Jeh Johnson’s career has been a mixture of public service and private corporate law practice; he has served in three presidentially appointed Senate-confirmed positions.
Johnson was Secretary of Homeland Security from December 2013 to January 2017. Johnson is now a partner with the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP, resident in the firm’s New York and Washington, DC offices.
He has been affiliated with Paul, Weiss on and off since 1984, and first became a partner in the firm in 1994. Johnson is also currently on the board of directors of Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation.
As Secretary of Homeland Security, Johnson was the head of the third largest cabinet department of the U.S. 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.
In October 2016, Johnson and the Director of National Intelligence issued the statement of the U.S. government publicly accusing the Russian government of attempting to interfere with the U.S. election.
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 U.S. 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 delivered the first of his two notable addresses at the Oxford Union in England, entitled “How Will the War Against al Qaeda End?,” which 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), where he tried 12 cases and argued 11appeals in three years. 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.
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