The Senate on Tuesday evening confirmed the nomination of Kenneth Wainstein to be the Department of Homeland Security under secretary for intelligence and analysis, leaving just a handful of under secretary and other senior positions at the department without political appointees in in charge.
Wainstein was confirmed on a 63 to 35 vote, with 14 Republicans joining 49 Democrats to back the nomination.
Once he’s sworn in, Wainstein will replace Melissa Smislova, who has been the acting under secretary for I&A since early in the Biden administration. Smislova, a 17-year veteran of the department, will remain at I&A as the acting principal deputy under secretary, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
During Wainstein’s confirmation hearing in early February, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, highlighted China’s economic espionage in the U.S. He asked Wainstein about his role as a private lawyer in a firm that worked for a Chinese state-owned company seeking information on U.S. oil and gas companies.
Wainstein listed the work in his questionnaire for the committee ahead of his testimony. He told Portman that he didn’t speak with or advocate for the Chinese client, adding that he knows of China’s economic espionage in that country’s efforts to outcompete the U.S.
Portman must have been satisfied with Wainstein’s answers as he voted to confirm.
Wainstein was an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s National Security Division during President George W. Bush’s administration and later served the president as homeland security adviser.