National Security

Biden fills out his national security team with nearly two dozen appointments

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President-elect Joe Biden on Friday announced nearly two dozen appointments to his incoming National Security Council (NSC), filling out his staff with less than two weeks to go before his inauguration.

The appointees are largely veterans of the Obama administration, with many having served previously in the White House, in the Obama NSC and alongside other top nominees for senior posts in the Biden administration.

“The National Security Council plays a critical role in keeping our nation safe and secure. These crisis-tested, deeply experienced public servants will work tirelessly to protect the American people and restore America’s leadership in the world,” Biden said in a statement.

“They will ensure that the needs of working Americans are front and center in our national security policymaking, and our country will be better for it.”

Each presidential administration is unique in how it structures its NSC, which is in theory a staff to support the president but has grown in size and importance until it is comparable to other top departments and agencies. 

The 21 people announced on Friday signal Biden’s intention to restructure and expand the council, with a senior adviser to the transition team telling The Washington Post its priorities will be reflected in new senior positions on global health, democracy and human rights, and cybersecurity and emerging technology. 

This includes the appointment of Elizabeth Cameron as senior director for global health security and biodefense. Cameron, who has a Ph.D. in biology, was a co-author of the “pandemic playbook” from the Obama administration that was reportedly ignored by the Trump administration with the outbreak of COVID-19.

Shanthi Kalathil, whose work has focused on emerging threats to democracy, is being appointed coordinator for democracy and human rights

The newly created senior director for technology and national security position will be filled by Tarun Chhabra, who most recently was a senior fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University.

Other senior appointments include Jon Finer, a former State Department official, to be principal deputy national security adviser under Jake Sullivan, whom Biden is appointing national security adviser. 

Ella Lipin will serve as senior adviser to Finer. Lipin most recently served as national security and foreign policy adviser to Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.). Previously she served at the Pentagon during the Obama administration and with a particular focus on Egypt. 

Ariana Berengaut is being appointed as senior adviser to Sullivan. She most recently served on the Biden transition’s NSC review agency team and held the COVID-19 policy portfolio during the campaign. 

Biden’s picks to lead the council’s communications department include Emily Horne as NSC spokesperson and senior director for press. She most recently was vice president of communications at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and was a volunteer on the transition team leading communications for several national security Cabinet nominees. 

Carlyn Reichel will be senior director for speechwriting and strategic initiatives. She was director of speech writing and foreign policy director on Biden’s campaign. 

National security leaders for specific regions include Andrea Kendall-Taylor to be senior director for Russia and Central Asia. Kendall-Taylor served as a deputy national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and was a senior analyst at the CIA. 

Other top posts include Juan Gonzalez as senior director for the Western Hemisphere, Sumona Guha as senior director for South Asia, Amanda Sloat as senior director for Europe and Brett McGurk as coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.

McGurk served in the Trump administration as special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS but resigned in protest in 2018 over President Trump’s intention to remove U.S. troops from northeast Syria. 

Biden’s pick to lead his communications with Congress is Rebecca Brocato, who also served as the White House’s director for legislative affairs on the national security council under the Obama administration as well as House legislative affairs liaison. 

Other top appointments include:

Sasha Baker will be senior director for strategic planning. She most recently served as national security advisor to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and as a deputy policy director for Warren’s presidential campaign.

Tanya Bradsher will be senior director for partnerships and global engagement. Bradsher was chief of staff for Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). 

Melanie Nakagawa will be senior director for climate and energy. During the Obama administration, Nakagawa served as deputy assistant secretary for energy transformation at the State Department and was a strategic adviser on climate change to then-Secretary of State John Kerry, whom Biden has appointed as his climate czar. 

Caitlin Durkovich will be senior director for resilience and response. She most recently was director at the strategic advisory firm Toffler Associates and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. 

Peter Harrell will be senior director for international economics and competitiveness. He was serving on the Biden transition team’s agency review for the State Department. Previously he was an adjunct senior fellow with the Washington-based think tank Center for a New American Security and a lawyer in private practice.

Yohannes Abraham, executive director of the transition team, will serve as chief of staff and executive secretary. 

Ryan Harper, a veteran foreign policy and national security official from the Obama administration, will be deputy chief of staff and deputy executive secretary.

Tags biden administration Biden transition Catherine Cortez Masto Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Jake Sullivan Joe Biden John Kerry National Security Council

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