WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday to head the Department of Homeland Security, after President Donald Trump nominated her to oversee US immigration policy.
In a 62-37 vote, lawmakers confirmed the 45-year-old protege of former DHS Secretary John Kelly in the post, making her the third person to hold the position so far this year after Kelly and Acting Secretary Elaine Duke.
Kelly left DHS to become Trump’s chief of staff.
Nielsen, a cybersecurity and disaster management expert who served on the National Security Council during the 2001-2009 government of George W. Bush, began working with Kelly in late 2016, when she was given the task of preparing the former Army general for his Senate confirmation hearings to head DHS.
Although Democratic lawmakers have complained that Nielsen lacks the experience to head the huge DHS with its almost quarter of a million employees, Duke had words of praise for her.
“Ms. Nielsen is a homeland security expert with a deep understanding of the issues facing the Department and is well-positioned to lead us into the future,” Duke said in a statement Tuesday.
“It has been an honor to serve as the Department’s Acting Secretary, and I look forward to working alongside Ms. Nielsen as her deputy as we continue to carry out the DHS mission of safeguarding the American people, our homeland, and our values,” she added.
Nielsen holds a law degree from the University of Virginia and a B.S. from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. In the 2000s, she founded her own risk management consulting firm and worked in a research center for national security and cybersecurity.