As the names of members of President-elect Joe Biden’s diverse Cabinet have begun to emerge, the U.S. is poised to make a sharp departure from the Trump administration’s confrontational approach to foreign policy. In selecting veteran, tight-knit officials who prize diplomacy and process over the disruptive brinksmanship of the last four years, Biden is looking to return the U.S. to a leadership role in world affairs.
“These individuals are equally as experienced and crisis-tested as they are innovative and imaginative,” Biden said in a Monday statement about his selections. “Their accomplishments in diplomacy are unmatched, but they also reflect the idea that we cannot meet the profound challenges of this new moment with old thinking and unchanged habits — or without diversity of background and perspective. It’s why I’ve selected them.”
Here is a look at the Cabinet-level officials Biden has identified so far.
Secretary of state
Biden will tap Antony Blinken as his secretary of state. A speechwriter for former President Bill Clinton on matters of foreign policy, Blinken later worked as part of Biden’s vice presidential staff and served as deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration.
Blinken is seen as something of a polar opposite to President Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. The Democratic pick is considered a centrist who sometimes advocates for interventionist foreign policy.
National security adviser
Already a domestic policy adviser to Biden, Jake Sullivan will be tapped to serve in a foreign policy role as national security adviser. He held the same position during former President Barack Obama’s second term. Before that, he was deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton when she served as secretary of state.
In 2013 he helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump and Pompeo exited in 2018 and which Biden has said he hopes to rejoin.
President-elect Biden taught me what it takes to safeguard our national security at the highest levels of our government. Now, he has asked me to serve as his National Security Advisor. In service, I will do everything in my power to keep our country safe.
— Jake Sullivan (@jakejsullivan) November 23, 2020
Climate change envoy
Former Secretary of State John Kerry will return to government in a Cabinet-level position on the National Security Council that, before he assumes it, never existed before: climate change envoy.
“This marks the first time that the NSC will include an official dedicated to climate change, reflecting the president-elect’s commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent national security issue,” the Biden transition team said in a statement.
America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is. I'm proud to partner with the President-elect, our allies, and the young leaders of the climate movement to take on this crisis as the President's Climate Envoy.
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) November 23, 2020
Ambassador to the United Nations
A career diplomat who was fired by Trump in 2017 after serving as assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs during the Obama administration, Linda Thomas-Greenfield is set to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She has been a leading advocate for increasing racial diversity at the State Department.
My mother taught me to lead with the power of kindness and compassion to make the world a better place. I’ve carried that lesson with me throughout my career in Foreign Service – and, if confirmed, will do the same as Ambassador to the United Nations.
— Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@LindaT_G) November 23, 2020
Director of national intelligence
Avril Haines is Biden’s pick to be his director of national intelligence. She comes to the position with ample experience, having served as a national security lawyer and deputy CIA director in the Obama administration, and she would be the first woman to hold the job designed to coordinate U.S. intelligence agencies.
Biden grew impressed with Haines from their work on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2007 to 2008. Biden chaired the committee, and Haines served as its deputy chief counsel.
Secretary of homeland security
If confirmed, Cuban-born Alejandro Mayorkas would become the first Latino to run the department that is tasked with overseeing the nation’s immigration policies. He served as deputy homeland security secretary from 2013 to 2016 and was the architect for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed the children of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents to remain in the country. A former U.S. attorney in California, he also served as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during the Obama administration.
When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge. Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.
— Alejandro Mayorkas (@AliMayorkas) November 23, 2020
Biden is expected to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to the post of treasury secretary, according to sources familiar with his decision. If he does and she is confirmed, she will be the first woman ever to hold that job. Yellen also broke a glass ceiling when Obama named her chair of the Fed, and she previously served as the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton administration.
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