Secretary Janet Napolitano’s Resignation & the Future of DHS
July 17, 2013
On July 12, Janet Napolitano announced her intention to resign as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in September. As the longest serving secretary since the Department’s creation in 2003, she leaves behind a four year legacy that reflects her strong commitment to counterterrorism, border control, emergency management, and other homeland security efforts. With the impending leadership change come numerous challenges and opportunities for the Department to address the ever-evolving threat landscape.
Q1: What have been Secretary Napolitano’s major accomplishments at DHS?
A1: Appointed by President Obama in January 2009, Secretary Napolitano has played a major role in several key areas. Following several black eyes in previous years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) improved under her leadership, increasing its effectiveness in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from natural and man-made disasters. In spring 2010, the United States faced the largest accidental marine oil spill in history; FEMA organized and mobilized the necessary resources and manpower for response. President Obama made 78 other major disaster declarations that year, followed by 99 in 2011. FEMA responded to all. The creation of a National Preparedness Goal in 2011, and provision of approximately $2.1 billion in grants to state and local entities in support of this goal, reflected Secretary Napolitano’s focus on disaster resiliency as a top priority in DHS. FEMA’s responses to more recent disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York and tornados in Oklahoma and Missouri, demonstrated the agency’s improved capability and capacity.
The secretary also prioritized counterterrorism and border patrol efforts, encouraging information-sharing and coordination among intelligence, law enforcement, and other personnel at all levels of government. DHS supported programs such as the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative and the expansion of fusion centers to integrate local law enforcement into the nation’s counterterrorism activities. Other security advancements addressed shortfalls in airport protection procedures, screening technology, personnel training, and international counterterrorism partnerships.
Finally, Secretary Napolitano made a concerted effort to address congressional and public concerns regarding efficiency and fiscal responsibility. The 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, which culminated in a report to Congress, sought to identify strategic goals for DHS and assess the Department’s structure and processes. Outside of structured review and reform processes, the secretary also attempted to eliminate unnecessary expenditures by revamping procurement strategies and pushing for a more risk-based, rather than zero tolerance, security culture.
Q2: What are the major challenges that will face Secretary Napolitano’s successor?
A2: Border security promises to remain a pressing issue. Violence in northern Mexico may continue to threaten the flow of goods and people across the southern U.S. border. Steps to simplify immigration and border security while retaining effectiveness—such as E-Verify at workplaces and emerging systems that may provide capabilities along the border—may require new equipment and technologies, updated training, and, in some cases, additional legislation. Recent efforts on immigration reform, including proposals to provide a path to citizenship for current unauthorized immigrants and increase security presence along the border, have spurred contentious political debates. The incoming DHS secretary must carefully consider the balance between national security and economic concerns, taking care to foster tourism and encourage trade even while securing our nation’s borders.
New technologies are rapidly spreading around the world, causing a similar rise in cybercrime. Although cybersecurity efforts have intensified dramatically in recent years, they often lag behind sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. Terrorist networks have also leveraged the anonymity afforded by the internet, increasing recruitment and radicalization efforts through information and communication technologies while also become more decentralized, fluid, and thus difficult to detect and interrupt. DHS must continue to confront terrorist threats to the homeland and must do so on the emerging electronic battlefield of the internet.
Third, recent controversies, including privacy and civil liberty concerns, allegations of racial profiling by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and lawsuits brought against DHS leadership, as well as budget cuts have caused many efforts to come under closer scrutiny. For example, a recent congressional hearing suggested that communication efforts are lacking, leading to relatively low public awareness of DHS programs and civil rights protections efforts. Negative media coverage, especially regarding TSA screening procedures, has been less than flattering. Further, economic uncertainty and budget constraints may reduce funds to DHS efforts in support of transportation security, the Coast Guard, and cybersecurity. It is imperative that DHS remains fiscally responsible and adapts such that it can continue to uphold its mandate even on a smaller budget.
Q3: Who is under consideration for the position, and what do they bring to the table?
A3: Within one day of the announcement, a number of candidates were suggested by various news sources to replace Secretary Napolitano, falling in to three broad categories: current DHS employees, politicians and lawmakers, and outsiders. Six possible candidates work at DHS in various capacities. David Heyman, the assistant secretary for policy, brings a broad homeland security perspective as he is currently responsible for developing policies across all of DHS’ mission areas. TSA Administrator John S. Pistole has extensive experience in counterterrorism and counterintelligence with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Craig Fugate, the FEMA administrator, has received praise for improving his agency in recent years. Other candidates may include Jane Holl Lute, Secretary Napolitano’s former deputy secretary who recently resigned, Rand Beers, the current acting deputy secretary who has been under secretary for the national protection and programs since 2009, and Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Other candidates include various politicians. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) has demonstrated bipartisanship as the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), which she had chaired in the past, and as a member of the Senate intelligence and armed services committees. Former senator Joe Liebermann (I-CT) is viable for similar reasons: four terms in the Senate characterized by bipartisanship, service as HSGAC chairman, and strong advocacy in creating and supporting DHS. On a more local level, Maryland governor Martin O’Malley has instituted homeland security measures at the Port of Baltimore (a city for which he served as mayor) and service on the National Governors Association Special Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety and on the U.S Homeland Security Advisory Council.
Putting DHS officials and politicians aside, the remaining category consists of so-called “outsiders” that come from a wide range of backgrounds, ranging from law enforcement to emergency management, from litigation to consulting. Raymond Kelly, current New York Police Department (NYPD) commissioner, is an oft-cited candidate to replace Secretary Napolitano despite controversy concerning the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims and stop-and-frisk procedures. William J. Bratton would bring even broader experience as former police commissioner in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, whose signature policing style and crime reduction in all three cities is reputed nationwide. Finally, Thad Allen, former Coast Guard commandant, is known for his advocacy of a “whole of government” approach that emphasizes coordination and information-sharing and brings a background with emergency management experience in Deepwater Horizon and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
President Obama has over a month to consider the options and select a nominee, followed by a possible time-consuming Senate confirmation process. A Republican candidate, or an individual known for bipartisanship, may have an easier path to confirmation, given current dynamics in the Senate. Candidates’ stances on immigration and border control will be a focal point, given ongoing debate over reform.
Meredith Boyle, Ana O’Harrow, Abigail Temoshchuk are research interns with the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.
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