Kirstjen M. Nielsen

Former Secretary of Homeland Security; President, Lighthouse Strategies

Kirstjen M. Nielsen is an internationally recognized expert and proven leader on critical security issues facing governments and institutions, including enterprise risk, resiliency, cybersecurity, and emerging threats. As a former cabinet member, attorney, public servant, successful entrepreneur, subject matter expert, and regular public speaker, she brings over two decades of domestic and international experience in the homeland- and national-security sectors. Nielsen’s breadth of experience stands at the crossroads of policy, strategy, and operations, providing her with a unique perspective across complex enterprise environments and influencing her position on the importance of stakeholder engagement, the role of technology as a force multiplier, and the need to address today’s threats while still assessing and preparing for those of tomorrow.

Currently, Neilsen is the president of Lighthouse Strategies, advising non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and companies—from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies—on new and emerging threats to the homeland, enterprise risk assessments and resiliency, government mission requirements, new technology use cases across the public and private security spectrum, and the mitigation of potential threats or vulnerabilities posed by new technologies. Additionally, she is a member of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board, and the Homeland Security Experts Group. She is also a risk expert at RANE, a network of risk and security professionals focused on more efficiently responding to emerging threats and managing complex risk.

Nielsen was sworn in as the sixth secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in December 2017, to lead the 240,000 men and women of the department and oversee development and expenditure of its $70 billion total annual budget authority. During Nielsen’s tenure, she directed widespread actions to increase the security and resilience of the nation against evolving threats across land, air, sea, and cyber domains, including the reorganization of key parts of DHS around critical mission areas. She worked closely with Congress to ensure the dedicated employees of DHS are equipped with the right tools, resources, and authorities needed to protect the homeland.

Nielsen was previously commissioned to serve as the White House principal deputy chief of staff. Before that appointment, she had the honor of serving as the DHS chief of staff. From 2004-2007, Nielsen served as special assistant to the President, for prevention, preparedness, and response on the White House Homeland Security Council. She also helped to stand up the Transportation Security Administration after the tragic events of 9-11 and worked for U.S. Senator Connie Mack III. Nielsen has advised government agencies, private-sector companies, international organizations, and NGOs on assessing their risk posture and increasing their resiliency, developing crisis communications plans, understanding various policy environments, and identifying and mitigating hazards.

As the president of Sunesis, a security management firm she founded, she focused on developing and executing preparedness strategies, plans, tools, and tabletop exercises to prevent, protect against, and respond to catastrophic events, with a focus on cybersecurity and critical infrastructure interdependencies.

Neilsen holds a bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and a juris doctor degree in law from the University of Virginia’s School of Law.

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