Vacancies at the top of the Homeland Security Department threaten coronavirus response

Vacancies at the top of the Homeland Security Department threaten coronavirus response
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Department of Homeland Security is in charge of implementing some of Donald Trump’s favorite policies (kids in cages, closing borders), but even that isn’t enough to save it from the hollowing-out of the government Trump has pushed. DHS is currently led by its second acting secretary in a row, and its third head within a year.

This is turning out to be a big problem right now because DHS has a role to play in things other than kids in cages—things like parts of coronavirus response. The long lines at some airports over the weekend as travelers rushed home from Europe in response to Trump’s hastily announced travel bans, for instance, involved people waiting to get through customs—which is part of DHS.

“You are asking the folks on the front lines to implement a policy that they have not yet been fully informed on or trained on, so of course you are going to have confusion,” a former spokesman for DHS—under Trump—told NBC News. “You have these issues because, again, it seems like it was implemented too quickly to allow the workforce to be able to properly implement it.”

The problems on the front lines aren’t coming only from lack of planning as new policies are put into play, though. NBC News reports, “65 percent of top jobs in the department are vacant or filled by acting appointees, more than in any other federal agency, according to the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that advocates for more effective government.” That lack of leadership trickles down, with other jobs going unfilled and inadequate management.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also part of DHS, by the way, and its number two job is unfilled. While we’re talking about ways DHS might be involved in coronavirus response.

It’s not just DHS. More than one in four of the top jobs at Health and Human Services and one in three at the Defense Department are unfilled. This is not an administration remotely ready for a public health crisis, even if the guy at the top hadn’t spent nearly two months seemingly determined to make it worse.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.