WASHINGTON – A top United Nations official who once served on the White House National Security Council has been picked for deputy secretary of the Homeland Security Department, a move that would place two women at the top of the department for the first time.
Three secretaries and five deputy secretaries — all men — have served at the agency since it launched in 2003.
At the U.N., Lute coordinates peace efforts among countries in conflict.
"Jane's experience leading large operations with broad and challenging missions lends itself to the undertaking we have before us at Homeland Security," Napolitano said in a statement.
In addition to her NSC work, Lute has served as vice president and chief operating officer of the United Nations Foundation. She served in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. Lute is married to Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, Obama's deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan.
At Homeland Security, the deputy secretary's role has traditionally been that of a chief operating officer who oversees the day-to-day management of the 200,000-person department.
Homeland Security expert James Carafano thinks Lute is an odd pick. "She doesn't have the right skill set," said Carafano, a fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "And she knows nothing about the issues."
Carafano said the Homeland Security deputy secretary needs to be someone who knows how to manage massive bureaucracies like the department. "She's going to have a really incredibly steep learning curve," he said.
The department includes divisions that protect the country's borders, develop new radiation detection equipment, study and test infectious diseases, enforce immigration and maritime laws. Homeland Security also is responsible for protecting the president and other dignitaries, coordinating disaster response, keeping terrorists off airplanes and other transportation, and monitoring and preventing cyber-intrusions.
Napolitano also announced her chiefs of staff Friday — both of whom worked for her when she was governor of Arizona: Noah Kroloff, chief of staff for policy, and Jan Lesher, chief of staff for operations.