Thirty-two members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) were fired by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a letter sent Friday, Politico reported.
The letter said that “terms of current HSAC members” were ending “effective March 26, 2021,” with only the council’s chairman, vice-chair, and chair emeritus keeping their positions.
According to Politico, Mayorkas thanked members for their service and said the council would be “reconstituted” in the upcoming weeks according to a diversity model that would remain bipartisan.
The council consisted of unpaid members who advised the DHS secretary on matters crucial to the department, Politico reported. It met several times a year and dealt with subjects like immigration, terrorism, crime, and national disasters.
“I’m really disappointed”
Among the members removed, according to reports, are NSA director Keith Alexander, former acting DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, former Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Tom Homan, former D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier, former star FBI agent Ali Soufan, Heritage Foundation foreign policy expert James Carafano, and former DHS official Stewart Baker.
A number of the members removed were former DHS secretaries, and members appointed by both Democrats and Republicans were removed.
Members said it was an unusual move to remove so many at once, and the usual method was to allow members to finish out their one-to-three-year terms before replacing them, according to The Washington Post.
“I’m really disappointed,” Carafano said, according to Politico. “I thought this was the most talented board they ever had in terms of the broad expertise they brought to the department. I think it’s a loss to the department.”
Republican criticizes purge
According to The Washington Post, ranking Republican of the House Homeland Security Committee Rep. John Katko (R-NY) said Mayorkas’ “action sends the message that this Administration has no intention of upholding a bipartisan, unifying approach to securing our homeland.”
“The HSAC is not intended to be an echo chamber for what the current DHS Secretary wants to hear,” he said, according to the Post. “It’s an absolute shame that Secretary Mayorkas has removed these well-respected homeland security leaders who have dedicated their careers to strengthening our homeland security posture.”
Chairman of the council, William Bratton, said it was customary to replace members with a new administration, however, and that some of the current members might be asked to return after a review is completed.
Bratton named domestic and international terrorism, cybersecurity and immigration as the top issues the board would confront once it is rebuilt. “It’s a very collegial group,” he said, as the Post reported. “People feel comfortable speaking their minds.”