Over the last few weeks, President-Elect Joe Biden has steadily announced the names of those individuals he plans to appoint to his cabinet when his term begins in January. While there are still a few key roles the President-Elect has yet to fill, Biden’s administration is already shaping up to be one of the most diverse in history. But that was to be expected, based on his campaign promise to build a cabinet that “looks like America.”
Another campaign pledge, to restore a sense of integrity and normalcy to the White House, is also manifesting in the cabinet appointments Biden has announced. Many are former Obama administration officials who worked with Biden during his time as vice president. This suggests that Biden is more interested in experienced Washington veterans who can get the job done from the start, as opposed to exciting new faces cutting their teeth in the executive branch.
Here are the cabinet roles and other high-ranking White House appointments that Biden has announced so far:
Secretary of Defense – Gen. Lloyd James Austin III
General Austin, a former commander of US troops in Iraq, retired from a decades-long military career in 2016. If confirmed, Austin would become the first Black secretary of defense, though he might face a difficult confirmation battle in the Senate. That’s because a federal statute prohibits former military officers from becoming defense secretary within seven years of leaving active duty. It has to do with civilian control of the military. Still, the law can be waived as it was in 2016, when President Trump appointed General James Mattis to that position.
Secretary of Health and Human Services – Xavier Becerra
The highest-ranking member of the federal government’s public health
office has never faced a more intense set of challenges. On day one, the incoming secretary of HHS will confront a raging pandemic and a massive vaccination operation. Xavier Becerra currently serves as Attorney General of California and is the first Latino in that position. He entered that office after former AG Kamala Harris won election to the US Senate. Previously, he served as a member of the US House of Representatives, becoming friendly with Biden during that time. Becerra is the child of Mexican migrant workers and was the first in his family to attend university.
Secretary of Treasury – Janet Yellen
Yellen was previously the Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank, the first woman to serve in that position. If confirmed, she would also become the first woman to run the Treasury, and she’d be doing so during a precarious moment for the economy. Yellen is currently an economist at the Brookings Institute.
Secretary of State – Antony Blinken
Blinken has been a confidante of Biden’s for decades, going back to the latter’s time on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During the Obama administration, Blinken served as Biden’s national security adviser. Notably, Blinken is a globalist, who believes the US is best served by assisting in worldwide issues like COVID and climate change. This is a significant departure from the Trump administration’s “America First” foreign policy.
Secretary of Homeland Security – Alejandro Mayorkas
Should he be confirmed, Mayorkas would become the first Latino to run the Department of Homeland Security. He brings an interesting perspective as an immigrant and former refugee. Mayorkas’ mother, a Romanian Jew, fled Europe amid Hitler’s rise, seeking refuge in Cuba, where the young Mayorkas was born. But in 1960, following the Cuban Revolution, his family had to flee once again, planting permanent roots in the US. Mayorkas previously served as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security during the Obama administration.
Surgeon General – Dr. Vivek Murthy
Dr. Murthy previously served as Surgeon General under President Obama, the first person of Indian descent to serve in that position. Before being officially tapped by Biden to return to his role as Surgeon General, Murthy had served as an adviser to the President-Elect on pandemic issues.
Chief Medical Adviser – Dr. Anthony Fauci
Biden has asked Dr. Fauci, who has become a recognizable face of public health
this year, to stay on in his current position as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. But Biden also stated that Fauci, who is nonpartisan, will serve as his chief medical adviser, a newly-invented role that will be essential to Biden’s pandemic policy.
Director of National Intelligence – Avril Haines
Haines served as deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and deputy CIA director in the Obama administration. She would be the first woman to serve as director of national intelligence if confirmed.
Ambassador to the United Nations – Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Thomas-Greenfield served as assistant secretary of state for African affairs, director-general of the US Foreign Service, and US ambassador to Liberia during the Obama years. Biden says he plans to elevate the role of UN Ambassador to a cabinet-level position, as it was prior to the Trump presidency.
National Security Advisor – Jake Sullivan
Sullivan served as deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Obama years. As national security advisor, Sullivan hopes to rejoin the Iran nuclear arms deal, which the Trump administration abandoned early in its administration.
Special Foreign Envoy for Climate Change – John Kerry
Another newly-designed position will see the return of John Kerry, Obama’s second secretary of state. In that role, Kerry spearheaded American participation in the Paris Climate Accord. The former senator and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee is an old friend of Biden’s, with unmatched experience in climate diplomacy.