Kirstjen Nielsen testifies to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on her nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, US, November 8, 2017. Photo: Reuters
Kirstjen Nielsen repeated at her confirmation hearing what her predecessor, John Kelly, had said about the project. Kelly, Nielsen’s former boss, stepped down as head of the department this year to be Trump’s chief of staff.
Building a wall along the US-Mexico border was one of Trump’s central campaign promises but so far only prototypes have been built as funding remains in question.
Nielsen, 45, served as Kelly’s deputy in the White House and before that as his chief of staff when he was secretary of homeland security in the opening months of Trump’s presidency.
In response to questions from senators on the Homeland Security Committee, Nielsen said she would work with “state and local actors on the ground” to find the best solutions for border security, including increasing the use of technology such as unmanned surveillance aircraft.
The ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator Claire McCaskill, raised concerns that no cost-benefit analysis had been done on the need for the wall as compared to other homeland security initiatives facing cuts in the president’s budget.
“These decisions shouldn’t be based on politics,” McCaskill said at the hearing.
Nielsen responded that any decision about resources needed to be “risk based.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Nielsen would take the reins at a department with more than 240,000 employees that is responsible for issues such as U.S. border and airport security, immigration policy, disaster response and refugee admissions.