Homeland Security Advisory Council

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The Homeland Security Advisory Council provides advice and counsel to the Department of Homeland Security Secretary. The Council's membership comprises leaders from state and local government, first responder communities, the private sector, and academia. The Council is currently chaired by Judge William Webster, former CIA Director (1987-1991), FBI Director, and 8th Circuit judge.

"President Bush created the Homeland Security Advisory Council by Executive Order on March 19, 2002. The purpose of the Council is to provide the President with advice on homeland security matters from experts representing state and local government, the private sector, public policy experts and the non-profit sector."[1]

Early Criticism

Corporate Influence

On June 25, 2003, then- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced the appointment of 18 members to the newly established Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) five days before their first meeting. Based on the make-up and the secrecy of the council, and the absence of homeland security experts, some argued that the council's membership did not have an appropriate balance that would ensure that the nation's security interests would prevail over the financial interests of its corporate membership.

The Project On Government Oversight wrote a letter to DHS complaining that the "Homeland Security Advisory Council is packed with companies like Eli Lilly, Lockheed Martin, and Dow Chemical whose financial interests vie with the security interests of the American public....This council does not currently bring the balance necessary to ensure that security interests prevail over corporate interests."[2]

The letter continued: "Members from these industries, whose facilities are vulnerable to terrorist attack, have been placed on this council and therefore have power over decisions that will directly effect their bottom lines, despite their lack of homeland security expertise. . . without proper oversight, the financial interests of the private sector will vie with the security interests of the American public."[2]

Lack of Transparency

Making matters worse, the Council is exempt from provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which guarantees adequate transparency and public participation in federal advisory committees. This exemption shielded the Council from public scrutiny.

Eli Lilly's spot on the Council raised particular concern about transparency. Prior to its appointment to the Council, Eli Lilly was at the center of a debate that erupted when language in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 would have indemnified pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly from lawsuits relating to vaccines. One year later, that same company sat on the advisory council for DHS.[3]

Members of Congress unsuccessfully fought this lack of transparency.

"Corporate leaders and campaign contributors have been awarded coveted seats on the advisory committees that make policy recommendations to Secretary Ridge and to others in the Department. ... By requiring that the Department of Homeland Security comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, my amendment will ensure that Congress and the American people know how these advisory committees are being used." -- Senator Robert Byrd.

However, by a mostly party line vote(*) of 50-46 on July 24 2003, the Senate decided to keep the homeland security advisory process beyond the scrutiny of the general public and rejected the Byrd proposal. [4]

  • (Republicans Olympia Snowe (ME) and Lincoln Chafee (RI) voted with the Democrats in favor of open meetings.)

Other Controversies

The concerns about lack of transparency and political/corporate appointees to the Council were shown to be justified in 2008. Stephen Payne, an energy lobbyist with close links to the George W. Bush White House, was appointed to the HSAC Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee in 2007.[5] In July 2008, Payne was caught offering access to top White House figures in exchange for a $250,000 donation towards President George W Bush’s private library. Payne also asked the potential donor, a former dignitary from central Asia, for a $450,000 payment to Payne's lobbying firm.[6] The Times of London also reported that Payne talked about a cash deal to get foreign nationals a UN "passport," which allows its holder to pass through security and customs with little scrutiny. [7] Payne also apparently used his position to "transform" a Uzbekh man into a "US ally," removing the man's name from terrorist watch list, waiving the Interpol warrant for his arrest, and getting him a U.S. visa. [8]

Projects and Recommendations

A list of the Council's recommendations to DHS, as well as its meeting minutes, can be found on the HSAC website. The current HSAC has issued recommendations on the following topics: (click links to access PDF files of the recommendations)

Senior Advisory Committees and Task Forces

a The Council maintains five Senior Advisory Committees (click links to access the committee's membership list at the DHS website)

The Council has also operated a Southwest Border Task Force, Sustainability and Efficiency Task Force, and Homeland Security Advisory System Task Force.


Homeland Security Advisory Council Members as of September 2010 (bios available here):

  • William "Bill" Webster (Chair), Retired Partner, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLP
  • Norman "Norm" Augustine, Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Lockheed Martin Corp.
  • Leroy "Lee" Baca, Sheriff, Los Angeles County
  • Richard "Dick" Cañas, Former Director, New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness
  • Kenneth "Chuck" Canterbury, President, Fraternal Order of Police
  • Jared "Jerry" Cohon, President, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Ruth David, President and Chief Executive Officer, ANSER (Analytic Services, Inc.)
  • Manny Diaz, Former Mayor, City of Miami, Florida
  • Clark Kent Ervin, Director, Homeland Security Program, The Aspen Institute
  • Ellen Gordon, Associate Director, Naval Postgraduate School, CHDS
  • Lee H. Hamilton, President and Director, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Raymond Kelly, Police Commissioner, City of New York
  • John Magaw, Self-employed, Domestic and International Security Consultant
  • Jeff Moss, Founder and Director, Black Hat and DEFCON, (and Computer Hacker whose appointment raised some eyebrows.)
  • Martin O'Malley, Governor, State of Maryland
  • Sonny Perdue, Governor, State of Georgia
  • Harold Schaitberger, General President, International Association of Firefighters
  • Joe Shirley Jr., President, The Navajo Nation
  • Lydia W. Thomas, Trustee, Noblis, Inc.
  • Frances Fragos Townsend, Former United States Homeland Security Advisor
  • Chuck Wexler, Executive Director, Police Executive Research Forum
  • John "Skip" Williams, Provost and Vice President for Health, The George Washington University
  • Ex Officio Member Edward Mueller, President and CEO, Qwest
  • Ex Officio Member Erle Nye, Chairman Emeritus, TXU Corp.

Original Appointments: "President George Walker Bush to Appoint the Following Individuals to Serve as Members of the President's Homeland Security Advisory Council:[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 White House Press Release, June 11, 2002
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Private Interests Influence Homeland Security Agenda: POGO Criticizes Conflicts of Interest & Secrecy of Advisory Council", July 9, 2003, Project On Government Oversight, accessed September 7, 2010.
  3. Lawmakers questioning Eli Lilly role: Watchdogs fear Homeland Security Advisory Council exemption from FACA, July 22, 2003, Peter Brand reporting for the Hill, available on the Project On Government Authority website accessed September 7, 2010.
  4. Congressional Record: July 24, 2003 (Senate), Page S9857-S9887, accessed September 8, 2010.
  5. "Homeland Security Secretary Appoints Three New Members To Homeland Security Advisory Council", August 28, 2007 DHS Press Release, accessed September 8, 2010.
  6. Daniel Foggo and Steven Swinford, "Stephen Payne: a hotshot lobbyist who can get you into White House," Times (UK), July 13, 2008.
  7. "Beleaguered lobbyist linked to Kazakh UN ‘passport’ scheme", Times (UK), July 27, 2008.
  8. Andrew Tilghman, Payne Forced to Quit Homeland Security Advisory Panel, Talking Points Memo, July 16, 2008.

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