WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to nominate several top national security candidates on Tuesday, including the first Latino to head the Department of Homeland Security, the first woman to head the intelligence community, and one former Secretary of State John Kerry is said to be his international climate zar.
The aspiring team brings together a group of former senior Obama administration officials, most of whom have worked closely in the State Department and the White House, and in several instances have close ties to Mr Biden from previous years. Known to foreign diplomats around the world, they share a belief in the fundamental tenets of the democratic foreign policy establishment – international cooperation, strong US alliances and leadership, but be careful with foreign interventions after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At an event in Wilmington, Delaware, Mr. Biden will announce plans to appoint Alejandro Mayorkas as his secretary of homeland security, his transitional office said, and Avril Haines as his director for national intelligence. He intends to appoint Mr. Kerry as the President’s Special Envoy on Environment. The transition office also confirmed reports on Sunday evening that Mr Biden will appoint Antony J. Blinken as Secretary of State and Jake Sullivan as National Security Advisor.
Mr. Biden will also appoint Linda Thomas-Greenfield as Ambassador to the United Nations, bringing the job back to cabinet level, giving Ms. Thomas-Greenfield, who is African American, a seat on his National Security Council.
The race and gender mix of the expected candidates also reflects Mr Biden’s declared commitment to diversity, which has notoriously lagged behind in the areas of foreign policy and national security, where white men are disproportionately represented.
The selection also showed Mr Biden’s determination to move forward with building his administration, even though President Trump continued to refuse to admit or support him, even as a small but growing number of Republican lawmakers and supporters of the president begin calling for a formal transition.
Mr. Kerry’s work does not require approval by the Senate. A statement released by the Transitional Office said that Mr. Kerry “will serve as the President’s Special Envoy for Climate on a full-time fight against climate change and will serve on the National Security Council.”
To manage his domestic climate policy, Mr Biden will also shortly appoint a White House climate director who will be on an equal footing with Mr Kerry, according to interim officials.
If so confirmed, Mr Mayorkas, who was Deputy Minister of Homeland Security from 2013-2016, would be the first Latino to head the department charged with establishing and managing the country’s immigration policy.
The Cuban-born immigrant, whose family fled the Castro Revolution, is a former U.S. attorney in California and began President Barack Obama’s first term as director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. He will need to restore confidence in the department after many major Democratic constituencies viewed it as the ship to some of Mr Trump’s most controversial actions, such as separating migrant children from their families and building a wall along the southern border.
Senior immigration officials in the Obama administration recommended the nomination of Mr. Mayorkas to build support with the immigrant community while pleasing moderates and career officials within the agency who are looking for a leader with a law enforcement background.
Ms. Haines was Deputy Director of the C.I.A. in the Obama administration before replacing Mr Blinken as deputy national security advisor to Mr Obama. She is also a former advisor to Mr. Biden and, from 2007 to 2008, deputy chief solicitor of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while Mr. Biden was chair. Ms. Haines also served as an advisor to Mr. Obama’s National Security Council, helping him deal with legal issues related to counterterrorism and pressing for more restraint to reduce civilian casualties.
If confirmed, Ms. Haines will be the highest ranking woman serving in the intelligence community. The director of the C.I.A. – now led by its first female director, Gina Haspel – reports to the director of the National Secret Service.
Ms. Thomas-Greenfield is a 35 year old foreign service veteran who has served in diplomatic positions around the world. She was Deputy State Secretary for African Affairs from 2013 to 2017. Equally important for Biden officials is their time as former Director General and Human Resources Manager of the Foreign Service. They see it as positioning to restore morale to a State Department where many career officials felt ignored and even undermined during the Trump years.
Mrs. Thomas-Greenfield, the recently told Joining a “still very male and very pale” foreign service decades ago was also US ambassador to Liberia and was deployed to Switzerland, Pakistan, Kenya, Gambia, Nigeria and Jamaica.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was Mr Biden’s decision to bring Mr Kerry back to a new role that would signal the government’s commitment to tackling climate change. Mr. Kerry, 76, was a longtime Senate colleague and friend who campaigned for Mr. Biden during some of the darkest days of his candidacy and, as Democrats say, maintains his voracious appetite for international affairs. Since serving as Mr. Obama’s second secretary of state from 2013 to 2017, Mr. Kerry has had his Interested in climate change for his signature edition and currently heads an organization dedicated to the topic. His will be a full time job.
“We have no time to lose when it comes to our national security and foreign policy,” said Biden in a statement from his transitional office. “I need a team ready on day one to reclaim America’s place at the top of the table, gather the world together to meet the greatest challenges, and advance our security, prosperity and values.” That is the core of this team. “
“These people are as experienced and crisis-tested as they are innovative and resourceful,” he added. “Your diplomatic achievements are unsurpassed, 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 different backgrounds and perspectives. That’s why I chose her. “
In Mr Blinken, 58, Mr Biden elected a confidante of more than 20 years to serve as his senior advisor on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before moving to his vice presidential staff, where he then served as national security advisor to Mr Biden National Representative Security adviser to Mr. Obama and then Deputy State Secretary from 2015 to 2017.
Mr. Blinken is widely viewed as a pragmatic foreign policy centrist who, like Mr. Biden, has supported previous American interventions and believes that the United States must play central leadership in the world. Mr Biden most likely reckoned that the soft-spoken Mr Blinken, who is highly esteemed by many Republicans, will face a less difficult Senate confirmation battle than another top candidate, former National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice.
Mr. Blinken began his career in the State Department during the Clinton administration. He spent much of his youth in Paris, where he attended high school. He is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School.
Mr Sullivan will serve as the White House’s top national security post and will be the youngest person to hold that position at 44 years of age, after McGeorge Bundy, who took the post under President John F. Kennedy at the age of 41.
Long regarded as one of the best talents in his party, Mr. Sullivan succeeded Mr. Blinken as Mr. Biden’s senior national security aide, and then rose to become a senior advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called him a “unique talent”. Along the way, Mr Sullivan found admirers even among conservative Republicans in Congress while playing a key role in the negotiations that led to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
Mr. Sullivan is from Minnesota and graduated from Yale Law School. In the past few months he has contributed to spearheading a project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Revised US foreign policy to meet the needs of the American middle class.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed to the coverage.