After months of Elaine Duke filling in as the acting secretary of Homeland Security, President Trump finally announced his choice to lead the department on a permanent basis Wednesday.
If confirmed, Kirstjen Nielsen would be the successor to John Kelly, who left the department in July to become the White House chief of staff. Nielsen currently serves as the White House principal deputy chief of staff, and she would be the first Homeland Security secretary with previous experience in the department.
Nielsen was the senior legislative policy director at the Transportation Security Administration during the George W. Bush administration, and worked as Homeland Security’s chief of staff under Trump. Between her stints in government, she founded a private risk and security management consulting firm.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, was optimistic about her qualifications in a statement.
"Ms. Nielsen's long history of service with the department, her cybersecurity experience and her tenure serving with Gen. John Kelly would serve her well as the next secretary of the Department of Homeland Security,” Johnson said.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the committee’s ranking member, said she looked forward to examining Nielsen’s record during her confirmation hearing.
“Given the threats posed to the United States by everything from terrorism to natural disasters, having permanent leadership in place at the Department of Homeland Security is more important than ever,” McCaskill said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Chairman Johnson to ensure that the committee’s process is comprehensive and fair.”
Elsewhere in Cabinet-level appointments, Trump announced Tuesday that he has designated Eric Hargan to be acting secretary of Health and Human Services. The news came more than a week after Tom Price resigned from the post following outcry over his use of private charter flights, which cost taxpayers an estimated $400,000 and has led to broad scrutiny of administration officials’ travel habits.
Before the White House’s announcement, Hargan had been serving as deputy secretary of Health and Human Services since the Senate voted 57-38 to confirm him on Oct. 4. Before his nomination to that job in March, Hargan was a shareholder in the health and FDA business practice of Greenberg Traurig LLP, a Chicago-based firm. He was deputy general counsel for HHS from 2003 until 2007, and he was on Trump’s HHS transition team.
According to The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service, which are tracking more than 600 key positions requiring Senate confirmation, 142 people have been confirmed to top administration jobs. Additionally, the White House has announced or formally nominated 179 candidates, while 281 jobs remain vacant.
Other nominees announced in recent days include:
Commerce: Barry Myers, undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere. Myers is the CEO of AccuWeather, a weather forecasting and meteorological service.
Defense: John Rood, undersecretary for policy. Rood most recently was senior vice president at Lockheed Martin International. He previously worked at another defense contractor, the Raytheon Co., and he has more than 20 years of experience in the federal government. He was acting undersecretary of State for arms control and international security, assistant secretary of State for international security and nonproliferation, and he was a special assistant to the president on the National Security Council.
R.D. James, assistant secretary for civil works, U.S. Army. James most recently was a civilian member and engineer on the Mississippi River Commission. He is a farmer and manager of cotton gins and grain elevators in Missouri, and he has served as president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association.
Bruce Jette, assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, U.S. Army. Jette most recently was president and CEO of military and government consulting firm Synovisions Solutions. Jette founded the Army’s Rapid Equipping Course, and he was the strategic science adviser to the Army chief of staff, among other posts in the military.
Education: Mitchell Zais, deputy secretary. Zais most recently was the South Carolina state superintendent of education. During his tenure, he oversaw a dramatic increase in the number of charter schools and in enrollment in online classes. He is a retired Army brigadier general.
Environmental Protection Agency: Andrew Wheeler, deputy administrator. Wheeler is a lobbyist for the coal industry and a critic of government-imposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Prior to working in the private sector, he was a staffer on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for 14 years.
Health and Human Services: Robert Weaver, director, Indian Health Service. Weaver is a member of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, and he serves as the consultative representative to U.S. Governmental Relations for his tribe in the area of health care. He is the founder and owner of four companies that consult with tribal governments on health care issues.
Justice: Laura Rogers, director, Office of Sex Offenders, Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking. Rogers was a prosecutor in the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office for more than a decade, where she specialized in child homicide and sexual abuse cases. She was the first director of Justice’s SMART office, appointed by George W. Bush in 2006, and in 2009 she served as deputy director of the Navy’s Office of the Judge Advocate General’s criminal law division.
Office of Personnel Management: John Dupuy, inspector general. Dupuy has been deputy inspector general for investigations at the Energy Department since November 2016, and served in that department’s IG office since 2015. He has also held posts in OIGs at the Interior and Housing and Urban Development departments.
Social Security Administration: Gail Ennis, inspector general. Ennis is a lawyer in private practice, focusing on securities litigation and enforcement, and she advises and represents large financial institutions.
State: Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary for verification and compliance. Poblete is a senior adviser at the State Department. She served more than two decades on the staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has extensive experience in the field of nuclear profileration.
Stephen Akard, director general of the Foreign Service. Akard has been a senior adviser in the office of the undersecretary for economic growth at State since January. From 1997 until 2005, he was a Foreign Service officer and was assigned to India, Belgium and as a special assistant in the Executive Secretariat.
Lisa Johnson, ambassador to Namibia. Johnson has been a career diplomat since 1992, and she currently serves as chargé d’ affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, the Bahamas. She has served at six U.S. missions overseas, including two in Africa, and she has held posts in the State Department, at the National Security Council and in the vice president’s office.
Treasury: David Ryder, director, the U.S. Mint. Ryder has been manager and managing director of currency for Honeywell Authentication Technologies. He previously served as director of the U.S. Mint from 1992 until 1993. He also served as deputy treasurer of the United States, and served stints as assistant and deputy chief of staff to then-Vice President Dan Quayle.