The acting Department of Homeland Security official who detailed the effects of temperature on coronavirus at Thursday’s White House task force briefing has extensive military experience but is not a scientist nor does he have a medical background.
As the Department of Homeland Security senior official performing the duties of the under secretary for Science and Technology, Bill Bryan holds an influential perch with far-reaching authority over research, development and testing at the agency as well as for first responders across the country.
He serves in an acting position, having not been confirmed by the Senate to the post.
Before joining the agency in 2017, Bryan held a number of leadership roles at the Department of Energy and Department of Defense, and served 17 years of active military service in the Army and three years in the Virginia National Guard, according to his Department of Homeland Security biography.
Bryan’s department biography does not refer to him as a doctor, nor did President Donald Trump introduce him as one on Thursday.
Bryan holds a bachelor’s degree in logistics systems management from Colorado Technical University and a master of science in strategic intelligence from the Joint Military Intelligence College in Washington, DC.
From 2015 to 2017, Bryan was president of ValueBridge International’s Energy Group – an organization that provides “sustainable energy solutions to improve human lives around the world,” according to his Linkedin page.
“I believe the mission of (Science and Technology) is to deliver results,” Bryan testified in the Senate during his nomination process in August 2018. “To do this, we must enable effective, efficient, and secure operations across all homeland security missions by applying timely scientific, engineering and innovative solutions through research, design, test and evaluation, and acquisition support.”
“Technology innovation cycles are rapidly changing and the nature of the threats we see is dynamic,” he continued. “This combination presents a significant challenge to traditional R&D approaches. I believe my operational background and experience working with our national labs provide me the foundation needed to ‘operationalize’ S&T’s (research and development) to better support the missions of the Department and the nation’s first responders.”
His years as a civil servant, however, haven’t come without controversy.
The New York Times reported in 2018 that American and Ukranian government officials expressed concern about whether Bryan was being co-opted by a Ukranian company seen as aligned with an oligarch when he was leading a team dispatched by the US government to help Kiev shore up its energy supply.
Those concerns heightened, the Times reported, after Bryan later joined ValueBridge and pursued business with the company.
Bryan told the newspaper at the time that he “never made a dime off any of the people I knew from the Ukraine, deliberately, because I didn’t want to violate any of the ethics rules.”
UPDATE: This story and headline have been updated with additional information from Bryan’s biography.