The Bush administration has been rebuffed in its efforts to find a high-profile candidate to fill the top White House counterterrorism post.
The failure to find a successor to Frances Fragos Townsend, who resigned last January as assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, has frustrated White House aides, given the significance the Bush administration has attached to the job. The position involves coordinating antiterrorism and homeland security efforts throughout the government and chairing the Homeland Security Council, a domestic counterpart to the National Security Council that President Bush created after the September 11 attacks.
Among those who have turned down the job—or made clear they weren't interested in replacing Townsend—are retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, former chief of U.S. Central Command, and retired Adm. James Loy, former Coast Guard commandant and deputy homeland security secretary, according to three sources knowledgeable about the issue who, like others quoted in this article, asked for anonymity when discussing White House personnel moves. (Neither Abizaid nor Loy responded to requests for comment.) The sources said most of the top candidates the White House contacted expressed little interest in signing on so close to the end of President Bush's second term. "It's a friggin' embarrassment," said one source who is involved in the recruitment process. The source noted that Townsend announced her resignation last November but didn't leave the post until January—in part to give the president plenty of time to find a replacement.
The homeland security job is not the only key counterterrorism post the Bush administration is having trouble filling. As NEWSWEEK reported earlier this month, White House officials have spent months searching for a new candidate to head the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). The previous chief, retired Vice Adm. John Scott Redd, left for health reasons last October. Several highly experienced candidates have turned down invitations to become NCTC director.
There's a patriotism angle here--and that is, simply, if your country needs you, and you can serve, you should be prepared to answer as to why you won't. Abizaid and Loy should have said "I refuse to serve because I disagree with this administration." You don't duck the calls and hope no one notices. Then there's a common sense angle--why didn't anyone anticipate that a bunch of Republicans would bail on a failed administration to get back into the private sector ahead of the rush that will happen when a Democrat gets elected this fall? Money before country, you know. Finally, it comes down to this--the country is so poorly led and mismanaged right now, there is no one to step up and do the vital things we need to have done to adequately protect the country. It's so bad, they're handing out plum jobs to unqualified also-rans who just happened to have a pulse when the job came open.
Here's a quick hit from USA Jobs.com as to what's "open" down in Washington D.C.
OPENINGS, sorted by Salary, USAJOBS.COM, all qualified openings, Washington D.C. only, as of 3/18/2008 (click to enlarge):
I had to stop at 60--there are over 300 jobs that pay over $100K a year that are vacant in Washington D.C. alone. That doesn't take into account job openings throughout the country at that level. I tell everyone I meet that the DC area--which now has the three richest counties in America, according to a recent Forbes magazine article--has not felt the crunch that the rest of the country has felt because of the explosion in the size of the government AND the increase in the use of contractors. There are people in my hometown in the midwest who are getting arrested for stealing scrap metal. True story--a couple drove about 90 miles, probably burned at least 12 bucks worth of gas to go round trip, just to put scrap metal in their car to take to a dealer.
To them, a $100K a year job in Washington D.C. must sound like something out of a fairy tale.