Filipina leaders appointed to top posts in U.S. government

Filipina leaders US government
Gloria Steele (USAID), Veronica Valdez (Department of Defense), Camille Calimlim Touton (Bureau of Reclamation). Photos from USAID, New America, MIT Water.

Three Filipina leaders have been named to top government posts under the administration of new United States President Joe Biden, an affirmation of the government’s track towards diversity in America’s leadership.

Three Americans of Filipino descent Gloria Steele, Camille Calimlim Touton, and Veronica Valdez are now serving as the acting heads of federal and development agencies after they were appointed by President Joe Biden shortly after his inauguration as the 46th president of the United States on January 20, 2021.

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Gloria Steele serves as the Acting Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Camille Calimlim-Touton serves as Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation in the Department of Interior; Veronica Valdez of the Department of Defense was appointed to Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs.

The three women leaders join fellow Filipino-Americans in key leadership roles in the U.S. government, including the new U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s White House Liaison Jason Tengco and John Santos, the new special assistant in the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the country’s second-largest federal agency.

President Joe Biden also appointed Fil-Am Angela de la Cruz Perez, a fresh graduate of Georgetown University, to the White House Communications and Press Staff to serve as a press assistant.

Gloria Steele (USAID)

Gloria Steele, the appointed USAID Acting Administrator, has been a distinguished career member of the U.S. Government’s Senior Executive Service for over 18 years.

Steele received a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics from Kansas State University and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Maryknoll College in the Philippines.

Steele’s awards include a Presidential Meritorious Executive Award in 2007, Presidential Distinguished Executive Awards in 2008 and 2018, and the Order of Sikatuna award from the President of the Philippines in 2015.

USAID leads international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance and help people progress beyond assistance. Its work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience.

Camille Calimlim Touton (Bureau of Reclamation)

Dagupan native Camille Calimlim-Touton, the new Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, is the first Filipino-American to serve in the important agency leadership role.

Touton returns to the Interior Department after serving as Professional Staff for the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. She was the staff lead on the resiliency provisions enacted as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2020.

U.S. Representative Grace F. Napolitano released the following statement on long-time water policy advisor, Camille Calimlim Touton, being named Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation:

“Ms. Touton is a master of the complicated issues of Western water policy, who fully understands the grave threats posed by climate change and unpredictable drought cycles. She is well respected by the wide spectrum of water leaders, including Democrats and Republicans, federal, state, and local water officials, and non-governmental groups,” Napolitano said.

Camille Calimlim Touton holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from George Mason University, Virginia.

The Bureau of Reclamation is a water management agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees dams, canals, and hydroelectric plants across the Western United States. It is the nation’s largest wholesaler of water and the second-largest producer of hydroelectric power in the West.

Veronica Valdez (Department of Defense)

Veronica Valdez, the new Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, is a former special assistant to both Navy and Air Force leadership and was the policy advisor to the Commission President at the Port of Seattle, a critical gateway to Asia.

Veronica Valdez received a B.S. degree in International Business from The Ohio State University, a Master’s in International Affairs from the University of California, San Diego, and studied Mandarin at Peking University. Her awards include the Air Force Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Navy Superior Public Service Award, and Presidential recognition.

Valdez is a Truman National Security Project Fellow. She was born in Manila and grew up in Sydney, Australia.

Last year, Valdez was honored by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) who named her among its National Security and Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders awardees.

Americans of Filipino descent have been serving in various capacities in the government, including Letty Lopez-Viado, the first Filipino-Mexican American mayor in West Covina, Los Angeles, and Arvin Amatorio, the second Filipino mayor in New Jersey.

SEND CHEERS in the comments below to the growing roster of Filipino-Americans appointed to key leadership roles in the U.S. government!

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Margo is a voracious reader - some might even say she reads too much for her own good. She majored in BS Psychology and hopes to become a forensic psychologist one day. She’s also an aspiring writer, mental health advocate, and a staunch believer of equality.