WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's pick to be the Homeland Security secretary says that filling key leadership vacancies and improving morale at the sprawling bureaucracy is a higher priority than the department's core counterterrorism mission.

In prepared answers to questions leading up to his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, Jeh (JAY) Johnson deviates from his predecessors' stated priorities by listing counterterrorism third instead of first.

Some 40 percent of Homeland Security senior leadership positions are vacant. And it has long been ranked among the federal agencies with the lowest morale. Congress has raised concerns about both issues.

Johnson is a long-time Obama supporter and former general counsel of the Defense Department. He is expected to win Senate confirmation. He is testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee.

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