Biden’s cabinet: How his administration is taking shape

The president-elect continues to build his cabinet and White House team as he prepares to take office in January.

President-elect Joe Biden continues to put together his cabinet and White House team [Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo]

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden has begun nominating members of his cabinet and White House team, working to fulfil his promise to build an administration that reflects the United States’s diversity.

Biden on Tuesday nominated retired General Lloyd Austin to be his defence secretary. The president-elect has already named leading members of his foreign policy and economic teams.

He is expected to nominate Marcia Fudge, a Democratic congresswoman from Ohio, as secretary of housing and urban development and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary.

Here are some recent important picks:

Defence secretary: Lloyd Austin

Austin, who oversaw US forces in the Middle East under President Barack Obama, would be the first Black US secretary of defence if the Senate confirms him.

He retired in 2016 and would need a waiver from Congress to take the post because he has been out of the military for less than the required seven years.

Austin is known as a shrewd strategist with deep knowledge of the armed forces. But his nomination could draw fire from some progressive groups, given his role in retirement on the board of a number of companies, including weapons maker Raytheon Technologies Corp.

Former US Central Command Commander General Lloyd Austin III is Biden’s pick for defence secretary [File: Phelan M Ebenhack/AP Photo]

Housing and Urban Development: Marcia Fudge

Fudge has served in the House of Representatives since 2008. Before being elected to Congress, she was mayor of Warrensville Heights, a Cleveland suburb. If confirmed, Fudge would be the second Black woman to lead HUD, which focuses on federal policy surrounding housing.

Agriculture secretary: Tom Vilsack

Tom Vilsack, who led the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) under then-President Barack Obama, was Iowa’s governor from 1999 until 2007. He was an early supporter of Biden and an adviser on rural issues during the former vice president’s campaign. Vilsack’s return to the USDA is likely to be applauded by Midwestern states that produce the bulk of commodity crops like corn, soybeans and wheat, and prefer him to someone from another region of the country.

Health and human services secretary: Xavier Becerra

The current California attorney general was previously a 12-term congressman who played a key role in passing the Affordable Care Act in Congress. As attorney general, he has led a coalition of 20 states defending the programme better known as Obamacare, including in a case before the US Supreme Court last month.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director: Dr Rochelle Walensky

Rochelle Walensky, currently the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, will take a prominent role in the Biden administration’s fight against the coronavirus.

Coronavirus coordinator: Jeff Zients

Jeff Zients, an economic adviser touted for his managerial skills, was tapped to save the bungled launch of the Affordable Care Act’s website for Obama. Under Biden, he will oversee an unprecedented operation to distribute hundreds of millions of doses of a new vaccine, coordinating efforts across multiple federal agencies.

Surgeon general: Vivek Murthy

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

Treasury secretary: Janet Yellen

The former Federal Reserve chair deepened the central bank’s focus on workers and inequality. She 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.

Janet Yellen is Biden’s choice to be treasury secretary [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

Office of Management and Budget: Neera Tanden

Neera Tanden, president of the progressive Center for American Progress think-tank, helped create Obamacare, which Republicans want to demolish.

Council of Economic Advisers chair: Cecilia Rouse

Cecilia Rouse is a labour economist and dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs whose research has focused on the economics of education and tackling wealth inequality. She was a member of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2009 to 2011.

National Economic Council director: Brian Deese

The Obama administration veteran helped lead efforts to bail out the automotive industry during the 2009 financial crisis and helped negotiate the landmark Paris climate accord.

Secretary of state: Antony Blinken

The longtime Biden confidant served as No 2 at the State Department and as deputy national security adviser in Obama’s administration.

National security adviser: Jake Sullivan

Biden’s national security adviser when he served as vice president to Obama, Jake Sullivan also served as deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Homeland security: Alejandro Mayorkas

The Cuban-born lawyer will be the first Latino and first immigrant to head the department if confirmed as secretary of homeland security. As head of Citizenship and Immigration Services under Obama, Alejandro Mayorkas led the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme for “Dreamers”: People who were brought to the United States as children. DACA drew Republican criticism and could lead to Republican opposition to 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, Avril Haines is Biden’s nominee for director of national intelligence. Haines held several posts at Columbia University after leaving the outgoing Obama administration in 2017.

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Ambassador to the United Nations: Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Biden’s nominee to become the next US ambassador to the United Nations is Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who will take on a job that 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 Africa south of the Sahara during the West Africa Ebola outbreak.

Special presidential envoy for climate: John Kerry

Former US Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry will act as “climate czar” in the Biden administration. Kerry helped negotiate the Paris climate deal that Biden wants to rejoin.

White House chief of staff: Ron Klain

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

Source: Reuters