United States Secretary of Homeland Security

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United States Secretary of Homeland Security
Seal of the United States Department of Homeland Security.svg
Seal of the Department
Flag of the United States Secretary of Homeland Security.svg
Flag of the Secretary
Kevin McAleenan official photo (cropped).jpg
Kevin McAleenan

since April 11, 2019
United States Department of Homeland Security
StyleMr. Secretary
Member ofCabinet
Homeland Security Council
Reports toPresident of the United States
SeatNebraska Avenue Complex
Washington, D.C.
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term lengthNo fixed term
Constituting instrument6 U.S.C. § 112
FormationJanuary 24, 2003
(16 years ago)
First holderTom Ridge
DeputyDeputy Secretary of Homeland Security
SalaryExecutive Schedule, level I

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. It did not include either the Federal Bureau of Investigation or, the Central Intelligence Agency.[2]

The current Acting Secretary of Homeland Security is Kevin McAleenan, who was appointed to the role in April 2019 upon the resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen. On October 11, 2019, he announced his resignation, pending the naming of a successor.

Inclusion in the presidential line of succession

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.[citation needed]

On March 7, 2006, 43rd President George W. Bush signed H.R. 3199 as Pub.L. 109–177, which renewed the 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.[citation needed]

List of Secretaries of Homeland Security

Prior to the establishment of the U.S. 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.


  Republican (2)   Democratic (2)   Independent (2)


  Denotes Acting Homeland Security Secretary

No. Secretary of Homeland Security Took office Left office Time in office Party State of residence President
Tom Ridge
Ridge, TomTom Ridge
(born 1945)
January 24, 2003February 1, 20052 years, 8 daysRepublicanPennsylvaniaBush, GeorgeGeorge W. Bush (Rep)
James Loy[1]
Loy, JamesJames Loy[1]
(born 1942)
February 1, 2005February 15, 200514 daysIndependentPennsylvaniaBush, GeorgeGeorge W. Bush (Rep)
Michael Chertoff
Chertoff, MichaelMichael Chertoff
(born 1953)
February 15, 2005January 21, 20093 years, 341 daysRepublicanNew JerseyBush, GeorgeGeorge W. Bush (Rep)
Janet Napolitano
Napolitano, JanetJanet Napolitano
(born 1957)
January 21, 2009September 6, 20134 years, 228 daysDemocraticArizonaObama, BarackBarack Obama (Dem)
Rand Beers[2]
Beers, RandRand Beers[2]
(born 1942)
September 6, 2013December 16, 2013101 daysDemocraticDistrict of ColumbiaObama, BarackBarack Obama (Dem)
Jeh Johnson
Johnson, JehJeh Johnson
(born 1957)
December 23, 2013January 20, 20173 years, 28 daysDemocraticNew JerseyObama, BarackBarack Obama (Dem)
John F. Kelly
Kelly, JohnJohn F. Kelly
(born 1950)
January 20, 2017July 31, 2017192 daysIndependentMassachusettsTrump, DonaldDonald Trump (Rep)
Elaine Duke[3]
Duke, ElaineElaine Duke[3]
(born 1958)
July 31, 2017December 6, 2017128 daysIndependentOhioTrump, DonaldDonald Trump (Rep)
Kirstjen Nielsen
Nielsen, KirstjenKirstjen Nielsen
(born 1972)
December 6, 2017April 10, 20191 year, 125 daysIndependentFloridaTrump, DonaldDonald Trump (Rep)
Kevin McAleenan[4]
McAleenan, KevinKevin McAleenan[4]
(born 1971)
April 11, 2019Incumbent214 daysIndependentHawaiiTrump, DonaldDonald Trump (Rep)

1 James Loy served as acting secretary in his capacity as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security from February 1, 2005, to February 15, 2005.

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.

3 Elaine Duke served as acting secretary in her capacity as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security from July 31, 2017, to December 6, 2017.

4 Kevin McAleenan has served as acting secretary in his capacity as Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection since April 11, 2019.

Order of succession

The order of succession for the Secretary of Homeland Security is as follows:[3]

  1. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security
  2. Under Secretary of Homeland Security for National Protection and Programs
  3. Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Management
  4. Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Strategy, Policy, and Plans
  5. Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Science and Technology
  6. General Counsel of the Department of Homeland Security
  7. Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration
  8. Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency
  9. Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  10. Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  11. Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  12. Chief Financial Officer
  13. Regional Administrator, Region V, Federal Emergency Management Agency
  14. Regional Administrator, Region VI, Federal Emergency Management Agency
  15. Regional Administrator, Region VII, Federal Emergency Management Agency
  16. Regional Administrator, Region IX, Federal Emergency Management Agency
  17. Regional Administrator, Region I, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Administration-cited potential nominees

Bernard Kerik

George W. Bush nominated Bernard Kerik for the position in 2004. However a week later, Kerik withdrew his nomination, explaining that he had employed an illegal immigrant as a nanny.[4]

Raymond Kelly

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.[5]

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".[6]

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".[7] 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."[8]

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.


  1. ^ "3 U.S. Code § 19 - Vacancy in offices of both President and Vice President; officers eligible to act". LII / Legal Information Institute.
  2. ^ Homeland Security Act, Pub.L. 107–296
  3. ^ "Executive Order 13442: Amending the Order of Succession in the Department of Homeland Security" (PDF). Retrieved January 29, 2009.
  4. ^ Bernstein, Nina. "Mystery Woman in Kerik Case: Nanny". The New York Times. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  5. ^ "Names already popping as possible Janet Napolitano replacements", by Kevin Robillard and Scott Wong, Politico, July 12, 2013, retrieved July 13, 2013.
  6. ^ "Obama would consider Ray Kelly to replace Janet Napolitano", by Jennifer Epstein, Politico, July 16, 2013, retrieved July 17, 2013.
  7. ^ "Muslims Oppose Raymond Kelly Bid For Homeland Security Secretary", by Omar Sacirbey, Huffington Post, August 1, 2013, retrieved August 4, 2013.
  8. ^ "Ray Kelly: The NYPD: Guilty of Saving 7,383 Lives", by Ray Kelly, Opinion: The Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2013, retrieved August 4, 2013.

External links

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Robert Wilkie
as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Order of Precedence of the United States
as Secretary of Homeland Security
Succeeded by
Mick Mulvaney
as Acting White House Chief of Staff
U.S. presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Robert Wilkie
18th in line Last
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