Obama goes long on diversity in top agency posts

February 25, 2014
Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security Secretaryon the Hill in November. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security secretary, on the Hill in November. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

 Jeh Johnson‘s confirmation a couple months ago as head of the Department of Homeland Security may have marked one of the few times that the two top officials in a Cabinet department were minorities.

The first time in the Obama administration was at Commerce in 2009, when Gary Locke, a Chinese-American, was head of the agency and Dennis Hightower, an African American, was deputy secretary.

Johnson, who is African American, has joined Cuban American Alejandro Mayorkas, who had already taken over the deputy secretary slot.

Meanwhile, if former Obama White House Cabinet secretary Chris Lu, who is Chinese American, is confirmed as deputy secretary at the Department of Labor, he’ll be joining Secretary Tom Perez, a Dominican American. So that would be three. (We’re hearing a fourth is in the works.)

However, staying in bean-counting mode, it appears that female appointees are not to be found in especially high numbers in deputy secretary positions in the 15 statutory Cabinet departments. (As opposed to those agencies or individuals given Cabinet rank by the president.)

So far, with four vacancies (at Education, Commerce, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development) and one nominee pending (Sarah Bloom Raskin at Treasury), there are only two women serving as deputy secretaries: Heather Higginbottom at the State Department and Krysta Harden at Agriculture.

 

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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