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DHS Leader Kirstjen Nielsen Resigns

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned Sunday, President Trump confirmed. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan is now acting secretary, Trump added.

Former DHS Leader Kirstjen Nielsen
Former DHS Leader Kirstjen Nielsen

Nielsen's departure may indicate a difference of opinion with President Trump involving border security vs. cybersecurity. While Trump continues to push for physical border security, Nielsen believes potential cyberattacks are now more threatening than potential physical attacks.

In September 2018, according to The Washington Post, Nielsen warned:

“DHS was founded 15 years ago to prevent another 9/11. I believe an attack of that magnitude is now more likely to reach us online than on an airplane. Our digital lives are in danger like never before."

A lawyer by training, she had served previously as a cybersecurity specialist in the DHS, according to AFP.

Still, the border debate dominated Nielsen's time. Ahead of resignation, Nielsen joined President Trump for a California border visit on Friday, and then she submitted her resignation on Sunday.

DHS Overhaul?

Nielsen's departure is a part of a massive DHS overhaul engineered and directed by top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, according to CBS. Trump requested Nielsen's resignation as part of the overhaul, according to multiple reports.

Trump's selection as Nielsen's temporary successor, Kevin McAleenan, faces controversy. By law, the under secretary for management, Claire Grady, who is currently serving as acting deputy secretary, is next in line to be acting secretary, The New York Times reports. The White House will have to fire Grady to make McAleenan acting secretary, people familiar with the transition said, the report added.

DHS Cybersecurity Strategy, MSPs and Advisors

Meanwhile, the DHS has had its hands full on the cybersecurity front -- including issuing warnings to MSPs in recent months. Congressional lawmakers introduced a bill in March 2019 to establish a committee of cybersecurity professionals. The proposed committee’s mandate: Advise the Department of Homeland Security on policies and programs.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.