WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush has chosen former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who helped direct the emergency response to the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes against the Twin Towers, to lead the Homeland Security Department. Kerik will be in charge of safeguarding Americans from future attack, administration officials said yesterday.
Bush also announced his choice of Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns to be secretary of agriculture, selecting a dairy farmer’s son who has traveled widely to promote U.S. farm sales abroad.
In a third development, U.N. Ambassador John Danforth submitted his resignation after holding the job for less than six months. He had been mentioned as a candidate for secretary of state, a job Bush gave to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
The flurry of moves came as Bush reshaped his team for his second term in office. Seven members of the 15-member Cabinet have submitted their resignations; Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson also appears to be preparing to leave.
Kerik inherits a sprawling bureaucracy from Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who resigned last month. The creation of the department in 2003 combined 22 disparate federal agencies with more than 180,000 employees. The organization is still learning to work together and faces criticism over aspects from the coordination of finances to computer systems. Bush initially opposed the creation of the department but changed his position as its support on Capitol Hill grew.
Kerik’s first anti-terrorism work was as a paid private security worker in Saudi Arabia. He joined the New York Police Department in 1986 and was eventually tapped to lead the city’s Corrections Department and was appointed commissioner in 2000.
It was in that position that the mustachioed law enforcement chief became known to the rest of the country, supervising the NYPD’s response to the 2001 terror attacks, often at the side of then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani. In 2003, he took on a temporary assignment in Iraq to help rebuild the country’s police force. Most recently, he has been a consultant for Giuliani Partners, working to rebuild Baghdad’s police force.
Danforth, 68, a Republican and former Missouri senator, has been tapped by presidents of both parties as a troubleshooter. He led a Clinton-era investigation of the Waco Branch Davidian affair, and Bush named him special envoy for peace in Sudan. Danforth, who plans to retire, took over at the United Nations when Bush’s first ambassador, John Negroponte, was named ambassador to Iraq.
Danforth sent the president a letter Nov. 22, saying that on Jan. 20, it was his intention to retire to his home in St. Louis.
He also said he would continue to be available for short-term projects but intended to spend time with his wife, Sally, said his spokesman, Richard Grenell. Danforth received a reply from Bush on Nov. 27, though Grenell would not disclose its contents.
If confirmed by the Senate, Johanns, a two-term Republican governor in Nebraska, will replace Ann Veneman at the Agriculture Department. Johanns, 54, who has led delegations of Nebraska’s farm and business leaders on trade missions to Japan, Taiwan, China, Singapore and a half-dozen other countries, has taken a leading role in drought relief in the Midwest and has supporter ethanol, biodiesel and other alternative sources of energy, Bush said.