Obama Aims to Quiet Criticism Over Diversity of His Team

President appoints a woman to head the Secret Service.

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President Obama's appointment of Julia Pierson as the first woman to lead the Secret Service is likely to ease criticism that his inner circle lacks diversity.

Pierson, 53, is a Secret Service careerist who is currently the agency's chief of staff. Her appointment as director does not require Senate confirmation.

In announcing her promotion Tuesday, Obama said, "Over her 30 years of experience with the Secret Service, Julia has consistently exemplified the spirit and dedication the men and women of the service demonstrate every day."

[READ: Obama Picks Woman, Julia Pierson, to Be Secret Service Director]

When Obama began his second term, there was considerable criticism from the media and fellow Democrats that he was forming too much of a boys' club. This perception was fueled when his first few major appointments were white men, including Jack Lew as treasury secretary, Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, John Kerry as secretary of state and Denis McDonough as White House chief of staff.

Kerry's elevation from the Senate was especially unsettling for some Obama critics because he replaced Hillary Clinton, a feminist icon, as the nation's top diplomat.

Obama asked for patience and argued that his appointments would be more diverse over time. Since then, he has named several women and Latinos to top jobs, including Tom Perez as secretary of labor, Sally Jewell as secretary of the interior, Ernest Moniz as secretary of energy and Gina McCarthy as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

[READ: Obama Criticized for Lack of Diversity in Cabinet Appointments]

Add the appointment of Pierson and the charge of lack of diversity loses much of its edge. This is partly because her promotion seems to signal an effort to end what critics call a hyper-masculine Secret Service culture. The agency was embarrassed by a scandal last year in which agents sent to Cartagena, Colombia, to prepare for President Obama's trip were found to have associated with prostitutes.

The Secret Service is best known for protecting the president and the first family. Pierson succeeds Mark Sullivan, who retired several weeks ago.

African-American members of Congress still criticize Obama for not naming enough blacks to his cabinet. But Obama advisers say he is likely to address this concern when he fills other jobs in the coming weeks.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com, and followed on Facebook and Twitter.