Half of the largest federal law enforcement agencies don’t have long-term leadership under President Donald Trump, and the heads of several agencies haven’t had Senate-approved leaders since the Obama era.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Federal Bureau of Prisons are all without permanent heads, reported the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. Senate has not approved leaders for the ATF, DEA or ICE under Trump, despite Republican majorities there.
Trump has never even nominated anyone to head up the ATF.
That leadership vacuum fits with a broader trend under the Trump administration, which has vacancies in 277 top positions out of just over 700 appointments that require Senate confirmation.
Higher-than-normal turnover and a slow process for nominating and confirming federal officials has left the government with “unprecedented” vacancies.
There are no nominees for 132 positions and 138 nominees are awaiting Senate confirmation, and Trump has indicated that’s just the way he likes it.
“I sort of like ‘acting,’” Trump said earlier this year. “It gives me more flexibility.”
But that management style sidesteps the Senate’s constitutional duty to advise and consent, and makes leadership less accountable to voters.
“A law-enforcement organization is dealing with some of the most serious powers of the state and that is the power that involves people’s liberty,” said Max Stier, head of the nonpartisan watchdog Partnership for Public Service.
“One of the purposes of the constitutional system we have is the checks and balances,” Stier added. “The Senate, one of their critical roles, is to be able to in essence vet the senior leadership of our government — choices that the president is making. That absolutely is a challenge is to the system of government that we have.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who chairs the committee that considers nominees for the ATF and DEA, said he doesn’t like the long-term vacancies but hasn’t pressured the White House to put up nominations.
“It bothers me,” Graham said. “Why aren’t they doing it? They should.”