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Trump Administration

Outlined Below are Key Insights about Each of President-Elect Trump’s Cabinet Nominees

 

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Full size image available here. | CQ Roll Call.
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Full size image available here. | CQ Roll Call.

Agriculture
Sonny Perdue

Born and raised in Georgia, the 70-year-old veterinarian served as a state senator for 10 years beginning in 1991. In 2003, he became Georgia's first Republican governor since Reconstruction. After departing the governorship in 2011, Perdue founded Perdue Partners — an Atlanta-based company that deals in global trade and focuses on the exporting of U.S. goods.

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Agriculture nominee, Governor Sonny Perdue. 

Why is this department important to the science community? 

Department of Agriculture funded research and development programs inform national food,nutrition, rural development, and land management policies that impact the lives of each and every American. High quality agricultural research, including that funded by the Department, can bring innovative solutions to problems that affect millions of Americans. Research decades ago on the sex life of the screwworm fly, for example, led to a novel pest control technique we use today to combat everything from invasive fruit flies in California to the mosquitos that transmit devastating diseases like Zika. Bringing insights from scientific research to bear on U.S. agriculture issues has the potential to make life safer and more prosperous for all.

Central Intelligence Agency
Michael Pompeo

Mr. Pompeo is a Congressman from Kansas who is a long time student of national security issues but also seen as a fierce partisan on polarizing topics including the deaths of U.S. personnel in Benghazi and the leaks of Edward Snowden.

Commerce
Wilbur Ross

Wilber Ross is an economic adviser to Trump who founded a firm to reorganize floundering companies. Ross built his fortune buying the distressed companies that were once at the heart of American industry — steel mills, coal mines and textile factories, to name a few — and then selling them in short order, making billions of dollars along the way. Like Trump, Ross is an outspoken critic of NAFTA.

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Commerce nominee, Wilbur Ross. 

Why is this department important to the science community? 

In a real sense, the Department of Commerce is a research agency that contributes greatly to the progress of science through support of intramural and extramural research. As a result the Department can benefit tremendously from the outcomes of scientific research and input from scientists and engineers across a range of fields. 

Defense
Gen. James Mattis

Mattis, who commanded U.S. Central Command from 2010 to 2013, left the military in 2013 after 44 years of service. A choice of Mattis will require a congressional waiver for the recently retired four-star to take the Pentagon’s top civilian post. That's because there's a seven-year cooling-off period established by law for former generals to take the spot. Mattis was confirmed by the Senate on January 20, 2017. 

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Defense nominee, General James Mattis.

Why is this department important to the science community? 

The Department supports research related to border security; chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense; cybersecurity; disaster resilience; and counterterrorism. Particularly concerning today is the threat of terrorist recruitment and self-radicalization through exposure to online propaganda from the likes of groups like ISIS. Social science research supported by DHS, including recent work published in the journal Science, can play an important role in characterizing the threat and devising effective countermeasures. Basing policy decisions on scientific evidence – rigorously obtained and thoroughly tested – is essential for assessing what works, what doesn’t, and what options are most likely to achieve their desired outcomes. 

Education
Betsy DeVos

DeVos is a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and a GOP super-donor. Ms. DeVos is likely to further reduce the federal role in public schools, and to push for an expansion of charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools. DeVos was confirmed by the Senate on February 7, 2017. 

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos.

Why is this department important to the science community?

The Department of Education plays a central role in preparing students for science, technology, engineering and mathematics career opportunities, and in preparing high-quality STEM teachers. Research into the ways people learn and the role of school environments, including some funded by the Department through the Institute for Education Sciences, can be brought to bear on policies aimed at improving education for students in school districts across the nation. Basing policy decisions on scientific evidence – rigorously obtained and thoroughly tested – is essential for assessing what works, what doesn’t, and what options are most likely to achieve their desired outcomes. 

Energy
Rick Perry

Former Governor of Texas and presidential candidate, Rick Perry once listed the Department of Energy as one of three departments he would eliminate. As governor Perry championed the oil industry, questioning science that shows that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change. At a presidential town hall in 2011, he said, "I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects." Perry did, however, lead on a handful of environmental efforts, pushing water conservation and taking advantage of federal incentives for wind energy to make Texas the lead wind energy producer in the country.

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Energy nominee, Rick Perry.

Why is this department important to the science community? 

The Department of Energy is the largest funder of basic research in the physical sciences, from cutting-edge investigations in materials science and biology as it relates to energy production, to crucial work to ensure the safety and reliability of our nuclear arsenal. This work serves to ensure our nation's energy security and advance the goal of energy independence, as well as furthering our resilience against both cyber and physical attacks and extreme weather events.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator
Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt is the attorney general of the oil and gas-intensive state of Oklahoma and has spent much of his energy as attorney general fighting the very agency he is being nominated to lead. Pruitt, who has written that the debate on climate change is “far from settled,” is part of a coalition of state attorneys general suing the agency over the administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Read the AAAS letter to Adminstrator of the Environmental Protection Agency nominee, Scott Pruitt.

Why is this agency important to the science community? 

The Environmental Protection Agency's investment in scientific and technological research contributes to enhancing our scientific understanding in public health, ecosystems, safer chemicals, climate change, and water and land management. The scientific knowledge that is gained is crucial to evidence-based policymaking. 

Health and Human Services
Tom Price

Congressman Tom Price, a former physician and House Budget Committee Chairman, is a champion of the House GOP’s efforts to abolish the Affordable Care Act and replace it with free-market health policy ideas. HHS is at the head of two vast insurance programs: Medicaid for low-income people and Medicare for older Americans. Altogether, the $80 billion department budget funds 11 operating divisions, including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the agency that runs the nation’s welfare program, TANF. For more information on Rep. Price see ScienceInsider.

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee, Dr. Tom Price. 

Why is this department important to the science community? 

For decades, the Department, largely through the National Institutes of Health, has been the largest federal funder of non-defense research, and is crucial to training the next generation of biomedical innovators. Furthermore, social science research, including studies performed or funded by the Department, can provide critical insights into how to design effective patient care. Basing policy decisions on scientific evidence – rigorously obtained and thoroughly tested – is essential for assessing what works, what doesn’t, and what options are most likely to achieve their desired outcomes. I hope that you will embed a science perspective throughout the Department – research that you can use in addition to the research that you fund. 

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Homeland Security
Gen. John F. Kelly

Gen. Kelly retired in February as chief of U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military operations in Central and South America. He has clashed with the Obama administration over women in combat and plans to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Few jobs are likely to be as high-profile in the Trump administration than chief of the Department of Homeland Security, the third-largest Cabinet department, with more than 240,000 employees whose jobs include fighting terrorism, protecting the president and enforcing immigration laws. Kelly was confirmed by the Senate on January 20, 2017. 

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Homeland Security nominee, General John F. Kelly.

Why is this department important to the science community? 

The Department supports research related to border security; chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense; cybersecurity; disaster resilience; and counterterrorism. Particularly concerning today is the threat of terrorist recruitment and self-radicalization through exposure to online propaganda from the likes of groups like ISIS. Social science research supported by DHS, including recent work published in the journal Science, can play an important role in characterizing the threat and devising effective countermeasures. Basing policy decisions on scientific evidence – rigorously obtained and thoroughly tested – is essential for assessing what works, what doesn’t, and what options are most likely to achieve their desired outcomes. 

Housing and Urban Development
Ben Carson

Mr. Trump nominated former presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson to serve as U.S. House and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary. Mr. Carson will oversee an agency with a $47 billion budget whose mission is to promote homeownership, support community development, and increase access to affordable housing.

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development nominee, Dr. Ben Carson.

Why is this department important to the science community?

The Department of Homeland Security can benefit tremendously from the outcomes of scientific research and input from scientists and engineers across a range of fields. Just as biomedical research has paved the way for groundbreaking new methods for treating patients and producing healthier outcomes, social science research can provide valuable insights into race, gender, education and economic trends for individuals and families living in urban, rural, and suburban settings. Scientists also analyze the impact of local, state and federal housing policies to help guide future policy changes for the betterment of all. In the past, AAAS members have worked closely with HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research on various projects, and many have contributed to National Academy of Sciences reports commissioned by the agency. Basing policy decisions on scientific evidence – rigorously obtained and thoroughly tested – is essential for assessing what works, what doesn’t, and what options are most likely to achieve their desired outcomes.

Interior
Ryan Zinke

Congressman Ryan Zinke, a geologist and former Navy SEAL in his first term as Montana's at-large representative, is a member of the Natural Resources Committee. He opposed the Interior Department's moratorium on new coal leases on public lands and said that its rule to reduce methane emissions by oil and gas operations on public lands was unnecessary. He has a track record of supporting land conservation, voting against a budget because it sold public lands, and even resigned as a delegate to the RNC this summer because the party platform included language calling for the sale of public lands. Zinke has also opposed efforts by House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) to transfer land and other GOP measures to hand over millions of acres of public land from the U.S. Forest Service to the state.

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Interior nominee, Ryan Zinke.

Why is this department important to the science community? 

Scientific research on human behavior can yield important insights for informing effective management of park resources, and the National Parks are unique locations for hosting researchers to advance conservation science that can be used to inform stewardship of natural and cultural resources. Department of Interior funded research and development, largely through the work of the U.S. Geological Survey, is crucial to our understanding and management of the nation's natural resources and can help guide policy and business decisions throughout the nation. 

Justice Department (Attorney General)
Sen. Jeff Sessions

During his two decades as a senator from Alabama, Sessions has emerged as one of the chamber’s most ardent conservatives. He was the first incumbent senator to endorse Trump during the presidential primaries and he shares Trump’s fierce opposition to looser immigration laws. Confirmation is no sure thing, though. When President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions to be a federal district court judge in 1986, the Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination. Critics have accused Sessions of “gross insensitivity” on racial issues. Justice Department lawyers said he called the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union “communist-inspired” and claimed they tried to “force civil rights down the throats of people.” Sessions said his words were misrepresented.

Read the AAAS letter to Attorney General nominee, Jeff Sessions.

Why is this department important to the science community?

Forensic science is a crucial tool in the Justice Department’s work, including a comprehensive review by the National Academy of Sciences in 2009 demonstrating that there are significant gaps in the research and validation of some of the most promising techniques. The Department’s National Institute of Justice will play a crucial role in supporting research to fill these gaps and strengthen our justice system for all Americans. 

Labor
Andrew Puzder

Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.. Mr. Puzder has been a harsh critic of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, arguing that it would increase costs for consumers and lead to fewer jobs. He also opposes the recently-delayed Labor Department rule that aimed to make millions more workers eligible for overtime pay. The Labor Department leader oversees job training programs, worker protections and benefits and mine safety. The agency also collects employment data. Labor will be charged with carrying out Trump’s objectives on the minimum wage and collective bargaining.
Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Labor nominee, Andrew Puzder.

Why is this department important to the science community?

Insights from the social and behavioral sciences have the potential to highlight evidence-based ways to support growing labor productivity while enhancing the welfare of wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of our nation. Basing policy decisions on scientific evidence – rigorously obtained and thoroughly tested – is essential for assessing what works, what doesn’t, and what options are most likely to achieve their desired outcomes. 

Office of Management and Budget
Mick Mulvaney

South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney, an opponent of government spending who rode the 2010 tea party wave to Congress, will be nominated as the director of the Office of Management and Budget under President-elect Donald Trump. The three-term Republican congressman, who represents South Carolina's 5th District, is active in the very conservative House Freedom Caucus. In the Trump transition team statement, Rep. Mulvaney underlined his desire to bring major change to an office that is the hub of a sprawling federal bureaucracy.

If confirmed by the Senate, Rep. Mulvaney would play a central role in complex major health care and tax changes, as Republicans in Congress plan to use a budgetary maneuver known as reconciliation to avoid procedural hurdles. He would also be in the middle of a new debt ceiling increase or suspension, the rolling back of budgetary limits on defense spending, the expected slashing of federal regulations, a push for massive infrastructure spending and much more.

Rep. Mulvaney may not have extensive budget experience, but he isn’t new to some of the issues he would oversee at OMB, namely government spending and regulations. He helped assemble the deficit reduction plan in 2011 known as “Cut, Cap and Balance,” that was supported by most conservative Republicans, but was never enacted. He has frequently cited the national debt as the greatest challenge facing the country and has criticized what he sees as overreach by the EPA and other federal rule-makers.

Read the AAAS letter to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney.

Why is this office important to the science community? 

The Office of Management and Budget plays a central role in influencing the health of American science, technology, and innovation through investments in research and development (R&D) and policies that govern the conduct of research.

Further reading via the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program: Notes on President-Elect Trump's Pick for Budget Director.

Small Business Association Administrator
Linda McMahon

Ms. McMahon is a co-founder and former CEO of the professional wrestling franchise WWE, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut. She ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut in 2010. The SBA, which has at least one office in every U.S. state, provides support to small businesses by extending loans and making sure they get a percentage of federal contracts.
Read the AAAS letter to the nominee for the head of the Small Business Administration, Linda McMahon.

Why is this department important to the science community?

Small businesses play an important role in the U.S. innovation ecosystem, with small start-up companies paving the way for and even growing into, some of the largest and most successful ventures in our 21st century economy. The Small Business Administration, in partnership with federal agencies with large research and development (R&D) budgets, administers the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs to provide an opportunity for small businesses to compete for federal R&D funding in areas that advance the sponsoring agency's mission. This provides an important lever for helping U.S. small businesses can compete in today’s global innovation economy. 

Transportation
Elaine Chao

The former Secretary of Labor served for eight years from 2001-2009 in President George W. Bush’s Cabinet — the only Cabinet secretary to serve throughout the entirety of that administration. Chao, a Republican, was the first Asian-American woman to serve as a Cabinet secretary. She is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. She served in 1989 as the deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation. Her career in Washington is a long one. A former White House fellow in the 1980s, she served as the deputy administrator of the Maritime Administration under Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Hanford Dole, and was appointed chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. She served as director of the Peace Corps from 1991-1992. Chao was confirmed by the Senate on January 31, 2017. 

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Transportation nominee, Ms. Elaine Chao.

Why is this department important to the science community?

The Department of Transportation supports research and development that is focused on strengthening our nation’s infrastructure, and making transportation safer and more efficient, whether by automobile, railcar, or airplane. With a burgeoning commercial space flight sector and the potential growth of selfdriving cars and airborne drones, evidence-based transportation policies that support innovation while ensuring safety and accountability have the potential to unleash rapid economic growth and improved quality of life for the nation. Basing policy decisions on scientific evidence – rigorously obtained and thoroughly tested – is essential for assessing what works, what doesn’t, and what options are most likely to achieve their desired outcomes. 

State
Rex Tillerson

Tillerson joined ExxonMobil in 1975 and has worked there his entire career, which he has led as CEO since 2006. Tillerson was honored in 2012 with the Kremlin's Order of Friendship in large part for his effort to cement a large 2011 energy deal with Russia, and is seen as unusually close for an American to President Vladimir Putin. Tillerson's position on climate change may be to the left of Trump's. ExxonMobil understood the connection between greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use and the warming climate as early as 1977, and then proceeded to combat the idea recognizing the risk posed to its industry by curtailing fossil fuel use. Only fairly recently did it acknowledge that link publicly, and the company is now on record in support of accepting the established science and identifying solutions to the problem of climate change. The issue of climate change will be a potent one for whoever takes over the State Department, given the long-standing international diplomacy efforts to address the issue. Shortly before this year's election, ExxonMobil issued a statement in support of the sweeping agreement reached in Paris at the end of last year aimed at cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions internationally. Tillerson was confirmed by the Senate on February 1, 2017. 

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson.

Why is this department important to the science community?

Science as a diplomatic tool is guided by the overarching goal of using science to build bridges between countries and to promote scientific cooperation as an essential element of foreign policy. The AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy works to support these goals through initiating exchanges, visits, and bilateral activities to put science diplomacy into action, and to provide a forum to identify and define key issues in science diplomacy. 

Treasury
Steve Mnuchin

Trump's campaign finance director and transition team member is the chairman and co-chief executive officer of Dune Capital Management. Mnunchin’s was a previous Goldman Sachs executive and former owner of California-based OneWest Bank, which he sold last year. Mnuchin was also the executive producer of the movie “Suicide Squad.”

United Nations Ambassador
Nikki Haley

Haley is the Governor of South Carolina and marked President-Elect Trump’s first female appointment to a Cabinet-level post. She is the daughter of Indian immigrants, has little foreign policy experience but holds Republican mainstream foreign policy views, including opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement.

United States Trade Representative
Robert Lighthizer

Robert Lighthizer is a Washington lawyer who served as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative under President Ronald Reagan. He has long advocated protectionist policies, and as Mr. Trump's cheif trade negotiator indicates the President-elect intends to fulfill his campaign promise to get tough with China, Mexico and other trading partners. 

Veterans Affairs
David Shulkin

Mr. Shulkin is currently the under secretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which means he runs the Veterans Health Administration. He was nominated for that position by President Barack Obama in March 2015, and confirmed by the Senate that June. Shulkin, who is a physician, was the chief executive or chief medical officer of several hospitals and hospital systems. He's also an entrepreneur who founded a healthcare information company called DoctorQuality.

Read the AAAS letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs nominee, David Shulkin.

Why is this department important to the science community? 

The Department of Veterans Affairs faces major challenges in meeting its mission to care for our nation's courageous veterans. Advances in prosthetics and our understanding of complex mental health issues, including through research funded by the Department, have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for those returning from combat. Advancing treatments requires directed research in these areas, but also draws on new insights from basic research across disciplines. Materials science advances can lead to lighter weight prosthetics and better batteries; fundamental work on the human brain can lead to better brain-machine interfaces for controling prosthetics and identify biological aspects of mental health disorders. Programs supported by careful scientific research can return significant benefits to those the Departmentl serves, and deserves robust Department support.

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