I spent a little time over the weekend at a gathering of DHS Honors Fellows. That's a program I created while at the Department, and it's a thrill to see how much success it's having. This year, there were 1200 applicants, and 600 interviewees, for perhaps 25 positions. The candidates have advanced degrees and impressive backgrounds, and they get to work in several different parts of the Department while also getting extensive specialized training and field trips.
The first class of Fellows has already found jobs after the standard three rotations through different parts of DHS. The Fellows program is proving to be one of the keys to a unified DHS management team. New Fellows already work in many parts of the Department, and it will soon be hard for the Fellows to see themselves as anything other than DHS employees. We're slowly breaking down the isolation of the components.
The Fellows I met were superb -- smart, engaged, and enthusiastic. The program has grown over the last few years, and it's now a source of some of the Department's best young staff members. I only hope it can continue to grow safely over the next few years. It's got good support inside the Department, especially at headquarters, but as budgets get tighter and new hires become harder to justify, it may be necessary to reserve some of the component slots for Fellows. With luck, that will happen naturally as the Fellows prove their worth and agencies realize they can get their best workers from the program.