Confirmations: Gration, Gavin, Patterson, Tong, Johnson Cook, Torsella and Daulaire

The following civilian Executive Nominations were confirmed by the Senate on April 14:

PN256 *       Kenya
Jonathan Scott Gration, of New Jersey, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Kenya.

PN269 *       Botswana
Michelle D. Gavin, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Botswana.

PN305 *       Turkmenistan
Robert Patterson, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the
United States of America to Turkmenistan.

PN60 *        STATE/APEC
Kurt Walter Tong, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as
United States Senior Official for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum.

PN246 *       STATE/Religious Freedom
Suzan D. Johnson Cook, of New York, to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.

Joseph M. Torsella, of Pennsylvania, to be Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations for U.N. Management and Reform, with the rank of Ambassador.

PN63 *        STATE/UNGA
Joseph M. Torsella, of Pennsylvania, to be Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during his tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations for U.N. Management and Reform.

PN71 *        STATE/WHO
Nils Maarten Parin Daulaire, of Virginia, to be Representative of the United States on the Executive Board of the World Health Organization.

Officially In: Derek Mitchell as Special Representative for Burma

On April 14, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Derek Mitchell to be the Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma, with the rank of Ambassador. The WH released the following brief bio:

Derek Mitchell is currently Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs at the Department of Defense (DOD). Until April 2009, Mr. Mitchell served as senior fellow and director for Asia in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), having joined the Center in January 2001. Beginning in January 2008, he concurrently served as director of CSIS’s Southeast Asia Initiative. Mr. Mitchell was special assistant for Asian and Pacific affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001, when he received the Office of the Secretary of Defense Award for Exceptional Public Service.  He was the principal author of the Department of Defense 1998 East Asia Strategy Report. Prior to joining DOD, Mr. Mitchell served as senior program officer for Asia and the former Soviet Union at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Washington, D.C.  In 1989, Mr. Mitchell worked as an editor and reporter at the China Post (Taiwan). From 1986 to 1988, Mr. Mitchell served as assistant to the senior foreign policy adviser to Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Mr. Mitchell received an M.A. in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1991, and a B.A. from the University of Virginia in 1986.

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

Matt Armstrong Joins the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

Matt Armstrong, author and publisher of, was recently sworn in as the Executive Director of the Advisory Commission. The immediate impact to this development is the suspension of his blog, including the publishing of guest posts, at

The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy is a bipartisan panel created by Congress and appointed by the President to appraise U.S. Government activities intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics.

The Commission was reauthorized in June 2007 pursuant to Public Law P.L. 110-21 (2007). It formulates and recommends to the President, the Secretary of State, and Members of Congress policies and programs to carry out the public diplomacy functions vested in the State Department, Broadcasting Board of Governors, and other government agencies. It also appraises the effectiveness of the public diplomacy policies and programs carried out by government agencies.

By law, the Commission’s seven members are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. They are selected from a cross-section of professional backgrounds and serve 3-year terms with the possibility for reappointment. The Commission also includes an Executive Director hired as a civil servant on a two-year appointment.

The Commission reports its findings and recommendations to the President, the Congress, the Secretary of State, and to the American people.

Staff and Contact Information
Matt Armstrong, Executive Director
301 4th Street SW, Room M21
Department of State
Washington, DC
Office:  202-203-7463
Fax:  202-203-7272
website at

Congratulations, Matt! We’re glad to see you in the Commission.



Oh, No! The Sounding Board is in WaPo’s In the Loop

The Office of eDiplomacy runs several knowledge-management and new media technology programs for the State Department: Diplopedia, the VPPs, Communities@state and the Sounding Board. Here is a quick description of the Sounding Board:

The Sounding Board is an initiative, launched by Secretary Clinton that enables domestic and overseas employees to submit ideas for Department innovation and reform. Employees are invited to contribute their ideas and suggestions for how to make the Department work in new, smarter, and more effective ways to advance our nation’s foreign policy goals. The end goal is to provide clear and well-defined proposals for review and action by Department management. Secretary Clinton and other senior Department officials consider both the initial proposal and the management response to determine if additional action or implementation is feasible and necessary.

The Sounding Board is, of course, located behind the great firewall and only available to folks with real logins.  No, we’re not allowed to read what they write about us over there.  That does not mean, it does not leak at times. Recently a discussion on abolishing the Board and WaPo’s In the Loop column, made an appearance, where else? In Al Kamen’s In the Loop.

Oh, dear, you’re now living your fears.  Excerpts below:  

Seemed fairly inside baseball for the most part, with many discussions about “overseas comparability pay” or medical evacuation policies or improving visa procedures and such. A good tool for internal discussion, though not worth spending a lot of time perusing.

But a recent discussion on the Sounding Board — about abolishing the Sounding Board itself — seemed worth a look. There was this posting, submitted by “Anonymous.”

“My real concern is the potential the Sounding Board has to embarrass the department,” the writer said, noting that “department employees are constantly derided as entitled, pampered bureaucrats who attend cocktail parties and live it up in Europe at the expense of the hardworking taxpayer.”

Some of that may be due to the inordinate media attention given to political ambassadors serving in fine European capitals vs. the majority of employees who work in unpleasant and even dangerous places.

The “stereotype is completely untrue,” the anonymous poster said, “but a casual perusal of the Sounding Board, particularly the many threads in which posters argue for more benefits, on top of the generous package we already have, could convince one otherwise.”

Then this warning: “A single ‘In The Loop’ item could damage the Department’s image for years to come.” (Demonstrably false.)

Another employee agreed. “I live in fear of the Washington Post reading one of the less-than-professional posts and having a field day!” she wrote.

(Note to file: Start paying more attention to the Sounding Board.)

Read in full here.

We can understand the sentiments but man, the Sounding Board is like mass email in sheep’s clothing.  It is internal, it is unclassified, it gets lots of eyeballs and it is electronic data that is cut copy and paste-possible and emailable.  

The Washington Post Front Page rule of thumb should still apply. I supposed, you now can realistically call it the — In the Loop rule of thumb, too. 


FY2011 Budget Bill: Senate Votes 81-19, House Votes 260 -167, Now Goes to WH for Signature

Via Senatus:

Senators have given final passage to a measure (Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act – H.R. 1473) that funds government programs for the remainder of this fiscal year by a vote of 81-19. A unanimous consent agreement required 60 votes for passage.

Prior to that action, members voted on two “correcting resolutions” to the budget measure. A unanimous consent agreement required 60 votes for either to pass.
The first resolution, H.Con.Res. 35, would have defunded the health reform law. It was defeated by a vote of 47-53.

The second, H.Con.Res. 36, would have banned funds for Planned Parenthood. It was defeated by a vote of 42-58.

The House passed this bill by an earlier vote of 260 -167 on April 14, 2011.  The budget bill now goes to the WH for President Obama’s signature.  The GPO copy of H.R. 1473 is here. The CBO estimate of the budget bill is here.

On a related note, Congress is on for a two week break. Expect CODELs in Iraq, the Philippines, Burma, Kuwait, Turkey, Dublin, Vienna, Prague …. with the budget pains and all, you think our reps might take the economy fare?