The Biden administration has fired 32 members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, according to a letter to members of the council obtained by POLITICO.
A letter sent Friday by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told members that he has ended the “terms of current HSAC members effective March 26, 2021.”
“I am considering how the HSAC can bring the greatest value to the Department and how the expertise, judgment, and counsel of its members can be harnessed most effectively to advance the Department’s mission,” he wrote. “I expect to work closely with the HSAC and to rely on its Members to help guide the Department through a period of change.” He thanked the members of the council for their service.
The board, which met several times a year, was set up to provide the DHS secretary with advice and expertise of those in the homeland security world to consult on decisions across the vast department. Subcommittees of the council have also issued reports on various subjects, like economic security. The council was also key to getting DHS supplemental funds whenever there was a border surge by urging Congress to allocate such funding, according to a former senior Trump DHS official familiar with the board.
The removal of the members, who were unpaid, suggests that the Biden administration is continuing to put its stamp on DHS, whose Immigration and Customs Enforcement component early on resisted a move to do a temporary halt on deportations. The firing also comes as the Biden administration struggles to address a migrant surge at the border.
Mayorkas also announced that William Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner, and Karen Tandy, former administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, will remain in their positions as chairman and vice chair, respectively. William Webster, a former FBI and CIA director, will continue as the chair emeritus.
Members of the DHS advisory committee removed on Friday include former 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. The 32 members of the council removed on Friday were appointed by a number of former DHS secretaries, both Democratic and Republican.
"I’m really disappointed," said Carafano, who was first named to the board under former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. "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."
He said that there were "a lot of super projects lined up," such as looking at the role of DHS in combating Chinese government influence in American universities. When asked about some of the past accomplishments of the board, he said that the board was influential in advocating for the much-criticized color-coded terror alert system to be changed.
Former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, who appointed a number of board members, also criticized the move, tweeting: "While I respect the right for a DHS Secretary to alter the HSAC to address their needs, dismissing the entire council outright and stopping a lot of important work (that was underway) is not the right approach."
In the letter on Friday, Mayorkas said he would reconstitute the council in the next few weeks as he transitions to a new model for the committee. A DHS spokesperson said a new council will be launched with a "diverse membership representative of America and the communities DHS serves" and that it will continue to be bipartisan.
The spokesperson said that Mayorkas "will conduct a comprehensive review to assess how the HSAC can be best leveraged to advise the Department and advance its broad mission."
The spokesperson also said that Mayorkas intends to closely work with the council after it’s rebuilt and will engage "regularly with esteemed leaders who are recognized experts in the Department’s varied missions and who reflect the diversity of the country the Department serves."
Early in Biden’s term, the administration fired multiple Trump-appointed members of numerous DOD advisory committees.
Read more: politico.com