Washington (CNN) - The Department of Homeland Security has more contractors working for it than full-time employees, a situation two members of Congress said Tuesday was "unacceptable, untenable and unsustainable."
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and ranking Republican Susan Collins said they were "astounded" to learn there are more than 200,000 contractor employees at the department.
The civilian work force of Homeland Security numbers 188,000, according to an estimate provided to the senators by Homeland Security.
In a letter sent Tuesday to the agency's Secretary Janet Napolitano, Lieberman and Collins said the figure "raises the question of whether DHS itself is in charge of its programs and policies, or whether it inappropriately has ceded core decisions to contractors."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's federal security clearance was wrongly suspended by a Department of Homeland Security employee in the days following the governor's admission of an extramarital affair, department officials confirmed Friday.
Sanford's security privileges were suspended on Wednesday, July 1, according to DHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Sean Smith. Smith would not identify the employee who suspended Sanford's security clearance, or say why the action was taken.
But the suspension came just one week after the governor emerged from a mysterious absence and revealed his relationship with an Argentine woman.
The employee sent a letter to Sanford notifying him of the suspension, but Sanford likely did not receive the letter until Monday, July 6, the end of the long holiday weekend, Smith said. On that same day, Sanford met in Charleston with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at a pre-scheduled meeting focused on port security.
The following day - July 7 - senior DHS officials learned that Sanford's status had been suspended and immediately moved to restore it, the DHS said.
DHS spokeswoman Sara Kuban said the employee who suspended Sanford's security clearance "acted on their own volition."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The man tapped to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency says the agency will remain under the Department of Homeland Security. But it was not immediately clear if nominee Craig Fugate was representing only his personal opinion or administration policy.
"That debate, as far as I'm concerned, is over," Fugate said in response to a question at his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday. He said FEMA will stay inside the department.
Some critics say FEMA's poor performance during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was exacerbated by its inclusion inside DHS. Those critics want FEMA to be a stand-alone agency reportable directly to the president.
But others say FEMA's mission - to provide assistance in both man-made and natural disasters - mirrors the mission of DHS, and say it belongs in the department.
In recent months, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has declined to give her own opinions, saying she had not yet discussed the matter with President Barack Obama. She said it is more important to plan on a response to the next disaster than to plan where FEMA fit on organizational charts.
Asked for clarification Wednesday, DHS spokeswoman Sara Kuban issued a similar statement: "Secretary Napolitano applauds Mr. Fugate's focus on FEMA's disaster-response mission, rather than on the very Washington question of where the agency's box is on the organizational chart."
(CNN) – Right-wing extremist groups may be using the recession and the election of the nation's first African-American president to recruit members, a Department of Homeland Security report contends.
The Department of Homeland Security says membership in extremists groups like this may be increasing.
Though the nine-page report said it has "no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence," it said real-estate foreclosures, unemployment and tight credit "could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past."
The report, prepared in coordination with the FBI and published April 7, was distributed to federal, state and local law enforcement officials under the title "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment."
It compares the current climate the 1990s, "when right-wing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers."
It cites proposed restrictions on weapons as likely to increase membership in extremist groups and expresses concern the groups might try to recruit veterans.