John Kelly, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said on Tuesday that continuing to break down stovepipes at the department will be one of his management efforts he takes on if the Senate confirms him.

Kelly cited current DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson’s Unity of Effort as an important management undertaking in making the department more effective, pointing out that the Defense Department is a better place due to the 1986 reorganization stemming from the Goldwater-Nichols legislation that helped break down barriers among the military services. Ultimately DoD became a better place by “knocking down a lot of rice bowls” and getting people to talk to each other, Kelly told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at his confirmation hearing.

Former Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly. President-elect Donald Trump intends to nominate Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security. Photo: Defense Department
Former Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Homeland Security. Photo: Defense Department

He suggested that the various operating components that make up DHS don’t have to give up the way they do business. When everyone understand this, it can better bring the department together, Kelly said.

Johnson has already moved the department in the direction of breaking down barriers and “I’m going to get smart on that as soon as I can,” Kelly said. Everyone can get behind the homeland security mission, he added.

Johnson in some of his parting comments about his hopes for DHS going forward has said that he hopes his successor continues with the Unity of Effort initiative.

Kelly is a former Marine Corps general. He retired from the service last January after finishing his career as the commander of United States Southern Command.

Some  senators and others have recommended organizational and personnel changes, not specific people, but the way certain offices are structured, so this will be looked at as well, Kelly said.

Kelly said that improved information sharing is high on his list, noting that information can be shared better within DHS and by DHS with law enforcement.

On the subject of border security, Kelly said any physical barriers such as the construction of more walls would only be one part of a layered approach to security that also includes people and technology such as sensors, towers and unmanned aircraft systems. He also said border security begins well beyond the borders in any country where potential threats such as drugs originate.