Kathleen Sebelius to continue at HHS secretary post

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will remain in her post during President Obama's second term, according to a White House official.

The official said on Wednesday that Sebelius, Attorney General Eric Holder and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will stay in their posts. Several of President Obama's top cabinet officials have stepped down or announced plans to do so soon, a common practice at the start of a president's second term, the Hill reports.

Sebelius is the public face of the DHHS, which is responsible for granting millions of dollars in bioterror preparedness programs through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and other government bodies. BARDA provides an integrated, systematic approach to the purchase and development of necessary therapies, drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tools for public health medical emergencies.

During the last year of Sebelius' first term, the DHHS dealt with the H5N1 influenza research controversy that was triggered by the publication of two lab-engineered H5N1 studies in May and June. A research moratorium on H5N1 studies has lasted for close to a year, CIDRAP News reports.

In December, the DHHS released its implementation plan and strategy paper for its Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasure Enterprise, a coordinating body used by the government to protect civilians from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents and emerging infectious diseases through the use of medical countermeasures.

The decision by Sebelius to keep her position is not surprising because she was expected to stay on at least through next year when most of the components of the Affordable Care Act will take effect, the Hill reports.