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The United States Senate confirmed Kirstjen Nielsen to be secretary of homeland security on Tuesday, December 5. The final vote was 62-37, with ten Democrats voting to confirm and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) abstaining. Nielsen is the sixth person to be confirmed as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security since its creation in 2002 and, having served as the department’s chief of staff earlier this year, she is the first former employee to become secretary. Nielsen has served in the White House as assistant to the president and principal deputy chief of staff since early September. She was sworn in on Wednesday, December 6.


Announced in early 2017 and expected to be completed by February 1, 2018, the Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics is separating into the Offices of the Under Secretaries for Research and Engineering and for Acquisition and Sustainment. On December 5, 2017, President Trump announced his intention to nominate Michael D. Griffin to the newly created role of under secretary for research and engineering. Griffin, who most recently served as chairman and chief executive officer of the Schafer Corporation, is familiar with government reorganizations—during his 2005 to 2009 stint as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s administrator, he established a new chief operating officer position at the agency. Griffin graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science. He then went on to earn master’s degrees from The Catholic University of America, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Southern California, The George Washington University, and Loyola College in Maryland. Griffin also holds a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Maryland, College Park.


In Utah on December 4, President Trump announced that he intended to remove federal protections from two major public land areas, reducing Bear Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by half. The reduction has drawn the ire of environmental groups, businesses and the local tribes- the Navajo Nation, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and Ute Indian– for whom Bear Ears is a sacred ceremonial site. Both monuments are archaeological and paleontological gold mines. Bear Ears contains an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites, from the 13,000-year-old remains of the Clovis people to the 2,000-year-old petroglyphs and cliff dwellings left by the Ancestral Pueblo. Grand Staircase-Escalante features numerous fossil deposits chronicling the rise of the dinosaurs in the Triassic and Jurassic periods, and in 2002 paleontologists unearthed a duck-billed dinosaur from 75 million years ago. Grand Staircase-Escalante alone draws an estimated 870,000 visitors per year, and nearby towns depend heavily on park tourism for revenue. Both monuments were created under the Antiquities Act, and legal opinion is split on whether the Act grants the president authority to reduce a national monument. Three lawsuits are pending in U.S. courts, filed by major retailer Patagonia, environmental groups and a coalition of the five tribes.

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