Officially In: Arturo Valenzuela to the WHA Bureau

On May 12, President Barack Obama also announced his intent to nominate Arturo Valenzuela for the Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA):

Arturo Valenzuela, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela is Professor of Government and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He is a specialist on the origins and consolidation of democracy; the institutional dimensions of democratic governance; Latin American politics; and U.S.-Latin American relations. Prior to joining the Georgetown faculty he was Professor of Political Science and Director of the Council on Latin American Studies at Duke University. He has been a Visiting Scholar at Oxford University, the University of Sussex, the University of Florence (Italy) and the Catholic University of Chile.

During the Clinton administration, Valenzuela served at the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council and as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs in the United States Department of State, where his primary responsibility was United States foreign policy towards Mexico. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he has been listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Higher Education and has served on the editorial boards of leading academic journals. For his diplomatic contributions he has been honored with the National Order of the Southern Cross by the government of Brazil and the Order of Boyacá by the government of Colombia. Valenzuela has served on the board of directors of Drew University, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the advisory boards of America’s Watch and the Institut des Amériques in Paris.

He holds a Doctorate and a Master’s degree in Political Science from Columbia University, and a B.A. summa cum laude in Political Science and Religion from Drew University.

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Officially In: María Otero to "G", Philip L. Verveer as DAS

On May 12, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals for key administration posts in the State Department: María Otero for Global Affairs, Philip L. Verveer as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Communications and Information Policy in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, and Arturo Valenzuela for Western Hemisphere Affairs (see separate post).

María Otero, Nominee for Under Secretary of Global Affairs (G)

María Otero, born and raised in La Paz, Bolivia, is president and CEO of ACCION International, a pioneer and leader in microfinance working in 25 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and in the United States. Under Otero’s tenure as CEO, ACCION’s network has expanded its reach from serving 460,000 people to over 3.7 million, through a combined portfolio that has grown from $274 million to nearly $3.6 billion. She has become a leading voice on sustainable microfinance, publishing extensively on the subject and speaking throughout the world on microfinance, women’s issues and poverty alleviation. Prior to her work with ACCION, Otero served for five years at the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA). Otero was also the Economist for Latin America for the Women in Development office of USAID. Otero chairs the board of ACCION Investments, a $50 million microfinance investment company and serves on the boards of BancoSol; the Calvert Foundation; BRAC of Bangladesh, one of the world’s largest NGOs; and the Public Welfare Foundation.

In June 2006, Otero was appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to the UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors, and in 2007 was named to the Advisory Councils of the Inter-American Foundation and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Otero holds an M.A. in literature from the University of Maryland and an M.A. in international relations from Johns Hopkins’ Nitze School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS), in Washington, D.C. Since 1997, she has also served as an adjunct professor at SAIS.

Philip L. Verveer, Nominee for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Communications and Information Policy in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
(EEB) and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy

Philip L. Verveer is Of Counsel to the law firm of Jenner & Block LLP. He has practiced communications and antitrust law in the government and in private law practice for more than thirty-five years. From 1969 to 1981, Verveer practiced as a trial attorney in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, as a supervisory attorney in the Bureau of Competition of the Federal Trade Commission, and as the chief of the Cable Television Bureau, the Broadcast Bureau, and the Common Carrier Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission. Between 1973 and 1977, he served as the Antitrust Division’s first lead counsel in the investigation and prosecution of United States v. American Tel. & Tel. Co., the case that eventuated in the divestiture of the Bell System. As a Bureau Chief at the FCC, Verveer participated in a series of decisions that enabled increased competition in video and telephone services and limited regulation of information services. In 1979, Verveer became a charter member of the Senior Executive Service and in 1980 received the Distinguished Presidential Rank award. Since 1981, Verveer has engaged in private law practice in Washington, DC. In 1995 and 1996 he chaired the Federal Advisory Committee that identified the spectrum requirements necessary to afford public safety organizations efficient and interoperable wireless communications. He has served on the Visiting Committee of the University of Chicago Law School and the Executive Committee of the Alumni Board of Governors of Georgetown University.

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AFSA Election Countdown is On – Vote!

A source told me that the AFSA election town hall meeting from last week will be carried by BNet today, May 13, noon EST. Watch it if you can. Vote now and mail that ballot if you have not done it already.

You can read the opening statements of David J. Firestein for the CLEAN Slate here and Susan R. Johnson for Team AFSA here. The short statement by State VP candidate Daniel Hirsch is also here. I can’t locate the transcripts for the rest of the candidates’ speeches from that town hall meeting. If you have them, zap me an email and I will add the links here.

The countdown is on but … why vote?

My neighbor has been in the FS for some 15 years, this is the first time he’s voting. Why? Because nothing is a given — what the agency giveth, it can taketh away (Coach travel for 21 hours flight, anyone? How about canned SNAP coordinators due to budget crunch for lunch? ).

Seriously — I think the reason is simple. The world is changing fast and the Service is not changing quite fast enough. You hear folks talk about the Foreign Service for the 21st century – everybody wants that – a better resourced, trained, professional diplomatic service prepared for the complex challenges of this century. We like to think that it’s all about the underfunding of the agency that keeping this place in a rut. Money is important – but for all that transformation to really, really happen, one key ingredient must be present; it’s called employee engagement.

The FS as part of the State Department is a bureaucracy steeped in old culture and tradition. Wasn’t it dragged to the courts on more than one occasion to force it to change its ways? It’s not because it is dark or evil, but simply because it is an old cumbersome entity that is slow to adapt. I am quite fond of it, frankly, but that does not mean I can’t see where it needs changing.

People do make up this entity, this organization that sends our loved ones into the far corners of the globe. Doesn’t it follow then that its lack of agility and adaptability is partly a reflection of the people in it? The tension point in organizations always belong to those who desire to protect the status quo and those who desire to change it, and then — somewhere in the sidelines are the bystanders – those who either did not know enough to care, or have become disappointed that they have stopped caring.

Just an example — every year for the last few years, AFSA has conducted its annual polls. In 2005, almost 1,829 employees took the survey. In the 2006 survey, that figure nearly doubled to 3,416. In 2007, there were 4,311 respondents. In last year’s survey, more than 5,500 Foreign Service employees at State—nearly half of the entire active-duty ranks —completed the survey.

The respondents’ trend looks good as it creeps up the chart, but “nearly half” gives management an excuse to simply sit on some of these important issues for the corps. And we have seen that happen in the recent past, even the validity of the survey questioned by senior officials.

There are two things worth remembering, I think.

One — nearly half is not good enough if you want to affect change.

Two — the other half is always wrong if they are absent.

The AFSA election — okay, here is what I think if you care …

Passion is good

The FS needs to find its grove back. That won’t happen with people afraid to speak up or afraid of rocking the boat (Well, there goes my African ambassadorship down the drain). Somebody wondered why some candidates are investing so much energy on this? And I say, but I want that energy! I want that passion working for the men and women of the Foreign Service.

Responsiveness, engagement, transparency – all good

I track the election forum for a couple of reasons. I want to see what issues are important enough for folks to write about, and what types of response they get from the candidates. I’m sorry –sending prospective voters over to a website just doesn’t cut it. I want to see that engagement online. If somebody is too busy to answer queries in the public election forum, what happens to constituent email queries after the election? One household elected a State VP once on name recognition. Wife was pissed when she did not even merit a courtesy response to a subsequent query afterwards. Public queries responded to with personal email do not cut it for me either. That seems to me like Dick Cheney’s secret energy meeting; they all knew what happened in there but I don’t. I hate that.

Experience is good but …

Advocacy for self and advocacy on behalf of a group of people are not the same, is it? I expect somebody who is passionate about the state of the FS to have had a good prior record of advocating for the FS either through involvement with AFSA, AAFSW, at post, or with other similar groups. I’d like to get a sense that these individuals have given substantial thought, time and energy on FS matters prior to running – community service, articles in FSJ or elsewhere, etc. Absent that kind of record, I’d like to see a game plan going forward. Absent a game plan, well, what is there to talk about?

What else? FS folks should turn out in full force for this election. Give AFSA a mandate, then stay engage and hold the winning slate accountable for its actions on behalf of the men and women of the Foreign Service.


If you have not seen your ballot yet, contact AFSA at Completed ballots must be mailed to the AFSA post office box in the envelope provided with the election mailing and must be received by AFSA by close of business June 11, 2009. Ballots returned to any other location will not be accepted or counted. Members may not mail their ballots in anything but the provided envelope in order to be counted.

Ballots will be opened and counted by the Election Committee on June 12, 2009. The results will be announced on June 15, 2009. The new AFSA Governing Board will take office on July 15, 2009.

Related Post:

AFSA Election Goes Undiplomatic?

SFRC Hearings: Crowley, McHale, Benjamin & Jenkins

111th Congress
1st Session

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Time: 9:00 A.M.
Place: 419 Dirksen Senate Building
Presiding: Senator Kaufman


Philip J. Crowley
to be Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs

Judith A. McHale
to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Time: 10:30 A.M.
Place: 419 Dirksen Senate Building
Presiding: Senator Cardin


Daniel Benjamin
to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism,
with the rank and status of Ambassador at Large

Bonnie D. Jenkins
for the rank of Ambassador during
her tenure of service as
Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs

To view the videos of the confirmation hearings, click on the heading “NOMINATIONS” on this page for Crowley and McHale and here for Daniel Benjamin and Bonnie Jenkins

Updated @1:30 PM EST
The SFRC just added McHale and Jenkins to this schedule. Will add links to testimonies once those are posted.

What’s next – a diplomatic surge for Pakistan?

During his testimony at the HFAC on May 5, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said that “Our assistance should support Pakistani efforts to “hold and build” in western Pakistan as part of its counterinsurgency efforts so extremists do not return to fill the vacuum once military operations have ended. We must also do our part to enhance bilateral and regional trade possibilities by implementing Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) and encouraging foreign investment in vital sectors, such as energy. The Administration supports Congressional passage of ROZ legislation as a key way to boost private investment and sustainable economic development in targeted areas of Afghanistan and border areas of Pakistan.”

He repeated the same thing at his testimony at the SFRC yesterday. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Reconstruction Opportunity Zones. What’s next – a diplomatic surge for Pakistan?

Related Items:

HFAC Hearing – Richard Holbrooke’s Testimony │ May 5, 2009

SFRC Hearing – Richard Holbrooke’s Testimony │ May 12, 2009