WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden will fill his national security team with a series of senior appointments that signal his intention to reject the Trump administration’s “America First” doctrine.
The six tips announced on Monday, nearly all alumni of the Obama administration, represent a fundamental departure from President Donald Trump’s politics and personnel selection. They also mark a return to and mirror a return to a more traditional approach to America’s relations with the rest of the world Biden’s election promise reflects that his cabinet reflects the diversity of the American people.
By selecting foreign policy veterans, Biden seeks to exacerbate Trump’s war on the so-called deep state, which saw an exodus of career officials from the government. He will appoint longtime advisor Antony Blinken as Secretary of State, Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as Ambassador to the United Nations, Jake Sullivan as National Security Advisor and Avril Haines as Sullivan’s Deputy, and former Secretary of State John Kerry to be his envoy for be climate change.
The decisions also suggest that Biden intends to keep election promises that his cabinet will promote the diversity of the American population with Greenfield, a black woman leading the US mission to the United Nations, and Mayorkas, a Cuban-American lawyer, will be the first Latino to head Homeland Security.
They “are experienced, crisis-tested executives who are ready to take the first step on day one,” says a statement from the transition. “These officials will work immediately to rebuild our institutions, renew and redefine American leadership to keep Americans safe at home and abroad, and address the crucial challenges of our time – from infectious diseases to terrorism to proliferation from nuclear weapons, cyber threats to climate change. “
At the announcements, Biden made plans to fill his administration out, despite Trump refusing to admit defeat in the November 3 elections, pursuing unfounded legal challenges in several key states, and working to obstruct the transition process.
The stakes for a smooth transition are particularly high this year as Biden will take office amid the worst pandemic in more than a century, which containment is likely to require a full government response.
Perhaps the most famous among them is Kerry, who made climate change a top priority while serving as Secretary of State for Obama.
“America will soon have a government that sees the climate crisis as its pressing national security threat,” said Kerry. “I am proud to work with the president-elect, our allies and the young leaders of the climate movement to address this crisis as the president’s climate commissioner.”
Sullivan, who will be one of the youngest national security advisers in history at 43, was a top advisor to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before becoming the national security adviser to then Vice President Biden. He said the president-elect “taught me what it takes to ensure our national security at the highest levels of our government.”
“Now he’s asked me to act as his national security advisor,” Sullivan said. “In the service I will do everything in my power to protect our country.”
The positions of Kerry, Sullivan and Haines do not require Senate approval.
Blinken, 58, was Deputy Secretary of State and Deputy National Security Advisor during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden. If nominated and confirmed, he would be a leading force in the new administration’s attempt to reshape US relations with the rest of the world after four years of challenging longstanding alliances with President Donald Trump.
Blinken recently attended a national safety briefing with Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, addressing major foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia publicly.
Blinken would inherit a deeply demoralized and exhausted workforce at the State Department. Trump’s two state secretaries, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, offered weak opposition to government attempts to core the agency, which were only thwarted by the intervention of Congress.
Although the department has avoided massive proposed cuts to its budget of more than 30% for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of exits from its higher and rising middle ranks, many of which diplomats have chosen to retire or retire leaving abroad service in the face of limited prospects for advancement under an administration they believe does not value their expertise.
A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longstanding Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has joined numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and a renewed emphasis on global engagement.
“Democracy is on the decline all over the world, and unfortunately it is on the decline at home too, because the president brings two times four to his institutions, values and people every day,” Blinken told The Associated in September Press. “Our friends know that Joe Biden knows who they are. So do our opponents. That difference would be noticeable on the first day. “
Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming Chief of Staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chairman of the panel. Blinken returned to NSC in the early years of the Obama administration, serving as Vice President Biden’s national security advisor before moving to the State Department to serve as Deputy Secretary of State John Kerry.
Biden is committed to building the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak of their desire for his government to reflect America. He is being watched whether he will make history by nominating the first woman to head the Pentagon, Treasury, or Veterans Department, or the first African American to head the Department of Defense, the Home Office, or the Treasury.
Ron Klain, Biden’s new chief of staff, said Sunday that the Trump administration’s refusal to give Biden’s team access to critical information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition is affecting planning, including the cabinet selection process. Trump’s General Services Administration has yet to acknowledge that Biden won the election – a determination that would remove these obstacles.
“We are not in a position to get background information on cabinet candidates. And so there are certain effects. These effects escalate every day,” Klain told ABCs “This Week”.
Associate press writers Julie Pace in Washington, Alexandra Jaffe in Wilmington, Delaware, and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.