Confirmed: EUR’s Philip Gordon

The hold did not stick very long. On May 14th the Senate finally confirmed by unanimous consent, Philip H. Gordon to be an Assistant Secretary of State for the EUR bureau.

Congressional Record
[Page: S5541] GPO’s PDF

No word yet on when the nominations of Susan Flood Burk (to be Special Representative of the President, with the rank of Ambassador) and Harold Hongju Koh, (to be Legal Adviser of the Department of State) would come to a vote. Both nominations have been favorably reported by SFRC on May 13 without printed report.

Related Post:
Philip Gordon: Snared in Senate Hold and More

Insider Quote: Song for a Trailing Spouse

No future challenge or incentive nor any measure of past success could fully repay two decades of sacrifice as a trailing spouse. Reflecting on our experience, I have great empathy for colleagues who meet the tandem, hardship and expeditionary demands of the military and our Foreign Service that require long periods of separation from loved ones.

Dan Piccuta

Chargé d’Affaires a.i.
US Embassy Beijing
Excerpted from here

Tough Dance at the Podium

The Skeptical Bureaucrat had a piece yesterday on a former Foreign Service Officer, Sabrina De Souza, who has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State, Secretary of State Clinton, and the United States of America (“defendants”) and has requested that the Court afford her relief, among them to:

Require the USG to formally invoke diplomatic and/or consular immunity on behalf of De Sousa and provide her with legal representation with respect to both the criminal and civil proceedings in Italy;

Declare and find that the defendants violated the Administrative Procedures Act by failing to comply with internal rules and regulations with respect to invoking and asserting diplomatic and/or consular immunity on behalf of De Sousa;

Require the defendants to provide De Sousa with a name-clearing hearing in which De Sousa can refute and/or challenge the accuracy of the information underlying the criminal and civil proceedings in Italy that constructively forced her to resign;

Declare and find that the defendants violated De Sousa’s liberty interest in traveling and pursuing a career dependent on travel under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution;

You just know this item is going to pop up in the Daily Press Briefing. From yesterday’s DPB:

QUESTION: Ian, can you tell – what can you tell us about the case of this woman named Sabrina De Souza, who has filed a law suit here seeking to force the State Department to invoke diplomatic immunity in her case in Italy?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, you know, I saw that – saw that story in the Times today. Because it’s a subject of an ongoing review, I think I’m just going to take the question, if you don’t mind, and get back to you.

QUESTION: Surely you can confirm whether or not someone was an employee of the State Department.

MR. KELLY: No, really, please just, you know, let me – let me – I want to refer this question to our legal department, if you don’t mind, and we will get back to you.

QUESTION: That’s even less than a comment on a pending legal case and I’ll refer you to the Department of Justice.

Grumble…grumble…it did not start off on the right foot, of course…earlier…

MR. KELLY:[…] I think you’ve all also gotten the notification that the Secretary will have a briefing tomorrow at the Foreign Press Center, and so that – you need to register for that. But that will be tomorrow.

QUESTION: I think you have to be in the foreign press, right?


MR. KELLY: No, I don’t think so. You just need to register.

QUESTION: There’s a Smith-Mundt provision. You better check that. You may not – you may not even have been able – allowed to announce that. (Laughter.)

But on the – since you already have, can we put in a request to have her come down and brief us, perhaps? You know, she has made a couple of appearances here, but never taken any questions.

MR. KELLY: Sure, sure. Well, she came a few days ago, but as you point out, didn’t take any questions. Yeah, we’ll be glad to suggest that to her.

QUESTION: Ian, I don’t think – I don’t know whether you – if you stated the time for that tomorrow. It’s – can you state the time for the record?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – yeah, I don’t know if I have the time. I think I have like the registration deadline for it. I mean, you have to RSVP by 5 p.m. today, but I don’t have the time. I mean —

QUESTION: Do you want me to tell you what it is?

Oh gouchy … just grouchy…

QUESTION: I know we’ve been over this I think a couple times before. But there’s a new report out saying that the U.S. wanted to swap Saberi for the four diplomats who are being held in Irbil. The IRGC guys have been held for a while. Can you say categorically whether that’s true or not?

MR. KELLY: I can categorically say that’s not true.

QUESTION: Well, why was that so hard five minutes earlier?

MR. KELLY: (Laughter.) All right. I’m still working through this, Arshad.

Four more weeks of this and these folks won’t be so charming. Although it seems that he can make them laugh, which is always a good thing whether you’re on the podium or not.

Ambassador Eikenberry’s First Press Con

Ambassador Eikenberry with wife, Ching at first presscon

On May 13 Ambassador Eikenberry held his first press conference with Afghan media and introduced his spouse Ching to the press corps. According to the embassy’s Facebook page, “24 representatives from 15 different news outlets attended. The press conference was the leading story in Afghan media the following day, and lengthy excerpts of his remarks were shown on the four largest TV stations; Tolo, Ariana, RTA and Shamshad TV. The Ambassador’s messages of neutrality on the elections, the three “D”s of Defense, Diplomacy and Development, and regret for civilian casualties got wide coverage. Many of the journalists are old contacts of the Ambassador, and welcomed him back to Kabul.”

No official transcript of that remarks nor photos were posted in the Embassy’s web page as of this writing; which still carries, btw, links to the Deputy Chief of Mission as well as the Deputy Ambassador.

If outgoing DCM Chris Dell is still in Kabul — boy that’s one top heavy Front Office right there! Three ambassadors ramping up the action … the next thing you know, we’ll have another former ambassador taking over the PD operation, a former ambo at the Pol-Mil section, the Pol section, etc. I hope not — or we’ll be on our way to the US Embassy Baghdafication of Embassy Kabul …

Insider Quote: Diplomats’ War Zone Training

“State Department personnel invariably rave about the one-week course and it’s considered one of the best classes offered by the Department. Yet, with only one week to acquaint FSOs with emergency medical training, threat awareness, surveillance detection, and firearms instruction, FSOs headed to high-threat posts are often left wanting more training. I firmly believe that one week is not nearly enough time to prepare diplomats — most of whom have spent their entire lives in the civilian world — for the rigors of service in a war zone or high-threat environment. The Department could and should invest more time (and by “time” I mean money) into this type of training.”

Aaron Snipe

American diplomat serving at a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Iraq
From blog entry, Beyond the FACT – Friday, May 1, 2009

Grading Condi: Is this a C+ or a D ?

The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) is a nonpartisan umbrella group of 11 organizations concerned about U.S. diplomatic readiness ( It has just released its Task Force Report “Managing Secretary Rice’s State Department: An Independent Assessment, May 2009.”

Only the FAC analyses Secretaries as institutional managers. Its report says that their objective is to focus Secretaries of State on resource and management issues by analyzing achievements as well as problems in this dimension of their responsibilities.

Some excerpts below from the report. Read the whole thing here.

As this report documents, Secretary Rice’s performance was central to the failure in achieving adequate resources. On the other hand, she played a key role in successful efforts to better coordinate economic development and start to build a reconstruction and stabilization surge capacity.
[D]espite dramatic increases in staffing needs worldwide during her tenure in office, Secretary Rice managed to secure only eight new positions for the Foreign Service in her first three annual budget requests (excluding positions funded from special sources for consular and security personnel). During these three years Secretary Rice did not commit her personal efforts in the struggles with OMB and Congress. Instead, as noted above, it was only in the Bush Administration’s final budget request that she sought a significant number of new positions.

Secretary Rice does not, of course, bear full responsibility for the current personnel gaps. Secretary James Baker decided that embassies in the 13 new states emerging from the collapse of the Soviet Union would be staffed within existing resources. During Secretary Warren Christopher’s tenure the intake of junior officers was all but suspended for several years. Secretary Albright did little to increase resources when Yugoslavia disintegrated into seven new countries and public diplomacy and USAID lost significant human and financial resources as the “peace dividend” was cashed. Only Secretary Colin Powell fought the good fight with OMB and the Congress and gained about 1,200 new positions in his “Diplomatic Readiness Initiative.” Unfortunately, these new positions were quickly absorbed by the civilian surges in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
In summary, Secretary Rice’s initial three years of virtual inaction on the staffing front left our foreign affairs agencies hobbled by a human capital crisis. Despite her clear responsibility to lead and manage the foreign affairs agencies under the 150 account of the national budget, Secretary Rice fell short when it came to properly maintaining the platform upon which diplomacy and development assistance are conducted.

Tricky Job of Protocol Chief Gets Trickier?

Will the White House gets its own Protocol Chief in 63 years?

One office in the State Department is responsible for the planning, hosting, and officiating of ceremonial events for visiting chiefs of state and heads of government, as well as coordinating logistics for the visits; managing Blair House, the President’s guesthouse; and overseeing all protocol matters for Presidential or Vice Presidential travel abroad, working alongside the White House. That’s the Protocol Office.

The State Department first appointed a full-time protocol officer in 1916 and established the Office of the Chief of Protocol on February 4, 1928. In 1946, the President commissioned the State Department’s Chief of Protocol to also carry the title “Chief of Protocol of the White House.” Since 1961, the Chief of Protocol has been commissioned an Ambassador, requiring the President’s nominee to be confirmed by the Senate.

Yesterday, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Capricia Penavic Marshall as Chief of Protocol (S/CPR), with the rank of Ambassador during her tenure of service at the State Department.

Al Kamen
with some additional tidbit on this new announcement: “We’re hearing the White House may create a new position for someone who will direct all protocol matters for President Obama and will travel with him as well. The thinking apparently is that Obama would want someone he knows and who he is comfortable with to be with him on these trips.”

Well, now — if the White House gets its own Protocol Chief, it would not be unprecedented, but it would be a first in 63 years. Holy mooo! That’s more years than I’ve been on this planet!

In any case, since its creation, we have had exactly six career diplomats appointed as Chief of Protocol (the last one in the, oh, 1950’s). But from 1957 onward, that office has been the domain of non-career political appointees. So one might say that our dog on this fight has gone to sleep a long time ago.

It does not make a whole lot of sense to have two protocol chiefs – really, those two probably got into a tea-cup fight in the last century that’s why the jobs were merged into one Chief of Protocol in 1946. But who cares what I think — this is a biggy! In short order, this would allow a Clinton appointee to have a job at the State Department, and an Obama appointee to have a job at the White House. Keep everyone happy, the taxpayer foots the bill, helps the economy. Amen.

But do you know what this also means for Ms. Marshall? If confirmed, I bet she need not have to plan and execute detailed programs for Chiefs of State and Heads of Government meeting with the President and Vice President — only for the Secretary of State. She may not have to oversee Blair House even, guest place for foreign visitors and all that. She did not have to accompany the President on official visits abroad or even plan and execute Presidential Delegations abroad. Although she probably gets to rack up her miles with Hillary.

Most of all, she did not have to propose or purchase gifts to give to foreign leaders nor receive reciprocal gifts on behalf of the President, First Lady, Vice President, and the VP’s spouse. And if newly-elected South African prez , Jacob Zuma drops by for a state visit with his three wives, Ms. Marshall would not have the headache on what to do with the first lady, second lady or third lady of the visiting party, where to sit one or the other, who has precedence, what gifts to give them, who gets to pose with whom, etc. etc.

I hope whoever gets selected as WH Protocol Chief can do a better job than tacky DVDs next time; and has that creative imagination on what official titles to give to, say — multiple wives and 19 children.

Related Post:

Officially In: Capricia Marshall to Protocol (S/CPR)