February 23, 2021

Top Acting Officials in the Biden Administration

By Drew Flanagan, Carlos Galina and Paul Hitlin

As President Joe Biden continues to staff his administration, he has named acting officials to fill some of the 1,200 positions that require Senate confirmation – a power granted by Congress to presidents ever since George Washington’s first term. These temporary, acting officials play a vital role in maintaining continuity and providing leadership during times of change.

The rules governing the use of acting officials are found in the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, which spells out who is eligible to be selected and how long they can serve. In most instances, the law places a 210-day limit on how long someone can execute the functions of a position, although the limit is extended to 300 days for vacancies during a president’s first year.

While acting officials are always significant, their roles may be magnified now due to the Senate’s slower than normal pace of confirming Biden’s nominees. For a detailed list of the nominees and their status,  see the Biden Political Appointee Tracker which is updated daily by the Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post.

The following is a list of acting officials named by the Biden administration for top positions at the 15 Cabinet agencies. The administration has not named acting officials for every position. The information was compiled from agency websites and public news reports.