Biden FEMA, CIA Picks Familiar 01/15 06:59
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President-elect Joe Biden is nominating New York
emergency department commissioner Deanne Criswell to serve as the Federal
Emergency Management Agency administrator and has tapped former CIA deputy
director David Cohen to return to the agency in the same role he served during
the Obama administration.
The picks, along with a trio of other new nominations confirmed to The
Associated Press by the Biden team, come as the president-elect is putting a
premium on experience, and perhaps familiarity, as he looks to fill out top
positions at federal agencies with less than a week to go before his
Biden also is tapping former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David
Kessler to help lead the COVID-19 vaccine drive. Kessler has been advising
Biden as a co-chair of his advisory board on the coronavirus pandemic.
The pick of Kessler comes after Biden on Thursday called the Trump
administration's rollout of coronavirus vaccines a "dismal failure" and says he
will unveil his own plans on Friday to speed up inoculations.
Criswell, who also spent more than five years in top posts at FEMA during
the Obama administration, is the first woman nominated to head the agency,
whose primary responsibility is to coordinate responses to major disasters
inside the United States that require federal attention. Nancy Ward served as
the agency's acting administrator in the early months of the Obama
administration before his pick, Craig Fugate, could be confirmed.
Cohen, who was deputy CIA director from 2015 to 2017, has traveled the world
for years tracking money flowing to terror groups, such as the Islamic State
group, and other bad actors on the international stage. His work directing the
Treasury Department's intelligence unit earlier in his career earned him the
nicknames of "financial batman" and "sanctions guru."
In 2019, Cohen, who has been leading the financial and business integrity
group at the law firm WilmerHale, made a cameo appearance on the HBO series
"Game of Thrones."
Nominees are required to disclose details of their finances and complete
ethics agreements as part of the confirmation process. Once confirmed, federal
ethics laws can require the officials to recuse themselves from working on
issues that could impact their previous business interests.
Biden throughout the 2020 campaign lashed at President Donald Trump, saying
he eroded public trust in government. Biden pledged his team will abide by "the
highest ethical standards."
Cohen is not a registered lobbyist, but his firm does millions of dollars in
lobbying work each year on behalf of clients that include the Beer Institute,
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Walgreens and American Financial Group.
The president-elect is also nominating Shalanda Young, the top staff aide
for the House Appropriations Committee, to serve as deputy director at the
Office of Management and Budget and Jason Miller, who was deputy director of
the White House National Economic Council in Obama's administration, to serve
as deputy director for management at the agency.
Young brings a wealth of Capitol Hill experience in budget policy --- and
politics --- to the budget office, along with close relationships with powerful
House Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Miller was steeped in manufacturing
policy in the Obama administration, including an update of automobile fuel
Biden is tapping Janet McCabe, an environmental law and policy expert who
spent more than seven years as a top official at the Environmental Protection
Agency during the Obama administration to return to the agency as deputy
"Each of them brings a deep respect for the civil servants who keep our
republic running, as well as a keen understanding of how the government can and
should work for all Americans," Biden said of his picks in a statement. "I am
confident that they will hit the ground running on day one with determination
and bold thinking to make a meaningful difference in people's lives."
Criswell has served as New York City's emergency management commissioner
since June 2019. In her earlier work at FEMA, Criswell served as the leader of
one of the agency's National Incident Management Assistance Teams and as a
federal coordinating officer. In New York, part of her duties included leading
the coordination of the city's emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between her stints at FEMA and in New York, Criswell was a principal at
Cadmus Group, a firm that provides homeland security management consulting and
training services for federal, state and local government agencies and private
sector companies. The company made about $68 million between the time she
joined the firm in 2017 and when she left in June 2019, according to a
tabulation of contract spending data from the site USASpending.gov.
She also served as the head of the Office of Emergency Management for the
city of Aurora, Colorado. Criswell also served in the Colorado Air National
Guard, including 21 years as a firefighter and deputy fire chief with
deployments to Qatar, Afghanistan and Iraq.