Trump to pick Nielsen for Homeland head
President Trump said Wednesday he’ll nominate Kirstjen Nielsen, a longtime Bush administration official and now top aide to White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, to be the new head of Homeland Security.
The move would be a big leap for Ms. Nielsen, the principal deputy chief of staff, who has never run an operation the size of the massive Homeland Security apparatus, which includes 230,000 employees and spans everything from the Secret Service and disaster response to three agencies that handle immigration.
It would also mark a major shift at the department from Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who was Mr. Trump’s first Homeland Security secretary.
As former head of U.S. Southern Command, Mr. Kelly had extensive experience with the players and the issues in the immigration debate and made major strides during his six months in changing the department’s focus from the more relaxed approach of the Obama administration.
Ms. Nielsen’s chief government experience, meanwhile, came with President George W. Bush. She served on Mr. Bush’s homeland security council, and in the Transportation Security Administration, which is part of the department she would take over.
The White House said she’s the first nominee in the 14-year history of the department to have worked at Homeland Security before.
“Ms. Nielsen has extensive professional experience in the areas of homeland security policy and strategy, cybersecurity, critical infrastructure, and emergency management,” the White House said in a statement.
Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said he would try to speed consideration of her nomination through.
“Ms. Nielsen’s long history of service with the department, her cybersecurity experience and her tenure serving with General John Kelly would serve her well as the next secretary of the Department of Homeland Security,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
While at the Bush White House, Ms. Nielsen was in charge of emergency preparedness, and came in for criticism in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
She was also a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security.