White House Announces Acting Agency Leadership Until Nominees Confirmed

January 20, 2021 by Dan McCue
The White House on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – Just hours after the President Joe Biden was sworn into office, White House officials announced the acting agency leadership that will assist the new administration in the next phase of the transition of government.

These individuals, nearly all of whom are career civil servants, will temporarily lead federal agencies while Cabinet nominees continue moving through the confirmation process. 

“Day One is always going to be the riskiest” when it comes to uncertainty about who’s in charge, or the new people missing news of some critical event during an agency transition, said Paul C. Light, a professor of public service at New York University, told the Associated Press.

One example, he said, would be scientists in the ranks learning of some vital development in the spread of the coronavirus pandemic or development of vaccines.

“As sure as we’re talking here, these things happen,” Light said. “It’s a very dense hierarchy and there are no alarm bells.”

Across Cabinet-level agencies, most political appointees of the old administration turned in resignations by Inauguration Day, following tradition.

Before leaving office, President Donald Trump had amended the orders of succession at some agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, in ways that changed which career staffer was in charge after all the political appointees left.

Environmental advocates and other opponents of the Trump administration, and scholars of government, expressed suspicion of some of Trump’s succession changes in his last weeks, fearing he might plant loyalists as acting heads to make trouble for Biden.

But experts in government process point out that Barack Obama’s White House and others before him in their finals weeks also made adjustments to who’s left in charge in agencies.

That’s usually “not because of party preferences but to help with good governance,” said Anne Joseph O’Connell, a Stanford Law School professor in an interview with the AP. “To the extent you care about government, you care about transition.”

  • Central Intelligence Agency, David Cohen
  • Department of Defense, David Norquist
  • Department of Energy, David Huizenga
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Norris Cochran
  • Department of Homeland Security, David Pekoske
  • Department of Justice, Monty Wilkinson
  • Department of Labor, Al Stewart
  • Department of State, Dan Smith
  • Department of Treasury, Andy Baukol
  • Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Lora Shiao
  • General Services Administration, Katy Kale
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Steve Jurczyk
  • National Endowment for the Arts, Ann Eilers
  • National Endowment for the Humanities, Adam Wolfson
  • Office of Management and Budget, Rob Fairweather
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy, Regina LaBelle
  • Office of Personnel Management, Kathy McGettigan
  • Small Business Administration, Tami Perriello
  • Social Security Administration, Andrew Saul
  • U.S. Agency for International Development, Gloria Steele
  • U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Dev Jagadesan
  • U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Rich Mills
  • Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Maria Pagan

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