Chairman Carper Urges his Senate Colleagues to Support Critical DHS Leadership Nominations

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, spoke on the Senate floor urging his colleagues to support two critical nominations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Russ Deyo to be Under Secretary for Management at the Department and Sarah Saldaña to be Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Chairman Carper’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

“Mr. President, I rise today to urge my colleagues to support two critical nominations for the Department of Homeland Security: Russ Deyo to be Under Secretary for Management at the Department and Sarah Saldaña to be Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

“The Committee which I am privileged to chair – the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee –is responsible for working with the Administration and others to help protect our nation’s security at home and abroad.  At the same time, we strive to make sure that federal agencies work better and more efficiently with the resources we entrust to them.

“During my years of public service, I’ve learned that the most important ingredient in helping organizations to work is leadership.   That is the case both in government and the private sector, and in organizations large and small.  Part of our responsibility here in the Senate is to ensure that we have effective leaders in place across our federal government. While Congress will soon wrap up the 2014 session, the Senate has the opportunity and obligation to fill two key leadership posts in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Under Secretary for Management and Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“This Department, as we all know, plays a critical role in protecting our nation from a number of threats, including terrorism, cyber-attacks, and natural disasters to name a few. Given the Department’s significant role in the security of our country, it is critical that Secretary Johnson has a full leadership team in place. That includes Russ Deyo as his Under Secretary for Management, the third-highest position in the Department. I’d like to take some time to explain why Mr. Deyo’s nomination is so important.

“As of this week, more than ten months will have passed since the last Senate-confirmed Under Secretary for Management, Rafael Borras stepped down from his post. Again, it’s been nearly a year since the Department’s third-highest position has had permanent leadership. Under-Secretary Borras was widely respected by members of my Committee and others for his leadership, management expertise, and candor.  He helped the Department make strides in many areas and led the Department to its first clean financial audit – something the Department was able to achieve again this year. I think it’s safe to say that the Department needs somebody with this same kind of commitment and leadership. I believe Russ Deyo is that person. 

“Mr. Deyo had an impressive 27-year career with Johnson & Johnson, where he served in several top positions, including General Counsel and Vice President for Administration. He also spent the last 15 years serving on the “Executive Committee” at Johnson and Johnson, which is the principal management group responsible for the Company’s global operations.  He was also a partner at a major U.S. law firm. Russ Deyo is also no stranger to public service and working with law enforcement organizations. He was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey for eight years, including a period as chief of the public corruption unit. His perspective from the private and public sectors will be an invaluable asset to Secretary Johnson. Particularly, as the Secretary implements his “Unity of Effort” initiatives at the Department, which strives to help the Department operate in a more unified and cohesive manner across all components. 

“If confirmed, Mr. Deyo will have a number other challenges on his plate. For example, our friends at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) continue to remind us that the acquisition and budgeting systems at DHS are not fully mature. In fact, the overall management of the Department remains on GAO’s “High Risk” list of government operations that need urgent attention. And, of course, if confirmed, Mr. Deyo will inherit the challenge of improving the morale across the Department.

“These are tough challenges and some have been around since the creation of the Department. But I believe Mr. Deyo has the leadership experience and skills necessary to tackle these challenges and really make a difference. And I’m not the only one. Mr. Deyo has received glowing accolades from a number of our colleagues who have worked closely with him. In fact, here’s what former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff had to say when he introduced Mr. Deyo at his confirmation hearing before my Committee: ‘Russ brings to the position he has been nominated for a broad range of experience with one of the best enterprises in the world . . . You will find him to be a smart, experienced, and devoted public servant who will actually bring a unique set of skills to this job which are very critical. I could not give a stronger endorsement to Mr. Deyo for this position.’

“Russ Deyo also received a strong endorsement from the three former Under Secretaries for Management at DHS – Paul Schneider, Elaine Duke, and Rafael Borras. Here’s what they had to say: ‘Russ Deyo is an outstanding choice by the President to be the Under Secretary for Management. An impressive leader, he brings the requisite skills, experience, and leadership to this important position. He is recognized as a professional, unflappable statesman who can meet the challenges that this position faces head on and get results.’

“Everything I have learned about Mr. Deyo over the past several months has led me to conclude that he is an exceptional candidate to be the next Under Secretary for Management at DHS. I urge all of my colleagues to support the nomination of Russ Deyo.

“I’d now like to discuss the nomination of Sarah Saldaña to be Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or “ICE” is a vital law enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security and has been without a presidentially appointed leader for more than 16 months. That is far too long – particularly considering all the issues we face along our borders and the more than 400 laws ICE enforces.

“Some of my colleagues may not be familiar with what ICE does, and why it is so critical for the agency to have Senate-confirmed leadership in place. ICE is one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, with more than 19,000 employees in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 48 foreign countries. What do all these people do? Well, in 2013, ICE special agents initiated 126,425 new investigations, made over 40,000 criminal arrests, seized $1.3 billion in currency and assets, and took 1.6 million pounds of narcotics and other dangerous drugs off our streets. And on any given day, ICE arrests 370 criminal aliens in the interior of the country, has 34,000 people in detention, and removes nearly 500 criminal aliens from our country.

“Managing such a large agency, with one of the most complex missions in the federal government, is a tall order. Thankfully, Ms. Saldaña has agreed to step up to the challenge. Ms. Saldaña is a true American success story. She rose from humble beginnings in South Texas as the youngest of seven children to become an accomplished partner at a major law firm.  She is now one of the nation’s top law enforcement officers.  Ms. Saldaña was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2011 to her current position as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. She has a distinguished record, representing the U.S. government as the senior law enforcement officer in one of the largest districts in the nation, spanning some 100 counties. In this role, she deals as closely and extensively as anyone else with the threats this country faces every day from transnational criminal networks. This experience will serve her well at ICE.

“But don’t take my word for it. One of my good friends here in the Senate, Senator Cornyn, felt strongly enough about her qualifications that he introduced Ms. Saldaña at her confirmation hearing before the Committee I chair, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Here’s what Senator Cornyn had to say: ‘In her role as U.S. Attorney and prosecutor over the past decade, Ms. Saldaña has served our State with honor, fighting corrupt public officials, organized crime, sex traffickers, and other dangerous criminals.’

“That certainly sounds like a highly qualified candidate to me.  But that’s not all Senator Cornyn had to say about Ms. Saldaña.  He went on to say: ‘If respect for the rule of law is our standard, and I think it should be, we would be hard pressed to find a person more qualified to enforce the law than Ms. Saldaña.’

“That is high praise indeed—and I couldn’t agree more. Now, some are arguing that we should not confirm Ms. Saldaña because of the President’s recent executive action on immigration. This decision will provide relief from deportation for as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows today, law-abiding people who are productive members of our communities. Still, some argue that the President’s actions should preclude the Senate from confirming even a highly qualified candidate like Sarah Saldaña to this critical position.

“I think that is absurd. We have before the Senate a highly qualified candidate who, according to her neighbor and senior Senator from Texas, is fiercely independent, has served with honor in her current role, and respects the rule of law. It does not punish the President to leave this position unfilled; it punishes our citizens. It makes it harder for ICE to accomplish its mission. And it hurts the men and women at ICE, who deserve a leader to ensure this important agency runs as effectively as possible. I believe that the President acted within the bounds of the law in announcing his executive actions. Whether you agree with me or not, opposing Ms. Saldaña’s nomination will do nothing to change what the President has done. 

“So I hope that Ms. Saldaña—the first Hispanic person and second woman to be nominated to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement—does not fall victim to politics as usual in the Senate. She is by all accounts exactly what this critical agency needs: a proven leader and respected member of the law enforcement community. Ms. Saldaña will have a tough job ahead of her if she is confirmed this week, but I believe that she is up to the task. I urge all of my colleagues to support her, as I do.”