Whom might Biden tap to run State Department, NSA, and other foreign policy offices? (1/3)

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Edited by: Mourad Hasbaoui*

Last week, President-Elect Joe Biden has divulged the members of the team which will lead the conversion activities and reviews the projects of several federal agencies. The new transition team is led by Ted Kaufman, a former Democrat Senator of Delaware and a longtime Biden’s advisor. According to the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010, potential transition teams are provided an office by the General Services Administration. Agency transition teams tend to review current assignments, ongoing projects and, prepare the members of the future cabinet for their new positions and priorities. It is hardly surprising that, members of the Obama’s administration have salient roles on the president-elect’s transition teams and contenders to hold positions in the cabinet.  

This article highlights the top contenders for federal positions in the upcoming Biden’s administration.

The Transition team for the Defense Department: 

This team is led by Kathleen Hicks, a senior vice president for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  She served in the Obama’s administration, as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy and deputy under Secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and forces.

The team also includes, Sharon Burke, a former assistant secretary of defense for operational energy, Mike McCord, a former DoD comptroller, and Andrew Hunter, a CSIS senior fellow.

Shawn Skelly is a retired Navy Commander, a former commissioner on the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service in the Obama’s administration and vice-president of the Out in National Security group.

Debra Wada was the Obama’s appointee for the Assistant Secretary of Manpower and Reserve Affairs for the Army in 2014. She was a longtime House Armed Services Committee staffer.

The Transition team for the Defense and State Department has been vetting many candidates. Here is the list of the candidate for the Defense Department, National Security Advisor, the Department of State, the United State Ambassador to United Nations, Chief of Staff, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

1.Secretary of Defense:

Michelle Flournoy:

She served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy under President Bill Clinton, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy under President Obama, a senior advisor to Secretaries of Defense Robert Gates (2006-2011) and Leon Panetta (2001-2013). She is a strong candidate for this job. Currently, Michelle Flournoy is the co-founder and managing partner of West Exec advisors. It is a strategic consulting firm that offers geopolitical dexterity to firms and corporations. Furthermore, she co -founded the New American Security, a based think-tank that specializes in U.S. national security affairs.

Tammy Duckworth:

The Illionois Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who earned the who the Purple Heart after being injured in Iraq when her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq in 2004. She ultimately lost both her legs. Duckworth served as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and as assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs during the Obama administration. Her name was also mentioned as a potential secretary of veterans’ affairs.

John Johnson:

He served as Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security from 2013 to 2017 and early on, he was the General Counsel of the Department of the Defense from 2009 to 2012. His name was mentioned as a potential candidate for the Attorney General and director of National Intelligence.

Jack Reed:

He is a West Point grad and top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, has been on Democrats candidate list for secretary of defense for years.

2.National Security Adviser:

Antony Blinken:

He served as Deputy Secretary of State from 2015 to 2017, and Deputy National Advisor from 2013 to 2015 in the Obama administration.  He was a member of the Obama-Biden presidential transition team from November 2008 to January 2009. From 2009 to 2013, Blinken served a Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor for the Vice President Joe Biden.

3.The Department of State:

SUSAN RICE: A former national security adviser for President Obama, she was an Assistant Secretary of State and the American ambassador to United Nations. She is considered as a leading expert in foreign policy and African Affairs.

 She and Biden had a good working relationship, though they disagreed over how to deal with the turmoil in the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Her nomination can generate a strong opposition from the Republican, because of the 2012 killing Christopher Stevens of American Ambassador in Libya.

William Burns:

He is a longtime Foreign Service officer who served as deputy secretary of State under Obama, American Ambassador to Russia and Jordan. He is now the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Formerly, he served as a Deputy Secretary of State to Secretaries Warren Christopher (1993-1997) and Madeline Albright (1997-2001.)

Chris Coons

Delaware Democrat, who now holds the Senate seat once held by Biden. He is a leading member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

4.The United State Ambassador to United Nation.


Wendy Sherman is no stranger to the State Department. She is the former State Department’s Under Secretary for political affairs during the Obama administration from 2011- to 2015. She played a pivotal role in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, she is seen as a potential pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Sherman also served in the State Department in President Bill Clinton’s administration. The Republicans senators may make her confirmation difficult, because of her role in the Iran nuclear deal. Presently, she is the Director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership.

5.Chief of Staff:

Ron Klain:

He has been a longtime Biden’s adviser. He was Biden’s served as his chief of staff during the Obama’s administration. He was also a senior advisor to the President. He previously served as the chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore and Attorney General Janet Reno. He was appointed in 2014 by President Barack Obama to serve as the White House Ebola Response Coordinator. In 2000, he was the General Counsel for the Al Gore Recount Committee. He has been a top debate preparation adviser to Biden, Obama, Bill Clinton, Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

Steve Ricchetti:

He served as Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden in the Obama’s administration and Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in the Clinton’s administration.


6.Central Intelligence Agency:

  • Avril Haines, a former deputy director of CIA, and former national security advisor during the Obama’s administration. She served as the Deputy Director of Columbia World Projects at the prestigious Colombia University.
  • Thomas E. Donilon, a former national security adviser in the Obama administration from 2010 to 2013. He has previously worked in Biden’s first presidential campaign. He also, oversaw the transition planning for the Clinton-Kaine campaign in 2016. Previously, he worked as his chief of staff for Secretary Warren Christopher and as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs from 1993 to 1996.
  • Michael Morell, a white, 30-year CIA veteran who served as the agency’s acting director and its deputy director from 2010 to 2013. He is now Senior Counselor and the Global Chairman of the Geo-Political Risk Practice at Beacon Global Strategies, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C.


*Member of the Board of Trustees of World Affairs Council of South Texas

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