Jeh Johnson

Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security

Jeh Johnson is a partner at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP in New York City and the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security (2013–2017). Johnson is now also on the board of directors of Lockheed Martin, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Center for a New American Security. Since leaving public office in January 2017 Johnson has been asked to testify before Congress four times on the subject of homeland security and cybersecurity, and he is a regular commentator on national and homeland security matters on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, MSNBC, FOX, CNN, CNBC, and other networks.  

Johnson is the 2018 recipient of the Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Award, presented at the Reagan Presidential Library, for “contribut[ing] greatly to the defense of our nation,” and “guiding us through turbulent times with courage and wisdom.”

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, response to natural disasters, and the detection of chemical, biological, and nuclear threats to the United States. 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 U.S. military’s counterterrorism efforts in the Obama Administration. In 2010, Johnson also coauthored 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."

Earlier in his career, Johnson was general counsel of the Department of the Air Force in the Clinton Administration (1998–2001), and an assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York (1989–1991).

Johnson is currently a nonresident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. He has debated at both the Cambridge and Oxford Unions in England, and in 2019 was made an honorary life member of the Cambridge Union. He has also lectured at Westminster College, Harvard and Yale law schools, the National Defense University, the National War College, and all four U.S. military academies.

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 ten honorary degrees.

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