Federal Agency Transition Tracker

Date Stamp: November 2020

Here you will find selected information about the President’s federal agency picks of interest to the ecological community along with details about the nomination confirmation process. This page is being continuously updated to include President-elect Joe Biden’s picks.

ESA’s Public Affairs Office held a webinar Nov. 9 to preview the Biden administration’s first steps and the 2020 election results. See the webinar slides here and the webinar recording here.

Positions that require Senate Confirmation

All Cabinet-level officials, except the White House chief of staff, require Senate confirmation. The Cabinet includes the vice president and the heads of 15 executive departments — the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Attorney General.

Around 1,200 senior posts and agency heads require Senate confirmation. Basically, agency heads and assistant secretaries need Senate confirmations, but adviser positions and other federal agency appointees from the president do not.

What Does the Confirmation Process Entail?

1) A nomination is given to the relevant Senate committee. The Foreign Relations Committee, for example, handles the secretary of state position.

2) That committee can then hold hearings, vote to move the nomination straight to the Senate floor for a vote or not move on it at all (in which case, the committee effectually kills the nomination).

3) After hearings, the committee votes to report a nomination to the full Senate, requiring a simple majority. It may vote to report the nomination favorably, unfavorably or without recommendation. If a committee sits on an appointment, the full Senate may vote to invoke cloture and move the nomination along.

4) If a nomination clears committee, it moves to the Senate floor for a simple majority vote. Filibusters do not apply here because Democrats changed Senate rules three years ago to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for most nominations. However, Supreme Court picks are still subject to the filibuster.

How Can You Watch the Hearings?

The confirmation hearings are broadcast live. You can find a link to watch them on the website for the specific Senate committee conducting the hearing, or this website shows the schedule of hearings with links to watch them live (click on the committee and the live feed should come up).

After the hearings have taken place, they will be available on the websites of the respective Senate committees.

Who in the cabinet is in line to succeed the president?

Article 2, Section 1, Clause 6, constitution of the United States: If the vice president cannot serve, the line of succession falls to the speaker of the House, then to the Senate president pro tempore, then to Cabinet members.


In order of succession to the Presidency:

Vice President of the United States
Kamala Harris, former Senator from California

Department of State
state.gov
Secretary
Nominee: Antony Blinken, former Deputy Secretary of State
Senate Committee: Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Nomination Hearing Date:

(Other selected State positions requiring Senate Confirmation: Assistant Secretary for Oceans & International Environmental & Scientific Affairs)

Department of the Treasury
treasury.gov
Secretary
Nominee: Janet Yellen, former Federal Reserve chair
Senate Committee: Committee on Finance
Nomination Hearing Date:

Department of Defense
defense.gov
Secretary
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Armed Services
Nomination Hearing Date:

Department of Justice
usdoj.gov
Attorney General
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on the Judiciary
Nomination Hearing Date:

Assistant Secretary Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on the Judiciary

Department of the Interior
doi.gov

Secretary
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date:

Deputy Secretary
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date:

Assistant Secretary for Water & Science
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date:

Assistant Secretary, Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resource and Committee on Environment and Public Works
Nominations Hearing Date: 

Director, U.S. Geological Survey
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date:

Director, National Park Service
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date:

Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Environment and Public Works
Nomination Hearing Date: 

Director, Bureau of Land Management
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date:

(The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or FWS), the United States Geological Service (USGS), and the National Park Service (NPS) are agencies within the U.S. Department of the Interior)

Department of Agriculture
usda.gov
Secretary
Nominee:
Senate Committee:  Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
Nomination Hearing Date:

Other relevant Department of Agriculture nominations:

Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment (oversees US Forest Service)
Nominee:
Senate Committee:  Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
Nomination Hearing Date:

Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics (oversees Agricultural Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture and others)
Nominee:
Senate Committee:Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
Nomination Hearing Date:

Department of Commerce
commerce.gov
Secretary
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Nomination Hearing Date:

Other relevant Department of Commerce nominations:

Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere (Principal adviser on environmental and scientific activities in the Department, #1 Post at NOAA)
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
Nomination Hearing Date: 

Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management/Deputy Administrator of NOAA
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Nomination Hearing Date:

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Nomination Hearing Date:

(Other selected positions requiring Senate Confirmation: Chief Scientist)

Department of Labor
dol.gov
Secretary
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Nomination Hearing Date:

Department of Health and Human Services
hhs.gov
Secretary
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Committee on Finance (which actually votes on the nomination)
Nomination Hearing Date:

Department of Housing and Urban Development
hud.gov
Secretary
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Nomination Hearing Date:

Department of Transportation
dot.gov
Secretary
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Nomination Hearing Date:

Department of Energy
energy.gov
Secretary
Nominee: 
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date: 

Other relevant Department of Energy nominations:

Deputy Secretary of Energy
Nominee:

Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date:

Under Secretary for Science
Nominee: 
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date:

Assistant Secretary of Energy (Environmental Management)
Nominee: 
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and Committee on Armed Services
Nomination Hearing Date:

Assistant Secretary of Energy (Fossil Energy)
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources 
Nomination Hearing Date:

Assistant Secretary of Energy (Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability)
Nominee: 
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources 
Nomination Hearing Date:

Assistant Secretary of Energy (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy)
Nominee: 
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date:

Assistant Secretary of Energy (Nuclear Energy)
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date:

Director, Office of Science
Nominee: 
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date:

Director, Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E)
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Nomination Hearing Date:

(There are 21 Department of Energy labs and technology centers located across the US.)

Department of Education
ed.gov
Secretary
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Nomination Hearing Date:
Watch the hearing here.

Department of Veterans Affairs
va.gov
Secretary
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Nomination Hearing Date:

Department of Homeland Security
dhs.gov
Secretary
Nominee: Alejandro Mayorkas, former deputy secretary of homeland security
Senate Committee: Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Nomination Hearing Date:

The following positions have the status of Cabinet-rank:

White House Chief of Staff
Chief of Staff: Ron Klain, former Chief of Staff for Biden as Vice President

Environmental Protection Agency
epa.gov
Administrator
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Nomination Hearing Date:

Deputy Administrator
Nominee:

Senate Committee: Environment and Public Works Committee
Nomination Hearing Date:

(Other selected positions requiring Senate confirmation: Assistant Administrator for Research & Development)

Office of Management & Budget
whitehouse.gov/omb

Director
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on the Budget and Committee on Homeland and Government Affairs
Hearing Date: 

United States Trade Representative
ustr.gov
Ambassador
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Finance
Hearing Date:

United States Mission to the United Nations
usun.state.gov
Ambassador
Nominee: Linda Thomas-Greenfield, former ambassador to Liberia and career Foreign Service member.
Senate Committee: Committee on Foreign Relations
Hearing Date: 

Council of Economic Advisers
whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/cea
Chairman
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Hearing Date:

Small Business Administration
sba.gov
Administrator
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
Hearing Date:

The following positions are in the Executive Office of the President:

Council on Environmental Quality
whitehouse.gov/ceq
Director
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Environment and Public Works
Confirmation hearing:

Office of Science Technology and Policy
ostp.gov
Director
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Hearing Date:

Usually, the president’s science advisor is both the OSTP director and the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, a title that gives the advisor additional access to the president.

(Other selected positions requiring Senate confirmation: Associate Director for Energy & Environment; Associate Director for National Security & International Affairs; Associate Director for Science; and Associate Director for Technology & Innovation)

National Security Council
whitehouse.gov/nsc/
Climate Envoy: John Kerry, former Secretary of State and Senator

Other Selected Agencies of Interest to the Ecological Community:

(These agency heads are not in the president’s cabinet.)

NASA
nasa.gov
Administrator
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
nist.gov
Director
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Commerce, Science, and Transportation

National Science Foundation
nsf.gov
Director
Nominee: Dr. Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, former member of the National Science Board and Executive Vice President, Arizona State University Executive Knowledge Enterprise Development.
Senate Committee: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Nomination Hearing Date: N/A
Dr. France Cordova’s six-year term ended March 31, 2020. Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is serving as Acting Director until the full Senate confirms Panchanathan. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted to approve Panchanathan’s nomination June 3, 2020.

Deputy Director
Nominee: Vacant.
Senate Committee: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Nomination Hearing Date: N/A

Historically, the agency has been allowed substantial political independence. The director serves at the pleasure of the president and is appointed to a six-year term. France Cordova began her tenure in 2014 and served until March 31, 2020. The director is subject to Senate confirmation. The National Science Board, NSF’s governing board is composed of 23 members (8 set to expire in 2018) who are appointed for six-year terms and do not require Senate confirmation.

USAID
usaid.gov
Administrator
Nominee:
Senate Committee: Committee on Foreign Relations 
Hearing Date: