Former Arizona governor and secretary of Homeland Security shares thoughts on Biden’s cabinet

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Former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano worked under former President Barack Obama as the secretary of Homeland Security. We spoke to Napolitano about her thoughts on the President-elect’s cabinet, its diversity, and what we can expect for Biden’s upcoming team.

The cabinet

“I think he’s picking a really strong team,” said Napolitano of the staff, many of whom have worked alongside Biden for several years. “It’s a very diverse cabinet. I think the President-elect recognizes a part of the strength of a cabinet comes from, not just experience, but diversity of perspective,” Napolitano said, expressing approval towards the rest of the cabinet and their resumes.

Napolitano believes Biden should build a cabinet that will honestly interact with him. “Not just giving him what he wants to hear, but what he needs to hear,” said Napolitano. However, regardless of outside influences, the President-elect is entitled to form the cabinet however he chooses, said Napolitano. 

In her time in the Obama administration, Napolitano remarked that the former president did not expect universal agreement but did expect a forthright discussion backed by facts.

New DHS head needs to “Hit it fast” 

Biden’s pick for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas, formerly worked under Napolitano and is “very familiar” with the department. Napolitano says this is important because DHS is the “third-largest department of the federal government, covers a wide variety of missions, [and] it’s extraordinarily complicated,” but [Mayorkas] should have the experience necessary to “hit it fast.”

Mayorkas’ priority should be to establish his subcabinet, as the job is too much for any one person, said Napolitano. Following that, he should work alongside the rest of the cabinet to identify things that need to be “undone” from the previous administration, said Napolitano.

“Of all the departments of the federal government, the DHS was misused under the Trump administration,” Napolitano said. “Some of the executive orders, for example, simply need to be erased,” said Napolitano, but reminds viewers that such processes will take substantial time to rescind.

Rapid-fire responses

“The justice department is really quasi-independent, as it should be, unlike as it has been under the Trump administration, and I think congress should take the same position. They shouldn’t be directing the attorney general on who to investigate or who to prosecute. Those decisions need to be made based on the facts and the law, not the politics.”

“Unlike now, former President Bush was very gracious in the transition and directed his cabinet to work closely with the incoming cabinet to make sure there was a smooth handoff. He viewed that as part of good governance, which indeed it is. As you know, President Trump has not yet even recognize that Joe Biden is the incoming president.”


Janet Napolitano, Former Arizona Governor & Former Secretary of Homeland Security

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