The Biden Administration has announced more moves for the Department of Health and Human Services. While the Department waits on the Senate confirmation of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as the new Secretary, Acting Secretary Norris Cochran made several moves.

Sean McCluskie was appointed the department’s Chief of Staff and Anne Reid as the Deputy Chief of Staff. McCluskie is a longtime aide to Becerra dating back to his days in Congress and before that as a Legislative Assistant to Congressman Pete Stark. He was very active in child welfare policy.

Other appointments that do not require a Senate ok include:

  • Dawn O’Connell, Senior Counselor for the Covid-19 response.
  • AJ Pearlman, Chief of Staff for the Covid-19 response.
  • Kathryn Alvarez, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Covid-19 response.
  • Lisa Barclay, and Paul Rodriguez as Deputy General Counsels.
  • Josh Peck, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Engagement.
  • Kristin Avery, White House liaison.
  • Alison Barkoff., Principal Deputy Administrator, Administration for Community Living.
  • Elizabeth Carr, Senior Adviser, Indian Health Services.
  • Jordan Hefcart, Special Assistant, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
  • Reyma McCoy McDeid, Commissioner of the Administration on Disabilities.
  • Ben Sommers, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE).
  • Karoun Tcholakian, Special Assistant, Office of Global Affairs.
  • Micky Tripathi, health information technology coordinator, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Also announced last week, Andrea Palm was nominated to become the Deputy Secretary for HHS. Palm had been heading up Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services. She had been in the Obama Administration in several roles, including Assistant Secretary for Legislation, Assistant Secretary for Health and Chief of Staff. Before that work, she had been a health policy advisor to Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and before Clinton, a Legislative Assistant to Congressman Bob Matsui (D-CA). Biden also named David Kessler to serve as Chief Science Officer for the Covid-19 response. Kessler has been a close advisor to Biden but gained fame as an FDA Commissioner under President Bill Clinton. Kessler had originally been appointed by President George H.W. Bush but stayed on under Clinton, where he gained national attention for his aggressive work on tobacco and cigarette smoking reduction.

President Biden has nominated Vivek Murthy to be the next Surgeon General, a position he held under President Obama. Just before leaving the Obama administration four years ago, Murthy issued a report focused on substance use called, Facing Addiction in America, saying, “the reason I’m issuing this report is I want to call our country to action around what has become a pressing public health issue. I want our country to understand the magnitude of this crisis I’m not sure everyone does.”

As part of the transition process, several HHS officials stepped down. Associate Commissioner and head of the Children’s Bureau Jerry Milner stepped down on Friday, January 15, along with Elizabeth Darling, Commissioner for the Administration on Children and Families.

President Biden also announced several acting secretaries to fill the position while waiting on the Senate. These include: (mostly career officials in the departments): Department of Agriculture, Kevin Shea; Department of Education, Phil Rosenfelt; Department of Health and Human Services, Norris Cochran; Department of Housing and Urban Development, Matt Ammon; Department of Justice, Monty Wilkinson; Department of Treasury, Andy Baukol; and the Office of Management and Budget, Rob Fairweather.