January 25, 2021

Washington Roundup - January 2021

Washington Roundup – January 2021

By: Lowell Randel

 Post 2020 Election and the Biden Transition

With the 2020 elections (and runoffs) now complete, Washington, DC now turns to transition.  This edition of the Washington Roundup will focus on key personnel announcements from the Biden Administration as it transitions into power.

Biden Administration Names New USDA Leadership

President Biden has moved forward with assembling some key members of his team at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Tom Vilsack has been nominated to be Secretary of Agriculture.  Vilsack served as Secretary for all eight years of the Obama Administration and is slated to return to the job upon Senate confirmation.  He has also served two terms as Governor of Iowa. 

Jewel Bronaugh has been tapped to be the Deputy Secretary for USDA.  Bronaugh is currently the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  During the Obama Administration, she was the Virginia State Director for the Farm Service Agency.  She has also experience in academia and was the Dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University (VSU) and oversaw extension, research and academic programs.

In the interim, Kevin Shea has been named Acting Secretary.  Shea is a long-time career employee at USDA, most recently serving as administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) since June 2013.  During the Trump transition he also served as acting deputy undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.  Shea will lead the department while Biden appointees go through the confirmation process. 

In addition to naming Shea Acting Secretary, the Biden Administration appointed a number of senior officials who will not need Senate confirmation.  They include:

Katharine Ferguson, Chief of Staff: Ferguson comes to USDA from the Aspen Institute where she has focused on rural community economic development. During the Obama administration, Ferguson was chief of staff for the White House Domestic Policy Council as chief of staff for Rural Development at USDA.

Stacy Dean, Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services: Prior to the appointment, Dean served as Vice President for Food Assistance Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Sara Bleich, Senior Adviser, Covid-19: Bleich, currently serves as a professor of public health policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and at the Kennedy School of Government.

Kumar Chandran, senior adviser for nutrition in the Office of the Secretary: Chandran was Chief of Staff for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services during the Obama Administration and most recently served as policy director for FoodCorps.

Justin Maxson, Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development:  Maxson was most recently CEO of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which works to “alleviate poverty and increase social and economic justice” in Southern states.

Mae Wu, Deputy Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs: Wu comes to USDA from the National Resources Defense Council where she served as a Senior Director.

Stacy Dean, Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services: Dean is a nutrition policy expert who comes from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Matt Herrick, Communications Director: Herrick most recently served as Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications at the International Dairy Foods Association.

President Biden Names Science Team

President Biden has indicated that science will be a priority for his Administration and has begun naming key members of his science team.  It is noteworthy that Biden has made the position of Presidential Science Advisor cabinet level.  Members of Biden’s Science Team include:

Dr. Eric Lander, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Presidential Science Advisor:  Dr. Lander was a principal leader of the Human Genome Project and has been a pioneer in the field of genomic medicine. He is the founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.  During the Obama-Biden administration, he served as external Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. 

Dr. Alondra Nelson,  OSTP Deputy Director for Science and Society: A distinguished scholar of science, technology, social inequality, and race, Dr. Nelson is president of the Social Science Research Council, an independent, nonprofit organization linking social science research to practice and policy. She is also a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ.

Dr. Frances H. Arnold and Dr. Maria Zuber, Co-Chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST):  An expert in protein engineering, Dr. Arnold is the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Dr. Zuber, an expert in geophysics and planetary science, is the first woman to lead a NASA spacecraft mission and has chaired the National Science Board.  

Dr. Francis Collins will continue serving in his role as Director of the National Institutes of Health.

Kei Koizumi will serve as OSTP Chief of Staff and is one of the nation’s leading experts on the federal science budget.

Narda Jones, will serve as OSTP Legislative Affairs Director, was Senior Technology Policy Advisor and Counsel for the Democratic staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.