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DHS relaunches independent council after ousting Trump-era officials last year

The new council will be made up of 33 new members, including former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Kids in Need of Defense President Wendy Young.

Other members include: CEO of Girls Who Code Tarika Barrett, Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, immediate past president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives Lynda R. Williams and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

“We have policy leaders in different areas, cabinet members from both parties. This is a nonpartisan collection of experts, from whom I will obtain advice, with whom I will share ideas,” Mayorkas told CNN.

Mayorkas said he hopes to hear ideas from the new members about potential initiatives when they have their first meeting on March 21.

The council typically provides independent advice to the Homeland Security secretary, as well as conducts research and provides policy analysis on various security issues. For instance, the 2019 council issued an emergency report on caring for children and families at the US-Mexico border.

DHS is the third-largest department in the federal government with more than 250,000 employees.

In an unusual move, Mayorkas dismissed nearly the entire council that was in place when he arrived. Members at the time included former Trump-era officials such as Ken Cuccinelli and Tom Homan, as well as others like NFL Chief Security Officer Cathy Lanier and the Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano.

None of those officials are on the reconstituted council, but both former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and former administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration Karen Tandy remain on the council’s leadership team.

Bratton and Tandy were the only two members of the previous council to be asked to stay on.

Jamie Gorelick, who previously served as deputy attorney general and was a member of the 9/11 Commission, will join as co-chair of the council.

“I want to hear different perspectives from different backgrounds, different expertise, different experience,” Mayorkas said, noting members with expertise in technology, reaching underserved communities, law enforcement, countering evolving threats and immigration.

Asked if he was potentially missing an important critical viewpoint by not including Trump administration officials, Mayorkas said, “This is a bipartisan composition of individuals.”

“This is a bipartisan composition and a nonpartisan effort,” he added.

Last year, when the council was dissolved, Republican Rep. John Katko of New York, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said it sent a message that this administration has “no intention of upholding a bipartisan, unifying approach to securing our homeland.”

“The HSAC (Homeland Security Advisory Council) is not intended to be an echo chamber for what the current DHS Secretary wants to hear,” he added in a statement.

Mayorkas defended the new council, saying the composition of this council “disproves that quite crisply.”

On Thursday, CNN reported that the Biden administration is preparing for the potential of mass migration to the US-Mexico border when a Trump-era pandemic emergency rule ends, including by forming a “Southwest Border Coordination Center” at DHS headquarters to coordinate across multiple agencies.

In response, Mayorkas said there are a “number of individuals” on the new council “who will bring unique perspectives to this work.”

“We’re looking forward to working with them on it. It’s an important part of our mission,” he added.

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