Pia Carusone, left, and former representative Gabrielle Giffords at the retirement ceremony for Giffords’s husband, Capt. Mark Kelly. (David Lienemann/The White House)

Carusone won plaudits on the Hill for her handling of the aftermath of the 2011 shooting in Tucson that left six dead and more than a dozen injured, including Giffords herself, who resigned from Congress to focus on her recovery. In the weeks following the shooting, with Giffords in the hospital, Carusone helmed the office and its traumatized staff (Gabe Zimmerman, a Giffords aide, was killed in the shooting ) and served as the spokeswoman on the tragedy, which attracted international attention.

“Pia brings a wealth of experience in communications and homeland security issues in Congress, and in her new role will advise the Secretary on all matters related to public affairs, as well as oversee strategic and internal communications,” DHS said in an announcement of the new hire. “Pia and her team will be responsible for coordinating the public affairs activities of all of the Department’s components and offices, and serve as the federal government’s lead public information office during national emergencies or disasters.”