Saying the post has been “the highlight of my professional career,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday morning that she is stepping down to become president of the University of California.
Her statement followed a Reuters report that broke the news.
“Napolitano’s nomination by a committee of UC regents came after a secretive process that insiders said focused on her early as a high-profile, although untraditional, candidate who has led large public agencies and shown a strong interest in improving education.”
We’ll watch for more and update as the story develops.
Meanwhile, here is Napolitano’s complete statement:
“For more than four years I have had the privilege of serving President Obama and his Administration as the Secretary of Homeland Security. 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. We have worked together to minimize threats of all kinds to the American public.
“The Department has improved the safety of travelers; implemented smart steps that make our immigration system more fair and focused while deploying record resources to protect our nation’s borders; worked with states to build resiliency and make our nation’s emergency and disaster response capabilities more robust; and partnered with the private sector to improve our cybersecurity.
“After four plus years of focusing on these challenges, I will be nominated as the next President of the University of California to 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.”
11:25 a.m. ET. Joe Lieberman As Secretary?
NBC News’ Chuck Todd is among the pundits floating the name of former Sen. Joe Lieberman as a potential successor to Napolitano. Lieberman was a major player at the department’s creation. He was the Democratic Party’s 2000 vice presidential nominee. But he became an independent in 2006. And he was a high-profile supporter of President Obama’s Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, during the 2008 election.
11:05 a.m. ET. Was At Center Of “Contentious Issues”:
“As homeland security chief, Napolitano has been at the front lines on a host of contentious issues, from the immigration debate to securing the nation’s border with Mexico to the government’s response to natural disasters, including deadly tornadoes in the Midwest and Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the Northeast last year,” The Washington Post writes. “Napolitano played a key role in the administration’s handling of the Boston Marathon bombings this year. She also has come under criticism for her role in toughening airport security procedures.”
11 a.m. ET. Confirmation Of Successor Could Take Take Time:
ABC News notes that “her departure paves the way for what could be a rocky confirmation battle for whomever President Obama decides to appoint to succeed her at a time when the administration’s nominees are facing delays in Congress.”
10:42 a.m. ET. Obama Praises Her “Outstanding Work”:
“I want to thank Secretary Napolitano for her outstanding work on behalf of the American people over the last four years,” President Obama says in a statement emailed to reporters. He continues:
“At the Department of Homeland Security, Janet’s portfolio has included some of the toughest challenges facing our country. She’s worked around the clock to respond to natural disasters, from the Joplin tornado to Hurricane Sandy, helping Americans recover and rebuild. Since day one, Janet has led my administration’s effort to secure our borders, deploying a historic number of resources, while also taking steps to make our immigration system fairer and more consistent with our values. And the American people are safer and more secure thanks to Janet’s leadership in protecting our homeland against terrorist attacks. I’ve come to rely on Janet’s judgment and advice, but I’ve also come to value her friendship. And as she begins a new chapter in a remarkable career of public service, I wish her the best of luck.”
10:40 a.m. ET. Had Hoped To Be Attorney General:
“Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, has overseen the administration’s handling of homegrown terrorist incidents, major disasters and immigration, one of the most expansive portfolios of anyone in the cabinet,” The New York Times writes. “She had her eye on becoming the next attorney general, but with this move is taking herself out of the Washington political arena.”