas Day bombing attempt. While I’m sure he has a lot on his plate, I can’t but help but feel the Senate leadership is as inept at getting nominees confirmed as the White House is at fighting for them.

A number of good people have put their personal and professional lives in the balance to take these often thankless positions. Unfortunately, before nominees can actually do their appointed tasks, they must first serve several rounds as pieces for political chess games. That means they are left at the mercy of withering assaults of whispered rumors or full-fledged attacks on their character or reputations while deals are cut and poll numbers are considered. As a result, good names and professional records become sullied, critical positions remain unfulfilled, and major decisions at national components are not being implemented.

At DHS alone, the following top positions remain open and waiting for the Senate to take action on their respective nominees:
•    Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis
•    Under Secretary for Management
•    Commissioner, Customs and Border Protection
•    Assistant Administrator for Grant Programs (FEMA)

Each of the respective nominees for these posts finds themselves victim to these unfortunate political games.  

While there is little doubt of the ineffective, ridiculous and often obtuse amount of Congressional oversight over DHS, with over eighty Congressional Committees keeping watch, the fact that you could have this many hands in motion and still not produce any type of meaningful work is emblematic of the problems we are encountering with our homeland security.

There is a proper and necessary role for Congressional oversight, and legitimate and tough questions should be asked of all the Administration’s nominees; however, Senator Reid’s finger-pointing rings exceptionally hollow when you consider he’s the guy who has had the majority of votes in his corner for some time and could have taken care of business months ago.  

Senator Reid can name call the Republicans all he wants, but none of it will produce any results. The only measure that counts in the homeland arena is doing the job, and it’s long past time for the Senate to do its job when it comes to voting on a number of critical nominees. Here’s hoping (and praying) he finds the will and mechanisms to make these votes actually happen. We need someone to take these positions seriously for a change.  

This piece was originally posted on Security Debrief.


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