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TSA Airport-Security Head, David Pekoske Named as No. 2 Homeland Security Official

April 11 — The Trump administration on Thursday announced the most recent change in leadership at the Department of Homeland Security.

David Pekoske, Transportation Security Administration head was named acting deputy director of Homeland Security. He takes over for Claire Grady. She left Tuesday after the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last weekend. The administration then appointed Kevin McAleenan as acting Homeland Security chief.

Pekoske’s experience in the U.S. Coast Guard and TSA “brings a wealth of experience and leadership to the department,” McAleenan commented.

“Additionally, he has tackled impressive challenges over the course of his career, ranging from acquisition and procurement reform as the Coast Guard’s Vice Commandant to securing America’s traveling public as TSA’s administrator,” McAleenan said. “I look forward to working with him to meet the homeland security challenges facing our nation.”

McAleenan remains in charge of U.S. Customs and Border Protection even as he assumes responsibility for all of DHS. The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for everything from border protection to disaster response.

The departures at DHS leave the agency with several key positions that need to be permanently filled by Senate-confirmed nominees.

Pekoske will continue to head the U.S. TSA, which screens airline travelers, while he serves as the No. 2 official at DHS. Both men are serving on a temporary basis.

Trump has forced out top DHS officials over the past week as the agency tries to stop rising numbers of immigrants arriving at its southern border. DHS said it arrested or denied entry to more than 103,000 people along the border in March 2019. The number of arrests doubled the March 2018 count.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced her departure on Sunday after disagreements with Trump over border security. Her deputy, Claire Grady, resigned on Tuesday.

Trump is trying to force out L. Francis Cissna, who oversees legal immigration programs as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as John Mitnick, the top DHS lawyer, according to a source familiar with White House deliberations.

Leadership continues to be uncertain at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Secret Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Ten other top positions are either vacant or filled on a temporary basis. 

Lisa Duncan

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