May 16, 2013
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a Q &A session
By Katie Snider, Associate Producer
Janet Napolitano, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, discussed her career in politics, the country’s safety, and what it’s like to run the show in a male dominated organization at the Women of Washington event Thursday. Napolitano was candid about the protection of U.S. citizens just a month after the Boston Marathon Bombings.
“We have a much better understanding of what terrorism is. . . We’re still figuring out what causes someone to look at radical literature and then to carry out an act of terrorism. . . We have the capacity to respond and get a community back on its feet quickly . . . that didn’t exist 10 years ago.”
10 years after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, Napolitano says cyber security and aviation terrorism are the department’s focus. “You may have to take your shoes off for a little while longer,” she jokes, but “the key thing is real time information sharing. . . soon enough so we can do something about it.” The Department continues to “have labs testing things to make air travel more efficient.”
When it comes to immigration, the former Governor of Arizona said, “legislatively speaking, it’s time to overhaul immigration laws—past time.” Napolitano supports a ‘deferred action’ process for children who are raised in the United States –those who are deemed low enforcement risk may apply for work authorization without being deported. Immigration reform “I think it’s one thing in D.C. that has a chance to pass.”
When asked what it’s like to be a woman in an historically male field, she paused. “I don’t think about it so much anymore—interesting.” Moderator Linda Douglass asked for an eye-rolling induced moment in the Secretary’s career caused by being one of a few women in a male field. “(That’s) every day,” Napolitano joked, rolling her eyes for emphasis. “The test for leadership is to keep your eye on the ball . . . I’m never reticent about speaking but you better know what you’re talking about.”
Napolitano says she is not the right person to comment on balancing work and family life because she has no children and never married but suggests, “you gotta plan your leisure.” Thinking back on the defining moments of her career, The Secretary says her father’s support in her bid to become Arizona Attorney General was one—even though they both knew she would be taking a pay cut. “I said ‘Dad, you know that trust fund you set up for me . . . you can share it with me now. . . I got a check in the mail for $5.00 from the Napolitano Trust Fund.”
Check out the video from Thursday's event.