Speed Reads


As Trump calls for smarter terrorism strategies, his national security vacancies stand out

Britain, which holds an election Thursday, is currently arguing over whether Prime Minister Theresa May, when she was home secretary, cut police funding to a dangerously low level, in light of recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. In the U.S., President Trump has reacted to the London Bridge attack with a renewed push for his "travel ban" and calls to "stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people," but he has yet to nominate an FBI director, a leader for the Transportation Security Administration, a Homeland Security Department official to take charge of securing America's cyber and physical infrastructure, a director for the National Counterterrorism Center, an assistant attorney general for national security, or, for that matter, an ambassador to Great Britain.

Trump's "counterterrorism strategy could be hindered by dozens of vacancies across the government," argues Politico's Andrew Restuccia. In all, 135 days into his presidency, Trump has nominated just 102 of the 559 key positions in his administration that require Senate confirmation, with 39 of those confirmed. Fifteen people are awaiting formal nomination — including billionaire Robert "Woody" Johnson, for ambassador to London — and Trump hasn't even started the process on 442 key nominees, according to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service's appointee tracker. All security-related departments have vacant deputy positions, and some of the numerous empty desks at the State Department may stay empty.

"This is a team sport," Max Stier, the head of the Partnership for Public Service, tells Politico. "It's critical to have a full team." Many of the positions are filled with career bureaucrats or diplomats who are experts in the field, so "in terms of an immediate response to an attack, the agencies will probably do fine," said Daniel Benjamin, State Department counterterrorism coordinator under former President Barack Obama. "The real problems come later, when the administration has to readjust strategy to deal with the threat, do the hard work of figuring out if there was a vulnerability in some security or immigration system, and then remedy it." You can read more about Trump's national security staffing issues at Politico.