Biden Announces Two Key Nominees for Department of Defense

December 30, 2020 Updated: December 30, 2020

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced two key picks for Department of Defense (DOD) roles on Dec. 30, calling them “crisis-tested patriots” who will ensure that department “policies are accountable to the American people.”

Biden announced his choices of Dr. Kathleen Hicks for deputy secretary of defense and Dr. Colin Kahl for undersecretary of defense for policy, both of whom previously served in former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Hicks and Kahl will answer to Lloyd Austin, whom Biden earlier said he would nominate to be secretary of defense.

The former vice president said the two nominees will play a key role in keeping Americans safe including, in his administration’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort, addressing security threats related to the climate crisis, equipping service members and their families, and preparing for potential conflicts.

“Dr. Kath Hicks and Dr. Colin Kahl have the broad experience and crisis-tested judgment necessary to help tackle the litany of challenges we face today, and all those we may confront tomorrow. They will be trusted partners to me, the vice president-elect, and Secretary-designate Austin—as well as our dedicated civilian and military team,” Biden said in a statement.

Austin said he looks forward to working with the two nominees, should they be confirmed, adding, “Dr. Kathleen Hicks and Dr. Colin Kahl are public servants to their core—and they have spent their distinguished careers advancing the safety and security of our nation.”

Currently, Hicks is the senior vice president and director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as well as an advisor to Biden leading the Biden-Harris transition’s defense agency review team. During the Obama administration, she served as deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans, and forces and was confirmed by the Senate to serve as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

Kahl, who currently is a professor of political science at Stanford University, is also a co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation, and a national security adviser to Biden. He served as deputy assistant to Obama.

If Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20, his cabinet nominees will need to face the Senate confirmation process, the results of which will be determined by many factors, including which party holds the majority in the Senate after next month’s runoff elections in Georgia. If Republicans retain control of the chamber, several of Biden’s nominees are likely to meet opposition.

One is Neera Tanden, a Democratic operative who is Biden’s choice to be the director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Biden’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, may also have a hard time getting through the Senate because of his pro-abortion record.

Some other potential nominees also are unlikely to see friendly treatment. Among them may be Bob Iger, the chairman of Walt Disney Co. and a potential pick for the position of China ambassador, who could be challenged for his close ties with the Chinese regime. Biden’s pick for national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, also has expressed support for abandoning Taiwan in exchange for writing off Chinese-held U.S. debt.

Allen Zhong contributed to this report.