United States Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano resigns from her federal role on Friday in order to head the University of California school system.
Following an initial report from Reuters suggesting Sec. Napolitano was set to resign, the Los Angeles Times reported early Friday that the former two-term governor or Arizona will exit her role with the Obama administration in lieu of job that will give the UC system their first female head in its 145-year history.
Napolitano is presently only the third person to serve as Homeland Security secretary, a position created by George W. Bush following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Napolitano has held that rank since January 2009 when she was appointed at the start of President Barack Obama’s first term as commander-in-chief.
“I think she loves working for President Obama and serving the American people, but at the same time, this is a unique opportunity,” a source close to the secretary told the Times on condition of anonymity. Napolitano knows “UC is probably the premier institution in the country. She is motivated by the fact that being a part of UC, she will be a part of educating future leaders of tomorrow and be part of a state that sets so much of the agenda nationally.”
In a statement being released Friday by the head of the UC search committee that settled on the secretary, the group wrote that Napolitano may be considered “an unconventional choice,” but in the eyes of the school she is “without a doubt the right person at the right time to lead this incredible university.”
“She will bring fresh eyes and a new sensibility — not only to UC, but to all of California,” Sherry Lansing of the search committee told the Times. “She will stand as a vigorous advocate for faculty, students and staff at a time when great changes in our state, and across the globe, are presenting as many opportunities as challenges.”
By leaving her role at the Department of Homeland Security, Napolitano will say goodbye to a position that has put her in charge of the third-largest Cabinet department since 2009. The DHS has an annual budget of around $60-billion and employs just shy of a quarter-of-a-million employees.
In a statement issued by Napolitano on Friday, she wrote, “The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the frontlines of our nation’s efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career.”
At UC, Napolitano will oversee a system with a substantially smaller budget of $23 billion, but includes a roster of 230,000 students across 10 state schools, as well as 191,000 faculty members instructing at institutions that are among the most well-respected in the US. There, she said, she will “play a role in educating our nation’s next generation of leaders.”
“I thank President Obama for the chance to serve our nation during this important chapter in our history, and I know the Department of Homeland Security will continue to perform its important duties with the honor and focus that the American public expects” she said.
Napolitano has been in charge of the federal agency responsible for thwarting terrorist attacks during a five-year stint that has spanned the attempted detonation of an underwear bomb on Christmas Day 2009 through the recent explosions at the Boston Marathon. During that tenure, the single 55-year-old former attorney general of Arizona has advocated heavily for passing cybersecurity legislation and also expressed interest in deploying surveillance drones over the US as a public safety mechanism.
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