On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Kirstjen M. Nielsen as the next secretary of the Department Homeland Security. The close confidant of White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly will lead the agency responsible for carry out President Donald Trump’s wide-ranging domestic policy plans, including immigration.

The 45-year-old Nielsen served as Kelly’s deputy at the White House, having also served as his  chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, which he ran from January until July. Nielsen will be the first DHS secretary with previous experience working at the agency. “By confirming Ms. Nielsen’s nomination to lead the DHS, this Senate will take a serious step to strengthen our nation’s security,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement. “Ms. Nielsen will be charged with leading the department at a critical time,” he said. “With her understanding of the challenges facing our nation and her experience in prevention and preparedness, I believe that she will excel as the next Secretary of Homeland Security.”

Nielsen was confirmed 62 to 37, the narrowest-ever margin to approve a DHS Secretary. No Republican senators voted against her. In January, senators confirmed Kelly 88-11.

Nielsen succeeds Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, who filled the top job in a temporary capacity. Reportedly, Duke plans to resign once Nielsen takes office, however, DHS has denied that she plans to quit.  

Nielsen will oversee an agency with a $40 billion discretionary budget and 240,000 employees, with a wide array of responsibilities. DHS has 22 sub-agencies, including immigration enforcement, transportation security, disaster preparedness and response, Secret Service, and the Coast Guard. When the president announced her nomination, the president said, “There will be no on-the-job training for Kirstjen,” while lauding “sterling reputation.”



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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