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Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security 2009 – 2013

Janet Napolitano

Janet Napolitano was born in New York, NY and grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She earned her B.S. in Political Science summa cum laude from Santa Clara University, where she was Phi Beta Kappa and the school’s first female valedictorian.  She earned her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Ms. Napolitano clerked for the Honorable Mary Schroeder on the Ninth Circuit and practiced law with the firm of Lewis and Roca in Phoenix where she was elected partner in 1989. She later served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Attorney General of Arizona and two-term Governor of Arizona.

Ms. Napolitano was nominated to serve as the third Secretary of Homeland Security by President Barack Obama in 2009. She served in this capacity until 2013, effectively leading the nation’s efforts to prevent terrorist attacks, secure its borders, respond to natural disasters and build domestic resiliency. Under Ms. Napolitano’s leadership, the Department transformed its security capabilities, becoming a more efficient, cohesive and effective organization.

She oversaw critical enhancements to aviation security, including initiatives like the creation of TSA Pre✓® that bolster security while improving the travel experience.  Through the expansion of programs like Global Entry and pre-clearance, the Department expanded our borders, helping to identify threats before they depart for the U.S. The Department also significantly enhanced its readiness to meet and combat evolving cyber threats.

Ms. Napolitano spearheaded the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, creating hope and relief for millions of young people across the nation.  During her tenure, the Department shifted its approach to immigration enforcement, better protecting public safety while simultaneously creating a more humane enforcement system.  Ms. Napolitano also oversaw historic gains in border security. She was the first woman and is to date the longest serving Secretary of Homeland Security.

Ms. Napolitano currently serves as the 20th president of the University of California, a public research university system with 10 campuses, five medical centers, three affiliated national laboratories, and a statewide agriculture and natural resources program.  She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015.

Napolitano’s official portrait was unveiled at DHS Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on May 17, 2016.

Last Updated: 01/23/2023
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