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Project Aims to Get Women in Security Posts

Encouraging the Bush administration to appoint women to security related positions is a top goal of a new project by the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Due to the findings and recommendations of the 9/11 commission, the NWPC’s 2005 Women’s Appointment Project is making a “conscious and deliberate effort” to have women placed in security positions, said Llenda Jackson-Leslie, president of the NWPC. “Security is of critical importance to the nation right now,” she said.

The NWPC is a national, bipartisan, grassroots membership organization dedicated to identifying, recruiting, training and supporting female candidates for elected and appointed office at all levels of government.

According to the 9/11 commission, there were vacant security positions when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, took place. The WAP studied the recommendations from the commission and saw a need to get qualified people in place early in a new administration, she said.

The WAP will recommend women to fill those vacant positions, she said. “We make sure women’s names are high on the list,” she said.

The program has received 30 résumé submissions from women who are interested in positions in security and defense, she said. A panel of seven to 10 women will review the résumés and present the best-qualified candidates to the White House, she said.

Jackson-Leslie said the WAP will focus not only on security positions, but also on some of the 400 federal positions that require Senate approval, as it has in the past, she said.

The WAP aims to “identify qualified women for high-level Cabinet posts,” and to “recommend and promote them as prospective appointees,” Jackson-Leslie said. To find candidates, the program “solicits résumés from women across the country and asks other organizations to solicit their members to submit their resumes,” she said.

Since Bush will serve a second term and already has some appointments in place, there are not as many positions available, she said. “The clock is running” for women who would like to be considered for positions this year, she said.

“We have asked to hear from interested women as soon as possible,” she said. “We have every indication that the Bush administration is interested in filling the positions.”

Twenty-six percent of the appointments in the current Bush administration are women, she said. This administration is the first since Ronald Reagan’s to show a decrease from the previous term, she said.

Jackson-Leslie said she hopes the Bush administration will consider the women candidates “with an open mind.”

“Women need to be represented equally at every level of government,” she said. “We have proven ourselves with a woman attorney general, secretary of State and [national] security adviser to the president.”

She noted Maureen Baginski, the executive assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, as a woman who has a high-profile security position.

“We have proven that women can take non-traditional jobs and excel at them,” she said. “We just want to increase the number.”

Jackson-Leslie said the NWPC is “always looking to increase the number of women in the government.”

“We really can’t be a fully democratic nation if all our people aren’t represented in the government.

“Women bring a unique skill set and a different perspective to the table,” she added. “There are critical needs and issues that will only be addressed if women are a part of the government process.”

She gave the example of female Senators working to alleviate the suffering of Afghan women by making sure that women were part of the Afghani peace process with the Family Medical Leave Act.

The WAP began in 1976 when the Carter administration had difficulty finding women to fill its posts, she said. A group of organizations found a large number of qualified women to fill the posts, she said. “We have been doing that every four years since,” she said.

Since 2005 is not a big election year, she said, the NWPC will also “focus on training and recruitment” of women to run for office in 2006 and 2008. “We are looking for more women to run for office,” she said.

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