Thursday, May 30, 2024

Biden Transition Team: Indian American Flavour

By Kenneth Tiven in the USA

Joe Biden obviously meant it when he made a commitment to racial, gender and ideological diversity in top advisory positions. While many of the named choices have experience working with him when he was vice president, Indian Americans are the flavour of the transition review teams.

Neera Tanden, lawyer, political consultant, writer and an outspoken critic of President Trump, is an Indian-American whose parents immigrated to Massachusetts in the late 1960s. She will be the Director, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), only the second woman and now the first Indian-American in that post.  This is an extremely powerful position. Currently, she is the chief executive of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. OMB with 530 staff is the largest office within the Executive Office of the President of the United States. It produces the budget the President submits to Congress, and then oversees compliance with the programs and policies. Think of it this way: The Treasury Department finds the money but OMB spends it.  Federal spending per year is in excess of 4 trillion dollars and rising because of pandemic impacts.

Other Indian-origin members of the Agency Review Teams (ARTs) include:

Vivek Murthy, former surgeon General of the USA, is on several ARTs, including Health and Human Services and Homeland Security.

Arun Majumdar from the California’s Stanford University is the team lead for the Department of Energy ART.

Dr Rahul Gupta, A former state health officer for West Virginia is leading the transition over the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Kiran Arjandas Ahuja  is an American lawyer and activist who served as the Chief of Staff to the Director of the US Office of Personnel Management from 2015 to 2017 has been named Team Lead for Office of Personnel Management.

Puneet Talwar former Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs in 2014-15 was top Middle East advisor to Barack Obama, playing a central role in the backchannel diplomacy that produced the Iran nuclear deal. Focused on the Department of State .

Pav Avneet Singh is a non-resident fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings Institution has been named to two ARTs, the National Security Council and Office of Science and Technology.

Arun Venkatraman a machine learning computer expert and graduate of  Carnegie Mellon University has been named to two ARTs, Department of Commerce and US  Trade Representative Office. 

Pravina Raghavan is the Executive Vice President, Division of Small Business and Community Economic Development for Empire State Development (New York).

Atman Trivedi is ‎Managing Director at Hills & Company, International Consultants for Department of Commerce. 

Shital Shah is the Manager of Philanthropic Engagement at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for Department of Education.

R Ramesh is a professor well-known globally for his contributions to the science and technology of complex functional oxide materials, on The Energy Department team.

Rama Zakaria is a Senior Manager for Regulatory Policy and Analysis at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF),  on Department of Energy;

Subhasri Ramanathan is a lawyer who has worked for the Department of Homeland Security. For the Department of Homeland Security;

Raj De is a cybersecurity and data expert for Department of Justice.

Seema Nanda had been CEO of the Democratic National Committee and along with

Raj Nayak, the former COO of Viacom 18, are looking at the Department of Labour.

Reena Aggarwal is the Robert E. McDonough Professor of Business Administration and Finance, vice provost for faculty, and the director of the Center for Financial Markets and Policy in the School of Business at Georgetown University and with

Satyam Khanna, theformer senior legal adviser to US SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson, is on the ART for the Federal Reserve Bank.

Bhavya Lal is a scientist holding three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and nuclear expert. She is on the ART for NASA.

Dilpreet Sidhu most recently worked for the US Department of State as an Economic Officer in Basra, Iraq, where she advanced US policy goals. She is on for the National Security Council.

Divya Kumaraiah, with an MBA form Harvard  is looking at  the  Office of Management and Budget;

Kumar Chandranworked as Chief of Staff for the US Department of Agriculture’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services is in the ART for Department of Agriculture;

Aneesh Paul Chopra served as the first Chief Technology Officer of the United StateS, appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama and will be examining the  US Postal Service.

 Almost all of these are volunteers.

Tanden went to the University of California and received her law degree at Yale University in 1996. Married and the mother of two, she is no stranger to adversity. Her parents divorced when she was five, after which Tanden’s mother was on welfare for nearly two years before obtaining a job. Her confirmation is expected to be contentious, so much so that it might force President Joe Biden to use a temporary appointment rather than let the Senate refuse confirmation.  Biden cannot be unaware that she also may be opposed by some of the more progressive elements of his Democratic Party believing she worked to scuttle Bernie Sanders nomination in 2016 because of her deep personal and professional ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

In April of this year, a week after quitting the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, Senator Bernie Sanders wrote to Tanden’s organisation, the Center for American Progress (CAP), saying: “Neera Tanden repeatedly calls for unity while simultaneously maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas. I worry that the corporate money CAP is receiving is inordinately and inappropriately influencing the role it is playing in the progressive movement. I will be informing my grassroots supporters of the foregoing concerns that I have about the role CAP is playing. Should your actions evolve in the coming months, I am happy to reconsider what kind of partnership we can have.”

Republican Congressional leadership is expected to oppose most of the nominations. It is just as likely that she is Biden’s choice to make it clear he won’t be pushed around and/or abused by Republicans or parts of his own political party. Such behaviour would be a strong show of independence by a man known to favour compromise. The times are different is the point to consider here. The latest news is that the entire White House media team is female, but not expected to be in the confrontational mould of the women in the Trump Team.

For those keeping score, the Trump campaign lost another court battle on Monday bringing the count to one win and 39 losses on the issue of voting fraud. An appeals court overturned their one win so it shows up in the loss count as well. The actual Electoral College meets in 17 days and the actual inauguration is seven weeks away.  President Trump spent part of his morning on Fox News complaining about voting fraud that his lawyers cannot convince a judge to believe. The suggestion grows that he wants to stage some sort of event opposite the Inauguration to kick off what he has apparently called the 2024 campaign. He wants to be the center of attention, despite Biden and the surging Covid-19 issues that has brought the US statistics to 13.7 million infectious cases and 273,000 deaths. The Centers for Disease Control suggested this weekend that the official statistics undercount a reality, which might be much higher for infections.

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