Kevin Washburn to Lead Biden’s DOI Transition Team

Former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs (2012-2016), Kevin Washburn, a Chickasaw Nation citizen, will lead the review of the U.S. Department of the Interior for the incoming Biden-Harris Administration. (Photo by Jared King / Navajo Nation Washington Office, Flickr/Creative Commons)

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced Tuesday that they have chosen former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, a Chickasaw Nation citizen, as team lead to review the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) for the incoming administration. Biden appointed many other former Obama administration officials, as well as academics and attorneys, to lead a review of federal agencies. 

Washubrn will oversee a team of 11 other volunteers in evaluating DOI operations. The team will review key focuses within the department including the National Indian Gaming Commission. Interior counts 70,000 employees, 280,000 volunteers and 2,400 operating locations. In addition to the Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Indian Education, Interior oversees land, natural resource and energy management and conservation. 

Washburn also announced Tuesday that he will take temporary leave from his current position as dean of the University of Iowa College of Law, returning after inauguration day on January 20, 2021. Prior to joining Iowa Law in June 2018, Washburn was a Regents Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico School of Law. Prior to that, he served as the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, under the U.S. Department of Interior. Appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Washburn was sworn into office by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on October 9, 2012, and he served in that role for four years until January 1, 2016. From June 2009 to October 2012, Washburn was a dean at the University of New Mexico School of Law.

Washburn has also served as General Counsel for the National Indian Gaming Commission, from 2000 to 2002, and as an Assistant United States Attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from 1997 to 2000. He was a trial attorney in the Indian Resource Section of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1994 to 1997. From 1993 to 1994, he clerked for the Hon. William C. Canby, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Phoenix. Washburn earned degrees at the University of Oklahoma and Yale Law School. 

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