Photo of the Day: Excuse me? Who is this person, and why is he redesigning my playtime?

Posted: 2:32 am ET
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Secretary Tillerson Greets Staff and Families at U.S. Embassy Riyadh
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson greets U.S. Embassy staff and their families at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 22, 2017. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]


Tillerson Talks About the Styled Redesign and Expected “Quick Wins” in 2018

Posted: 2:21 am ET
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Excerpt from Rex W. Tillerson’s Remarks to Staff and Families at U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 22, 2017:

But a real – a real honor to be here. I do want to say a real quick word because I know there’s a lot of interest in what we’re doing back home with what we’re styling as the redesign of the State Department. And this is very much a bottom-up, a bottom-up, employee – your colleagues – led initiative. Many of you, I hope, participated early on when we had the listening tour, we called it, exercise. We had over 35,000 of your colleagues, and I’m sure many of you responded to the survey that was conducted early on. We had 300 face-to-face interviews with various members of the State Department at all types of positions and including people out in mission.

And this was so that I could get some baseline understanding of what are the issues that you’re faced with, what are the challenges, what are things we can do to help you get your work done more effectively and more efficiently. So out of that we’ve created a number of working teams. There are five core teams that are working on a number of work processes and addressing all kinds of issues, from hardware issues like our IT systems, which I know everyone knows we need some upgrading to, and other ways that we can make you efficient. But we’re looking also at how we train people for assignment, lengths of assignment, how do we allow you to contribute more, what are the obstacles to getting your work done, what are the interface issues, how can we clear some of the obstacles out for you. So this is very much led by your colleagues, and then my role is to try to clear and do some blocking and tackling for all of that effort as well.

So the work’s underway. We’re going to be saying more here as we get towards the end of the year. We have some what we’re calling quick – we believe they’re quick wins and things that we’ll be able to do right away and implement throughout 2018 that we hope you’re going to see the effects of that are going to make your work easier, more efficient. And ultimately, the objective is that you have a very fulfilling, rewarding career. You’ve dedicated yourself. This is what you want to do. We want to allow you to be successful and to have a very fulfilling career and realize all of your own aspirations as well. So it’s something that I’m quite committed to, and we have a great team of folks back home helping us, your colleagues helping us in that regard as well.

Read the full remarks here.


Retired Navy Rear Admiral Kenneth J. Braithwaite to be U.S. Ambassador to Norway

Posted: 1:35 am ET
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On October 19, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Kenneth J. Braithwaite to be the next ambassador to Norway. The WH released the following brief bio:

Kenneth J. Braithwaite of Pennsylvania to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway. Mr. Braithwaite, a distinguished 27-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Navy Reserve, currently serves as Group Senior Vice President for Vizient, a healthcare strategy and performance improvement company. He completed his military service in 2011 as the Navy’s Vice Chief of Information. Immediately prior, he served as Commanding Officer, Joint Public Affairs Expeditionary Support Element (Reserve), Joint Forces Command. In that role, he deployed to Pakistan as the overall Director of Strategic Communications supporting work of the American Embassy. Earlier, Mr. Braithwaite served as Commanding Officer, Navy Combat Camera deployed in combat operations to Iraq. He also served as Executive Director, Delaware Valley Healthcare Council; Vice President, Government Affairs, Ascension Health and State Director to U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA). Mr. Braithwaite received his B.S degree from the U.S. Naval Academy, his pilot wings as a Naval Aviator and an M.G.A from the University of Pennsylvania.

Almost 80 percent of ambassadors nominated for this post are political non-career appointees.  The U.S. Navy provides a more detailed bio for Trump’s second rear admiral appointee (also see Retired Navy Rear Admiral Edward Masso to be Ambassador to Estonia):

In his final assignment as the Navy’s Vice Chief of Information Rear Adm. (ret) Kenneth J. Braithwaite served as the principal Navy Reserve liaison and advisor to the Chief of Information having responsibility for formulating strategic communications counsel to the leadership of the Department of the Navy. Concurrently, he served as the head of the Navy Reserve (NR) Public Affairs program and as an adjunct advisor to the Commander, Navy Reserve Force.

A 1984 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Braithwaite was designated a naval aviator in April 1986. His first operational assignment was to Patrol Squadron 17, NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii. He flew anti-submarine missions tracking adversary submarines throughout the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

In April 1988, Braithwaite was selected for redesignation as a public affairs officer (PAO) with his initial tour aboard the aircraft carrier USS America (CV-66). He had additional duty as PAO to Commander Carrier Group 2 and Commander, Striking Force 6th Fleet. He made both a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Force deployment to the North Atlantic operating above the Arctic Circle and a Mediterranean /Indian Ocean cruise where the battle group responded to tensions in the Persian Gulf. In 1990 he was assigned to the staff of Commander, Naval Base Philadelphia as chief of Public Affairs.

Braithwaite left active duty in 1993 and immediately resumed naval service in the reserve where he served with numerous commands from Boston to Norfolk. Additionally during this time he earned a master’s degree in Government Administration in April 1995 with honors from the University of Pennsylvania.

In October 2001, Braithwaite assumed command of NR Fleet Combat Camera Atlantic at Naval Air Station Willow Grove, Pa. During this tour the command was tasked with providing support to the Joint Task Force (JTF) Commander, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In March 2003 Braithwaite deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom with a portion of his command in support of naval operations to capture the port of Umm Qasr. Following this tour he served as commanding officer of Navy Office of Information New York 102.

Braithwaite served as Commander, Joint Public Affairs Support Element-Reserve (JPASE-R) from October of 2004 to October 2007. In this role he commanded a 50-person joint public affairs expeditionary unit that was forward deployed to support Joint Combatant Commanders in time of conflict. While in command and following the devastating earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, Braithwaite was deployed to Pakistan as part of the Joint Task Force for Disaster Assistance serving as the director of Strategic Communications working for both the JTF Commander and the U.S. Ambassador in Islamabad.

His decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (with oak leaf cluster), Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (5) with Combat “V”, Navy Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and numerous campaign and service medals.