Hon. Jeh Johnson
Former US Secretary of Homeland Security
Jeh Johnson is the former US Secretary of Homeland Security. He served in that position from December 2013 to January 2017. Johnson now practices law again at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Johnson has been affiliated with Paul Weiss on and off since 1984, and was elected the firm’s first African American partner in 1994. Johnson is also currently on the board of directors of Lockheed Martin and the Center for a New American Security, and a non-resident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. Since leaving public office in January 2017, Johnson has testified before Congress three times, and is a frequent commentator about national and homeland security issues on ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, and other news outlets. He has debated at both the Oxford and Cambridge Unions. Johnson is a recipient of the Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Award, presented at the Reagan Presidential Library in December 2018.
As Secretary of Homeland Security, Johnson was the head of the third-largest cabinet department of the US government, consisting of 230,000 personnel and 22 components, including TSA, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Services, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, and FEMA. Johnson’s responsibilities as Secretary included counterterrorism, cybersecurity, aviation security, border security, port security, maritime security, protection of our national leaders, the detection of chemical, biological, and nuclear threats to the homeland, and response to natural disasters. In three years as Secretary of DHS, Johnson is credited with management reform of the Department which brought about a more centralized approach to decision-making in the areas of budgets, acquisition, and overall policy. Johnson also raised employee morale across the Department, reflected in the September 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
Prior to becoming Secretary of Homeland Security, Johnson was General Counsel of the Department of Defense (2009-2012). In that position, Johnson is credited with being the legal architect for the US military’s counterterrorism efforts in the Obama Administration. In 2010, Johnson also co-authored the report that paved the way for the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by Congress later that year. In his book Duty, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote that Johnson “proved to be the finest lawyer I ever worked with in government – a straightforward, plain-speaking man of great integrity, with common sense to burn and a good sense of humor.” In his final days as General Counsel of the Defense Department, Johnson made the first of three appearances at the Oxford Union, this one an address entitled “How Will the War Against al Qaeda End?” The address received international attention and acclaim.
In October 1998, Johnson was appointed by President Clinton to be General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force, and served in that position until January 2001. Earlier in his career, Johnson was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (1989-1991).
Johnson is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a graduate of Morehouse College (1979) and Columbia Law School (1982), and the recipient of nine honorary degrees. In February 2019, he joined Spirit of America’s Advisory Board.