The United States Secretary of Homeland Security is the head of the United States Department of Homeland Security, the body concerned with protecting the U.S. and the safety of U.S. citizens. The secretary is a member of the President's Cabinet. The position was created by the Homeland Security Act following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The new department consisted primarily of components transferred from other cabinet departments because of their role in homeland security, such as the Coast Guard, the Federal Protective Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (which includes the Border Patrol), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (which includes Homeland Security Investigations), the Secret Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It did not, however, include the FBI or the CIA.
On January 20, 2009, the Senate confirmed Barack Obama's appointment of Janet Napolitano to be the third Secretary of Homeland Security, effective January 21, 2009. Napolitano resigned effective August 2013 to head the University of California. On October 17, President Obama announced his intention to nominate former General Counsel of the Department of Defense Jeh Johnson, and on December 16, the US Senate confirmed the nomination.
It was announced on October 12, 2017, that Kirstjen Nielsen was nominated as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security by President Donald Trump. She requires a Senate approval before being officially confirmed.
Traditionally, the order of the presidential line of succession is determined (after the Vice President, Speaker of the House, and President pro tempore of the Senate) by the order of the creation of the cabinet positions, and the list as mandated under 3 U.S.C. § 19 follows this tradition.
On March 9, 2006, 43rd President George W. Bush signed H.R. 3199 as Pub.L. 109–177, which renewed the still controversial Patriot Act of 2001 and amended the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 to include the newly created Presidential Cabinet position of Secretary of Homeland Security in the line of succession after the previously authorized Secretary of Veterans Affairs (§ 503) (which are listed and designated in the order that their departments were created). In the 109th Congress, legislation was introduced to place the Secretary of Homeland Security into the line of succession after the Attorney General but that bill expired at the end of the 109th Congress and was not re-introduced.
Prior to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, there existed an Assistant to the President for the Office of Homeland Security, which was created following the September 11 attacks in 2001.
acting Homeland Security Secretary Denotes
|No.||Portrait||Name||State of residence||Took office||Left office||President(s)|
|1||Tom Ridge||Pennsylvania||January 24, 2003||February 1, 2005||George W. Bush|
|–||James Loy||Pennsylvania||February 1, 2005||February 15, 2005|
|2||Michael Chertoff||New Jersey||February 15, 2005||January 21, 2009|
|3||Janet Napolitano||Arizona||January 21, 2009||September 6, 2013||Barack Obama|
|–||Rand Beers||District of Columbia||September 6, 2013||December 16, 2013|
|4||Jeh Johnson||New Jersey||December 23, 2013||January 20, 2017|
|5||John F. Kelly||Virginia||January 20, 2017||July 31, 2017||Donald Trump|
|–||Elaine Duke||Virginia||July 31, 2017||Acting|
2 Rand Beers served as acting secretary in his capacity as confirmed Undersecretary of Homeland Security for National Protection and Programs and Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security; Beers was the highest ranking Senate-approved presidential appointee at the Department of Homeland Security from September 6, 2013, to December 23, 2013.
As of October 2017, there are 7 living former Secretaries of Homeland Security, the oldest being James Loy (served February 1, 2005 – February 15, 2005, born 1942).
|Name||Term||Date of birth (and age)|
|James Loy||February 1, 2005 – February 15, 2005||August 10, 1942|
|Rand Beers||September 6, 2013-December 16, 2013||November 30, 1942|
|Tom Ridge||2003–2005||August 26, 1945|
|Michael Chertoff||2005–2009||November 28, 1953|
|Janet Napolitano||2009–2013||November 29, 1957|
|Jeh Johnson||2013-2017||September 11, 1957|
|John F. Kelly||January 20, 2017 – July 31, 2017||May 11, 1950|
The order of succession for the Secretary of Homeland Security is as follows:
By July 2013, Raymond Kelly had served as Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for nearly 12 straight years. Within days of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's announcement that she was resigning, Kelly was soon cited as an obvious potential successor by New York Senator Charles Schumer and others.
During a July 16, 2013, interview, President Obama referred generally to the "bunch of strong candidates" for nomination to head the Department of Homeland Security, but singled out Kelly as "one of the best there is" and "very well qualified for the job".
Later in July 2013, the online internet news website/magazine Huffington Post detailed "a growing campaign to quash the potential nomination of New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as the next secretary of the Department of Homeland Security" amid claims of "divisive, harmful, and ineffective policing that promotes stereotypes and profiling". Days after that article, Kelly penned a statistics-heavy Wall Street Journal opinion article defending the NYPD's programs, stating "the average number of stops we conduct is less than one per officer per week" and that this and other practices have led to "7,383 lives saved—and... they are largely the lives of young men of color."
Kelly was also featured because of his NYPD retirement and unusually long tenure there in a long segment on the CBS News program Sunday Morning in December 2013, especially raising the question of the controversial "stop and frisk" policy in New York City and the long decline and drop of various types of crimes committed.
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
|Order of Precedence of the United States
as Secretary of Homeland Security
John F. Kelly
as White House Chief of Staff
|Current U.S. presidential line of succession|
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
|18th in line||Last|