Who’s Going to be the Next @StateDept Deputy Secretary? Two Names Floating Around: Biegun, Bulatao

 

Politico is reporting that Steve Biegun, President Trump’s special representative for North Korea, is being seriously considered for the No. 2 job at the State Department, according to two senior administration officials with knowledge of the matter.
This follows an NYT report on August 20 concerning the expected nomination of Deputy Secretary John Sullivan to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Moscow.
The new report from Politico also says that “The whole building is vying for the job,” citing another senior administration official.  But only one other name, so far, has been mentioned besides Biegun.  A former State Department official told Politico that “one of the contenders could include Brian Bulatao, the undersecretary of state for management, who was chief operating officer of the CIA when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was CIA director.
Note that Bulatao was confirmed as “M” just this past May after the nomination languished in the Senate for several months.
The Deputy Secretary serves as the principal deputy, adviser, and alter ego to the Secretary of State …
Christopher (1993-1997) and Albright (1997-2001) had Strobe (Nelson Strobridge) Talbott III (1994–2001) although Clifton Reginald Wharton Jr. did serve as Deputy Secretary on the first year of Christopher’s tenure. Powell (2001-2005) had Richard Lee Armitage (2001–2005) for his entire tenure at State. Rice (2005-2009) had Robert B. Zoellick (2005–2006) and career diplomat John Dimitri Negroponte (2007–2009). Clinton (2009-2013) had James Braidy Steinberg (2009–2011) and career diplomat William Joseph Burns (2011–2014). Kerry (2013-2017) kept Burns as Deputy Secretary after taking office then had Antony Blinken (2015–2017) as Deputy for the remainder of his tenure.
John Sullivan was originally nominated for a post at DOD (see Previously Announced DOD Nominee John J. Sullivan Now Slated to be @StateDept’s No. 2). On April 2017, he was nominated to be Deputy Secretary at State (see Trump to nominate John J. Sullivan to be @StateDept’s No.2 and to also serve as No.3.   He got his confirmation hearing in May 2017, and was confirmed the same month as Deputy Secretary of State in a 94-6 vote. He went on to serve as Rex Tillerson’s deputy, and subsequently as Acting Secretary of State after Tillerson’s firing. If he is nominated for the ambassador’s post in Russia, we expect that he’ll sail quickly through the confirmation process.
We were kind of perplexed why he would take this Moscow job, which is a step down from his current position in Foggy Bottom. As chief of mission at the US Embassy in Moscow, his reporting chain would be to the EUR bureau, an office under the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P), a position that reports to the Deputy Secretary (his old job) and to the Secretary. Of course, he is a political appointee so we expect that he’ll go where they send him but we’re really curious why or how this came to be.
CNN cites two sources saying that “Sullivan is well-liked at the State Department but is not inside Pompeo’s inner circle. Sullivan has often felt out of the loop and wanted a new post. Despite having little experience when it comes to Russia, Sullivan lobbied to get this job and Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton ended up supporting him. The sources said Pompeo and Bolton recognize that the US ambassador to Russia is a challenging role, but not one that holds a lot of significance in this administration.”
Hmmnn…. he could have also picked Japan, Brazil, Canada or Gabon and São Tomé & Príncipe among a host of capitals with no ambassadors!  We’ll have to wait for Mr. Sullivan’s oral history, hey?

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