The Gutted, 'Unnerving' State of the Agencies Supposed to Keep the U.S. Safe

As the nation’s security and intelligence apparatus prepares for more violence, it’s facing a dangerous leadership vacuum that seems to be getting worse by the day

1/14/2021 3:01:00 PM

As the nation’s security and intelligence apparatus prepares for more violence, it’s facing a dangerous leadership vacuum that seems to be getting worse by the day

As the nation’s security and intelligence apparatus prepares for more violence, it’s facing a dangerous leadership vacuum that seems to be getting worse by the day.

Another key Pentagon role is currently being filled byTrump stafferEzra Cohen-Watnick, the 34-year-old who was installed in November as the acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence, which oversees the Pentagon’s three intel agencies: the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

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These short- and long-term “actings” are problematic on multiple levels, not least of all because they cause cascading reshuffling to back-fill empty positions. Within government, a “deputy” is not analogous to a “spare” vice president taking over for the president; in fact, the “deputy” role is actually often the most important in the org chart, the person responsible for running the day-to-day operations of the Cabinet department, while the secretary attends to politics and policy. By forcing a “deputy” to stand in as “acting,” it often comes at a real cost to the organization’s operations and effectiveness.

In other cases, the “acting” heads appear just plain unqualified. In firing Esper, Trump confoundingly passed over the Pentagon’s Senate-confirmed deputy to install Christopher Miller, who worked as a deputy assistant secretary at the Pentagon last year until he was installed as the head of the National Counterterrorism Center in August. Not only did Miller just catapult over nearly a half-dozen ranks of more senior officials to lead the nation’s military, but his old position, coordinating the nation’s terrorist threat intelligence, is being backfilled by a temporary acting director amid one of the most worrisome terrorism windows in the U.S. since the campaign by ISIS in 2015. headtopics.com

“The fact that the vacancies are so bad is exacerbated by how he’s fired so many layers of the leaders that he’s at the ‘D-team,’” said Cordero. “Every administration has actings — what is unusual is the quality of the people is so much lower than you’d normally expect, because you’re now into the fourth or fifth tier.”

Across government, leaders trying simultaneously to confront the threat ahead, manage the response to last week’s violence, and investigate and arrest its instigators — as well as brief and hand over their work to people who will be responsible for the nation’s safety starting at noon on Jan. 20 — find themselves short-staffed, under-manned, and perhaps, most worryingly, trying to navigate these new interagency and command relationships with little understanding or background.

Read more: POLITICO »

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