President-elect Joe Biden intends to nominate former US diplomat and longtime human rights advocate Samantha Power to lead the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the nation’s primary agency overseeing global US humanitarian aid.
The Biden transition team also announced that the USAID administrator position will be elevated as a member of the National Security Council.
Power was US Ambassador to the United Nations during former President Barack Obama’s second term in office. She was confirmed to the role in 2013 with a 87-10 vote to succeed Susan Rice, who became Obama’s national security adviser.
As the US envoy to the UN, she memorably delivered a scathing rebuke against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies for the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, helped the UN battle Ebola and pushed the Obama administration’s advocacy for global LGBTQ rights. She helped hold the first-ever UN Security Council session focused on an LGBTQ issue and create a UN Human Rights Council watchdog to prevent violence and discrimination for gay and transgender people.
Before she was named US ambassador, she served on Obama’s National Security Council as a senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights and a former special assistant to the president. Power was reportedly among those who urged Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to militarily intervene in Libya in 2011.
Power won a Pulitzer Prize for her book, “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide,” in which she criticized the global failure to respond to genocides, and was a war correspondent in Bosnia in the 90s.
In his statement Wednesday, Biden lauded Power as a “world-renowned voice of conscience and moral clarity.”
“I know firsthand the unparalleled knowledge and tireless commitment to principled American engagement she brings to the table, and her expertise and perspective will be essential as our country reasserts its role as a leader on the world stage,” the President-elect added.
In a video released later Wednesday by the Biden presidential transition team, Power said that throughout her career she has witnessed what USAID “does on the ground for vulnerable people. “
“I have seen the partnerships that that they have forged with other countries who are pursuing economic development. I have seen the ingenuity, the determination, the curiosity and the humanity of USAID staff, and I couldn’t be more excited to work with them,” she said.
The USAID administrator position is a Senate-confirmed role. If confirmed, Power will take over leadership of the agency from controversial Trump appointee John Barsa, who in May pushed for the UN to remove abortion as an “essential service” from its humanitarian response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the Trump administration, the agency had a number of controversial political appointees join its ranks and repeatedly faced the threat of proposed budget cuts, which Congress rejected.
Biden has chosen several historic nominees for Cabinet positions and other top roles, including many who have decades of experience in their field or have served in Obama’s administration and have familiarity with working with Biden.
On Wednesday, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also announced additional staff appointments for their National Security Council, restoring two positions eliminated from the NSC during the Trump administration and creating a new cyber advisory role. These positions will not require Senate confirmation.
Former Obama officials Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall and Russ Travers will serve as Biden’s homeland security adviser and deputy homeland security adviser, respectively.
Sherwood-Randall has longtime ties to Biden, having first worked for him in the Senate decades ago as an adviser for foreign and defense policy. She later served in several positions in the Obama administration, including deputy secretary of energy and senior director for European affairs at the NSC.
Travers was a decades-long career counterterrorism official and the former acting director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center under the Trump administration. Travers was reportedly pushed into retirement in March by the Trump administration after resisting pressure to make personnel cuts, according to the Washington Post.
Anne Neuberger, the National Security Agency’s director of cybersecurity, will take on the new position of NSC deputy national security adviser on cyber and emerging technology – a sign that the Biden administration will prioritize cybersecurity in the wake of a massive data breach of government agencies.
The New York Times was first to report on Sherwood-Randall’s appointment while Politico first reported Neuberger’s new role.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Nicole Gaouette and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.