The White House is apparently in no hurry to pick a new Secretary of Homeland Security, five weeks after retired General John Kelly vacated the position to become the new White House Chief of Staff. And it’s probably a good thing to have no one head a department that shouldn’t exist in the first place.
It might be a month or more before a new nominee is announced, according to administration sources.
Part of the reason, it appears, is the lack of appetite for another another Cabinet confirmation battle in the Senate so shortly after the body narrowly approved President Trump’s initial round of appointees.
Another part of the dynamic is between Kelly, who wants a low-key and competent nominee to replace him, versus the president’s impulsive desire to reward a controversial political supporter. Trump’s initial impulse was to go with the runner-up from the selection process that first picked Kelly for DHS, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Abolishing the Department of Homeland Security can be done
Indeed, the correct answer would be to not appoint anybody at all. The Department of Homeland Security doesn’t need to exist. It’s a political expediency created in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, by President George W. Bush.
The agency was always a bureaucratic monstrosity that randomly lumped together various agencies either formerly independent or part of another department. The sprawling department includes the far-flung Federal Emergency Management Agency, the roundly-ridiculed Transportation Security Administration, and various immigration enforcement efforts. All of this is done with little rhyme or reason.
In fact, many of the key agencies that were originally going to be placed under DHS successfully fought to be excluded from it. Studies of federal workforce morale routinely find it to be the lowest department in the government, by far.
The inept and intrusive TSA could simply be abolished and their functions returned to private providers. Others, like FEMA, would be better off returned to their status as independent agencies more able to respond nimbly to disasters.
Law enforcement agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the border patrol, should be returned to the Department of Justice.
It’s unlikely that Trump will refuse to name a DHS Secretary, or endorse abolishing the department. Instead, it seems to be one of his favorite agencies, and he has proposed large budget increases in its budget.
But it remains as it always has been: A massive mistake.
(Photo of former Homeland Security Secretary Gen. John Kelly taken by the DHS used with permission.)