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Biden Makes Historic Picks In Naming Foreign Policy, National Security Teams

President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Avril Haines, seen here before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in January, as director of national intelligence in his administration. If confirmed, she'd be the first woman in the role.
Win McNamee
Getty Images
President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Avril Haines, seen here before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in January, as director of national intelligence in his administration. If confirmed, she'd be the first woman in the role.

Updated at 1:43 p.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden has named six leaders of his foreign policy and national security teams, showing a continued push for historic firsts in his administration.

Alejandro Mayorkas, who was a deputy secretary in the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, is the first Latino and immigrant nominated as DHS secretary, the Biden transition team said Monday afternoon.

Mayorkas is a former longtime law enforcement official, and during his time at DHS, the transition team says he worked on the development and implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and headed the department's response to the Ebola and Zika health crises.

Alejandro Mayorkas is seen on Oct. 18, 2015, in New York City.
Brad Barket / Getty Images for People en Español
Getty Images for People en Español
Alejandro Mayorkas speaks in October 2015 in New York City.

Avril Haines is tapped to serve as director of national intelligence, and if confirmed, she would become the first woman to lead the intelligence community.

She previously was deputy national security adviser and deputy director of the CIA, the first woman to hold the position, according to the Biden transition team. Haines also was deputy chief counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007-2008 when Biden was chairman.

Additionally, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the negotiations over the Paris climate accords, has been named as special presidential envoy for climate to sit on the National Security Council. It will be the first time the NSC has included a member solely devoted to the issue of climate change.

Kerry, who's 76, was the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee and had been a longtime U.S. senator from Massachusetts.

Jake Sullivan, another close Biden aide, has been announced for the position of national security adviser in the new administration.

He would be one of the youngest people to serve in that role in decades, according to the transition team. Sullivan previously was the former vice president's national security adviser and worked at the State Department under Hillary Clinton.

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry gestures next to then- Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Linda Thomas-Greenfield prior to a 2016 meeting.
Thomas Mukoya / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
Then-Secretary of State John Kerry with Linda Thomas-Greenfield, then assistant secretary of state for African affairs, before a 2016 meeting.

Also announced Monday is Linda Thomas-Greenfield for the position of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The role would mark Thomas-Greenfield's return to public service after retiring from her 35-year career with the Foreign Service in 2017. Biden is elevating the ambassadorship to a Cabinet-level position. The announcement also puts a Black woman in a highly visible role.

In a tweet, Thomas-Greenfield said she would lead "with the power of kindness and compassion" if confirmed.

The staffing announcements come after reporting that Biden had selected longtime adviser Antony Blinken for the coveted secretary of state post. Blinken was deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama.

Four of the six roles require Senate confirmation, with Sullivan's and Kerry's positions not needing such a vote.

"These individuals are equally as experienced and crisis-tested as they are innovative and imaginative," Biden said in a statement. "Their accomplishments in diplomacy are unmatched, but they also reflect the idea that we cannot meet the profound challenges of this new moment with old thinking and unchanged habits — or without diversity of background and perspective. It's why I've selected them."

Biden tapped Kamala Harris to be his running mate, and she will be the first woman, the first Black person, the first Indian American and the first Asian American to be vice president.

And dozens of House Democrats are urging Biden to name their colleague, Rep. Deb Haaland, as interior secretary. She would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history.

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Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.