Homeland Security

Deputy takes the reins at DHS

Elaine Duke DHS 

DHS Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke will lead the department as her former boss moves to a White House job.

Department of Homeland Security chief and retired Marine general John Kelly attended his first cabinet meeting as President Donald Trump's chief of staff on July 31.

With Kelly's departure, the Department of Homeland Security will be led on an acting basis by Deputy DHS Secretary Elaine Duke.

Although Duke was confirmed as deputy secretary only in April, she has a long history with the agency. She served as undersecretary of homeland security for management under George W. Bush and Barack Obama from July 2008 to April 2010. In 2010, she left for the private sector to work as an acquisition and business consultant.

Earlier still, Duke was deputy assistant administrator for acquisition at the Transportation Security Administration, where she oversaw the agency's post 9/11 acquisition program that federalized passenger and baggage screening at U.S. airports. Before that, she held various positions with the Department of Defense.

Possible candidates to permanently replace Kelly include Rep. Michael McCaul, (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee; Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Kelly has been instrumental in implementing the Trump administration agenda on immigration and homeland security, although he didn't see eye to eye with his boss on every detail.

For instance, where the president campaigned on building a uniform, imposing physical barrier along the entire southern border, Kelly voiced support for a more pragmatic, layered approach using a variety of detection and surveillance technologies in terrain where a wall was impractical.

"A physical barrier -- [speaking] as a military person -- won't do the job," Kelly said at his Jan. 10 confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

At the same hearing, Kelly said he accepted with "high confidence" the intelligence on the hacking that found Russian agencies and its surrogates meddled with U.S. election interests. The White House has disputed that intelligence community consensus.

In a July 28 statement, Kelly thanked DHS employees, telling them that they were on a par with the Marine Corps in terms of professionalism and commitment.

Kelly is bringing Kirstjen Nielsen, his own chief of staff at DHS, with him the White House.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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