Kerry Appoints Retired Diplomat Janice Jacobs as @StateDept’s “Email Czar”

Posted: 1:44 pm EDT
Updated: 7:08 pm EDT
Updated: Sept 9, 6:07 pm EDT
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Via CNN:

Secretary of State John Kerry has tapped a former career diplomat as an “email czar” to coordinate the State Department response to the myriad of document requests mostly related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which have strained the department’s resources, officials familiar with the appointment tell CNN.

Janice Jacobs will serve as Kerry’s State Department’s Transparency Coordinator, charged with responding to Freedom of Information Act and congressional requests faster and more efficiently and improving the State Department systems for keeping records.

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A career diplomat, Janice Jacobs previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs from June 2008 to April 2014. She retired from the Foreign Service in April 2014 (see Asst Secretary for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs to Retire Effective April 3). According to the State Department spokesperson, Ambassador Jacobs will will report directly to the Secretary and to Deputy Secretary Higginbottom, the deputy for management and resources. She won’t be embedded in a bureau but the State Department will “make sure that she has the administrative support that she needs to do her job.”  According to the spox, the plan going forward is that Ambassador Jacobs will have “regular meetings with both Deputy Secretary Higginbottom and the Secretary on a consistent, frequent basis to talk about what she’s learning, recommendations she wants to make. And then as the IG comes back with recommendations it intends to make, she will be responsible for helping the Department implement those. “

Secretary Kerry released the following statement on Ambassador Jacobs’ appointment:

Today, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Ambassador Janice Jacobs as the State Department’s Transparency Coordinator, charged with improving document preservation and transparency systems.

Ambassador Jacobs will lead Departmental efforts to meet the President’s Managing Government Records Directive, to respond to recommendations from the review I asked the Department’s Inspector General to launch earlier this year, and to work with other agencies and the private sector to explore best practices and new technologies. I have also asked her to focus on improving our systems for responding to Freedom of Information Act and congressional requests faster and more efficiently.

As I have repeatedly made clear, we have a fundamental obligation to document the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and to produce our records in response to requests from the public and Congress. Our records, and our ability to share them, serve as testament to our commitment to transparency and open government. I take very seriously that responsibility, and so does everyone else at the State Department.

I am grateful for the work being done by scores of people across the Department who continue to support the unprecedented number of requests we are facing — a three-fold increase in Freedom of Information requests alone since 2008 or the numerous requests for information from members of Congress.

However, it is clear that our systems and our resources are straining to keep pace with the growing number of records we create and the expanding demand for access to them. It is time to take further action. I want the Department to lead on these issues, to set and achieve a new standard for our efforts, and harness new technological tools in order to meet our commitments. To reach that goal, we must think boldly and creatively. As we enhance our records management system, we also intend to fundamentally improve our ability to respond to requests for our records.

Ambassador Jacobs is exactly the right person for this job. She not only has a distinguished record of service in the State Department, but she also has a track record of successfully leading critical reform efforts: she reorganized the Visa Office after 9/11 and reformed how the Department engages with law enforcement and intelligence communities to share information. As my Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, she also led efforts to meet the Administration’s new visa issuance goals. She is a proven leader who knows how to run large organizations and produce results.

I am grateful she has agreed to take this on. She will have not only my full support, but that of the Department as well.

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September 9, 2015

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According to Politico, the State Department spokesperson, John Kirby expressed some indignance that Jacobs — a career foreign service officer — was being faulted for a political donation she made, especially after leaving the government.

“This is the United States of America. It’s a democracy. People are allowed to do these kinds of things,” Kirby said. “That’s a very bad place to be if we’re going to start criticizing people for campaign contributions that they make in their private time, in retirement no less. I just don’t think that’s the place we want to be as a country.”

Read more of that here.

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