Top homeland security adviser to Bush to step down
President Bush’s top homeland security adviser will leave the post after the new year, the White House announced Nov. 19.
Frances F. Townsend, 45, headed the Homeland Security Council for four years. The council’s role is to develop policy and help coordinate the federal government’s efforts to prevent terrorism and respond to natural disasters.
“Fran has always provided wise counsel on how to best protect the American people from the threat of terrorism,” Mr. Bush said. “We are safer today because of her leadership.”
Department of Homeland Secur ity Secretar y Michael Chertoff said Mrs. Townsend was “a major architect of our national homeland security strategies.”
“Fran has also contributed mightily to the maturation of the department,” Mr. Chertoff said. “Always wise, dedicated and energetic, Fran deserves all our gratitude for her service and substantial contribution to securing the homeland.”
The White House did not immediately name a successor to Mrs. Townsend, who is married and the mother of two young children.
Mrs. Townsend’s deputy, Joel Bagnal, was cited by some observers as a likely choice to succeed her.
Mrs. Townsend “struggled with this decision” over several months, White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
“She will pursue some private- sector opportunities. She does intend to remain very active in the public debate about counterterrorism,” Mrs. Perino said.
Mrs. Townsend was known as a no-nonsense manager who spoke bluntly and advocated strongly for the president, gaining his respect and trust.
She came to the White House from the U.S. Coast Guard, where she served as an assistant commandant for intelligence.
More notably, Mrs. Townsend was a close adviser to President Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno. In 1991, Mrs. Townsend left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York, where she was a prosecutor, and worked her way up in the Clinton Justice Department.
In 1998, she was promoted to manage the office of intelligence policy and review, advising Miss Reno on legal matters pertaining to national security.
Homeland security specialists gave Mrs. Townsend high marks for her policy work, but said her Homeland Security Council has had less success in implementation.
“There’s a number of policies put in place that never existed before but are critically important to the security of this nation,” said David Heyman, director of the homeland security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “She gets credit for that.”
However, Mr. Heyman said, “I would say probably half the policies are still waiting to be implemented.”
Mr. Heyman cited Mr. Bush’s request last spring for a homeland security strategy to prevent roadside bombs in the U.S. similar to those used by insurgents in Iraq.
“That had a 60- to 90-day implementation plan requirement. We’re still waiting to hear about it. That’s just the most recent example,” Mr. Heyman said.
The biggest concern, he said, is what will happen with homeland security when the Bush administration leaves and a new president takes office, especially since al Qaeda has attacked other Western countries just before or after elections.
“Here we have the largest reorganization of government in the last half-century in America, and these people who have been there building and shaping our Homeland Security Department are leaving, and seasoned veterans like Fran Townsend need to help transition this new architecture for security from one administration to the next,” Mr. Heyman said.
Frances F. Townsend headed the Homeland Security Council for four years before the White House announced her resignation Nov. 19, effective after the new year.