Biden makes historic picks in naming foreign policy, national security teams

  • By Barbara Sprunt/NPR

(Washington) – President-elect Joe Biden has named six leaders of his foreign policy and national security teams, showing a continued push for historic firsts in his administration.

Alejandro Mayorkas, a former deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is the first Latino and immigrant nominated to serve as secretary, the Biden transition team said in its Monday afternoon announcement.

Avril Haines is tapped to serve as director of national intelligence, and if confirmed would become the first woman to lead the intelligence community. She previously served as deputy director of the CIA and deputy national security adviser. Haines also worked as deputy chief counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007-2008, when Biden served as chairman.

Additionally, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the negotiations over the Paris climate accords, has been named as special presidential envoy for climate to sit on the National Security Council. It will be the first time the NSC has included a member solely devoted to the issue of climate change.

Jake Sullivan, another close Biden aide, has been announced for the position of national security adviser in the new administration. He would be one of the youngest people to serve in that role in decades, according to the transition team. Sullivan previously worked as the former vice president’s national security adviser and worked at the State Department under Hillary Clinton.

Also announced Tuesday is Linda Thomas-Greenfield for the position of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Thomas-Greenfield served with the Foreign Service for more than three decades. Biden is elevating the ambassadorship to a Cabinet-level position.

The staffing announcement comes on the heels of Biden selecting Antony Blinken for the coveted secretary of state post.

Four of the six roles require Senate confirmation, with Sullivan’s and Kerry’s positions not needing such a vote.

“These individuals are equally as experienced and crisis-tested as they are innovative and imaginative,” Biden said in a statement. “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.”

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