Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan Out After Six Months In Office

President Trump loses yet another Cabinet Secretary.

Just six months after being elevated to the position of Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan is out at that position and it’s unclear if or when a permanent replacement will be named:

President Trump said late Friday that he is replacing Kevin McAleenan, the acting homeland security secretary, after a tenure in which McAleenan reduced border crossings and shepherded major Trump administration immigration policies but clashed with other senior officials and struggled to earn the president’s trust.

“Kevin McAleenan has done an outstanding job as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security. We have worked well together with Border Crossings being way down. Kevin now, after many years in Government, wants to spend more time with his family and go to the private sector,” Trump said of his top immigration official in a tweet.

McAleenan had become increasingly frustrated with a cadre of Trump’s appointments to senior immigration roles, and he recently told The Washington Post that he was struggling to control the messaging coming out of his department. More hard-line figures have attacked him as insufficiently committed to the president’s immigration agenda, while critics of the administration’s policies argue McAleenan has used conciliatory rhetoric to lend cover to harsh measures.

Trump, in turn, had questioned whether McAleenan was loyal to him.

A person close to McAleenan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he resigned Friday after weeks of growing disenchantment with his standing in the administration. He was never formally nominated for the job and there was no indication he would be.

McAleenan, who focused his tenure on addressing what he has characterized as an immigration system at the breaking point, recounted his accomplishments in a statement Friday night. He also thanked the president for the opportunity to serve “alongside the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security.”

“With his support, over the last 6 months, we have made tremendous progress mitigating the border security and humanitarian crisis we faced this year, by reducing unlawful crossings, partnering with governments in the region to counter human smugglers and address the causes of migration, and deploy additional border security resources,” McAleenan said in the statement.

Here’s the President’s tweets on the matter:

There is no indication as of yet who might replace McAleenan as Acting Secretary. Ordinarily, it would be the Deputy Secretary, but that person is presently David Pekoske, who himself is serving as Acting Deputy Secretary of DHS. This doesn’t preclude his elevation, of course, but it does indicate just how much turnover this position has seen under this President.

Under President’s Bush and Obama, there were three Acting Secretaries for each President over the course of roughly eight years each. In both cases, that Acting Secretary served for only a brief period between the terms of the two permanent Secretaries (Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff under President Bush and Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson under President Obama.) President Trump has seen four DHS Secretaries since he took office — John Kelly, Elaine Duke (Acting) Kirstjean Nielsen, and of course McAleenan — and is about to see his fifth and possibly a sixth if he chooses to pick someone as “permanent” Secretary other than the next Acting Secretary. That’s a considerable amount of turnover for a position like this and suggests just how chaotic are inside this Administration.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    That’s a considerable amount of turnover for a position like this and suggests just how chaotic are inside this Administration.

    But in spite of the chaos, they have managed to make it all but impossible to apply for asylum at the southern border…in direct opposition to what the United States used to stand for.
    The words below no longer have any meaning:

    “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

  2. Gustopher says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: As Lou Reed notes:

    Give me your hungry, your tired your poor — I’ll piss on ’em
    that’s what the Statue of Bigotry says
    Your poor huddled masses, let’s club ’em to death
    and get it over with and just dump ’em on the boulevard

  3. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    That’s a considerable amount of turnover for a position like this and suggests just how chaotic are inside this Administration.

    Now if any of this mattered to voters who actually support Trump or Congress, we might be on to something.

    Sadly, that something would be President Pence and a renewal for the GOP which would suddenly become much better now. (Probably would even get the support of Dr. Joyner and Hal.)

  4. CSK says:

    Next up for the position: Ken Cuccinelli.

  5. Michael Cain says:

    IIRC, there’s a 210-day limit on how long someone can serve as “acting” head of a Cabinet-level department. The clock stops while the Senate is considering a nomination. Anyone who has been previously confirmed by the Senate for any position can be appointed as the acting head. It seems that Trump plans on running out this term with acting heads who will do what they’re told in a lot of positions, so a replacement every six months or so. Bets on whether he’ll just put an acting secretary in for Perry at Energy, then replace them in a few month?