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President-elect Biden builds his foreign policy team

  • Published at 09:05 am November 24th, 2020
Biden foreign policy team
Newly-elected US President Joe Biden named the nominees to the cabinet on Monday. For the first time, a woman is being recruited in the US intelligence department. And for the first time, a person of Latin American or descent is being hired in Homeland Security. AFP

Here are some recent important picks and top contenders for prominent positions

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden began naming members of his Cabinet on Monday, appointing experienced foreign policy and national security experts to key posts in line with his pledge to restore the United States’ global ties and standing as a world leader.

The new appointees also reflect Biden’s promise to build an administration that reflects the nation’s diversity. Biden is expected to fill more Cabinet positions and White House posts in coming days.

Here are some recent important picks and top contenders for prominent positions, according to Reuters reporting:

Secretary of State: Anthony Blinken

A longtime Biden confidant who served as Number 2 at the State Department and as deputy national security adviser in President Barack Obama’s administration, Blinken was named Biden’s choice for secretary of state by the president-elect’s campaign on Monday.

National Security Adviser: Jake Sullivan

Biden’s national security adviser when he served as vice president to President Barack Obama, Sullivan also served as deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He was named Biden’s national security adviser on Monday.


Also read: Trump finally gives the green light to proceed with Biden transition


Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas

A Cuba-born lawyer will be the first Latino and first immigrant to head the department if confirmed as secretary of homeland security, after Biden’s campaign announced his nomination on Monday. As head of Citizenship and Immigration Services under Obama, Mayorkas led implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the United States illegally as children. DACA drew Republican criticism and could lead to Republican opposition against Mayorkas in the Senate.

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines

Deputy national security adviser under Obama, and previously the first woman to serve as CIA deputy director, Haines is Biden’s nominee for director of national intelligence. Haines held several posts at Columbia University after leaving the Obama administration in 2017.

Ambassador to the United Nations: Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Biden’s nominee to become the next US ambassador to the United Nations is Thomas-Greenfield, who will take on a job Biden plans to restore to a Cabinet level. She is a Black woman who served as Obama’s top diplomat on Africa from 2013 to 2017, leading US policy in sub-Saharan Africa during the West African Ebola outbreak.

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate: John Kerry

Former US Senator and Secretary of State Kerry will act as “climate czar” in the Biden Administration, the president-elect’s campaign announced on Monday. Kerry helped negotiate the Paris climate deal that Biden wants to re-join.


Also Read - Biden pushes new approach to EU in calls to leaders


Treasury Secretary

Biden said last week he has chosen a treasury secretary and will announce the pick by Thursday’s US Thanksgiving holiday.

Janet Yellen - The former Fed chair is believed to be the top candidate for Treasury secretary in Democratic and monetary policy circles. She deepened the central bank’s focus on workers and inequality and has remained active in policy debates at the Brookings Institution think-tank since Republican President Donald Trump replaced her as head of the central bank in 2018.

Lael Brainard - She is a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and a former undersecretary for international affairs during the 2009 global financial crisis. Brainard has voted against regulatory rollbacks on banks but could face criticism from liberals who want a less moderate choice.

Sarah Bloom Raskin - She formerly served as a Fed governor and deputy Treasury secretary, the only woman so far to hold the second-in-command role at the agency. A lawyer and former state financial regulator in Maryland, she has worked in finance and currently serves as a director with Vanguard, the investment giant with $6 trillion in assets under management.


Also read: Biden focuses on Cabinet as Trump's hopes of overturning election fade


Defense Secretary

Michele Flournoy - She is the consensus front-runner for the job, which would make her the first woman to lead the Pentagon. Flournoy served as a top Defense Department official in the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations, advised Biden’s campaign on defense issues and co-founded a consulting firm with Blinken.

Tammy Duckworth - The US senator from Illinois, who was considered as a possible Biden running mate, lost both her legs when her helicopter came under fire while she was an Army officer in Iraq in 2004. Duckworth was an assistant secretary of veterans affairs under Obama and would be the first Thai-American member of the Cabinet.

Attorney General

Sally Yates - A former deputy attorney general, Yates was briefly the acting attorney general early in Trump’s term before being fired for insubordination for refusing to defend travel restrictions targeting seven Muslim-majority nations.

Doug Jones - A former federal prosecutor with a strong civil rights record, he won a US Senate seat in a 2017 special election in deeply conservative Alabama. Jones was defeated this year by Republican Tommy Tuberville, a former college football coach.

Energy Secretary

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall - A former adviser to Biden when he was in the US Senate, she served in the Obama administration as deputy secretary of energy, where she led an initiative to address cyber and physical challenges to the power grid. Sherwood-Randall is now a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Arun Majumdar - He was the first director of the US Department of Energy’s agency that promotes and funds research and development of advanced energy technologies, and also served as acting undersecretary of energy from March 2011 to June 2012.He also worked at Alphabet Inc’s Google as vice president for energy before joining Stanford University’s faculty.

Jay Inslee - He focused on climate change during his failed presidential bid in 2019, but was re-elected to a third term as governor of Washington state this year. Inslee has been pushed for consideration in the Cabinet by environmental activists given his efforts to pass a carbon tax and clean-fuels standard.

Environmental Protection Agency

Heather McTeer Toney - A former regional administrator of the EPA under Obama, the clean-air activist is national field director for Moms Clean Air Force. A favorite of progressives, Toney has advocated and trained diverse officials on leadership and climate in over 15 countries including Kenya, France, Portugal, Nigeria and Senegal.

Mary Nichols - The former assistant administrator for the EPA during Clinton’s administration is chairwoman of California’s Air Resources Board, which regulates air pollution in the state.



Also read: Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state


Central Intelligence Agency

Michael Morell - He was the CIA’s deputy director and acting director of the agency twice under Obama. Morell is now the chairman of the geopolitical risk practice at Beacon Global Strategies, a Washington consulting firm.

Health and Human Services

Vivek Murthy - A physician and former surgeon general, Murphy has gained prominence in recent months as co-chairman of Biden’s advisory board on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which the president-elect has pledged to make his top priority on taking office.

Mandy Cohen - A physician who serves as the secretary of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Department, where she has been a major advocate for expanding Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income Americans. Cohen served as the chief operating officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Obama administration.

David Kessler - The former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration has been a co-chair of Biden’s advisory board on the coronavirus pandemic. As head of the FDA, Kessler cut the time needed to approve drugs to treat AIDS and moved to try to regulate the tobacco industry.

Chief of Staff: Ron Klain

A longtime Biden adviser with experience in responding to the Ebola pandemic, Klain was picked for the chief of staff role that sets the president’s agenda.

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