While Johnson has been outspoken in his views on fighting terrorism overseas, he has remained largely silent on other DHS responsibilities, including countering homegrown radicalization, enforcing the nation's immigration laws, responding to natural disasters, and effectively sharing threat information with local law enforcement.
Nevertheless, Johnson "was a key decision maker on various legal questions regarding different points of overlap between the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security," the senior administration official said. "During disaster responses, the Department of Defense oftentimes coordinates with DHS to provide personnel, equipment, money and other resources. Whether it was Hurricane Sandy or the Deepwater Oil Spill, DoD was working with its partner, DHS, to support the government's efforts to quickly respond effectively."
If confirmed, Johnson would lead a department of 240,000 employees, who make DHS the third largest department in President Obama's Cabinet.
Johnson grew up in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., before attending Morehouse College and then law school at Columbia University. He is married with two children.
Reached by phone Thursday, Johnson declined to comment for this article.
In July, then-DHS secretary Janet Napolitano announced she would be stepping down to become president of the University of California system.
In the six weeks since she left, terrorists launched a major attack on a mall frequented by Americans in Kenya, a man opened fire inside the Navy Yard in Washington, and a series of natural disasters wreaked havoc on states across the United States – all incidents that intersect with the DHS mission.
In a farewell address before her departure, she offered this advice to her unnamed successor: "You will need a large bottle of Advil."