The Biden-Harris “Agency Transition Team” consists of five women and three men and includes two former NASA chief scientists and a former astronaut among its diverse members. It should also be noted that all the members of the team are serving on a volunteer basis.
The President-elect and the vice-president-elect don’t come into office blindfolded. The process during which the president-elect of the United States prepares to take over the administration of the federal government of the United States from the incumbent president is guided by the Presidential Transition Act of 1963.
Under the Presidential Transition Act, Biden, and Harris, according to federal law, are supposed to receive classified national security briefings once their nomination is formalized by their party. They are also entitled to presidential transition services and facilities provided by the General Services Administration (GSA), including office space, equipment, and the payment of certain related expenses.
The Presidential Transition Act requires presidential transitions to disclose the “most recent employment” and “sources of funding” for all agency review team members. The Transition Team has three types of agency review team members:
1. Volunteers: These Individuals volunteering for the Transition in their personal capacity. For these team members, their current or most recent employer is listed (for informational purposes only), and their source of funding is listed as “Volunteer.”
2. Full-Time Transition Employees: Individuals who are full-time paid Transition employees, funded by the Transition entity itself (PT Fund, Inc.). Their most recent employer prior to joining the Transition is listed (for informational purposes only), and their source of funding is listed as “Transition — PT Fund, Inc.”
3. Detailees: Individuals on detail who will be funded through an appropriation administered by the General Services Administration. For these team members, their current employer is listed, and their source of funding is listed as “Transition — Appropriation.”
NASA review team members
Ellen Stofan (team leader): Stofan is a planetary geologist who currently directs the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, the first woman ever to do so. She served as NASA Chief Scientist from August 2013 to December 2016.
Waleed Abdalati: Abdalati heads the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, a joint effort of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado, Boulder. He was NASA Chief Scientist from January 2011 to December 2012.
Jedidah Isler: Isler is an assistant professor of astrophysics at Dartmouth College who in 2014 became the first African-American woman ever to earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Yale University. Isler is”very interested in and active about creating more equitable STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] spaces for scholars of color broadly, and particularly, for women of color,” according to her Dartmouth faculty page.
Bavya Lal: Lal is a scientist at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute, a federally funded organization that supports the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and other agencies.
Pam Melroy: Melroy is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a former NASA astronaut who flew on three space shuttle missions. She was a pilot on the STS-92 and STS-112 flights in 2000 and 2002, respectively, and commanded the STS-120 mission in 2007. After leaving NASA in 2009, Melroy worked at the Federal Aviation Administration and then the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where she served as deputy director of the Tactical Technology Office. She left DARPA in 2017.
Dave Noble: Noble is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan. He previously spent eight years in the Obama administration, serving as deputy director and acting director of the Presidential Personnel Office. He also worked as White House liaison and deputy chief of staff at NASA during this stretch.
Shannon Valley: Valley is a postdoctoral fellow in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, where she studies our planet’s climate history. During the first five years of President Barack Obama’s administration (before she entered grad school), Valley worked at the White House and at NASA headquarters as a liaison between Congress and the space agency’s science programs.
David Weaver: Weaver is the director of communications for the Air Line Pilots Association. He served as associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Communications from 2010 to 2016, so he covers NASA’s altitude range well. (Reminder: The first “A” in NASA stands for “Aeronautics.”) Just before joining NASA.
The team will have its work cut out it for it, especially given current NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s recent announcement that he will leave NASA once Biden replaces Trump. But it looks like Biden has put together a great transition team.