Jeff Zients will be Biden’s next chief of staff


President Biden will nominate Jeff Zients as his next chief of staff, turning to a management consultant who has led the administration coronavirus response to replace Ron Klein, who is expected to leave in the coming weeks, according to four people familiar with the decision.

Zients left the White House in April after leading the administration’s response to the pandemic and leading the largest vaccination campaign in US history. He returned to the White House in the fall to help Klein prepare for the staff turnover after midterm exams — a project that ended up being limited in scope as several senior officials left the entire administration. But in recent weeks, Klein assigned him various projects that some saw as grooming Zients for the top role, said people familiar with the arrangement, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Zients takes the top job as Biden enters a new and challenging period in his presidency: Republicans have already launched a number of investigations into the administration and business dealings of the president’s son. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate the handling of classified documents found in Biden’s private office and Wilmington, Delaware, home. And Biden is preparing to launch his re-election bid.

Zients comes to the job with a markedly different profile than Klein: His first government job was during the Obama administration, and he has spent most of his career in the private sector. So far he has worked only in the executive branch. His personal Twitter account has no posts.

But colleagues praised Zients as a master implementer who engenders deep loyalty from the people he leads.

As Biden ramps up his political activity, some Democrats have said they expect the structure of the chief of staff’s role to change, with Biden’s political advisers, including Anita Dunn, Jen O’Malley Dillon, Mike Donilon, Steve Ricketti and Bruce Reed, taking over even more prominence in the building.

They compared the arrangement to that of the Obama White House, when Jack Lew served as chief of staff in 2012 and focused on keeping the federal government running until David Plouffe, a political strategist, came to the White House from 2011 to 2013 .as a senior advisor overseeing the re-election campaign. Democrats say Dunn, a senior adviser, will play a role similar to Plouffe.

Zients, 56, was born in Washington and attended St. Albans School before graduating from Duke University. A successful management consultant, he ran the Advisory Board Company with David Bradley before taking it public and earning tens of millions of dollars. In the early 2000s, Zients formed a group to try to buy the Washington Nationals, an attempt that ultimately failed.

He entered government for the first time during the Obama administration and eventually held numerous senior positions, including running the Office of Management and Budget and the National Economic Council. He built a reputation as “Mr. Fix-It” for his strong operational skills, including helping fix the troubled implementation of the Obama administration’s healthcare website, healthcare.gov.

After leaving the Obama administration, Zients ran a private equity firm and spent two years on Facebook’s board, an experience that drew criticism from liberals.

During Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, Zients was brought in to help with the campaign’s finances during a particularly difficult period. He then co-chaired the Biden transition before leading the administration’s response to the coronavirus.

Leading the effort to combat the pandemic, Zients took on one of the president’s most challenging and critical tasks — overseeing early efforts to vaccinate the American public and adapt to new and highly contagious variants. When Zients left the White House, Biden praised him as an “officer and expert manager.”

“I have tapped Jeff Zients to lead my administration’s response to COVID-19 because there is no one better at getting results than Jeff,” Biden said in a statement at the time.

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