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.

 


 

 

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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Career Diplomat Jonathan Pratt to be U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti

Via WH:

Jonathan Pratt, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Djibouti.

Mr. Pratt, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, currently serves as the Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs for the State Department.  Mr. Pratt has also held assignments as the Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, and as the Office Director for Pakistan Affairs in the State Department.  He served earlier as the Political Counselor at the United States Embassy in Islamabad, as the Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, and as the Political and Economic Section Chief at the United States Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.

Mr. Pratt’s other assignments include service at the United States Embassies in Angola, Jordan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Mr. Pratt earned a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and an M.A. from the University of California, San Diego.  He is the recipient of the State Department’s James Clement Dunn Award for Excellence and the Director General’s Award for Reporting.  He speaks Chinese, Arabic, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

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Career Diplomat Melanie Harris Higgins to be U.S. Ambassador to Burundi

 

Via WH:

Melanie Harris Higgins, of Georgia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Burundi.

Ms. Higgins, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, currently serves as Director of the Office of Central African Affairs at the State Department.  Previously, she was the Principal Officer of the United States Consulate General in Auckland, New Zealand and was the Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Throughout her two decades of service, Ms. Higgins served as the Acting Director and Acting Public Affairs Advisor for the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  She also held a number of other positions at the State Department in Washington, D.C., Jakarta, Indonesia, Canberra, Australia, and Yaounde, Cameroon.

Ms. Higgins earned a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and an M.A. from the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.  She is the recipient of the Sinclaire Language Award from the American Foreign Service Association.  She speaks French, Indonesian, and some Bosnian.

 

Career Diplomat Jeanne Marie Maloney to be U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Eswatini (Formerly Swaziland)

Via WH:

Jeanne Marie Maloney, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Eswatini.

Ms. Maloney, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as the Foreign Policy Advisor to United States Army Africa in Vicenza, Italy.  Previously, she was the Director of the Office of Security Affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs.

Ms. Maloney has served in various leadership positions at the State Department over the course of her career, including as Career Development Officer in the Bureau of Human Resources, Director of the Office of Terrorist Screening and Interdiction in the Bureau of Counterterrorism, and Deputy Political-Military Counselor at the United States Embassy Baghdad in Iraq.  Ms. Maloney was also the Director of the Office of Fraud Prevention Programs in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Ms. Maloney earned a B.A. from the College of William and Mary and an M.B.A. from the University of Tulsa.  She speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and basic Arabic.

On Eswatini, via state.gov:

The official name of the Kingdom of Swaziland was changed to the Kingdom of Eswatini, or Eswatini, in April 2018. The U.S. and Eswatini have had good bilateral relations since Eswatini’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1968 and establishment as a constitutional monarchy. Five years after independence, the country’s ruler, King Sobhuza II, repealed the constitution and began to rule by decree. In 2006, under Sobhuza’s son King Mswati III, the country implemented a new constitution that enshrined broader political freedoms, expanded the roles of the legislative and judicial branches, and established Eswatini as an executive monarchy ruled by Mswati alongside traditional parliamentary and bureaucratic structures. U.S. policy seeks to maintain and strengthen bilateral relations, and stresses Eswatini’s continued political and economic reform.

 

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Executive Secretary Lisa S. Kenna to be U.S. Ambassador to Peru

 

Via WH:

Lisa S. Kenna, of Vermont, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Peru.

Ms. Kenna, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, is the Executive Secretary of the Department of State and a Senior Advisor.  She previously served as a Political Advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and before that she was chief of the political section of the United States Embassy in Amman, Jordan.

Ms. Kenna was previously Director of the Iraq office in the National Security Council at the White House following a tour as Deputy Director of the Iraq Political Office in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department.  She served as a political/military officer at the United States Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.  Other assignments overseas included the United States Embassy in Mbabane, Swaziland, and the United StatesConsulate General in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Before joining the State Department, Ms. Kenna was an attorney in private practice.  A graduate of Middlebury College and the University of Connecticut School of Law, she speaks Arabic, Persian and Urdu.

 

 

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New Arms Control Special Envoy Marshall Billingslea Now Nominated as Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security (T)

 

On May 1st, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate Marshall Billingslea to be the next Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (T). Last month, Mr. Billingslea was appointed Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control. He was previously nominated as Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J) in 2018; he had a confirmation hearing in 2019 but that nomination appeared to have gone nowhere.
If the J nomination did not go anywhere in a GOP-controlled Senate, why would this nomination fare any better?
In any case, if confirmed, he would oversee the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance; the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation and the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.  
The immediate predecessor to this position is Andrea L. Thompson who was appointed in 2018 and left her position the following year (see Pompeo Announces Departure of Andrea Thompson as Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security).  With the exception of career diplomats Reginald Bartholomew (1989–1992) and Frank G. Wisner II (1992–1993), all other appointees to the “T” bureau were political appointees. Click here for the names of previous appointees.

Via WH:

Marshall Billingslea, of Virginia, to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Mr. Billingslea is the Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control at the State Department.  He has also recently served as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing.

A former Managing Director at Deloitte, Mr. Billingslea has also served at the Department of Defense as Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Negotiations Policy.  He was Assistant Secretary General for Defense Investment at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and a Senior Professional Staff Member for National Security Affairs for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Mr. Billingslea received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, the Cross of Merit of the Minister of Defence of the Czech Republic, and the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana of Estonia, among other awards.  Mr. Billingslea earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College, and an M.A. from The Fletcher School, Tufts University.

 

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Certificate of Demonstrated Competence: Interior Design Executive Barbera Hale Thornhill (Nominee For Singapore)

Via state.gov:

SUBJECT:            Ambassadorial Nomination:  Certificate of Demonstrated Competence — Foreign Service Act, Section 304(a)(4)

POST:                  Republic of Singapore

CANDIDATE:     Barbera Hale Thornhill

Barbera Hale Thornhill is a successful business executive, civic leader and philanthropist in Los Angeles, California, where she is president of Impact Design, a business-focused interior design firm.  She is an active member of the Getty Research Institute Council, the Getty Paintings Council, the World Affairs Council and the Pacific Council on International Policy, all of Los Angeles.  Ms. Thornhill’s leadership in civic initiatives and philanthropy, her decades of business experience, and active engagement in shaping and achieving the goals of a broad range of organizations, make her a strong candidate for U.S. Ambassador to Singapore.

Much of Ms. Thornhill’s extensive philanthropic work has focused on direct action to address the negative impact on children of poverty, abuse and neglect.  As Secretary of the Board of the Children’s Institute of Los Angeles, California, a nonprofit organization that provides services to children and families affected by family and community violence within Los Angeles’s most challenged neighborhoods, she led successful fund-raising initiatives to finance the Institute’s work.  She was president of The Colleagues, an organization of women that has raised millions of dollars to finance Children’s Institute, Inc (CII) for over 25 years.  She is an active member of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, which sponsors literacy, technology and cultural programs at the city’s libraries.  She is also a long-time board member of the West Los Angeles County Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the National Children’s Chorus of Los Angeles and New York.

Ms. Thornhill attended the University of California at Los Angeles, George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

 

Thornhill, Barbara Hale – Republic of Singapore – March 2020

Certificate of Demonstrated Competence: SES William E. Todd (Nominee For Pakistan)

Via state.gov:

SUBJECT:            Ambassadorial Nomination:  Certificate of Demonstrated Competence — Foreign Service Act, Section 304(a)(4)

POST:                  Islamic Republic of Pakistan

CANDIDATE:     William E. Todd

Mr. Todd, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, is the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Management.  He previously served in senior leadership roles as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Human Resources and as Acting Director General for Human Resources for the Department of State, and as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.  Overseas, Mr. Todd has twice served as United States Ambassador.  First, as Ambassador to Brunei (2008 – 2010) and subsequently as Ambassador to Cambodia (2012 – 2015).  Mr. Todd was Coordination Director for Development and Economic Affairs, at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2010 – 2011.  Mr. Todd’s distinguished record of experience in senior leadership roles, his substantive knowledge of South Asia policy issues, and his first-hand experience of working at one of the most challenging posts in our diplomatic service, all combine to make him an excellent candidate to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan.

Mr. Todd’s considerable experience is buttressed by his service as a Deputy Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and as Executive Director of the Bureau of Resource Management in the State Department.  Mr. Todd also served in the Department of Transportation as Director of the Office of Security and Administrative Management and in the Department of Commerce in various positions including as Deputy Assistant Inspector-General for Auditing and as Director of Planning and Resource Management.

Mr. Todd earned his B.S. from Longwood College, Farmville, Virginia.    He has won numerous awards over his government career including three Presidential Rank Awards.

 

Todd, William E. – Islamic Republic of Pakistan – March 2020

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