Historic nominees and appointees include the first Latino and immigrant as DHS Secretary; the first woman to lead the intelligence community; an experienced diplomat as US Ambassador to the United Nations; one of the youngest National Security Advisors in decades; and the first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate to sit on the National Security Council
WASHINGTON – Today, President-elect Joe Biden announced key members of his foreign policy and national security team including Antony Blinken, Secretary of State; Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security; Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence; Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor; and John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.
These experienced, crisis-tested leaders will start working immediately to rebuild our institutions, renew and reimagine American leadership to keep Americans safe at home and abroad, and address the defining challenges of our time — from infectious disease, to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber threats, and climate change.
President-elect Joe Biden said, “We have no time to lose when it comes to our national security and foreign policy. I need a team ready on Day One to help me reclaim America’s seat at the head of the table, rally the world to meet the biggest challenges we face, and advance our security, prosperity, and values. This is the crux of that team. These individuals are equally as experienced and crisis-tested as they are innovative and imaginative. 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.”
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said, “President-elect Biden and I know that the moment we walk into the White House, we will inherit a series of unprecedented challenges. These crisis-tested national security and foreign policy leaders have the knowledge and expertise to keep our country safe and restore and advance America’s leadership around the world. They represent the best of America. They come from different places and reflect different life experiences. But they all share an unwavering belief in America’s ideals and an unshakeable commitment to democracy and the rule of law. And they are the leaders America needs to help meet the challenges of this moment — and those that lie ahead.”
Today’s announcement includes several historic nominations and appointments.
- Antony Blinken, a former Deputy Secretary of State, will be nominated to serve as Secretary of State having previously held top foreign affairs posts on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and in the State Department.
- Alejandro Mayorkas, a former Deputy Secretary of DHS, who has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate three times throughout his career, will be the first Latino and immigrant nominated to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
- Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service who has served on four continents, will be nominated to serve as United Nations Ambassador and elevated the role to his Cabinet.
- Former Secretary of State John Kerry will fight climate change full-time as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and will sit on the National Security Council. 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.
- Avril Haines, a former Deputy Director of the CIA and Deputy National Security Advisor, will be nominated to serve as Director of National Intelligence and will be the first woman to lead the intelligence community.
- Jake Sullivan has been appointed National Security Advisor and will be one of the youngest people to serve in that role in decades.
The following White House announcements were made today:
Antony Blinken, Secretary of State
Tony Blinken has held senior foreign policy positions in two administrations over three decades, and has advised President-elect Biden on foreign policy since 2002.
From 2015 to 2017, Blinken served as Deputy Secretary of State under the Obama-Biden administration. In that role, Blinken helped to lead diplomacy in the fight against ISIL, the rebalance to Asia, and the global refugee crisis, while building bridges to the innovation community. Before that, Blinken served as Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama. He chaired the Deputies Committee, the administration’s principal forum for formulating foreign policy. During the first Obama term, he was National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden. Blinken served as Democratic Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2002 to 2008 and was a member of President Clinton’s National Security Council staff from 1994 to 2001.
Prior to serving as foreign policy advisor during the Biden-Harris campaign and transition, Blinken served as managing director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and was the Herter/Nitze Distinguished Scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Before entering public service, Blinken was a reporter for The New Republic magazine, writing extensively on foreign policy. He is the author of Ally Versus Ally: America, Europe, and the Siberian Pipeline Crisis. He has also served as a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and a global affairs analyst for CNN. Blinken is a graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School. Blinken graduated from high school in Paris, where he lived from ages nine to eighteen.
Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security
Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and immigrant nominated to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security. He has led a distinguished 30-year career as a law enforcement official and a nationally-recognized lawyer in the private sector. Mayorkas served as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the Obama-Biden Administration from 2013 to 2016, and as the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2009 to 2013. During his tenure at DHS, he led the implementation of DACA, negotiated cybersecurity and homeland security agreements with foreign governments, led the Department’s response to Ebola and Zika, helped build and administer the Blue Campaign to combat human trafficking, and developed an emergency relief program for orphaned youth following the tragic January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Mayorkas also created the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate to better ensure the integrity of the legal immigration system.
Mayorkas began his government service in the Department of Justice, where he served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Central District of California, specializing in the prosecution of white collar crime. After nearly nine years as a federal prosecutor, he became the youngest United States Attorney in the nation, overseeing prosecutions of national significance, including the investigation and prosecution of financial fraud, violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, public corruption, violent crime, cybercrime, environmental crime, international money laundering, and securities fraud.
Mayorkas has also led a distinguished legal career in the private sector, at O’Melveny & Myers and most recently WilmerHale, where he has specialized in strategic counseling and crisis management. He serves several non-profit organizations focused on providing legal services to the poor, refugee resettlement, and education for underprivileged youth.
Mayorkas was born in Havana, Cuba and was the highest-ranking Cuban American to serve in the Obama-Biden Administration. Mayorkas received his bachelor’s degree with distinction from the University of California at Berkeley and a law degree from Loyola Law School.
Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence
Avril Haines has worked with President-elect Biden in various roles for more than a decade, and will become the first woman to serve as Director of National Intelligence. During the Obama administration, Haines served as Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor from 2015-2017, during which time she led the National Security Council’s (NSC) Deputies Committee. From 2013-2015, Haines was the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; she was the first woman to hold both of these positions. Avril began her service in the Obama administration in 2010 as the NSC Legal Advisor. From 2007-2008, Haines served as Deputy Chief Counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while President-elect Biden served as chairman. Haines has led the Transition’s National Security and Foreign Policy Team since its founding in June 2020. Prior to that time, she served in various roles including Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University; a Senior Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory; and a member of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Haines received her bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Chicago and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Retired Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a career diplomat, is returning to public service after retiring from a 35-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service in 2017. From 2013 to 2017 she served as the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, where she led the bureau focused on the development and management of U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to this appointment, she served as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (2012-2013), leading a team in charge of the State Department’s 70,000-strong workforce.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s distinguished Foreign Service career includes an ambassadorship to Liberia (2008-2012), and postings in Switzerland (at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations), Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, and Jamaica. In Washington, she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs (2006-2008), and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (2004-2006).
Since 2017, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has led the Africa Practice at Albright Stonebridge Group, a strategic commercial diplomacy firm chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She was also the inaugural Distinguished Resident Fellow in African Studies at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy from fall 2017 to spring 2019. She joined ISD in spring 2017 as a Senior State Department Fellow. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield earned a B.A. from Louisiana State University and a M.A. from the University of Wisconsin, where she worked towards a PhD. She received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Wisconsin in May 2018.
Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor
Jake Sullivan is currently a senior policy advisor to President-elect Biden and formerly served as Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to then-Vice President Joe Biden in the Obama-Biden administration. He previously served as Director of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State and as Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During his time in government, Sullivan was a lead negotiator in the initial talks that paved the way for the Iran nuclear deal and played a key role in the U.S.-brokered negotiations that led to a ceasefire in Gaza in 2012. He also played a key role in shaping the Asia-Pacific rebalance strategy at both the State Department and the White House.
In the years following his service in the Obama-Biden administration, Sullivan was a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he helped conceive and design a bipartisan task force project on a foreign policy for the middle class. He also held teaching posts at Yale Law School, Dartmouth College, and the University of New Hampshire. He co-founded and co-chaired the advisory board for National Security Action, a nonprofit national security advocacy organization, and served on the advisory boards of a number of organizations involved in foreign policy and national security. Sullivan was also a senior policy adviser on the Hillary for America presidential campaign in 2016.
He holds a B.A. in political science and international studies from Yale College; a M.Phil in International Relations from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and a J.D. from Yale Law School. He grew up as the second of five children in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is a proud product of the Minneapolis public schools. He lives with his wife Maggie Goodlander in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Fmr. Secretary John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate
John Kerry served as America’s 68th Secretary of State, the first sitting Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman to serve as Secretary in over a century.
Secretary Kerry elevated environmental challenges as diplomatic priorities, from oceans to hydrofluorocarbons. He was a key architect of the Paris Climate Accord, and signed the historic agreement to reduce carbon emissions with his granddaughter on his lap. The New York Times described Kerry as “America’s Mr. Diplomacy,” leading on challenges from nuclear non-proliferation to extremism.
A Yale University graduate, Kerry volunteered for the Navy, serving two tours of duty in Vietnam. He was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts. Kerry was elected Massachusetts’ Lieutenant Governor in 1982 and US Senator in 1984.
In 2009, Kerry became Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The first hearing he Chaired was on climate change. He also led Senate efforts to ratify a landmark nonproliferation treaty, successfully intervened in Afghanistan’s election crisis, and negotiated bipartisan domestic climate change legislation.
Kerry’s 2018 memoir, Every Day Is Extra, was a best-seller. He has most recently been Yale University’s Distinguished Fellow for Global Affairs and Visiting Distinguished Statesman at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace spearheading programming on climate change and oceans. He co-founded World War Zero to unite unlikely allies on climate change and is a Board Member of the American Security Project.
He and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry have a blended family of two daughters, three sons, and seven grandchildren.