New Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen brings her cybersecurity focus to domestic defense

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After a Senate vote on Tuesday, Kirstjen Nielsen has been confirmed as John Kelly’s replacement to lead the Department of Homeland Security. The top position at the DHS has remained open since Kelly left to join the White House as chief of staff in late July. Nielsen, a close colleague of Kelly’s, previously served on the Homeland Security Council in the George W. Bush administration and developed domestic policy with the TSA.

As CyberScoop reported last month, Nielsen was intended for a role as the undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD). The NPPD’s stated goal is to “protect and enhance the resilience of the nation’s physical and cyber infrastructure” by specializing in cybersecurity threats the same way that an agency like FEMA specializes in disaster relief and preparedness.

While Nielsen reportedly “waffled,” ultimately not leaving her post as the DHS chief of staff at the time, the role would have effectively made her the head of cyber operations for the agency. Nielsen later followed Kelly to the White House to become his deputy chief of staff.

Given the ever-expanding nature of cyber threats, particularly those against U.S. critical infrastructure, Nielsen’s specialization in cybersecurity could prove timely. We’ll be following Nielsen as she takes on the new role and shapes policy at DHS moving forward.

“I will do my utmost to ensure that the Department meets the threats of today and tomorrow, and to ensure our frontline personnel have the tools and resources to accomplish their vital missions,” Nielsen said of her confirmation.

“I look forward to continuing this Administration’s work to raise the standards for the security of our homeland in all areas – including securing our borders, protecting Americans from terrorist threats, and securing our cyber networks.”

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