Former Arizona Attorney General Confirmed as Homeland Security Secretary

Janet Napolitano, Secretary, Homeland Security

Janet Napolitano, Arizona governor and former Arizona Attorney General, has been confirmed as secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Thirty-one state Attorneys General, led by Arizona Attorney General Terry Goodard, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, sent a Jan. 13 letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs supporting Napolitano’s nomination.

As the secretary leading the Homeland Security Department, created in November 2002, Napolitano will be responsible for protecting the territory of the United States from terrorist attacks and responding to natural disasters. She has promised to create better relationships with state and local governments, more specifically with help funding federally mandated security requirements. During her Jan. 15 confirmation hearing, she suggested the important role that states play in the protection of the homeland, “The federal government cannot do the homeland security function alone,” she said. “That is something that I hope to spend a great deal of effort on.” As secretary, Napolitano will make it a priority to increase funding for radios for states and federal governments, which would aide communication during a disaster. She will also reconvene governors to review the Real ID law, which requires states to issue new secure driver’s licenses to their citizens. Napolitano has also called for an improvement in rail and public transit security as well as increased border security.

Napolitano talked about her accomplishments as an Attorney General during her confirmation hearing. “Cyber security and the protection of the technology critical infrastructure have been a top priority in Arizona. As Attorney General, I created the Computer Crimes Unit to train law enforcement in the identification and investigation of cybercrimes; the Unit successfully prosecuted some of the first cybercrime cases in Arizona,” she said.

Napolitano was born in New York City and raised in Pittsburgh and Albuquerque, New Mexico. She graduated from Santa Clara University in California and University of Virginia law school. She has lived in Arizona since 1983, when she moved to Phoenix to practice law. Prior to her position as Arizona’s twenty-first governor, which she held since January 2003, Napolitano was appointed by President Bill Clinton and served as U.S. attorney for Arizona from 1993 to 1997 and as Arizona Attorney General from 1999 to 2002. She is the first woman in the nation’s history to serve as U.S. attorney, state Attorney General and governor in immediate succession.

In Arizona, Napolitano set her priorities as enhancing statewide responses to emergencies, securing Arizona’s border, and combating crime. During her tenure as governor, Napolitano successfully pushed for a voluntary full-day kindergarten, available for all Arizona children, and provided major financial support for Arizona’s universities and community colleges. Napolitano has been outspoken against illegal immigration. She was the first governor to call for the National Guard at the border at the expense of the federal government. She also created the first state cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security and the first state-level homeland security strategy in the country. Through her efforts, Arizona built the nationally-recognized Arizona Counter-Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC).

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