Two-term Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano was confirmed to lead the Department of Homeland Security on Inauguration Day. Napolitano, who served as adviser on Obama's transition team, is the first female Homeland Security secretary. An early supporter of the president, Napolitano has been a popular Democrat in Republican-leaning Arizona, which went to native son Sen. John McCain in the November election.
Napolitano was Arizona's first female attorney general before her appointment as governor. She has been outspoken on immigration issues and has been an advocate of more federal government responsibility in border control issues.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- a registered independent -- will be staying on in the top Pentagon job for at least the first year of the Obama administration. Obama has indicated he wants a bipartisan Cabinet, and keeping Gates in his position might avert criticism of partisanship. Gates was appointed by president Bush in 2006 following Donald Rumsfeld's departure. Before taking the top job at Defense, Gates served as president of Texas A&M University but had spent a lifetime in intelligence and military, having worked as an adviser to President Reagan and as CIA director from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush.
Marine General James L. Jones will serve as Obama's National Security Advisor. The 64-year-old served for 40 years in the Marine Corps, rising from a platoon commander in Vietnam to Commandant of the Marine Corps and later served as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. Since retiring last year as a four-star general, he served as the Bush administration's special envoy for Middle East security and chaired the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, a blue ribbon panel appointed by Congress that assessed the readiness of Iraqi troops. As National Security Adviser, Jones will serve as President Obama's chief adviser on national security affairs and help coordinate the interagency efforts of the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community. Some of the national security issues Jones will face include the management of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and combating the terrorist threat in Pakistan; and containing the nuclear aspirations of an ambitious Iran and a flip-flopping North Korea.
On Jan. 28, 2009, the Senate confirmed retired Navy Adm. Dennis Blair to be director of national intelligence. Blair was the top contender for the post since the beginning, but sources initially said "Hill problems" could keep him from being confirmed. Some Democrats had pressed Obama to keep Mike McConnell, former President Bush's intel chief, to ensure a smooth transition. Blair is only the third person to serve as the nation's most important intelligence officer. The post was created in 2004 as part of the intelligence community reforms that followed the attacks of Sept. 11. The goal of the director of national intelligence is to streamline the gathering and analysis from the 16 different agencies that make up the intelligence community. Blair last held a job in government in 2002, when he retired -- after 30 years in the U.S. Navy -- as leader of U.S. Pacific Command.