A Look at Biden-Harris Tech Transition Members and Appointees

Published: January 14, 2021

Federal Market AnalysisAdministration TransitionIT Workforce

Staffing of tech transition members and appointees of President-elect Biden’s administration sheds some light on upcoming tech priorities.

Key Takeaways:

  • Tech personnel in the Biden-Harris transition teams and appointees represent are some of the same names that served in the Obama era, likely to make a faster impact on new federal tech agendas.  
  • Federal entities that allow private sector employees to serve civic tours, such as USDS and 18F, are likely to remain, or even grow, under the Biden administration.
  • Based on some of the tech backgrounds of Biden transition team members and appointees, areas such as cyber, supply chain, digitization, policy and regulation will be top tech themes under the new administration.

Overshadowed by other campaign priorities such as the pandemic, economic recovery and social injustice, the incoming Biden administration has yet to outline a clear tech agenda. Nonetheless, a look at Biden-Harris tech members within transition teams and appointees (thus far) may help lend insight on what’s to come from the new administration.  

Immediately noticeable among the tech personnel on the transition teams are names that served during the Obama era. The following list provides a glimpse of the tech experts put in place under the Biden-Harris team so far:

  • Former USDS members throughout Biden transition teams:
    • Matt Bailey and Andrew Nacin, USDS Review Team: both served under Trump and Obama in OCIO and USDS capacities, respectively
    • Victor Garcia, DOD Review Team: former USDS Director of Engineering under Obama 
  • Former CIOs throughout transition teams:
    • Mark Schwartz, OMB Review Team: formerly led IT operations at USCIS
    • Ashwin Vasan, CFPB Review Team: former CFPB CIO
    • Ann Dunkin, EPA Review Team: former EPA CIO
  • Former OSTP personnel throughout transition teams:
    • Aneesh Chopa, USPS Review Team: first U.S. CTO under Obama, appointed in 2009
    • Austin Brown, DOT Review Team: served as OSTP assistant director for clean energy and transportation under Obama
    • Afua Bruce, DOJ Review Team: served in OSTP and a former FBI lead data strategist
  • Biden administration tech appointees:
    • David Recordon, Director of Technology: served in USDS under the Obama administration and then as the first Director of White House IT to lead large cyber and modernization efforts
    • Austin Lin, Deputy Director of Technology: served multiple operations and technology roles during the Obama administration, including Deputy Director of IT and Associate Director for Operations

Note that the above list is not all inclusive of Obama era tech personnel under the Biden-Harris team. Rather, the list’s purpose is to provide a basic overview of the trend.

These “recycled” folks, so to speak, from the Obama administration is a foretelling of both the tech priorities and management likely to come under the Biden administration. Familiarity with the workings of the federal government will help appointees acclimate quickly with agency business units and hit the ground running with a new tech agenda that builds off previous administrations. The typical 18-24 month period of impact for new administrations will likely shorten as incoming leaders reunite with the much of the same federal tech workforce.  A shorter time to adjust to the federal space could translate into a more efficient process in routing out agency strengths and weaknesses and turning to industry to fill in the gaps.

Another look at the backgrounds of some Biden transition teams reveals an emphasis in digitization and modernization seen under the Obama administration, as well as a focus on biotechnology and climate science to support new administration priorities.

Moreover, a dedicated review team for the U.S. Digital Service and veteran USDS members throughout Biden transition teams reveals the new president’s pledge to continue, or even grow, the revolving doors of civic service tours to modernize the federal space.

Lastly, based on the experiences of some Biden tech personnel, coupled with recent events such as the Solarwinds breach, cyber and supply chain will likely top the tech agenda list under the new administration. Moreover, tech policy and regulations, particularly towards big tech companies, is likely to evolve under the Biden administration.