Homeland Security chief wins approval
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted on Monday to confirm Jeh Johnson to head the Department of Homeland Security as a backlog of vacancies persists among other senior leadership positions.
The vote was 78-16.
Johnson, 56, who is black and grew up in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., adds to the racial diversity of the Obama administration's second-term Cabinet. Attorney General Eric Holder and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, former mayor of Charlotte, are black.
Johnson was general counsel for the Defense Department during President Obama's first term. He served as general counsel to the Air Force during the last 27 months of the Clinton administration.
He succeeds Janet Napolitano, who was the department's secretary for more than 4 1⁄2 years before resigning in September to become president of the University of California.
The Homeland Security Department has been a cabinet-level agency since March 2003 as part of the response to the 2001 terrorist attacks. It serves as a central bureaucracy for a number of agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Fourteen other senior administrative positions at the department, all subject to Senate confirmation, are vacant.
The Customs and Border Protection agency is being run by its fourth acting director in five years, and the Homeland Security Department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis divisions has been run by acting leaders for nearly a year, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, said at a hearing last week.
“Over 40 percent of the department's senior leadership positions are either vacant or have an acting placeholder,” McCaul said.
Last month, the White House announced a nominee to become Homeland Security inspector general, filling a position that has been without a permanent office-holder since February 2011.