Governor Napolitano,

Congratulations on your nomination as the Secretary of Homeland Security.

You have signed up for one of the most difficult and most scrutinized jobs in America. The department you are about to lead is responsible for maintaining freedom and liberty while protecting the nation from unthinkable man-made or natural disasters, a delicate balance if there ever was one. Needless to say, it is one of the most important jobs we have in government. DHS was created at a time in our history when our nation felt vulnerable, uncertain and angry.

Those of us who served at DHS during its start-up phase remember that though the department was started with a strategy, there existed no historical references for what we were undertaking; that is, many of the functions that were assigned to the Department were new and had never been done before on the scale we were asked to do them. But we had a commonly understood mission – we knew the horror of 9/11 could easily happen again and we were determined to prevent and protect this nation from the next attack. While we were never satisfied that we created a department that is fully functional, complete and without need for change, every person in DHS whether political or career can take some degree of pride in having done what was never done before at a time when our nation needed us most.

Despite the seemingly daunting task, you are fortunate in many ways.

1. Your transition team has the benefit of hindsight to guide you forward;
2. You can take what works;
3. Change what hasn’t;
4. Create what is needed, and (most importantly);
5. You can define success on your terms (with help from Congress, the White House, state and local leaders, the media, the general public and private sector, and of course – the terrorist groups intent on doing this nation harm).

More than anything, you are fortunate that there is a cadre of dedicated, professional, and highly competent career staff that will guide and assist you as you lay the ground work for a new direction and strategy to protect this nation. The “politicals” will always come and go and fortunately we can only do so much while we occupy our lofty positions of leadership. The real heroes are the career professional staff who joined the Department to contribute to this nation at a time of its most urgent need, not for 2 years, or 4 years, but for what could span their entire career. They didn’t join with the goal of pursuing a political agenda to make a name for themselves; they unselfishly and frequently anonymously contribute to the success of the Department with little expectation of being recognized.

After almost 6 years of being in the “start-up” mode, they need new energy and leadership to get them focused on the mission with urgency again. They will rise up to any challenge you can throw at them if you can convince them that you believe in them as much as they believe in what they do.

Governor, you are indeed taking on one of the toughest jobs in America, but you are not alone. As you stand on the podium to take your oath of office, look around you – the men and women of DHS whether they are wearing the uniform of the Coast Guard or Customs and Border Protection, or the every day dress of civilian attire-they will never let you down.

As this administration passes the keys over to you, we, the concerned American public, only ask that you never lose sight of the urgency of the mission of the Department and never forget the career people who have been there before you — and will be there after you–as these dedicated career professionals will give you all they have to ensure your success.