DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano Stepping Down: Now What?

As we noted in this space last week, Janet Napolitano announced that, September 2013, she will step down from her post as head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the national security mega-agency that was created in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. According to the Los Angeles Times, Napolitano will take the reins of the University of California system, as its new president. [See Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Chief, to Head UC, by Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times, 12.Jul.2013.]

Secretary Napolitano has been with the Obama administration from the beginning of its term, serving as DHS Secretary since 2009. She has presided over the nation’s immigration and border-security agencies – CBP, ICE, and USCIS – at a time when the debate over illegal immigration reached a fever pitch, prompting many states to enact their own immigration measures, including Ms. Napolitano’s home state of Arizona, where she had served as governor.

Ms. Napolitano also played a key role in the design and implementation of President Obama’s border security strategy, which, among other things, led to the apprehension and deportation of record numbers of undocumented immigrants. She led the Department’s efforts to refocus its limited enforcement resources, targeting the most dangerous criminal foreign nationals for apprehension and removal, rather than indiscriminately arresting undocumented workers.

Inside the DC Beltway, speculation has already begun about who will succeed Secretary Napolitano at DHS. The Washington Post provided a rundown of the likely candidates. [See Who Will Replace Janet Napolitano as Head of Homeland Security? by Josh Hicks, Washington Post, 15.Jul.2013.] According to the Washington Post analysis, the shortlist is likely to include administration insiders such as: W. Craig Fugate, current head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; TSA Administrator John Pistole; Rand Beers, a counterterrorism expert who is Napolitano’s acting deputy; Alejandro Mayorkas, USCIS Director and a current nominee for deputy secretary of DHS; and Richard Danzig, who served as Navy Secretary in the Clinton administration.

Outsider candidates, according to the Washington Post, may include: retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, former New York City Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly, and former Boston, New York, and Los Angeles Police Chief, Bill Bratton. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and former Senator Joe Lieberman round out the Post‘s roster of potential picks to head DHS.

We will continue to keep tabs on the nomination process as it evolves, and will keep our readers apprised of any noteworthy developments.

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