Obama Announces His Choice to Lead Dept. of Homeland Security

President chooses Jeh Johnson, a native New Yorker, for post vacated by Janet Napolitano.
16:41 | 10/18/13

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Transcript for Obama Announces His Choice to Lead Dept. of Homeland Security
This is a special group. -- -- -- -- I'm -- -- nearly this ABC news digital special reports President Obama making his announcement relating have a department -- security. Let's listen in. Outstanding team here folks -- Work every single day to make sure that. We're doing everything we can't fulfill that response build. And that means that our entire government. A law enforcement. And Homeland Security professionals our troops our diplomats. Our intelligence personnel are all working together. It means working with state and local partners. Disrupt terrorist attacks. To make our borders more secure. Respond to natural disasters and make our immigration system more effective. And fair. Addressing any one of these challenges is -- -- Addressing all of them it wants his monumental task but that's what the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security do every day. And today I'm proud to announce my choice to lead them. An outstanding public servant who I've known and trusted for years mr. -- jobs. Now we are of course enormously grateful to secretary Janet Nepal -- Janet couldn't be here today she's already made her move to -- new position in sunny California. Over saying. The higher education system. In that great state and I know that she's gonna do an outstanding job there where would be incredible young people. That are in our largest state but we all deeply appreciate the -- job that she did over the last -- years. A lot of bank -- -- for his service and for stepping in as acting secretary after Janet left. Thanks in no small part to -- leadership and her team. We've done more to protect our homeland against those who wish to do us harm. We strengthen our borders. We've taken steps to make sure -- immigration system better reflects our values. We've helped thousands of Americans recover from hurricanes and tornadoes. Floods and wildfires. And we've worked to clean up a massive oil spill in the gulf as well was addressed -- flu pandemic. In. From the moment I took office -- was an absolutely critical member of my national security to. And he demonstrated again and again the qualities or make him a strong secretary. Of homeland secured. -- deep understanding of threats and challenges facing the United States. As Pentagon's as the Pentagon's top lawyer. He helped design and implement many of the policies that kept our country safe including our success in that. The dismantling the core of -- Qaeda in the Fatah. When I directed my national security team to be more open and transparent about how our policies. Work and how we make decisions especially when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks. -- was one of the leaders who spoke eloquently about how we meet today's threats in -- -- that are consistent with our values including the rule of law. Jay also knows that meeting these threats demands cooperation and coordination. Across our government. He's been there in the situation room. At the table in moments of decision. Working with -- leaders from host of agencies to make sure everyone is -- in the same direction. He's respected across our government as a team play. Somebody or knows how to get folks who. Don't always agree to work towards a common goal. -- has experience leading large complex organizations. As a member of the Pentagon's senior management team first under. Bob gates and then. Under Leon Panetta. He helped oversee the work of more than three million military and civilian personnel across the country. And around the world and I think it's fair to -- -- both former secretaries gates. And -- Will a test. Being credible professionalism. To Jay brings to the job. And a bipartisan approach that appropriately he takes when it comes to national security. He's also earned a reputation as a cool and call me. -- appreciates that any organization's greatest asset is its people and at the Pentagon he guided the report. Explaining why allowing our men and women in uniform to serve their country openly. Would not weaken our military. Congress ended up using that report. The Jay helped to craft to justify repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in America and our military are stronger because we get. In part because of -- determined leadership. I know he will bring that same commitment to our hardworking folks -- DHS. And finally Jay believes. In -- in a deep and personal way. That keeping America safe. Requires us also upholding the values and civil liberties that make America great. And -- tells the story of his uncle was a member of the legendary Tuskegee airman during World War II. And he and his fellow -- served with honor even when their country -- treat them with the dignity and the respect the -- -- It was a lesson the -- never forgot. We must adopt legal positions to comport with common sense. -- pretty good lawyers or knows what that means. Jay understands. That this country is worth protecting not because of what we build -- what we own but because of who we are. And that's what sets -- spark. That's why as a nation we have to keep adapting to changing threats whether natural or -- We have to stay ready when disaster strikes and help Americans. Recover in the aftermath. We've got to fix our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders and modernize its legal immigration and make sure everybody is playing by the same rules. And I'm confident that. I could not make a better choice. -- -- somebody who I'm confident is going to. Will be moving not just the agency Portman helping to move. The country for so -- thank you so much for agreeing to take on this. Very difficult and extraordinary mission you've got a great team over VHS. And I know that they're looking forward to having your there are urged the senate. Two confirmed today as soon as possible. And I think you. As woes are scrambling to agreeing to -- Your wife Susan and her daughter Natalie and good beer because they're visiting. To say title. But to your son chose well so -- -- -- I'd like to invite Jay Johnson to say a few words hopefully our next secretary of Department of Homeland Security. Thank you very much Mr. President. As you noted. My -- and two kids are not here because it's parents -- -- occidental. And thanks to the cost of a nonrefundable airline ticket. They could not be in two places at once they wish they could be here. Thank you for the tremendous honor of this nomination in the trust you have placed in me. To carry out this large and important responsibility is secretary of Homeland Security. I was not looking for this opportunity. I had left government at the end of last year and was settling back into private life. And private law practice. When I received the -- I could not refuse. I am a New Yorkers. And I was present in Manhattan. On 9/11 which happens to be my birthday. When that bright and beautiful day he was. A -- something like this was shattered by the largest terrorist attack on our homeland in history. I wandered the streets of New York. That day and wondered. And asked what can I do. Since then I've tried to devote myself. To answering that question. I love this country. I care about the safety of our people. I believe in public service and I remain loyal to you Mr. President. If confirmed by the senate I promise all my energy focus and ability. Toward the task of safeguarding our nation's national. And Homeland Security. Thank you against. President promised. Homeland Security make its way the Rose Garden along with vice president Joseph Biden. But the nominee. I want to bring in now James Gordon -- from me ABC news investigative unit Washington DC talk -- about the nomination James thanks for being with us. This is so it Johnson's been described as a close advisor to the president what does his position on some of the issues and specifically I want to ask you about drone news. -- -- the in recent years who could become secretary of Homeland Security after -- -- -- departed but -- Johnson was never talked about as one of those people. I think part of that is because it's hard to get people to agree to. You know had this enormous. Cabinet level office of a quarter million employees -- are charged with sexually defending our borders and protecting the homeland. And also undergo the scrutiny that presidential nominees have to go for. Is -- job which left in December -- four years he was the General Counsel the top lawyer. At the Pentagon and he has seen. You know quite a lot in his tenure and let's also not forget as you just pointed out in a statement -- a new Yorker. You can't understate the importance of having -- new Yorker. Running that department given 9/11 were mostly -- -- of the worst damage loss of what took place general Paul -- -- was born in New York City as well. So. Is an interest in choice but as you point out at the Pentagon he had a big role. In for what your work offensive not defensive capabilities in their estates after 9/11. So you've had somebody -- are involved in the in the pro active. Killing of al-Qaeda operatives and in the legal policies that you know provide that the infrastructure or the support. For that kind of offensive military capability to protect the homeland. Using drones in Yemen and Somalia and the -- Pak region. Or are. You know he's actually had a hand in killing major al-Qaeda leaders through that legal process that backs up those activities. Now it's a very different job -- to defend the country from. You know inside the borders as a defensive role not an office of -- And you know I think that he's going to be looking at -- -- Plano undoubtedly as a role model for how to do that job through the rest of president Obama's second -- well. I want to go to Mary Bruce who's in the Rose Garden as well other coaches to have part of that afternoon. Conference. Nomination and -- want to ask you about this from what is the legacy that -- autonomous left that that as Kansas putting out there. That. Did about -- absolutely left the administration I think -- a very positive reputation a positive legacy. Certainly immigration I think would top the list of things that she'll be known for going forward is actually interesting because. Although -- Johnson has a very impressive resume immigration is one of those issues -- covered by -- falls under his responsibilities outgoing port that is not something that he has a lot of experience -- keep in mind that the Department of Homeland Security covers everything from. Counterterrorism to disaster response immigration as we mentioned so. Despite his impressive resume there are some areas where he will. In unchartered waters James who what about the facts what role to Johnson play in the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Well I think and they Don't Ask Don't Tell on the repeal the other of that policy that enabled. Gay and lesbians to serve openly in the US military. I mean that that's a great example of his political acumen -- mean this is guy who's always been very politically active he was a fund raiser. In an ardent campaigner for President Obama one of these will really. Early supporters -- president Bob of value that's gonna count. For a lot to be able to go forward with immigration reform and frankly you know keeping the department homeland security's budget -- -- That's authorities in tax and so forth. But I think you know while -- I have not heard any inclination that he's not gonna get pretty easily confirmed again and in this role as he was as General Counsel pentagon. You know I have heard from congressional Republicans that today that they're concerned that he doesn't have enough management experience so. He was the top -- the Pentagon which is in effect managing the largest law firm well you know probably on -- from thousand military orders. But. You know running the day to day operations of an agency with 250000. Employees. There's a whole different matter and so I think you'll hear a bit about you know the lack of management experience. But in the end he'll be confirmed. And I think that is number one job and and frankly following the -- -- and the standard she says is keeping the Department of Homeland Security out of the news which is to say. Good news stories but not -- you know scandals are problems. Mary wanted to ask you about don't tell enough appointed that changes -- there's about that bit where the -- may be there and in line with the president. Are we hearing any kind of potential hurdles. -- in any kind of senate confirmation. Not yet -- I suspect we will see a relatively easy confirmation although -- has been mentioned this was somewhat of a surprise pick but not one that's terribly controversial. We know that senator Tom Coburn -- the top Republican on the senate homeland security committee -- that he looks forward to meeting with him. Look forward to having that first introduction in conversations going forward so I suspect that this will be an easy confirmation. All right ABC's Mary Christmas at the White House -- thank you for that did something about -- for a the news what was -- out about the shut down this week but we did learn. That NSA Director General Keith Alexander will be leaving his post. What happens. Well general Alexander has been in charge of the national security agency for -- turbulence in Washington. He's been there for eight years since -- support you know became director of the National Security Agency in 2005. And by the way NSA is underneath the Department of Defense in the Pentagon. He's a four star army general and you know I think he's due for -- -- They have denied at NSA that this has anything to do with trustees leased by the former SA contractor. -- Snowden. But you have general Alexander -- deputy both departing. Probably in the spring. And looks -- I mean this is probably the largest security breach certainly in memory possibly in decades maybe ever. Within the government and the defense establishment. And it happened on his watch so while he is you know gotten a lot of credit relief from congress for trying to put things in place that would prevent this from happening again. Again. You know that's going to be part of his legacy as a director of the NSA. You know whatever the there were many many successes and many that we have never heard about by the -- but the fact that. You know god knows how many documents have been. -- for by -- Snowden and leaked to journalists. Is going to be something that's going to -- general I was -- legacy so. I guess they've decided it's time for some new blood at the -- higher echelons. -- -- the story any attention certainly does continue along those lines James Gordon meek from the ABC news investigative unit James thank you for your time appreciate it. Of course we -- reports on abcnews.com. And President Obama announcing his nominee for the department of public security. For now I'm -- that's our New York with this ABC news digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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