What you need to know about new leader of Homeland Security


Elaine Duke currently serves as Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly’s deputy, but effective Monday, July 31, she will become acting secretary when Kelly moves up to the White House to take over as President Trump’s chief of staff.

A DHS spokesperson confirmed Friday evening that Duke, a Washington veteran who has nearly three decades of experience working under both Democratic and Republican presidents, will temporarily lead the agency until a replacement is named.

However, Duke herself is a strong contender for the position.

Nominated by Trump to serve as the No. 2 at DHS in January, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm her in an 85-14 vote. Prior to that, Duke served as under secretary for management and chief procurement for DHS, where she managed the agency’s $47 billion budget.

Another position Duke has held was deputy assistant administrator for acquisition at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), where she delivered a program to meet a new mandate after 9/11 to federalize passenger and baggage screening at U.S. airports.

In her current job at DHS, Duke has represented Kelly in meetings abroad with European officials about the potential laptop ban on U.S.-bound flights. Those negotiations resulted in a new aviation security plan from the DHS which was designed to let customers on international flights avoid the laptop ban.

Duke is seen as a noncontroversial and bipartisan pick to lead the agency, but some lawmakers have been worried that it will be quite a while until a new DHS secretary can be confirmed, in light of the month-long August recess.

House Homeland Security Committee member Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) voiced his concerns that the role of DHS Secretary will be left vacant for too long. “The President and Republicans insisted the DHS Secretary be confirmed on day one but now the President leaves this critical national security cabinet post vacant,” he said in a statement, adding, “The timing could not be worse: the Senate went into summer recess today and a new Secretary will not be confirmed until the fall at the earliest. With the approval of the Senate, the President must now replace Secretary Kelly with someone who is experienced, measured, and understands that homeland security is not a partisan issue.”

The announcement that President Trump would be replacing Reince Priebus as chief of staff came Friday evening in a Twitter post.

“I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. He is a Great American……and a Great Leader. John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security. He has been a true star of my Administration”

He went on to add, “I would like to thank Reince Priebus for his service and dedication to his country. We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!”

“It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve this president and our country,” Priebus said. “I want to thank the president for giving me this very special opportunity.  I will continue to serve as a strong supporter of the president’s agenda and policies. I can’t think of a better person than General John Kelly to succeed me and I wish him God’s blessings and great success.”

Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, praised DHS employees for their “exceptional work” in a statement on his decision to accept the White House position.

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