On Friday, President Joe Biden appointed businessman Jeff Zients, a former COVID-19 response coordinator, to be his second White House chief of staff. Ron Klain, who served in the position for two years, is leaving the administration.
Zients, a wealthy Democratic government official with experience in business management, takes over as the 80-year-old president prepares to run for reelection and the U.S. government spends trillions of dollars on bills backed by Joe Biden.
WHO IS JEFF ZIENTS?
Zients has held positions in fiscal policy and strategy in the administrations of President Barack Obama and Biden. She served as co-chair for Biden’s transition process following his 2020 election.
During the Obama administration, he held the positions of acting director of the Office of Management and Budget and director of the National Economic Council. He also oversaw a group that assisted in repairing the HealthCare.gov website following its disastrous launch.
As the initial COVID-19 response coordinator for the Biden administration, Zients was tasked with launching a significant nationwide vaccination campaign in early 2021. Before being chosen to help the White House get ready for possible staff turnover following the midterm elections, he resigned from that position in 2022.
Zients was credited with managing the vaccination program, which led to the completion of vaccination for more than 65% of the eligible population by December 2021. However, the administration came under fire for not doing enough to support Republican anti-masking messages or boost COVID testing capacity in the wake of the rise of the Omicron variant. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of over 1.1 million Americans.
WHAT IS ZIENTS’ BUSINESS BACKGROUND?
Zients, a multi-millionaire, served as chairman and CEO of the Advisory Board, a business that provides consulting services in the fields of education and healthcare. He was also the managing partner of the investment company Portfolio Logic. He served as the chair of the Children’s National Medical Center board of directors and was a board member at Facebook, which is now known as Meta Platforms Inc META.O.
Zients reported his assets to have ranged from $85 million to $419 million in a May ethics disclosure. Mutual funds, commercial real estate in the Washington, D.C., area, and gold bars worth at least $1 million were among the assets.
WHAT DOES THE CHIEF OF STAFF DO?
The White House chief of staff is like the chief operating officer for the government, someone who runs daily operations, oversees implementation of the president’s policies and serves as a liaison for cabinet members.
MANAGEMENT, NOT POLITICS
The White House chief of staff manages daily operations, supervises the execution of the president’s policies, and acts as a point of contact for the cabinet. He or she is comparable to the government’s chief operating officer.
Zients’ experience in business and government service will be beneficial in his position as chief of staff as Biden’s administration spends the following two years putting policies and legislation, like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, into effect.
Because of his track record of problem-solving and implementation, Zients’ skill set may be well suited for this point in Biden’s term.