America’s First Female Director of National Security

Last week, President-elect Biden announced some key cabinet nominations, and the stage was littered with shards of the glass ceiling.

If confirmed, the nominees for Treasury Secretary, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Director of National Intelligence will all be the first women to hold the offices.  Additionally, the nominee for the Department of Homeland Security is the first immigrant and Latino to be appointed. These picks reflect the Biden team’s continued effort to show the American people that they will build a government that reflects the people, and that the country is ready to return to the international community. He emphasized this in his speech introducing the nominees:

“Together, these public servants will restore America globally, its global leadership and its moral leadership,” Biden said. “It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it.”

Avril Haines, the nominee for Director of National Intelligence, spent much of her career in traditionally male-dominated spaces. Shortly after graduating high school, Haines attended an elite judo academy in Japan, where she earned her brown belt. She went on to study theoretical physics in Chicago. She has worked for the Bush and Obama administrations in the national security legal department, state department, and even the CIA, where she was the first woman to be named deputy director. She has a unique background for someone in the position she is nominated for, with NPR writing that she “spent her formative years as a hipster and an outsider.”

Haines is regarded by those who have worked with her as hardworking and fiercely professional, as well as very practical and pragmatic. She first worked with the President-elect as a lawyer with the Senate foreign relations committee, of which Biden was the committee chairman. It is reported that Haines and Biden have a very honest and trusting relationship with lots of mutual respect. She noted in her nomination speech that her responsibility lies not with the President and Vice President, but with the American people first and foremost.

“Mr. President-Elect, you know that I have never shied away from speaking truth to power,” Haines says. “I have worked with you for a long time and know that you would never want me to do otherwise.”

Those who describe Haines say that she is not particularly ideological and that she is a non-partisan, professional public servant. She has cowritten foreign policy that raised concerns regarding the polarization of the intelligence agencies. Traditionally, the office is nonpartisan. However, the previous two directors were openly staunch supporters of President Trump. Haines intends to shift back to nonpartisanship and compromise.

While it is generally expected that she will be confirmed, Haines has attracted criticism from progressives who argue that her nomination is a regression to Obama-era policies instead of an evolution to more liberal ones. Additionally, there are concerns from the right that she will not be brazen enough to deal with global threats. Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas argues that Biden’s cabinet picks will be soft on China, while Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida believes the national intelligence team as a whole will lack boldness. Rubio tweeted that they will be: “Polite and orderly caretakers of America’s decline.”

Although Haines does not have a lot of experience working directly for intelligence agencies, she has years of experience overseeing covert operations through the White House and the Pentagon, as well as leading the Situation Room. Biden is confident in her career experience and regards her as “brilliant” and “humble.”

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