Homeland security chief Janet Napolitano leaving for academia
The New York Times in Washington
Janet Napolitano, who has served as US President Barack Obama's secretary of homeland security since the beginning of the administration, is stepping down to become president of the University of California system.
Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, has overseen the administration's handling of homegrown terrorism, natural disasters and immigration, one of the most expansive portfolios of anyone in the cabinet.
She had her eye on becoming the next attorney general, but, with this move, is taking herself out of the Washington political arena.
"The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the front lines of our nation's efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career," Napolitano said. "We have worked together to minimise threats of all kinds to the American public."
Napolitano, 55, expressed particular satisfaction in improving safety of travellers, adjusting the immigration system to make it "more fair and focused" while still protecting the borders, working with states to improve disaster response and partnering with private companies to bolster cybersecurity. She plans to stay until September.
Obama praised "her outstanding work" and her friendship.
"Janet's portfolio has included some of the toughest challenges facing our country," he said. "She's worked around the clock to respond to natural disasters, from the Joplin tornado to Hurricane Sandy, helping Americans recover and rebuild."
She helped "make our immigration system fairer," he added, and "the American people are safer and more secure thanks to Janet's leadership."
She does not have an extensive background in education, but the California university system saw her extensive management experience running a state and one of the largest federal government bureaucracies as assets.
Her departure creates an opening that could be hard for Obama to fill.
The secretary of homeland security presides over a sprawling department with nearly two dozen agencies as varied as the Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency.