Scope of the Position:

The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) directs departmental operations and oversees more than 80,000 federal personnel. The Department utilizes a budget of $1.1 trillion for its various programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, public health, medical research, food and drug safety, welfare, child and family services, disease prevention, Indian health services, and mental health services. Designated with the duties of the Chief Operating Officer and Regulatory Policy Officer, the Deputy Secretary is also responsible for the oversight of the development and approval of all HHS regulations and significant guidance.

Illustrative Management Challenges:

On an annual basis, the Deputy Secretary inspires innovation at the Department as the needs of the agency continue to change. With oversight of operational divisions such as the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Deputy Secretary is tasked with many responsibilities. Some of the most notable and significant management challenges the Department faces are highlighted in an annual report written by the Inspector General. These challenges include the administration of grants, contracts, and financial and administrative management systems; ensuring the appropriate use of prescription drugs; ensuring quality in nursing home, hospice, and home- and community-based care; ensuring the safety of food, drugs, and medical devices; and effectively operating public health and human services programs.

The Department of Health and Human Services is the largest grant-making organization and third-largest contracting agency in the federal government. With the addition of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, HHS gained responsible stewardship of the corresponding grants and contracting funding. According to Inspector General reports, "Responsible stewardship of these program dollars is vital, and operating a financial management and administrative infrastructure that employs appropriate safeguards to minimize risk and protect resources remains a challenge for the Department."

Addressing the effective operating of public HHS programs, the Deputy Secretary works to promote health as well as economic and social well-being. A concerning area of weakness lies in protecting vulnerable populations. The health and safety of children served by the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF)-serving approximately 1.6 million children-continues to be unaddressed vulnerability for the Department. As this management challenge continues to remain unaddressed, there have been a total of 454 violations of state licensing requirements, including noncompliance with requirements related to physical conditions, inspection procedures, registration, criminal records or protective service checks, and child abuse and neglect registry checks.


      A full list of the Top Management & Performance Challenges can be found at

Deputy Secretaries of Health and Human Services:

Nearly every HHS Deputy Secretary held some health-related position prior to appointment. Ranging from Senate committees to nonprofit foundations to HHS itself, these individuals gained valuable experience in the health industry before assuming one of the most important roles in the healthcare industry.

Current Incumbent:

Mary Catherine Wakefield (Acting) (2015-present): Prior to her appointment as Acting Deputy Secretary, Wakefield served as the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Before that, Wakefield worked with the University of North Dakota as the Associate Dean for Rural Health at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She previously served as Director of the Center for Health Policy, Research, and Ethics at George Mason University. Wakefield also worked as a consultant to the World Health Organization's Global Program. She earned her BS, master's, and doctoral degrees in nursing.

Previous Deputy Secretaries:

Bill Corr (2009-2015): Prior to his appointment as Deputy Secretary, Corr served as the Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. He had previously worked in various capacities throughout HHS, including as Deputy Assistant Secretary and Chief of Staff. He worked as Counsel to the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment in the U.S. House of Representatives for a number of years. Corr holds a BA in economics as well as a JD.

Tevi Troy (2007-2009): Troy currently serves as the President of the American Health Policy Institute. He previously served as Deputy Assistant and then Acting Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, where he was the lead advisor on healthcare, labor, education, immigration, welfare, and veterans. Troy also served as the Policy Director for Sen. John Ashcroft and the Senior Domestic Policy Advisor and Domestic Policy Director for the House Policy Committee. He earned his BS in industrial and labor relations and MA and PhD in American civilization.

Eric Hargan (Acting) (2007): He currently serves as a shareholder in Greenberg Traurig's Health & FDA Business Practice. Prior to his appointment as Acting Deputy Director, Hargan served as Regulatory Policy Officer as well as Deputy General Counsel for HHS. He also worked as member of the U.S. government team with the inaugural US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue in Beijing. Hargan earned his JD from Columbia Law School.

Alex M. Azar II (2005-2007): Azar currently is President for Eli Lilly and Company. Directly preceding his appointment as Deputy Director, he worked as General Counsel for HHS. Azar also worked as a partner with the law firm Wiley Rein. He had clerked for Judge J. Michael Luttig of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and for Associated Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court. Azar received his BA in government and economics from Dartmouth College and his JD from Yale Law School.

Claude A. Allen (2001-2005): Allen most recently served as Director of the Domestic Policy Council for the Bush Administration. Prior to his tenure as Deputy Secretary for HHS, Allen was active in Virginia public service. He served as Attorney General of Virginia and Secretary of Health and Human Services for the state. Prior to these positions, he worked as an associate for Baker Botts. Allen holds a JD from Duke University School of Law.

Kevin Thurm (1996-2001): Thurm currently works as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Clinton Foundation. Between his stints in government, Thurm spent more than a decade in various positions at Citigroup, including Deputy General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer. He previously served as Chief of Staff and principal advisor for the HHS Secretary. Thurm also worked as an Associate for Cahill Gordon & Reindel. Thurm holds a JD from Harvard Law.

Walter Broadnax (1993-1996): Broadnax currently isa Senior Research Associate with the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Prior to his appointment as Deputy Secretary, he worked in the Carter Administration as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. He also served as Director of Services to Children, Youth, and Adults for the state of Kansas. In 1987, he was appointed President of the New York Civil Service Commission. Broadnax also served as the President of the Center for Governmental Research. He holds an MPA from the University of Kansas and a PhD from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Additional Resources: