As a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I take exception to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's comments on the Senate confirmation process of political appointees. According to a Nov. 14 article ["After the Storm, Chertoff Vows to Reshape DHS"], Mr. Chertoff blamed the "slow pace" of the Senate for vacancies in a number of senior Department of Homeland Security positions.

I agree that the department cannot function optimally without key personnel; however, the real problem is the quality of nominees. Since Hurricane Katrina and the resignation of Undersecretary Michael D. Brown, it has become clear that many senior leadership positions in the federal government are being given to underqualified candidates.

I recently opposed the nomination of Julie L. Myers to be assistant secretary of DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch because I felt she lacked the minimal management experience required for the position under law. ICE is the second-largest federal law enforcement agency, with more than 15,000 employees and a budget of $4 billion; it has been identified by the DHS inspector general as having numerous management problems. The agency needs a manager with extensive executive-level leadership experience and the ability to shepherd a budget through reorganizations and budget cycles.

The senior managers who protect our nation should be of the highest caliber. For that reason, last week I introduced the Department of Homeland Security Qualified Leaders Act (S. 2040), which will establish mandatory criteria for other senior leadership positions in the department.


U.S. Senator (D-Hawaii)