William J. Burns — to Move Up as Deputy Secretary of State

If confirmed would only be the fourth career diplomat in history to become Deputy Secretary

You probably already saw the news that the Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg is leaving the #2 job at the State Department.  He will reportedly become the dean of the Maxwell School of Public Affairs at Syracuse University.  Secretary Clinton has announced via email to SD staff that President Obama intends to nominate career diplomat, Bill Burns, the current “P” as Mr. Steinberg’s successor.     

State’s Historian’s Office has a quick recap of the #2 position:  Congress created the position of Deputy Secretary of State in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1972, approved Jul 13, 1972 (Public Law 92-352; 86 Stat 490), to replace the Under Secretary of State as the second ranking officer in the Department. The Deputy Secretary serves as the principal deputy, adviser, and alter ego to the Secretary of State; serves as Acting Secretary of State in the Secretary’s absence; and assists the Secretary in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy and in giving general supervision and direction to all elements of the Department. Specific duties and supervisory responsibilities have varied over time.

If the Secretary of State resigns or dies, the Deputy Secretary of State also becomes Acting Secretary of State until the President nominates and the Senate confirms a replacement. In 2008, Secretary Clinton appointed both James Steinberg and Jacob J. Lew to the position of Deputy Secretary of State, the former for policy and the latter for management and resources.  Mr. Lew had since returned to OMB and was replaced by Thomas Nides

If confirmed, Bill Burns would become the 17th Deputy Secretary of State and only the fourth to come from the career Foreign Service. Previous Deputy Secretaries to come from the professional ranks are:  Walter John Stoessel, Jr. (February 11, 1982–September 22, 1982) under President Reagan, Lawrence Eagleburger (January 20, 1989–August 19, 1992) under President G.H.W.Bush and  John Negroponte (February 13, 2007– January 19, 2009) recalled from retirement under President G.W.Bush.

Below is Ambassador Burns as Under Secretary for Political Affairs, as he testified recently at the SFRC on “developments in the Middle East.”


Less than three months ago, a desperate Tunisian street vendor, tired of too many indignities and too many lost hopes, set fire to himself and sparked a revolution still burning across an entire region. That single tragic act, has brought the Middle East to a moment of profound transformation, as consequential in its own way as 1989 was for Europe and Eurasia.
The long-held conceit of many Arab leaders was that there were really only two political choices – the autocrats you know or the Islamic extremists you fear. That provided a convenient rationale for blocking real political outlets or broadened participation, and it ultimately produced the spontaneous protests in Tahrir Square and elsewhere throughout the region. We have long recognized the tinder that was accumulating in the region, the combustible mix of closed systems and corruption and alienation and indignity documented so eloquently in the Arab Human Development Reports.
As much as it is in our long-term interest to support the emergence of more transparent and more responsive governments, who will ultimately make stronger and more stable partners, the short-term is likely to be complicated and maybe even unsettling.
Successful transitions are about a lot more than just elections; institutions have to be built too, supportive policies, effective checks and balances, and an independent media to hold governments accountable. There will be plenty of vulnerabilities, and no shortage of predatory extremists ready to exploit them. And there will be plenty of hard tradeoffs for American policymakers, with popularly-elected governments sometimes taking sharper issue with American policies than their autocratic predecessors did, and elections sometimes producing uncomfortable results.

Full testimony available here (pdf).

Clinton’s letter to the SD staff is here (h/t to The Cable’s Josh Rogin).

More on the 7th floor shuffle including the top contenders for the “P” job here from The Envoy’s Laura Rozen.

US Embassy Egypt: Non-Emergency Personnel Returns to Cairo

The State Department has released an updated Travel Warning dated March 29 with information on the ongoing security and political situation in Egypt and announcing the return to Egypt of most non-emergency US Embassy personnel. Note that throughout the political upheaval in Egypt, the embassy remained staffed by core personnel.

The Ordered Departure status of embassy dependents is still on.  Visa applications appears to be suspended still, but a prior notice indicates that the American Citizens’ Services (ACS) section of the Embassy will return to its previously established appointment system for U.S. citizens effective April 1, 2011.  Excerpt from updated Travel Warning:

The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens planning to travel to Egypt to consider the risks and to be aware of the information below.  This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated February 18, 2011, to update information on the ongoing security and political situation in Egypt, including the return to Egypt of most non-emergency US Embassy personnel.

On February 1, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency government personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing political and social unrest.  The U.S Embassy in Cairo remains on ordered departure status for dependents, but most employees have returned, and the Embassy is resuming normal operations.

Elements of the Egyptian government responsible for ensuring security and public safety are not fully reconstituted and are still in the process of being reorganized.  Until the redeployment of Egyptian civilian police is fully restored, police response to emergency requests for assistance or reports of crime may be delayed.  The Embassy’s ability to respond to emergencies to assist U.S. citizens is also significantly diminished.  The Government of Egypt has implemented a country-wide curfew. As of March 29, the curfew hours are from 2:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. U.S. citizens should obey curfew orders and remain indoors during curfew hours.

The security situation in Luxor, Aswan, and the Red Sea Resorts, including Sharm el Sheikh, is calm; however, the situation across Egypt remains unpredictable and subject to change.  

Read in full here.



PJ Crowley: Why I called Bradley Manning’s treatment ‘stupid’

Excerpt Via the Guardian:

As a public diplomat and (until recently) spokesman of the department of state, I was responsible for explaining the national security policy of the United States to the American people and populations abroad. I am also a retired military officer who has long believed that our civilian power must balance our military power. Part of our strength comes from international recognition that the United States practises what we preach. Most of the time, we do. This strategic narrative has made us, broadly speaking, the most admired country in the world.
But I understood why the question was asked. Private Manning’s family, joined by a number of human rights organisations, has questioned the extremely restrictive conditions he has experienced at the brig at Marine Corps base Quantico, Virginia. I focused on the fact that he was forced to sleep naked, which led to a circumstance where he stood naked for morning call.
Based on 30 years of government experience, if you have to explain why a guy is standing naked in the middle of a jail cell, you have a policy in need of urgent review. The Pentagon was quick to point out that no women were present when he did so, which is completely beside the point.
The issue is a loss of dignity, not modesty.
Our strategic narrative connects our policies to our interests, values and aspirations. While what we do, day in and day out, is broadly consistent with the universal principles we espouse, individual actions can become disconnected. Every once in a while, even a top-notch symphony strikes a discordant note. So it is in this instance.
The Pentagon has said that it is playing the Manning case by the book. The book tells us what actions we can take, but not always what we should do. Actions can be legal and still not smart. With the Manning case unfolding in a fishbowl-like environment, going strictly by the book is not good enough. Private Manning’s overly restrictive and even petty treatment undermines what is otherwise a strong legal and ethical position.
When the United States leads by example, we are not trying to win a popularity contest. Rather, we are pursuing our long-term strategic interest. The United States cannot expect others to meet international standards if we are seen as falling short. Differences become strategic when magnified through the lens of today’s relentless 24/7 global media environment.
So, when I was asked about the “elephant in the room,” I said the treatment of Private Manning, while well-intentioned, was “ridiculous” and “counterproductive” and, yes, “stupid”.

I stand by what I said
. The United States should set the global standard for treatment of its citizens – and then exceed it. It is what the world expects of us. It is what we should expect of ourselves.

Read in full here.