SFRC Clears Blinken Nomination, Full Senate Vote on Tuesday, Jan 26

In a 15-3 vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the nomination of Tony Blinken on January 25 to be the next secretary of state. It looks like Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Rand Paul (R-KY) voted no on this nomination. Insurrectionist Senator Ted Cruz of Texas also voted no.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the Blinken nomination mid-day tomorrow, January 26. Foggy Bottom may see the 71st Secretary of State in Foggy Bottom by afternoon.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Sesame Street’s “Grover” to talk about refugees at the United Nations in New York City, New York on September 19, 2016. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]


 

 

Ambassador Daniel B. Smith to be Acting Secretary of State Pending Tony Blinken’s Confirmation

–Update below on State/M

The 70th Secretary of State left Foggy Bottom for good before the presidential swearing-in of January 20. Finally. A short clip here from CNN correspondent Kylie Atwood shows the now former secretary of state leaving through the empty halls of HST, apparently  “to a small round of applause from political appointees.” Whatever. We could see Foggy Bottom’s smoke of relief from our house.
We should note that Rex Tillerson got a polite goodbye when he left in 2018 (see Foggy Bottom Bids Goodbye to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson).
Soon after the now former secretary’s exit, the ‘ethos for some but not for others’ wall decors also came tumbling down.  The new State Department spokesperson Ned Price told the AP’s Matt Lee, “We are confident that our colleagues do not need a reminder of the values we share.
Excuse me, who inherited the swagger swags?
Also on January 20, President Biden announced the acting agency leadership across the Biden-Harris administration pending confirmation of permanent leadership by the U.S. Senate. For the State Department, the Acting Secretary of State is Ambassador Daniel Smith, one of the few senior career officials at the agency with the personal rank of Career Ambassador. Until his appointment to the acting position, he was the Director of the Foreign Service Institute. Prior to that, he was Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research from 2013 to 2018 and was Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic from 2010 to 2013.
Traditionally, the highest ranking career official, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P) is appointed as Acting Secretary of State pending confirmation of the new secretary of state.  This would have been David Hale, a career FSO (also with personal rank of Career Ambassador) who has been on that job since September 2018. That’s not the case this time. It is, of course, the administration’s prerogative who to appoint in an acting capacity.
We’ve seen one reporting that attributes the Hale skip over to the statements he made in December following the reported COVID-19 diagnosis of Pompeo’s wife. At that time, the State Department also “slammed the leak of Susan Pompeo’s diagnosis” according to Fox News. The person who spoke for the State Department and blamed his colleagues for “the persistent culture of leaks” was not the spokesperson.  Should be interesting to read the oral history related to this at some point.
Given that all but two of the under secretary and assistant secretary positions in the State Department were filled with political appointees, January 20 also came with the departure of the top functional and bureau officials in Foggy Bottom. The only two positions encumbered by Senate-confirmed career officials were U/Secretary for Political Affairs (David Hale) and the Director General of the Foreign Service (Carol Perez). As best we could tell, Hale is still U/Secretary for Political Affairs. DGHR, however, is now encumbered by Ambassador Kenneth Merten as the bureau’s senior official according to state.gov.  Update 1/21 11:32 am: Carol Perez is listed as senior official for the U/Secretary for Management (this also skips the Deputy M).
All regional bureaus under the U/Secretary for Political Affairs are currently headed by career officials designated as “senior official” or “senior bureau official.” The same goes for all functional bureaus. Overseas, it looks like all political ambassadors have stepped down, except for a few who are non-FS but are in the Civil Service. The US Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan, a former Deputy Secretary of State appears to have remained at post as of this writing. When this happens during the transition, it is typically with the approval of the new administration.
President Biden has previously announced the nomination of the following senior officials:
Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman as Deputy Secretary of State
Brian P. McKeon as Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources
Dr. Bonnie Jenkins as Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs
Ambassador Victoria Nuland as Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Uzra Zeya as Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
Unless we’ve missed the announcement, the nominees for the following positions are still forthcoming:
Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment
Under Secretary of State for Management
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs

 


 

 

 

 

Confirmation Hearing: Secretary of State Nominee Antony Blinken (Video/Text)

 

On January 19, Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be the 71st Secretary of State appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing.

Excerpt from his prepared statement (PDF):

If confirmed, three priorities will guide my time as Secretary. 

First, I will work with you to reinvigorate the Department by investing in its greatest asset: the foreign service officers, civil servants, and locally employed staff who animate American diplomacy around the world.

I know from firsthand experience their passion, energy, and courage. Often far from home and away from loved ones, sometimes in dangerous conditions exacerbated by the global pandemic – they deserve our full support. If I am confirmed as Secretary, they will have it.

I am committed to advancing our security and prosperity by building a diplomatic corps that fully represents America in all its talent and diversity. Recruiting, retaining, and promoting officers with the skills to contend with 21st Century challenges and who look like the country we represent. Sparing no effort to ensure their safety and well-being. Demanding accountability – starting with the Secretary – for building a more diverse, inclusive and non-partisan workplace.

Second, working across government and with partners around the world, we will revitalize American diplomacy to take on the most pressing challenges of our time.

We’ll show up again, day-in, day-out whenever and wherever the safety and well-being of Americans is at stake. We’ll engage the world not as it was, but as it is. A world of rising nationalism, receding democracy, growing rivalry with China, Russia, and other authoritarian states, mounting threats to a stable and open international system, and a technological revolution that is reshaping every aspect of our lives, especially in cyberspace.

For all that has changed, some things remain constant.

American leadership still matters.

The reality is that the world doesn’t organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we don’t lead, then one of two things happen: either some other country tries to take our place, but probably not in a way that advances our interests or values. Or no one does, and then you get chaos. Either way, that does not serve the American people

Humility and confidence should be the flip sides of America’s leadership coin.

Humility because we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad. And humility because most of the world’s problems are not about us, even as they affect us. Not one of the big challenges we face can be met by one country acting alone – even one as powerful as the U.S.

But we’ll also act with confidence that America at its best still has a greater ability than any country on earth to mobilize others for the greater good.

Guided by those principles, we can overcome the COVID crisis – the greatest shared challenge since World War II.

We can outcompete China – and remind the world that a government of the people, by the people, can deliver for its people.

We can take on the existential threat posed by climate change.

We can revitalize our core alliances – force multipliers of our influence around the world. Together, we are far better positioned to counter threats posed by Russia, Iran, and North Korea and to stand up for democracy and human rights.

And in everything we do around the world, we can and we must ensure that our foreign policy delivers for American working families here at home.

Let me conclude with a word about this institution, whose resilience and determination was on full display in the aftermath of senseless and searing violence in these halls. Both the President-elect and I believe we must restore Congress’s traditional role as a partner in our foreign policy making.

In recent years, across administrations of both parties, Congress’s voice in foreign policy has been diluted and diminished.

That doesn’t make the executive branch stronger – it makes our country weaker.

President-elect Biden believes – and I share his conviction – that no foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. You are the representatives of the American people. You provide that advice and consent. We can only tackle the most urgent problems our country faces if we work together, and I am dedicated to doing that.

If confirmed, I will work as a partner to each of you on behalf of all Americans.

 


 

 

Biden to Nominate Wendy Sherman as State/D, Toria Nuland as State/P

 

 

 


 

Reactions From President-Elect @JoeBiden’s Nominees

 

WH Announces Nomination of Retired Col. Douglas Macgregor to be U.S. Ambassador to Germany

 

On July 27, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate retired US Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Germany. The WH released the following brief bio:
Colonel Douglas Macgregor, United States Army (Retired), of Pennsylvania, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Germany.
Colonel Douglas Macgregor is a decorated combat veteran, author, and a consultant. Colonel Macgregor is widely recognized as an expert on force design and grand strategy.  He is a frequent radio and television commentator on national security affairs and his writings on military affairs have been influential in the transformation of United States ground forces, NATO, and the Israeli Defense Force.
During his military career, Colonel Macgregor worked in support of Ambassador Holbrooke’s team during the Proximity Talks in Dayton, Ohio.  Later, he worked closely with senior military and political leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany as the Chief of Strategic Planning and, subsequently, as the Director of the Joint Operations Center at Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe, during the Kosovo Air Campaign.
Colonel Macgregor earned a B.S. degree from the United States Military Academy and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Virginia.  He is the recipient of numerous awards from his military service, including the bronze star with “V” device for valor for his leadership under fire.
There are currently 75 nominations pending on the Executive Calendar; with 51 nominations pending in the SFRC.  Of the 51 nominations, 17 are currently listed for consideration during the SFRC’s business meeting on July 29, as well as seven FS lists.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens with these nominations.
Senate calendar (PDF) indicates that the Senate will be in session August 3-7; Sept 8-25,30; Oct 1-9, then 2 weeks in November after the elections, and three weeks in December with December 18 as its target date of adjournment.
Even if political appointees get confirmed next week and are able to travel to post immediately, that leaves the new appointees with barely 20 weeks in office. They won’t even have six months to adjust to their new jobs, much less their new host country.

Senator Menendez Asks WH to Withdraw Mark Burkhalter as Ambassador Pick For Norway

 

On May 15, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate J. Mark Burkhalter, of Georgia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway. The WH released the following brief bio:

Mr. Burkhalter is a Senior Advisor in the Public Policy and Regulation practice at Dentons U.S. LLP, and plays a significant role in Dentons’ public affairs and economic development initiatives in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Burkhalter represented the Atlanta suburbs of north Fulton County in the Georgia General Assembly for 18 years, where he focused on promoting economic development, business growth, and quality of life in the greater metropolitan Atlanta area.  He left office as the Speaker Emeritus, having served as Speaker of the House and Speaker Pro Tempore.

Parallel to his government service, Mr. Burkhalter built a successful career in real estate development.  He received his B.A. at the University of Georgia with a double major in German and Slavic Languages, and Global Studies/Political Science.  He is conversant in German.

On July 2, WaPo reports that the nominee “did not disclose his involvement in the creation of a racist flier that distorted the features of a black politician in Georgia.”
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is urging the White House to withdraw the Burkhalter nomination.
The most recently confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Oslo , Kenneth J. Braithwaite became the 77th @SECNAV last May. 

 

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State/AF PDAS Geeta Pasi to be U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia

The WH released the following brief bio:
Geeta Pasi, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
Ms. Pasi, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Career Minister, is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs at the Department of State.  She previously served as United States Ambassador to Chad and as United States Ambassador to Djibouti.
Ms. Pasi also served as Director of Career Development and Assignments for the State Department, Director of the Department’s Office of East African Affairs, Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Deputy Principal Officer at the United States Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany.  Her other past assignments include Afghanistan Desk Officer in the Office of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh Affairs, Political Officer at the United States Embassy in New Delhi, India, and Political Officer at the United States Embassy in Accra, Ghana.
Ms. Pasi earned her B.A. from Duke University and her M.A. from New York University.  She has won numerous Department of State performance awards, including the Matilde W. Sinclaire Language Award.  She speaks French, German, Hindi, Romanian, and Russian.

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State/WHA DAS Cynthia Kierscht to be U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania

The WH released the following brief bio:
Cynthia Kierscht, of Minnesota, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
Ms. Kierscht, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, currently serves as a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.  Prior to that, she was the Director and Deputy Director of the Office of Canadian Affairs for the State Department.
Overseas, Ms. Kierscht served at the United States Embassies in Bogota, Colombia, Rabat, Morocco, and Cairo, Egypt, in the United States Consulate in Marseille, France, and at the United States Interests Section in Tripoli, Libya.  Among her other assignments at the State Department, Ms. Kierscht worked in the Executive Secretariat and the Operations Center, in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and in the Bureau of Counterterrorism.
Ms. Kierscht earned her B.A. from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and her M.P.P. from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.  She speaks Arabic, French, and Spanish.

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Michael Pack’s Nomination to be @USAGMgov Head Hits Double Snag