Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano to resign

Updated
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks to reporters during the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, May 14, 2013.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks to reporters during the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, May 14, 2013.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said Friday that she will resign to become the next president of the University of California system. She will be the first female president in the system’s history.

Napolitano confirmed in a statement that she will leave department after heading the office for more than four years. Napolitano attended Santa Clara University. Before serving two terms as governor of Arizona, she served as U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona and as the state’s attorney general.

“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,” Napolitano said in a statement Friday. Highlighting her work on immigration, disaster response, and cybersecurity, Napolitano said she looks forward to playing “a role in educating our nation’s next generation of leaders.”

During the course of her career, Napolitano has been an outspoken supporter of immigration reform, although during her tenure as Homeland Security chief, the department deported hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants each year and faced widespread criticism for harsh detention conditions in the department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities.

Napolitano also advocated strongly for stronger cyber security measures. Her office oversaw the creation of partnerships with private companies in an effort to protect U.S. infrastructure against the threat of what she in January called a potential “9/11 in the cyber world.”

The University of California system that she will take over is the nation’s largest public university system, and it has faced major challenges in recent years due to the state’s budget woes, although its fortunes have improved thanks to increased tax revenues. The Los Angeles Times reports that the system’s regents are expected to approve her nomination at a meeting next week and that she will start in September.

President Obama praised Secretary Napolitano in a  statement, saying, “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.”

Correction: This article called Santa Clara University a UC School. It is a private college not in the UC system.

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Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano to resign

Updated