United States Secretary of Homeland Security

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Secretary of Homeland Security of the United States of America
Seal of the United States Department of Homeland Security.svg
Seal of the Department of Homeland Security
Flag of the United States Secretary of Homeland Security.svg
Flag of the Secretary of Homeland Security
John Kelly official Transition portrait.jpg
John F. Kelly

since January 20, 2017
United States Department of Homeland Security
Style Mr. Secretary
Member of Cabinet
Reports to The President
Seat Washington, D.C.
Appointer The President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length No fixed term
Constituting instrument 6 U.S.C. § 112
Formation January 24, 2003
First holder Tom Ridge
Succession Seventeenth in the United States Presidential Line of Succession
Deputy Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security
Salary Executive Schedule, level 1
Website www.dhs.gov

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 (FEMA). It did not, however, include the FBI or the CIA.[1]

On January 20, 2009, the Senate confirmed Barack Obama's appointment of Janet Napolitano to be the third Secretary of Homeland Security,[2] effective January 21, 2009.[3] Napolitano resigned effective August 2013 to head the University of California. On October 17, President Obama announced his intention to nominate former Pentagon official Jeh Johnson, and on December 16 the US Senate confirmed the nomination.[4]

Inclusion in the presidential line of succession[edit]

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 9, 2006, 43rd President George W. Bush signed H.R. 3199 as Pub.L. 109–177, which renewed the still controversial 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[edit]

Prior to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, there existed an Assistant to the President for the Office of Homeland Security, which was created following the September 11, 2001, attacks.


  Republican (2)   Democratic (2)   No party (1)


  Denotes acting Homeland Security Secretary

No. Portrait Name State of Residence Took Office Left Office President(s)
1 Tom Ridge Tom Ridge Pennsylvania January 24, 2003 February 1, 2005 George W. Bush
James M. Loy.jpg James Loy Pennsylvania February 1, 2005 February 15, 2005
2 Michael Chertoff, official DHS photo portrait, 2007.jpg Michael Chertoff New Jersey February 15, 2005 January 21, 2009
3 Janet Napolitano official portrait.jpg Janet Napolitano Arizona January 21, 2009 September 6, 2013 Barack Obama
Rand Beers official portrait.jpg Rand Beers District of Columbia September 6, 2013 December 16, 2013
4 Jeh Johnson official DHS portrait.jpg Jeh Johnson New Jersey December 23, 2013 January 20, 2017
5 John F. Kelly John F. Kelly Virginia January 20, 2017 present Donald Trump

1 James Loy served as acting secretary in his capacity as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security February 1—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.

Living former Secretaries of Homeland Security[edit]

As of January 2017, there are four living former Secretaries of Homeland Security, the oldest being Tom Ridge (served 2003-2005, born 1945).

Name Term Date of birth (and age)
Tom Ridge 2003–2005 (1945-08-26) August 26, 1945 (age 71)
Michael Chertoff 2005–2009 (1953-11-28) November 28, 1953 (age 63)
Janet Napolitano 2009–2013 (1957-11-29) November 29, 1957 (age 59)
Jeh Johnson 2013-2017 (1957-09-11) September 11, 1957 (age 59)

Order of succession[edit]

The order of succession for the Secretary of Homeland Security is as follows:[5]

  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. Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Policy (acting as Under Secretary-equivalent)
  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[edit]

Bernard Kerik[edit]

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.[6]

Raymond Kelly[edit]

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.[7]

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".[8]

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".[9] 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."[10]

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. ^ Homeland Security Act, Pub.L. 107–296
  2. ^ Murray, Shailagh; Kane, Paul (January 21, 2009). "Obama Picks Confirmed, But Clinton Is on Hold". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 2, 2010. 
  3. ^ Chertoff: Inauguration security forces 'ready' - CNN.com
  4. ^ Senate confirms new homeland security secretary
  5. ^ "Executive Order 13442: Amending the Order of Succession in the Department of Homeland Security" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  6. ^ Bernstein, Nina. "Mystery Woman in Kerik Case: Nanny". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  7. ^ "Names already popping as possible Janet Napolitano replacements" By KEVIN ROBILLARD and SCOTT WONG, Politico', July 12, 2013, Retrieved 2013-07-13
  8. ^ "Obama would consider Ray Kelly to replace Janet Napolitano" By JENNIFER EPSTEIN, "Politico", July 16, 2013, Retrieved 2013-07-17
  9. ^ "Muslims Oppose Raymond Kelly Bid For Homeland Security Secretary" By Omar Sacirbey, "Huffington Post", August 1, 2013, Retrieved 2013-08-04
  10. ^ "Ray Kelly: The NYPD: Guilty of Saving 7,383 Lives" by Ray Kelly, "Opinion: The Wall Street Journal", July 22, 2013, Retrieved 2013-08-04
United States presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Robert McDonald
18th in line Last