- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The top deputy to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced yesterday that he will resign next month, an unexpected departure that has stoked congressional concerns about the turnover of senior officials at the department.

Michael P. Jackson, who is responsible for the daily operations of Homeland Security and its 208,000 employees, will step down Oct. 26 after 2½ years in the post, Mr. Chertoff said yesterday.

“I want to thank Deputy Secretary Jackson for his loyal service,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent and chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “I am, of course, concerned about a change in the top leadership of the department at this point in the Bush administration. I hope the president will quickly choose a successor.”

Mr. Lieberman’s House counterpart was more outspoken.

“The department’s leadership has more holes than Swiss cheese,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, citing a May 1 study by Democratic staffers that found more than one in four senior positions there vacant.

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke called Mr. Thompson’s comments “unfortunate and highly political.”

“It is disappointing that Representative Thompson missed the opportunity to thank Deputy Secretary Jackson for his tireless service, rather than using the news as an opportunity to recycle his talking points.”

Mr. Knocke said Mr. Chertoff learned of Mr. Jackson’s plan to step down in a conversation with his deputy Friday. Earlier this month, he told Mr. Thompson in a congressional hearing that the current senior leadership of the department planned to stay on “subject to the limitations of presidential pleasure and God’s willingness.”

Mr. Jackson, whose replacement will require Senate confirmation, is the point man on an initiative to smooth the transition to the next administration in Homeland Security, which has more political appointees than much larger departments such as Veterans Affairs or Defense.

“No one has done more to ready the department for transition” than Mr. Jackson, Mr. Knocke said. He said that there were “succession plans for a cadre of career and noncareer professionals who will stay through the transition” and that more than 70 new senior posts were being created throughout Homeland Security and its component agencies to be filled by career officials to ensure the department continued to operate effectively after January 2009.

In an e-mail to department staff, Mr. Jackson, who earns $168,000 a year, wrote that his departure was for financial reasons.

“The simple truth,” he wrote, “is that after over five years of serving with the president’s team, I am compelled to depart for financial reasons that I can no longer ignore.”

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