The president told Spanish-language broadcaster Univision's New York affiliate he wants to know if Ray Kelly is interested in the job.
"Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is, but if he's not I'd want to know about it, because obviously he'd be very well qualified for the job," Obama said.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Friday after Janet Napolitano announced her departure that he recommended Kelly for the post, The Hill reported. Napolitano is leaving to head the University of California.
Obama apparently agrees with Schumer that Kelly is well-qualified for the post. The president called Kelly "one of the best there is."
"Ray Kelly's obviously done an extraordinary job in New York and the federal government partners a lot with New York," Obama said.
The choice could evoke echoes of President George W. Bush's choice in 2004 of former New York Police Department Commissioner Bernard Kerik to head DHS. Kerik withdrew his name amid revelations he had hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny and later pleaded guilty to ethics violations.