Category Archives: Reorganization

White House’s Macon Phillips To Get New Digs at State Dept’s Bureau of International Information Programs

– By Domani Spero

Macon Phillips, the Director of Digital Strategy at the White House will reportedly get new digs at the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs.  That’s the same bureau involved with buying FB likes and almost plunking a $16.5 million contract on Kindles.

Mr. Phillips ran the new media program for the Presidential Transition Team ( and served as the Deputy Director of the Obama campaign’s new media department ( Prior to the campaign, Phillips led Blue State Digital’s strategy practice, working with clients like the Democratic National Committee and Senator Ted Kennedy. His WH bio says that he is “a proud Americorps*VISTA alum,”  is a Huntsville, Alabama native and a graduate of Duke University. He is on Twitter @Macon44.

According to WaPo, the Obama administration is launching a new strategy aimed at revamping America’s “digital diplomacy” efforts. Secretary of State John F. Kerry has reportedly hired Macon Phillips, the 2008 Obama campaign’s digital guru to develop ways to expand engagement with foreign audiences:

Now, Phillips will be taking over the Bureau of International Information Programs — also known as the government’s “propaganda arm” — at a time when disseminating messages is increasingly complicated.

“It’s a double-edged sword: It’s easier to get information out, but also harder to correct misinformation that’s out there,” Phillips said.


But much of the department’s A-list digital talent has moved on: Katie Jacobs Stanton directs international strategy at Twitter, Jared Cohen runs Google Ideas and Ross is writing a book.

A challenge for Phillips and his team is not simply reaching foreigners, but persuading them to change their views about the United States.


Another challenge for Phillips will be to change the culture at the tradition-bound information bureau. The inspector general’s report found that morale was low and that “leadership created an atmosphere of secrecy, suspicion and uncertainty.”

Administration officials said they’re counting on Phillips to turn the page.

Active links added above. The Ross the report is referring to who is writing a book is Alec Ross formerly a senior advisor to former Secretary Clinton.

Mr. Phillips will presumably take the Coordinator of the  Bureau of International Information Programs position, the job vacated by Dawn McCall this past spring.  He will take over a bureau that staff described to the OIG inspectors as suffering from “reorganization fatigue.”  The OIG report noted that “The coordinator believes she was hired with a mandate to “fix” IIP” with the following results:

IIP’s front office leadership has focused on reorganizing the bureau’s structure without adequate engagement in and oversight of administrative matters. The front office has paid insufficient attention to mission-critical management controls, particularly in the areas of performance management, contracting, and travel. Front office decisions and management style do not reflect the PD family’s leadership tenets, which emphasize two-way communication and esprit de corps. A more inclusive approach could have helped the coordinator achieve her large scale changes more easily and successfully.

As far as we know, the IIP Coordinator position is not an assistant secretary level position.  According to the 2013 OIG report, the 2004 OIG inspection report recommended that the Department designate the senior position in IIP as an assistant secretary, given the size of the bureau and the responsibilities of the coordinator. The Department cited a congressional cap on the number of assistant secretaries as the reason it did not act. However, the lack of an assistant secretary rank continues to limit the coordinator’s effectiveness and Department perceptions of the bureau.

The 2013 OIG report similarly recommended that “The Office of the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, in coordination with the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, should continue to seek legislative authority to designate the senior position in the Bureau of international Information Programs as an assistant secretary. (Action: S/ES, in coordination with R/PPR).”

We would not be surprised if this is the year when this position will be elevated to the assistant secretary level.  Obama White House alumni Heather Higginbottom has recently been nominated as Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources at the State Department.  Former Managing Editor of Time Magazine Richard Stengel has also  been nominated to the  Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.   Stay tuned.


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Filed under Appointments, Assistant Secretary, Political Appointees, Public Diplomacy, Reorganization, Secretary of State, Social Media, Staffing the FS, State Department, Technology and Work

New Bureaus and All That Jazz, and You Can Still Do More With Less

On January 4, the State Department announced the creation of the new Bureau of Counterterrorism.

Because the QDDR said so.  The new bureau will reportedly “lead in supporting U.S. counterterrorism diplomacy and seek to strengthen homeland security, countering violent extremism, and build the capacity of partner nations to deal effectively with terrorism.” According to a recent official briefing, the new CT bureau will start with some 70 full time government employees including detailees, contractors, and the like but will eventually top off at approximately 120 staffers in all. It has  four functional directorates: Homeland Security and
Multilateral Affairs; Operations; Programs, Policy, and Budget; and
Regional Affairs.

The predecessor organization to CT was the Office for Combatting Terrorism, created in October 1972 upon the recommendation of a special committee appointed by President Richard Nixon following the Munich Olympics terrorist attack. The committee determined that an office was needed within the Department of State to provide day-to-day counterterrorism coordination and to develop policy initiatives and responses for the U.S. Government on the issue of international terrorism.

On Aug 1, 1976, the Department of State elevated the position of Special Assistant to the Secretary of State and Coordinator of the Office for Combating Terrorism to that of Director of the Office for Combating Terrorism, with rank equivalent to an Assistant Secretary of State. All Directors have been designated by the Secretary of State, not commissioned. The Department has changed the incumbent’s title twice since 1976 to “Ambassador at Large for Counter-Terrorism” on Nov 4, 1985, and to “Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism” on May 1, 1989.

In 1994, Congress officially mandated the Bureau of Counterterrorism in Public Law 103-236 [H.R. 2333]. In 1998, Congress further defined the role of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism in Public Law 105-277 [H.R. 4328]:

There is within the office of the Secretary of State a Coordinator for Counterterrorism…who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate…. The principal duty of the coordinator shall be the overall supervision (including policy oversight of resources) of international counterterrorism activities. The Coordinator shall be the principal adviser to the Secretary of State on international counterterrorism matters. The coordinator shall be the principal counterterrorism official within the senior management of the Department of State and shall report directly to the Secretary of State…The Coordinator shall have the rank and status of Ambassador at Large.

But CT did not get elevated into a bureau until now. 

So what is the mission of the new CT bureau? 

“[T]o to lead the Department in the U.S. Government’s effort to counter terrorism abroad and to secure the United States against foreign terrorist threats. The bureau will have a number of concrete responsibilities. In coordination with Department leadership, the National Security Staff, and U.S. Government agencies, other U.S. Government agencies, it will develop and implement counterterrorism strategies, policies, operations, and programs to disrupt and defeat the networks that support terrorism.”

It will implement its mission by:

1) Developing and implementing counterterrorism strategies, policies, and operations
2) Strengthening counterterrorism diplomacy
3) Strengthening homeland security
4) Countering violent extremism
5) Building the capacity of foreign partners

What about NCTC’s to “Lead our nation’s effort to combat terrorism at home and abroad by
analyzing the threat, sharing that information with our partners, and
integrating all instruments of national power to ensure unity of

If NCTC’s mission is to lead … in combating terrorism at home and abroad, and State’s new bureau is also to “lead the Department in the U.S. Government’s effort to counter terrorism abroad” … who’s going to do what where when? I hope our State folks have sturdy shoes.

But here’s the real kicker: Daniel Benjamin, the current Coordinator of the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (and who presumably will lead the new office) says, “I want to emphasize that in these tight budget times, we’re doing our part to be good stewards of public funds by standing up the bureau with existing resources.”

DipNote, State’s official blog published something entitled, Ten Things You Should Know About the Bureau of Counterterrorism.  All nice and good but you need some thick juice to do even these ten things.

For many, many years now, the State Department’s unofficial motto has been “doing more with less.”  Pretty soon it’ll be able to do just about everything with nothing.

And oh … if you can’t find your desk tomorrow, check out the new bureau; it may have been reallocated.

* * *

In related news, I should note that last November, the State Department also launched the new Bureau for Energy Resources (ENR) with Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual as the top honcho.  Mr. Pascual was the Mexican casualty of WikiLeaks. ENR has one Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS), three  Deputy Assistant Secretaries (DAS) and 53 staffers.

As with Ambassador Benjamin of the new Counterterrorism Bureau, Mr. Pascual talks reallocation: “We’ve reallocated, as I mentioned, a total of 53 personnel, and the costs associated with those individuals have already been part of the State Department budget and become transferred into our budget. There is a small operating budget that we have initially, which will be in the range of 10 million dollars or so of resources that began from FY11 funds.”

Also last November, the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS), which was established in law (but was not funded), was integrated into another new Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO). Its webpage does not have any relevant information in terms of leadership, staffing or operating budget; not a stabilizing sign.

Finally, Democracy and Global Affairs is now Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights or “J” and has the following bureaus and offices: Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO),  Counterterrorism (CT),  Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and Office of Global Criminal Justice.

Quiz tomorrow on the new alphabet soup. Also, this is Secretary Clinton’s last year in Foggy Bottom.  So more reorg possibly in the works; 2012 will be a make it happen year.

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Quickie: Lugar on State Dept. re-org: Not so fast!

Josh Rogin of The Cable has an update on the reported reorganization of the “T” bureau. It looks like the Senate’s leading Republican voice on foreign policy is is not on the same boat as the 7th Floor about the State Department’s new plan to reshuffle its arms-control bureaus. Excerpt below:

Senate Foreign Relations ranking Republican Richard Lugar, R-IN, wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week about his concerns with the new plan, in a letter (pdf) obtained exclusively by The Cable. Lugar wrote that he was generally supportive of the 2005 reorganization of the arms control functions at State, and he’s concerned that Clinton’s rollback of those reforms might not jive with Congress’s view of how the arms-control functions should be divided, a view enshrined into law in 1999.
Specifically, Lugar is questioning Clinton’s idea to take most arms-control functions out of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) and give them to the Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation (VCI), which will be renamed the “Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance.” Adding arms control to the bureau’s portfolio will help consolidate and strengthen that effort within T, a State Department official told The Cable.
But Lugar wants those functions to remain in separate shops. “It has been and remains my view that the evaluation of any treaty’s verifiability should be a function separate from the efforts to negotiate it,” Lugar wrote.
Read the whole thing here.

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“Focused Reorganization” of the “T” Bureau is On

Laura Rozen over at Politico talks about the proposed restoration of the arms control bureau (State moves to restore arms control bureau): 

Following a GAO report blasting a 2005 reorganization of the State Arms Control and International Security bureau, the State Department’s “T” bureau is circulating plans and soliciting feedback on a proposed reorganization of the bureau to beef up its arms control focus and staffing.

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher held a town hall meeting this morning to kick off the effort which over a 100 employees attended. The memo is also being circulated on the Hill.
The bureau has about 600 employees in three divisions – Verification, Compliance and Implementation (VCI) headed by Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control and Verification Rose Gottemoeller; International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN), currently lead by acting Assistant Secretary Van Van Diepen; and Political-Military Affairs (PM), headed by Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro.
The proposed re-vamp would essentially move more arms control people and functionality to Gottemoeller’s shop, which would be renamed “Arms Control, Verification and Compliance,” (from the Bolton-era VCI, sans the arms control, of which Joseph and the past administration were largely skeptical). It would also move a fewer number of people from Gottemoeller’s division to ISN, the more sanctions and verification-oriented shop. (State is supporting veteran arms control hand Steve Mull, currently an aide to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns, for the A/S ISN job, but the appointment is still languishing at the White House). Pol-Mil would be unaffected by the proposed changes.

“The specific muscle movements between bureaus and rationalization of offices … would be small, targeted and discreet,” the State Department official said.

Josh Rogin of The Cable has more on this in Clinton rolls back Bolton-era arms control shakeup (FP | February 24):
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday announced plans to reorganize the “T” bureau at the State Department, seeking to roll back changes made by former Under Secretary John Bolton during George W. Bush‘s presidency.
Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher, who leads the T bureau, explained the rationale in a town-hall meeting with about 200 staffers Wednesday morning.
“Arms control, verification, compliance, and nonproliferation will no longer be starved for resources; quite the contrary, these missions along with our political-military efforts will be adequately resourced and well-staffed with first rate professionals,” she told her personnel. “The proven and time-tested tools of arms control have been seriously underutilized, if not neglected, by the United States, and nonproliferation efforts have at times lacked focus and follow-through. This dysfunctional approach culminated in the 2005 reorganization.”
The 2005 reorganization consolidated three bureaus into two, joining arms control and nonproliferation together into the ISN bureau, in what was then touted as a streamlining measure. A 2009 GAO report said that State was never able to demonstrate that the changes produced any benefits. Current officials saw the move as a way to marginalize both efforts.
HRC’s letter to the “T” staff and management says: “We are undertaking a focused reorganization of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation and the Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation. The goals of this reorganization are to realign the missions of the VCI and ISN bureaus to better leverage their support for key national security objectives and to create dedicated organizational advocates for (1) arms control and verification and compliance, and (2) nonproliferation.”
I have written previously about the “T” bureau in 2009.  I don’t know what to say – be prepared to move desk?
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Filed under Functional Bureaus, Reorganization, State Department