Addressing any one of these challenges is a tall order. Addressing all of them at once is a monumental task. But thats what the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security do every day. And today Im proud to announce my choice to lead them -- an outstanding public servant who Ive known and trusted for years -- Mr. Jeh Johnson.
We are, of course, enormously grateful to Secretary Janet Napolitano. Janet couldnt be here today -- shes already made her move to her new position in sunny California, overseeing the higher education system in that great state. And I know that shes going to do an outstanding job there with the incredible young people that are in our largest state. But we all deeply appreciate the terrific job that she did over the last four-and-a-half years. I want to thank Rand Beers for his service and for stepping in as Acting Secretary after Janet left.
Thanks in no small part to Janets leadership, her team, weve done more to protect our homeland against those who wish to do us harm. Weve strengthened our borders. We've taken steps to make sure our immigration system better reflects our values. Weve helped thousands of Americans recover from hurricanes and tornados, floods and wildfires. And weve worked to clean up a massive oil spill in the Gulf as well as address a flu pandemic.
In Jeh Johnson, we have the right person to continue this important work. From the moment I took office, Jeh was an absolutely critical member of my national security team, and he demonstrated again and again the qualities that will make him a strong Secretary of Homeland Security.
Jeh has a deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States. As the Pentagons top lawyer, he helped design and implement many of the policies that have kept our country safe, including our success in dismantling the core of al Qaeda and 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, Jeh was one of the leaders who spoke eloquently about how we meet today's threats in a way that are consistent with our values, including the rule of law.
Jeh 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 a host of agencies to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction. And he's respected across our government as a team player, somebody who knows how to get folks who dont always agree to work towards a common goal.
Jeh 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 3 million military and civilian personnel across the country and around the world. And I think it's fair to say that both former secretaries Gates and Panetta will attest to the incredible professionalism that Jeh brings to the job, and the bipartisan approach that, appropriately, he takes when it comes to national security.
He's also earned a reputation as a cool and calm leader. Jeh 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 that Jeh helped to craft to justify repealing "don't ask, don't tell." And America and our military are stronger because we did, in part because of Jeh's determined leadership. I know he will bring that same commitment to our hardworking folks at DHS.
And finally, Jeh believes, in a deep and personal way, that keeping America safe requires us also upholding the values and civil liberties that make America great. Jeh tells the story of his uncle who was a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. And he and his fellow airmen served with honor, even when their country didnt treat them with the dignity and the respect that they deserved. And it was a lesson that Jeh never forgot. We must adopt legal positions that comport with common sense, Jeh says, consistent with who we are as Americans. Jeh is a pretty good lawyer, so he knows what that means.
And Jeh understands that this country is worth protecting - not because of what we build or what we own, but because of who we are. And thats what sets us apart. Thats why, as a nation, we have to keep adapting to changing threats, whether natural or man-made. We have to stay ready when disaster strikes and help Americans recover in the aftermath. Weve got to fix our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders, and modernizes legal immigration, and makes sure everybody is playing by the same rules.
And Im confident that I could not make a better choice in Jeh, somebody who Im confident is going to be moving not just the agency forward, but helping to move the country forward.
So, Jeh, thank you so much for agreeing to take on this very difficult and extraordinary mission. Youve got a great team over at DHS, and I know that they're looking forward to having you over there. I urge the Senate to confirm Jeh as soon as possible. And I thank you, as well as your family, to agreeing to serve. Your wife, Susan, and your daughter, Natalie, couldnt be here because they're visiting Jeh Jr. out at Occidental College, which, by the way, I went to for two years when I was young. Its a fine college. Im sorry I couldnt be there to say hi to him. But your son chose well.