Administration Unveils Senior Tech and Acquisition Leaders

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden wave as they arrive at the North Portico of the White House Jan. 20.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden wave as they arrive at the North Portico of the White House Jan. 20. Alex Brandon/AP

Some will serve as temporary caretakers as nominees go through the confirmation process.

With President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees still waiting for confirmation, federal agencies including the Defense, Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs departments as well as the General Services Administration published lists of leaders who will fill key roles during the early days of the administration. 

While some will serve only in acting, interim, or “performing the duties of” (PTDO) capacities, others announced at GSA and HHS will step into permanent roles. Unlike Cabinet-level nominations, names for these roles—which include key technology posts—were not publicized prior to the Jan. 20 inauguration. 

Defense Department

  • Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (PTDO): Terence Emmert 
  • Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (PTDO): Stacy A. Cummings
  • Assistant Secretary of Defense, Homeland Defense and Global Security (PTDO): Bob Salesses 
  • Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller/Chief Financial Officer (PTDO): Douglas Glenn 
  • National Security Agency Director (incumbent): Gen. Paul Nakasone. Nakasone is also the current commander of U.S. Cyber Command, serving in a so-called “dual hat” role some lawmakers wanted to split up but the plan has recently received bipartisan criticism from Congress
  • National Reconnaissance Office Director (incumbent): Christopher Scolese 
  • DOD Chief Information Officer (acting): John Sherman. Sherman previously served as principal deputy CIO for DOD under then-CIO Dana Deasy. Sherman came to the job as DOD wrestled with the pivot to mass telework during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Director (acting): Dr. Peter Highnam. A DARPA spokesperson confirmed to Nextgov Wednesday that Highnam, the agency’s deputy director, will serve as acting director until a new director is formally appointed by the Biden administration.

Veterans Affairs Department

General Services Administration

  • Administrator (acting): Katy Kale. Kale has been appointed the deputy administrator and was an assistant to the president for management and administration during the Obama administration and also GSA chief of staff. Kale led the GSA review team during the Biden transition. 
  • Director of Technology Transformation Services: Dave Zvenyach, who was previously an assistant commissioner and executive director of 18F. Zvenyach was a big part of the push for agile acquisition during the Obama administration, including the micropurchase auction site.
  • Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner: Sonny Hashmi. Hashmi previously served as GSA’s chief information officer.
  • Chief of Staff: Brett Prather. Prather used to work as associate administrator for the office of strategic communication and deputy associate administrator for policy in the agency’s Office of Congressional & Intergovernmental Affairs. 
  • Senior Advisor on Technology. Jacky Chang. During the campaign, Chang worked as Biden’s chief technology officer. Chang previously led the products team for the U.S. Digital Service as well. 

Health and Human Services 

  • National Coordinator for Health Information Technology: Micky Tripathi 

White House officials also released a list of acting agency heads Wednesday afternoon. Many leadership positions will be held by acting officials because Senate Republicans slow-rolled confirmation hearings, breaking with historical precedent.