WASHINGTON – One important member of President Joe Biden’s national security team has already taken his place.
Meanwhile, the White House and leading lawmakers are calling for swift approval of other key candidates to deal with growing international challenges.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haynes became the first president’s appointee to take office. The first woman in office, she was sworn in on Thursday, less than 24 hours after being approved by the Senate with 84 votes in favor and 10 against.
Soon after taking the oath of office, Haynes took part in a daily intelligence briefing for the president and addressed intelligence officials with a statement, in which she noted that their work “has never been so important to the security and prosperity of the country.”
Republicans and Democrats have expressed satisfaction with Haynes’s swift approval, saying the country has no time to waste.
“Our opponents will not stand by and wait for the new administration to fill critical vacancies,” said leading Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Marco Rubio.
The chief Democrat on the committee, Senator Mark Warner, also praised the two-party collaboration on Haynes’s claim, saying her role as head of national intelligence is “extremely important.”
In addition, steps were taken Thursday to appoint retired General Lloyd Austin, the former commander of US forces in the Middle East and South Asia, as Secretary of Defense. If approved, Austin will become the first black head of the Pentagon.
The House of Representatives and Senate voted to make Austin an exception to the rule that ex-military personnel cannot hold civilian office until seven years after leaving the military. The final vote to confirm his candidacy in the Senate is scheduled for Friday.
“Foreign adversaries will try to take advantage of this transition, and we cannot allow US military, intelligence, and national security policies to fail due to staffing delays,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told colleagues.
The Senate is also expected to move on to deciding on other key candidates, such as confirming former Ambassador William Burns as CIA director.
At the same time, several important tasks have already been assigned to Biden’s national security team.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed on Thursday that the president has asked the intelligence community to present its findings on alleged Russian actions, including a massive cyber attack, interference in the presidential election in November, the use of chemical weapons against opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the alleged payment of bounties for the killing of American soldiers. in Afghanistan.
In her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Haynes said she was particularly worried about Russia’s use of influence operations.
“I’m sure I’ve seen Russia use active measures in a number of campaigns to increase disunity in our country and, in a sense, support extremism,” she said.
At his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Austin also warned of the Kremlin’s actions, saying that while Russia is a “declining” power, it can still cause “great damage” in cyberspace.