With the news of Janet Napolitano’s resignation as secretary of homeland security has come an outpouring of praise for her steadfast work as head of the department. Even in her absence, however, there will remain the same threats — man-made and natural — that the nation largely relies on her post to confront. Her post is the newest position in a president’s cabinet, but it is one of urgent importance.
President Obama must appoint a person who both garners bipartisan support and who has the varied experience to be a viable secretary. Several politicians have already offered up their suggestions, and of these, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has made by far the best one. Ray Kelly, the current commissioner of the New York Police Department, overwhelmingly meets the necessary qualifications of the position and deserves to be the next secretary of DHS.
His work on counterterrorism, the very cause for which the department was established, is unparalleled among his counterparts. In the months following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Mr. Kelly created the first counterterrorism bureau of any municipal police department in the nation, a department that has investigators in 11 foreign countries. It is also notable that New York City crime has reduced by 40% under his leadership.
Before his service as NYPD commissioner, Mr. Kelly was the commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, an agency which works closely with the Department of Homeland Security. There, Mr. Kelly managed over 20,000 employees and annual revenue of $20 billion.
As undersecretary for enforcement at the U.S. Treasury, Mr. Kelly supervised such sects as the U.S. Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. His public service also includes a combat tour in Vietnam.
Mr. Kelly’s sterling work in the public sector is complemented by his role as senior managing director of global corporate security at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc.
In 2011, Mr. Kelly was vetted and considered for the role of FBI director. If he were to be appointed, there would undoubtedly be a quick, bipartisan confirmation.
The list of Mr. Kelly’s experiences and qualifications is endless, as are the accolades and awards and statistics that attest to his capability. With executive and field experience in virtually all of the fundamental initiatives of the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Kelly is singularly qualified. It is difficult to imagine that there is another person in the country whose career has prepared him or her more thoroughly than Mr. Kelly.