Senate OKs controversial DHS appointee

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has approved the appointment of attorney Julie Myers as assistant secretary of Homeland Security in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Myers will inherit a law enforcement agency with a staff of some 4,000 and a budget upwards of $20 billion.

Critics contend Myers, who has been criticized for lacking substantial administrative accomplishments or experience with immigration matters, will face difficult IT management problems with little experience in the field.

ICE faces particular difficulties with its technology operations because it has, since the department first took shape, run a structural deficit with other DHS components that rely on it for IT services.

ICE officials and executives of the other agencies supposedly have hammered out an agreement under which ICE will no longer have to be bailed out by multimillion-dollar special midyear appropriations to prevent layoffs, and hiring and travel freezes.

Critics of the appointment noted that the 36-year-old Myers' previous experience as a federal prosecutor, White House aide and manager of a much smaller bureau didn't prepare her for the ICE job. Myers' background does not include any lengthy stints overseeing business transformation of IT management projects, which will be important in her new job.

The critics also noted that Myers is married to Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff's chief of staff and is well-connected with the Bush administration.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), announced he would oppose the nomination, saying, "My greatest concern about this nominee is her relative lack of management experience. In fact, I do not believe that Ms. Myers meets the explicit requirement of the Homeland Security Act stated in the law: that she has five years of management experience. She has not held any management job for more than a year, and the divisions she did administer were small in comparison to ICE."

Myers' proponents reject the charge that the appointment is an example of cronyism, citing her experience at the highest levels of government.

Wilson S. Dizard III is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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