By Allan Lengel
Tom Brandon, will no longer be the acting director of ATF as of Wednesday. He’ll be deputy director.
But Brandon wants the troops to know: “My title is changing, my duties are not.”
By law, Brandon can’t hold that interim title of acting director for longer than 210 days. It runs out on midnight Oct. 27. That means on Wednesday, Brandon will still run the agency, but ATF will not officially have a director. He’ll be the deputy director.
Politico explained recently that the Obama administration, which is coming an end, has no plans to name Brandon or anyone else as a permanent director for the agency. It doesn’t want to expend political capital on what would be a tough battle. Getting a confirmation on the Hill for any director for ATF is always very challenging, with the NRA often leading the opposition.
Going without a director for extended periods of time can lessen the stature of an agency in the eyes of Congress, and it can also be demoralizing to workers, who may feel that the White House doesn’t consider them a high priority.
Of course, that all comes at a time President Barack Obama is pushing to crack down on guns. ATF’s area of expertise is guns and enforcing the nation’s gun laws. He’s expected to deliver a speech and touch on guns Tuesday afternoon at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago, where Brandon has been for the past several days.
On Monday, Brandon fired off an email to ATF workers, entitled: “My title is changing; my authorities aren’t.”
Here what Brandon wrote:
Since April 1 of this year, I’ve had the honor of serving as your “acting director.” During this time, no one was nominated to be the ATF Director. Consequently, under a law called the Vacancies Act, I revert back to being your Deputy Director on Wednesday, 10/28/15. Moreover, fromWednesday forward, there can be no ATF Director or Acting ATF Director until a new president enters office (1/20/17). Therefore, until that time, the deputy director position is the top (head) position within our Bureau.
So what does that mean for you and me? Well for now, I remain the head of ATF, and I promise to do my best to represent you well. You men and women, coupled with our vital public safety mission, are why I haven’t retired. I have had a lifetime of good time on this job. Sure there are moments when I have my professional challenges, just like all of you, and I want to punch out. But after I collect myself and take time to reflect, I realize that I am one of the luckiest guys in the world. I have a job I love. I work with people I love. And I have been able to “produce and provide” for my family . . . who I love beyond words. So, regardless of official title, Brigadier General Ron Turk (who will remain my partner and the # 2 person in charge of ATF) and I, along with the executive team, will continue to make sure we lead our Bureau down the right path with sufficient resources.
You fine men and women should continue to do what you do: focus on your specific mission, step on the gas, and go home safe to your loved ones at the end of the day. And after you do that, take time to count your blessings. And I hope working at ATF is one of them.