Due to the Department of Homeland Security’s short history, there have only been three people at the top of DHS leading the charge to protect our great nation. Having served under the first two Secretaries – Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff – and watching the actions of Janet Napolitano from the sidelines, I can say without hesitation that this is a tough position to fill properly.
The Homeland Security Secretary is responsible for protecting each and every American here at home and plays a major role in protecting our way of life. In an ideal world, the person sitting in this soon-to-be-empty chair would be someone who has invested their career in the protection of our homeland and managing thousands of people and many moving parts. Well, we know that is not going to happen, but we can hope that politics get left out of the decision process of whom to pick for this position. We need a strong and experienced leader in this position and the vital role they play.
Much has been done in securing our nation since 9/11; however, we are far from done with many life-threatening issues still need to be addressed and fixed. Things such as immigration, infrastructure protection (all sectors), customs, cyber, intelligence sharing, border crossings, and waterways are just the tip of the iceberg of things that have been improved but are far from finished. In addition, our nation faces new threats and ways to hurt or disrupt our way of life. Preparing for them and preventing them are yet another example of “other duties as assigned” that face the new DHS Secretary. Right now, this is one of the most important positions the nation will fill for years to come.
“Who” is the issue of the moment. Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff would certainly be great for the nation at this moment, but in fairness, they have served this nation well and deserve a life again. Without them on the list, narrowing down my short list would be easy. Former U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen is high on my list. I have seen him under-fire when the nation needed strong leadership in the Department. I was on the ground in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina when Thad Allen stepped in, and I can tell you firsthand that he is a leader. I define leadership based on people. People “have” to follow a manager, but people “want” to follow a leader and will follow completely. I have no clue what political party he votes with, nor do I care. He is the type of person that would be good for the Department and the type person we need to protect this nation.