Born September 5, 1971, and raised in Hawaii, Kevin Kealoha McAleenan is the child of Michael McAleenan. When Kevin was a child his father earned a PhD in Sociology at the University of Hawaii and worked with at-risk youths at a Honolulu middle school. Kevin earned a B.A. in Political Science at Amherst College in 1994 and Juris Doctor degree from the University of Chicago Law School and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College. After law school, McAleenan practiced law in California for a few years, first at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter, & Hampton from October 1998 to February 2000, and then at Gunderson Dettmer from February 2000 to October 2001.
In the wake of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, McAleenan decided to refocus his career onto national security issues. He first applied to the FBI, but he was soon contacted by Robert Bonner, who had been recently confirmed as the commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service (later renamed CBP). In November 2001, McAleenan moved to Washington DC and set to work establishing the embryonic Office of Antiterrorism in Washington, DC. Two years later, he was promoted to its executive director. In 2006, McAleenan returned to Los Angeles to serve as the Area Port Director at Los Angeles International Airport, directing CBP’s border security operations at LAX and 17 other airport facilities in the L.A. area.
Kevin Kealoha McAleenan Full Biography and Profile
Kevin K. McAleenan was sworn in on March 20, 2018, as Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Prior to his confirmation, Mr. McAleenan served as the Acting Commissioner since January 20, 2017. As the agency’s chief executive, Mr. McAleenan oversees 60,000 employees, manages a budget of over $13 billion, and ensures the effective operations of CBP’s mission to protect national security while promoting economic prosperity.
Mr. McAleenan directs CBP’s three core missions, counterterrorism, border security, and trade enforcement, while facilitating $4 Trillion in trade and facilitating travel of over 365 million people through ports of entry. He oversees the largest law enforcement agency and the second-largest revenue collecting source in the federal government.
“CBP was created as the Unified Border Security Agency with the priority mission of preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the country. That was our galvanizing call after 9/11, when we were created under the leadership of Commissioner Robert Bonner, who had a very clear picture of the importance of the border security agency in preventing the next 9/11 or preventing a foreign terrorist entry into the U.S. to mount an attack. So we play a multifaceted role, ensuring we address risk of travel to the United States, both of course at the immediate border but also through our National Targeting Center in supporting risk assessment of people that are applying for visas, people that are applying into the visa waiver program, or seeking that permission to travel to the United States.”
“So we do that with partners in the Department of State and with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations’ Visa Security Unit, which has that responsibility alongside State and foreign embassies to assess risk of those applying for visas. It’s our data and our analytics and our mission to support partners in making these decisions. At the immediate border, we have the responsibility to interview and inspect all travelers and make decisions on whether they present a risk. And between the ports of entry, we have to stop and interdict all illegal activity crossing between ports of entry.”
“On the cargo side, we’re trying to identify risk and prevent it from even heading into the global supply chain to the U.S. borders. Starting after 9/11, we implemented the Container Security Initiative where we partner with 58 sea ports around the world from where the vast majority of cargo heads to the U.S., working with foreign partners to assess cargo for risk and make inspection decisions before it’s even leaving on a vessel destined to the U.S. And then, from lessons learned from the [October 2010] Yemen air cargo plot, we developed a similar capability, an air cargo assessment system, which we’ve just formalized in regulation this year, to do that for parcels headed to the U.S. using advanced data targeting partnerships with the air cargo industry, to examine those for risk before they board aircraft.”
Mr. McAleenan previously served as Deputy Commissioner from November 2, 2014, until his appointment to Acting Commissioner. In this role, he served as the agency’s Chief Operating Officer and senior career official. Under Mr. McAleenan’s leadership, CBP has developed strategies that protect the nation’s borders from terrorism and attack transnational criminal networks.
Mr. McAleenan has also implemented innovations that have facilitated the U.S. international arrival and departure process, saving the government and travel industry millions of dollars. Additionally, he has advanced the development of CBP’s trade transformation agenda, designed to help America compete in the global economy.
“I think the first and most fundamental aspect that’s going to be transformed is that important process of confirming identity at the time of border crossing. That family of four that’s going for their third trip to Orlando to go to Disney World from Germany, we’d like them to walk up, have their picture taken together, and be able to confirm their arrival, assess risk, and do an interview very quickly. So you take a 10- to 12-minute process and reduce it to two minutes with higher security, and you’re empowering that law enforcement officer to do their mission as opposed to administrative tasks with documents and swipes and statements. So confirming identity expeditiously in a way that reduces wait time and increases security is probably the fundamental thing that we think biometrics is going to deliver.”
“We also believe we can get to that fidelity with entry and exit. The U.S. did not invest in departure control approaches. We don’t have the staffing going outbound at airports. We don’t do two-way border crossings like many countries do. We do, however, want to get to the point where we can use biometrics to know who’s in and who’s out of the country. We think they’ll enable that beyond the air environment and certainly in the sea environment but also in the land border. So the biometric potential, for us, is very powerful. Doing it in a way, with facial, it’s privacy-protected because you don’t have to take your travel document out and hand it to a number of different people in your process. The system confirms it, we have the picture on file, we don’t have to make new collections for U.S. travelers. So it’s a very powerful technology that we think we can apply effectively.”
Mr. McAleenan has previously held several leadership positions at CBP and one of its legacy agencies, the U.S. Customs Service. From 2006 to 2008, Mr. McAleenan served as the Area Port Director of Los Angeles International Airport, directing CBP’s border security operations at LAX and 17 other airport facilities in one of CBP’s largest field commands.
In December 2011, Mr. McAleenan was named acting Assistant Commissioner of CBP’s Office of Field Operations. In this position, he led agency operations to secure the U.S. border while expediting lawful trade and travel at 329 ports of entry in the United States and 70 international locations in more than 40 countries.
Kevin K. McAleenan Quick Facts
- Kevin K. McAleenan is the Deputy Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, serving as the agency’s Chief Operating Officer and senior career official; overseeing the largest federal law enforcement agency in the U.S. government with 60,000 employees.
- On November 2, 2014, McAleenan was named Deputy Commissioner by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. Prior to this, McAleenan served as acting Deputy Commissioner.
- From 2006 to 2008, McAleenan served as the Area Port Director of Los Angeles International Airport, directing CBP’s border security operations at LAX and 17 other airport facilities in one of CBP’s largest field commands.
- In December 2011, McAleenan was named acting Assistant Commissioner of CBP’s Office of Field Operations. In this position, he led agency operations to secure the U.S. border while expediting lawful trade and travel at 329 ports of entry in the United States and 70 international locations in more than 40 countries.
- McAleenan has been a member of the U.S. Government’s Senior Executive Service since 2006. Prior to government service, McAleenan practiced law in California.
- He received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Chicago Law School and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College.
- McAleenan is a longtime border officer, reflecting Trump’s priority for the department initially founded to combat terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Mr. McAleenan received a 2015 Presidential Rank Award, the nation’s highest civil service award. He also received the Service to America Medal, Call to Service Award, in 2005 for spearheading efforts to develop and implement a comprehensive antiterrorism strategy in the border security context after September 11, 2001.
Kevin McAleenan is married to Corina Avalos McAleenan, a consultant at Deloitte, with whom he has two daughters.
- Kevin Kealoha McAleenan Biography and Profile (CTC)