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 (Change.gov) and served as the Deputy Director of the Obama campaign’s new media department (BarackObama.com). 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.

[snip]

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.

[snip]

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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Secretary Kerry Hosts Swearing-in Ceremony for EUR A/S Victoria Nuland

— By Domani Spero

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a swearing-in ceremony for Victoria Nuland as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on September 18, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remark….

During his remarks, Secretary Kerry noted that “Toria has served our country her entire adult life. And as the most prominent member of the unique – some might even say improbable – member of the Dick Cheney–Hillary Clinton Alumni Association – (laughter) – she has earned the trust and confidence of Democrats and Republicans alike, without party affiliation.”  

Among the guests:  Senator John McCain, Representative Keating, and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and former Secretary General of the NATO Javier Solana as well as members of the EUR alumni club: former “P” Marc Grossman, Acting NEA A/S Elizabeth Jones, former Special Envoy to Guantanamo Daniel Fried, and EUR A/S predecessor Philip Gordon.

-09/18/13  Swearing-in Ceremony for Victoria Nuland as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs;  Secretary of State John Kerry; Benjamin Franklin Room; Washington, DC.

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