While Donald Trump has called for a hiring freeze across the federal government, the Department of Homeland Security likely will be immune, with the president-elect promising during the campaign to add 5,000 border agents — a 25 percent increase — and triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. Trump's stance on immigration — which includes his plans for Customs and Border Protection and ICE, as well as building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico — was one of the major policy differences that separated his from the Clinton campaign.
The president-elect also spoke during the campaign about ramping up the vetting process for legal immigrants.
"This would be an additional burden on groups like USCIS [Customs and Immigration Services] at DHS who have responsibility for processing a lot of these folks that end up on the border," said Chris Cummiskey, former acting under secretary for management at DHS, noting the current swell of refugees from countries like Haiti, who often come to the U.S. border seeking asylum.
"I imagine we’ll have an augmentation of the physical structure on the southwest border and a major plus-up in staffing at ICE — he’s talking about doubling the capabilities of the removal operations," Cummiskey added.
The unions covering Customs and Border Protection and ICE employees both endorsed Trump during the campaign.
"In his immigration policy, he has outlined core policies needed to restore immigration security," a statement from the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council said, specifically citing Trump’s plans to add more personnel and roll back President Obama’s executive orders on amnesty and non-enforcement.
All this will require more funding and personnel for the department.
DHS might also see additional funding for its cybersecurity mission, as Trump has vowed to create cyber review teams to assess the federal government’s posture. In the absence of a new agency or independent commission being formed, that role would likely fall to DHS.
Along with a more aggressive posture in cyberspace, Trump will likely move to grant more powers to the intelligence community, as well.
Trump has said he would reauthorize portions of the Patriot Act that allowed for bulk collection of cellphone metadata and otherwise increase digital surveillance.
"He sees monitoring domestic threats as a key part of his counterterrorism strategy, including surveillance of mosques and hot spots where he thinks radical Islamic terrorists may be coordinating potential acts of terror," Chuck Brooks, former director of legislative affairs for DHS’ Science and Technology directorate, noted in a column on Federal Times. "In regards to the high-profile issue of privacy versus security, he has stated that he tends ‘to err on the side of security.’ "
As for leadership, Rich Cooper, former DHS business liaison director for the Private Sector Office, floated a number of names on his blog, Security Debrief, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
Aaron Boyd is an awarding-winning journalist currently serving as editor of Federal Times — a Washington, D.C. institution covering federal workforce and contracting for more than 50 years — and Fifth Domain — a news and information hub focused on cybersecurity and cyberwar from a civilian, military and international perspective.