She’s really smart. She’s attentive to detail and respects order, process and diligence. She also does not put up with any BS and has a laser focus when identifying problems and working proactively to solve them.
Her name is Kirstjen Nielsen, and she is being nominated to be the next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I have to admit, this announcement truly caught me off guard. There has been little- to-none of the traditional Washington chatter about names to succeed John Kelly as Secretary. If anything, chatter has been focused on the great job acting Secretary Elaine Duke has been doing, given the past weeks of biblically scaled disasters over which she’s had to keep watch.
Usually, when a Cabinet position opens, more public names are mentioned, like current (and recent) governors, members of Congress and retired military officials. Kirstjen is different. She’s never been any of those things. Instead, she’s been the top-tier counselor who has worked on Capitol Hill, TSA, the Executive Office of the President, academia, business and world-renowned NGOs. As the often right arm for any number of leaders, she’s counseled senators, presidents, executives, military leaders, issue experts and others on tough, often complex and interdependent issues with lots of strings attached. If you’ve ever followed her work (especially with cybersecurity), you know she has a knack for making sense of the often-cumbersome morass that causes problems to be ignored instead of addressed.
Her focus and discipline means she gets busy working the issues, instead of passing them along to others. It’s why everyplace she’s ever worked, she gets respect and results.
I’m sure that is just one of the reasons that Gen. Kelly took her on as his Chief of Staff when he took over DHS. After shepherding him through what was a flawless Senate confirmation, he saw what the rest of us who knew her already knew: she gets things done. It’s for those same reasons Kelly brought her with him when he took over as White House Chief of Staff. He needed someone with the skillsets, experience, discipline and capacity to bring order to a White House that was running amuck. She demonstrated those capacities as White House Deputy Chief of Staff, and while it may have rubbed some of her West Wing colleagues the wrong way (especially given their petty and derogatory comments about her to the media), she got respect and got things done.
As happy as I have been with the job Elaine Duke has done as acting secretary, I can’t help but be even more enthusiastic for a person I know who is more than equipped for one of the toughest jobs on the planet.
Kirstjen Neilsen will be a great Secretary for DHS.