US President Barack Obama Friday nominated the Pentagon's former top lawyer to head the Department of Homeland Security, saying that Jeh Johnson "has a deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States", dpa reported.
If approved by the Senate, Jeh (pronounced Jay) Johnson will replace Janet Napolitano, who resigned in July to head up California's prestigious public university system.
From 2009 to 2012, Johnson, 56, was involved in some of the most controversial defence issues in recent years - from legal justification for drone attacks to removing barriers for gays in the military.
Obama said Johnson had been a "critical member of my national security team" during his first term in office, and helped design and implement many policies that helped dismember the core of al-Qaeda.
Johnson also shared the president's belief that upholding America's rule of law was one of the most important elements in defending the country, Obama said.
Johnson had served in the Pentagon prior to 2009 and worked as a federal prosecutor between stints in private practice. He started working in January with one of New York's most prestigious law firms, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
"I am a New Yorker," Johnson said. "I was not looking for this opportunity. I ... was settling back into private life and law."
But he said when Obama called, he could not refuse.