Filling the Cabinet: What to Expect from the Biden Administration


As 2020 comes to an end, the Biden Administration has been announcing their picks for a new executive branch. Credit: Jim Watson, AFP via Getty Images

Erin Ye, Editor

Presidential-elect Joe Biden and his transition team have been steadily announcing their Cabinet nominees and administration appointments for the 2021-2025 term. Assuming they’re cleared during the Senate confirmation process, here’s a running list of what you need to know about the individuals joining the executive branch this January.



Economist Janet Yellen has been nominated for Treasury Secretary.
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Treasury Secretary: Janet Yellen

Yellen, 74, is an American economist and the former Federal Reserve Chair. She will be the first female Treasury Secretary in United States history, and the 78th overall. Yellen is expected to play a major role in rebuilding the American economy following the hit that has been taken due to the coronavirus pandemic. She has stressed the importance of controlling the pandemic first and foremost, stating “it will be good not only for health but for being able to open up the economy.” She has also emphasized to extend unemployment relief to jobless workers going into the new year.

Antony Blinken will fill the role of Secretary of State.
Credit: Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

Secretary of State: Antony Blinken

Biden nominated the former deputy national security advisor and former deputy secretary of state on November 23rd. As Secretary of State, Blinken, 58, will be responsible for handling the United States’ foreign affairs and foreign policy. Blinken is a strong believer in alliances, and has described Europe as a “vital partner” in keeping the United States safe and strong. During his time in the Obama administration, Blinken advocated for greater American involvement in Syria and aligned himself with the belief that the U.S. should work with allies and within international treaties to ensure stability and leadership.

If approved, Alejandro Mayorkas will be the first Hispanic Security of Homeland Security.
Credit: Politico

Secretary of Homeland Security: Alejando Mayorkas

Another former member of the Obama administration, Mayorkas was deputy secretary in the Department of Homeland Security for eight years. He will be the first Latino as well as the first immigrant to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security. From 2008-2013, Mayorkas ran the DHS’s citizenship agency and worked on the formation and implementation of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. From 2014-2016, he served as the department’s second in command and was a leader in its response to the Zika and Ebola outbreaks. At 61 years old, Mayorkas’s experience within the DHS is expected to allow him to “hit the ground running” come January.

Former US Army general Lloyd Austin has been selected to serve as the next US secretary of Defense.
Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP Photo (AP)

Secretary of Defense: Lloyd Austin

On December 9th, Biden nominated Austin, a retired four-star Army general, to lead the Pentagon for the next four years. If confirmed, Austin, 67, will be the first Black person to serve as Defense Secretary. He previously ran the U.S. Central Command before his retirement in 2016 and served as the last American commanding general in Iraq. Austin’s nomination came with some controversy: he has not been out of the military for the required seven years and would require a waiver to serve as secretary of Defense. Austin was also a somewhat surprising choice, as news sources had previously singled out Michèle Flournoy, the former Pentagon policy chief, as the frontrunner for the position. nevertheless, Biden stated that he chose Austin for the position because of his reliability and the trust the shared from working together when Biden led American-Iraqi relations from 2007 to 2011.

Xavier Becerra will be the first Latino American Health and Human Services secretary.
Credit: Gary Coronado, Los Angeles Times

Health and Human Services Secretary: Xavier Becerra

Becerra, 62, is the current  Attorney General of California. He also served 12 terms as a California Representative for Los Angeles. In his current role, Becerra has been highly involved in developing legal efforts on health care, leading 20 states and the District of Columbia in a campaign supporting the Affordable Care Act. As the Health and Human Services Secretary, he will face the challenge of leading the department and the nation through the pandemic, which has already taken over 280,000 American lives. Becerra will be the first Latino Health and Human Services Secretary if confirmed by the Senate.

Under Biden, Tom Vilsack will return as the head of the US Department of Agriculture.
Credit: Andrew Harnik, AP Photo

Agriculture Secretary: Tom Vilsack

Tom Vilsack has been nominated to return to the role of Agriculture secretary after spending eight years in the position during the Obama administration. The 69-year-old former Iowa governor was seen as safe choice for Biden to make amid hot debate between parties regarding who should fill the seat. He is expected to lead the department in supporting farmers and funding national food aid programs, from school meals to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Also in charge of the United States Forest Service, the USDA has been called upon to serve a greater role in promoting action on climate change, given their large budget that can be used to fund cleaner energy in rural areas.

Representative Marcia Fudge will serve as the head of the Housing and Urban Development Department.
Credit: Franmarie Metzler, U.S. House of Representatives

Housing and Urban Development Secretary: Marcia Fudge

Ohio congresswoman Marcia Fudge has been tapped to serve as the Housing and Urban Development secretary, and will be the first Black woman to fill the role in nearly half a century if approved. Fudge, who is 68 and had earlier lobbied to become Biden’s Agriculture secretary, is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, is expected to take over the Housing and Urban Development Department amid a housing crisis. She will play a key role in responding to the economic effects of the pandemic, which has led millions of Americans to struggle with rent and mortgage payments.





Cabinet-level Administrative Positions

Former Secretary of State John Kerry has been tapped for the new position of Presidential Envoy for Climate.
Credit: AP News

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate: John Kerry

Kerry, the Secretary of State from 2013-2017, has been nominated as the special presidential envoy for climate on the National Security Council. This marks the introduction of a new position, as the NDC has never previously included a member specifically devoted to climate-related policy. Kerry, 76, played an integral role in the Paris climate accord negotiations and was a longtime senator for the state of Massachusetts, as well as the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. On November 23rd, he tweeted, “America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is.” 

Longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield has been nominated as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN.
Credit: AP Images

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Following her retirement in 2017 after a 35-year career in public service, Linda Thomas-Greenfield is returning to serve as the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations. Her appointment is also the first time that the ambassadorship has been regarded as a Cabinet-level position. Thomas-Greenfield, 68, was formerly a diplomat and served as the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 2013-2017. She also served as the director general of the Foreign Service, holding an ambassador position in Liberia in postings in Geneva, Pakistan, Kenya, Gambia, Nigeria, and Jamaica.

If approved, Jake Sullivan will be the youngest National Security Advisor in nearly half a century.
Credit: AFP via Getty Images

National Security Advisor: Jake Sullivan

Sullivan, a government official and one of Biden’s close aides, was nominated for the position of National Security Advisor. At the age of 44, he will be the youngest to serve in that role since McGeorge Bundy in 1961. Sullivan previously served as Biden’s national security advisor during the Obama administration and worked in the State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Under that position, he played a critical role in the diplomatic meetings that resulted in the nuclear deal with Iran. Despite his lengthy background in foreign policy, Sullivan is expected to mainly advise Biden on domestic policy as National Security Advisor.

Ex-deputy national security advisor Avril Haines has been tapped to serve as the first female Director of National Intelligence.
Credit: CNN

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines

If confirmed, Haines, 51, will be the first woman to lead the intelligence community as Director of National Intelligence. She has previously served as deputy national security advisor and deputy director of the CIA, having also worked closely with Biden in the past as deputy chief counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Upon her nomination on November 23rd, Haines spoke briefly, thanking President-elect Biden and promising to “speak truth to power” in her new position.

Economist Cecilia Rouse has been nominated to serve as chair of the Council of Economic Advisors.
Credit: New York Times

Chair of Council of Economic Advisors: Cecilia Rouse

Biden nominated Cecilia Rouse, 56, to serve as the next chair of the Council of Economic Advisors. The current dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, Rouse will be the first Black person to serve as CEA chair. She was a member of the Council during the Obama administration and was a special assistant to President Bill Clinton on is National Economic Council. Upon her nomination, Rouse said that she was determined to take on current job crisis, promising to build “an economy that works for everyone, brings fulfilling job opportunities and leaves no one to fall.”


If approved, Neera Tanden will be the first woman of color to serve as the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Director of Office of Management and Budget: Neera Tanden

President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, an independent policy institute, Tanden has been nominated to serve as the director of Office Management and Budget, overseeing the financial decisions made by Biden’s executive branch. Tanden, 50, has also previously served a senior advisor in the Health and Human Services Department as an advocate for health reform. As head of the OMB, she will play a key role in managing the federal budget while also shaping government-funded welfare programs. If approved by the Senate come January, Tandem will be the first South Asian director of the OMB, as well as the first woman of color to fill the position.


Apart from Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions, Biden has also announced his picks for his White House staff, including Ron Klain as the White House Chief of Staff. Klain was formerly Biden’s Chief of Staff to the Vice President during the Obama administration. 


Vice Presidential-elect Kamala Harris announced that her staff would be comprised of all female leaders, including Chief of Staff Tina Flournoy, Chief Spokeswoman Symone Sanders, and Communications Director Ashley Etienne.


Biden’s transition team has yet to announce 12 of 15 cabinet positions, with roles such as Education Secretary, Secretary of Defense, and Attorney Generals remaining up in the air.





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