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Mayorkas relaunches Homeland Security Advisory Council, a year after removing Trump-era officials

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday announced the relaunching of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC), almost a year after controversially ousting a number of Trump-era officials when he fired nearly every member of the independent panel.

Mayorkas announced that he had appointed 33 members ahead of the council’s first meeting next week. Among the appointees is Jamie Gorelick, former deputy attorney general and a member of the 9/11 commission, as deputy chair.


Also appointed include former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya.

“These distinguished leaders have agreed to serve our country as members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council at a critically important time not only for the nation, but also for the world,” Mayorkas said in a statement. 

HSAC was set up for members, who are unpaid, to use their experience and expertise of Homeland Security issues like counterterrorism and immigration enforcement to offer guidance to the secretary. DHS noted that the council include those from both Republican and Democratic administrations.

“Together, we will ensure that the Department is best positioned to meet the challenges we confront today, foresee and be ready for the challenges of tomorrow, capitalize on the power of technological innovation, and serve our country by living up to our highest ideals,” he said. “Our Department is privileged to benefit from the experience, vision, and creativity of these incredibly accomplished individuals.”

It comes nearly a year after Mayorkas fired more than 30 of the members as he pledged to “reconstitute” the council once a “new model” was developed. Only three — former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, Vice Chair Karen Tandy and Chair Emeritus William Webster — remained in their positions.


Trump officials criticized the move. Ken Cuccinelli, who served on the council after having served as acting deputy DHS secretary and acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, called the move to fire him and others “a mass firing, a good old-fashioned purge.”

“It was an en masse rewrite and now they’re going to put all their toadies on there and it’s just going to be a rubber stamp, and they’re going to do studies and they’re going to come to conclusions that this administration wants them to come to,” he told Fox News in March 2021. “You heard it here first.”

“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,” former DHS Secretary Chad Wolf tweeted at the time.

On Thursday, Rep. John Katko, Republican ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement that HSAC is “a critical body of expert, bipartisan thought-leaders, with the significant responsibility of providing strategic and actionable counsel to the Secretary and DHS senior leadership on a range of homeland security issues.”

Katko had criticized Mayorkas for having chosen to dismantle HSAC last year: “However, I am pleased the Department took a thoughtful approach to reconstituting the HSAC,” he said. 

“I believe that the HSAC appointees will uphold their duty to provide a knowledgeable, diverse set of perspectives to combat the evolving threats of today and tomorrow.”

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