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Scores of South Asian Americans Join Biden Transition as Members of Agency Review Teams

Scores of South Asian Americans Join Biden Transition as Members of Agency Review Teams

Anu Ghosh
  • Several of them served in the Obama administration, including Aneesh Chopra, the first federal Chief Technology Officer and Kiran Ahuja who was Chief of Staff to the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

He may not have got the keys to the White House quite yet, but as President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris prepare to hit the ground running on day one, they are putting together agency review teams to ensure a smooth transfer of power. 

Biden’s transition team is naming members to its agency review teams in an apparent effort to appeal to progressives – although they can’t officially get to work until the General Services Administration under President Trump acknowledges the 2020 election results.

The teams are supposed to bridge the outgoing and incoming administrations in order to keep executive branch agencies running smoothly as their top-level leadership changes.

Agency review teams are an integral part of the transition process, responsible for evaluating the operations of federal agencies,” a Biden transition team member told Fox News on Tuesday. “Our teams are composed of diverse experts with deep policy expertise, ready to ensure we’re prepared to lead on Day One.”

First among the transition team’s core values are “diversity of ideology and background,” according to its website. Many of the members come from university faculties, nonprofits and the occasional law firm.

“The teams have been crafted to ensure they not only reflect the values and priorities of the incoming administration but reflect the diversity of perspectives crucial for addressing America’s most urgent and complex challenges,” the transition team said in a statement announcing the review team rosters.

The transition team in their statement also touted diversity among the ranks – noting that more than half of the agency review team members would be women and about 40 percent would “represent communities historically underrepresented in the federal government.” Those include minorities, people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community, the transition team said.

No surprise, several prominent members of the Obama administration have roles on the President-elect’s transition teams, including prominent South Asian Americans.

Aneesh Chopra, the first federal Chief Technology Officer in the Obama administration, will be in the U.S. Postal Service review team.

Kiran Ahuja, Chief of Staff to the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management from 2015 to 2017, will lead the Office of Personnel Management review team. Ahuja served at OPM during the aftermath of the agency’s cybersecurity breaches. Prior to her OPM service, she led the Obama administration’s White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Today, she’s the CEO of Philanthropy Northwest, a non-profit organization.

Ashwin Vasan, Principal and Founder of Sophant Consulting will be a volunteer on the consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Shara Mohtadi will volunteer on the Council on Environmental Quality. Mohtadi served on the Bloomberg Philanthropies environment team and led the work on America’s Pledge and non-federal climate action globally, as well as the Beyond Coal grant-making in Japan, South Korea and Australia, Previously, Mohtadi served as a senior advisor on climate and energy policy for New York State government. During the second term of the Obama administration, Mohtadi served as an advisor for the energy and environment portfolio at the White House, in the Office of Management and Budget.

Pravina Raghavan, Executive Vice President, Empire State Development, will volunteer on the Department of Commerce team, which will also review the export import bank. Also on the team will be Atman Trivedi from Hills and Company and Arun Venkataraman from Visa, amongst others.

Farooq Mitha from Imbue Group Inc., who served in the Obama administration as the Special Assistant to the Director of the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Small Business Programs, will be on the Defense Team.

Shital Shah (American Federation of Teachers) along with Emma Vadehra, senior fellow at TCF and the executive director of Next100, a pop-up think tank for the next generation of policy leaders, will volunteer on the Education Team. Vadehra was chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration, serving under both Secretary John B. King, Jr. and Secretary Arne Duncan.

Dr. Arun Majumdar, from Stanford University will be the team lead for the Department of Energy. The Department of Energy team will also review the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Dr. Majumdar is the Jay Precourt Provostial Chair Professor at Stanford University, a faculty member of the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering (by courtesy) and co-Director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, which integrates and coordinates research and education activities across all seven Schools and the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

Meena Seshamani from MedStar Health and Cyrus Shahpar from Resolve To Save Lives will volunteer on the Department of Health and Human Services team. The Department of Health and Human Services team will also review the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Asha M. George (Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense) and Subhashri Ramanathan from Deloitte and Touche, LLP volunteer, will be on the Homeland Security team.

The Department of Justice team which will also review the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the Commission on Civil Rights, the National Council on Disability, the United States Access Board, AbilityOne, the State Justice Institute, and the Legal Services Corporation will see Raj De of Mayer Brown, LLP volunteer. Raj De is the Managing Partner of Mayer Brown’s Washington D.C. office. De returned to Mayer Brown in 2015 after serving as General Counsel at the United States National Security Agency (NSA).

Raj Nayak (self-employed) and Seema Nanda (self-employed) volunteer will be on Department of Labor team, which will also review the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the National Mediation Board, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, the Railroad Retirement Board, and the National Labor Relations Board. 

Sanah Baig of the Good Food Institute and Kumar Chandran of the Food Corps will volunteer on The United States Department of Agriculture team which will also review the Farm Credit Administration and the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation.

See Also

Rumana Ahmed from the National Democratic Institute will serve on the United States Agency for Global Media team.

The Office of Personnel Management team which will also review the Office of Government Ethics, the Office of Special Counsel, the Administrative Conference of the United States, the Merit Systems Protection Board, and the Federal Thrift Retirement Investment Board, will be led by Kiran Ahuja, She is an American lawyer and activist who served as the Chief of Staff to the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management from 2015 to 2017. She assumed that position after serving for six years as the director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

The Office of National Drug Control Policy will be led by Rahul Gupta. He gained national recognition for his work as Public Health Commissioner for West Virginia and was named Senior Vice President and Chief Medical and Health Officer at March of Dimes, the nation’s leader in mom and baby health.

Divya Kumaraiah from Airbnb Inc. will volunteer on the Office of Management and Budget.

Pav Singh will volunteer on the Office of Science and Technology Policy team as well as the National Security Council along with fellow Indian American, Dilpreet Sidhu. The National Security Council team will also review the Homeland Security Council, the National Space Council, and the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration will see Bhavya Lal, IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute volunteer. Dr. Lal leads strategy, technology assessment, and policy studies and analyses at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the National Space Council, and Federal space-oriented organizations including NASA, the Department of Defense and the Intelligence 

The Federal Reserve, Banking and Securities Regulators group includes the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Reserve, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Securities and Exchange Commission will see Reena Agarwal of Georgetown University, Mehersa Baradaran of University of California Irvine School of Law and Satyam Khanna of NYU School of Law, Institute for Corporate Governance and Finance.

Khanna is a resident fellow at NYU School of Law’s Institute for Corporate Governance and Finance. He also serves as a member of the Securities & Exchange Commission’s Investor Advisory Committee, an external body tasked with advising the SEC on a variety of initiatives to protect investor interests and promote investor confidence and the integrity of the securities markets. 

Sumona Guha from the Albright Stonebridge Group will volunteer on the Department of State team. Prior to joining ASG, Guha was Senior Director at the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), where she focused on infrastructure, energy, and manufacturing, and launched an Indo-Pacific initiative to promote economic connectivity across the region. 

Guha is also a former U.S. Foreign Service Officer. At the U.S. Department of State, Guha spent four years on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff with responsibility for South Asia. She was also a Senior Advisor and Deputy Director for Afghanistan Affairs in the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Earlier in her career, Guha served in the White House as Special Advisor for National Security Affairs in the Office of the Vice President.

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