DHS Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke to retire in spring

After about a year-long return to government service, Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke announced her plans to retire within the next two months.

“Today Deputy Secretary Duke announced that she will retire from government service in April,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Friday afternoon in a statement. “Elaine has selflessly served the federal government for three decades and this department for more than 10 years spanning multiple secretaries.”

The Senate confirmed Duke last April. She briefly served as acting DHS secretary for about four months, when former Secretary Gen. John Kelly left to serve as White House Chief of Staff. During that time, she led DHS’ response to three major hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

She also launched a new leadership program within the department and conducted a listening tour of DHS offices throughout the country to collect employees’ ideas for reorganization. During her tenure, Duke also focused on employee morale and engagement. She accepted an award in January on behalf of DHS, which earned the title of “most improved” large agency on the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government annual rankings.

Nielsen praised Duke’s own leadership experience.

“Since taking office, she has been instrumental in helping the department address emerging threats and in preparing for, responding to and recovering from the 2017 hurricane season,” Nielsen said. “The department greatly benefited from her expert knowledge and understanding of DHS issues — particularly with respect to procurement, personnel and management.”

Duke left a 28-year career in government in 2009, after serving as DHS’ undersecretary for management. She returned to the department when President Donald Trump nominated her last January as DHS’ second in command.