President-elect Barack Obama formally named Gov. Janet Napolitano today as his choice for Secretary of Homeland Security.
In an announcement in Chicago, Obama said Napolitano has "the experience and executive skills we need.''
"She has spent her career protecting people,'' the president-elect said, citing her experience as the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, the state attorney general and as governor.
"She understands the needs for a Department of Homeland Security that has the capacity to help prevent terrorist attacks and respond to catastrophes, be it man-made or natural,'' he continued. Obama said Napolitano has "learned the lessons, some of them painful, of the last several years,'' specifically mentioning the Sept. 2001 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.
Napolitano, for her part, said she and the rest of Obama's "national security team'' announced today, will "plan carefully and thoroughly so that our domestic response to all hazard is fast, sound, level-headed and effective.''
"Americans deserve no less,'' she said.
Napolitano acknowledged she is quitting as governor only half-way through her second four-year term.
"It is difficult to leave one job for another,'' she said. "But one must go where one can best serve.''
But the governor is not giving up the reins of state government just yet. In fact, Napolitano said in a prepared statement that she intends to continue to prepare a budget for the coming fiscal year even though she is unlikely to be around to try to shepherd it through the Legislature.
And the governor said she will deliver a State of the State speech in January, a speech that traditionally lays out the governor's priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
But Napolitano said she does intend to quit the moment she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, something that could occur within days of Obama being sworn in on Jan. 20.
In neither her comments in Chicago nor either of her prepared statements did Napolitano make mention of leaving the state with a $1.2 billion deficit for the current year and a likely gap between anticipated revenues and expenses in the fiscal year to come. Instead, she said that Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who will become governor the moment that Napolitano resigns, will inherit the job "during this difficult time, without having sought this office.
"She will need your support and I pledge mine,'' the governor said in a statement.
The announcement of Napolitano's nomination came as Obama appointed others to head what he has determined to be his security team. They include:
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
- Defense Secretary Robert Gates
- Attorney General Eric Holder
- United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice
- National Security Adviser James Jones
"I am confident that this team is what we need to make a new beginning for American national security,'' Obama said.
The president-elect said Napolitano brings some special qualifications.
"She understands as well as anyone the dangers of an unsecure border,'' he said. And Obama said he expects Napolitano to be "a leader in reforming a sprawling department while safeguarding our homeland.''
"She insists on competence and accountability,'' Obama said.
Both also promised better relations with the states.
Obama said Napolitano "knows first-hand the need to have a partner in Washington that works well with state and local governments.'' And the governor said the agency she has been named to head will "work hand-in-hand with state and local governments to share information, secure our borders and keep our country safe.''
Napolitano statement on departure for federal post
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s statement in a Chicago news conference during which President-elect Barack Obama announced his selection of her to serve as homeland security secretary:
“I am honored by your confidence in me and your support. Your message of change has resonated with the American people as has the clarity and confidence of your vision of a United States that is safe, secure and effective in the world and at home.
“The team that you have assembled faces the challenge of protecting our homeland through constant vigilance and a relentless work to prevent terrorist attacks.
“It also will plan carefully and thoroughly so that our domestic response to all hazards is fast, sound, levelheaded and effective. Americans deserve no less.
“To achieve this high level of performance, it will be my job and the job of this team to hold ourselves and our agencies accountable, to coordinate fully across the spectrum of government agencies and to ensure that we work hand in hand with state and local governments to share information, secure our borders and keep our country safe.
“We are a nation that will be proud, prepared and resilient.
“Thank you for the opportunity to serve. And I would be remiss if I did not also thank the wonderful people of Arizona. Like Hillary, it is difficult to leave one job for another but one most go where one can best serve.”
The Associated Press