President Trump Nominates Kristjen Nielsen as the New Secretary of Homeland Security

Alexander J. Segal's picture

On October 11, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Kristjen Nielsen as the next Secretary of Homeland Security [PDF version]. If confirmed, Nielsen will replace the current White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, who left the post at the beginning of August. The position has been filled, since August, in an acting capacity by the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine C. Duke.

Kristjen Nielsen

Kristjen Nielsen is currently the White House principal deputy chief of staff, where she has served since Kelly became the Chief of Staff. She had previously served as Kelly's Chief of Staff at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the first half of 2017. Before serving in the Trump Administration, Nielsen served in several important positions during the administration of former President George W. Bush. During the Bush Administration, she served as senior legislative policy director for the Transportation and Security Administration and subsequently as Special Assistant to the President and senior director for prevention, preparedness, and response on the White House Homeland Security Council. The press release notes that, if confirmed, Nielsen will be the first Secretary of Homeland Security to have previous experience in the Department.

Nielsen represents an interesting pick to head the DHS. As indicated above, her background is primarily in national security and cyber security rather than immigration policy. However, it is important to remember that, while we focus almost exclusively on the immigration functions of DHS, the DHS has many functions that do not involve immigration. The selection of Kelly's top deputy at both DHS and in the White House would seem to confirm previous reports that suggested he was playing a leading role in the search for a new Secretary of Homeland Security [see blog]. Assuming Nielsen is confirmed, which is highly likely, her selection will mean that the new Secretary of Homeland Security will have a preexisting working relationship with both President Trump and the White House Chief of Staff.

We will update the site with more information as her nomination begins to work its way through the Senate. While the confirmation hearings may be contentious due to the myriad debates over immigration policy and politics, it seems all but assured that Kristjen Nielsen will eventually be confirmed barring dramatic and unforeseen circumstances. If confirmed, we hope that she proves to be an adroit manager of the vast bureaucracy encompassing both national security and immigration policy at the DHS.

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