Deputy chief of staff named to head agency
WASHINGTON — President Trump introduced his pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security Thursday, formally nominating White House staffer and cybersecurity expert Kristjen Nielsen.
“I share president’s profound commitment to security of our country,” she said at a brief White House ceremony. “Truly there is nothing more valuable than to feel secure in your homeland.”
Nielsen was the favorite of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and her nomination is another sign of the former Marine Corps general’s effort to impose a more conventional, professional management regime on an administration with a reputation for disorder.
Nielsen was Kelly’s chief of staff when he was DHS Secretary, and Kelly later brought her into the same role at the White House, where some staffers came to see her as the former general’s dreaded enforcer. Her supporters say she has been trying to help professionalize the White House.
In introducing Nielsen, Trump praised her “sterling reputation” as a longtime public servant.
“There will be no onthe-job training,” he said. “She will be ready from Day One.”
If confirmed, Nielsen would replace Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke, who was widely criticized for characterizing the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico as “a good news story.”
Duke assumed that role when Trump brought Kelly into the White House in July. Though she otherwise has earned high marks for her performance, Duke does not have a background in counterterrorism or law enforcement, usual prerequisites for leading the sprawling agency with a $40 billion budget and 240,000 employees. Trump said Duke would remain at DHS as Nielsen’s deputy.
Nielsen, 45, is the first nominee to have previous experience at DHS. As a young attorney, she drafted legislation and policy at the Transportation Security Administration, then served as a special adviser for emergency preparedness and disaster management under President George W. Bush.
Kirstjen Nielsen was the choice of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. She is a longtime public servant.