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