Obama Names @StateDept Spox John Kirby as New Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs

Posted: 2:03 am EDT
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We heard this back in October (@StateDept’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs: Doug Frantz Out, John Kirby In). On December 10, the White House officially announced President Obama’s intent to nominate State Department spokesman John Kirby to be Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. He will succeed Douglas Frantz (Kerry’s deputy staff director and chief investigator of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he was a senator) who was announced as Deputy Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in October. It looks like Admiral Kirby will be dual hatted as A/S and spokesperson.

Below is Kirby’s official bio via state.gov (we’re quite sure this position requires a Senate confirmation we’re told this position no longer requires Senate confirmation. Thanks @APDiploWriter):

John Kirby was appointed as the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Public Affairs on December 11, 2015.  Prior to that he served as the the Spokesperson for the Department of State. Kirby previously served as Pentagon Press Secretary, serving for more than a year as the chief spokesman for the Department of Defense and for former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. He retired from the Navy in May 2015 with the rank of Rear Admiral.

Kirby was commissioned in September 1986 after completing Officer Candidate School at Newport, R.I. He qualified as a surface warfare officer aboard the guided-missile frigate USS Aubrey Fitch (FFG 34). As a public affairs officer, Kirby served at sea aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59) and on the staff of the Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, embarked aboard the command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20).

While ashore, Kirby completed tours as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy; public affairs officer with the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron (Blue Angels); editor-in-chief of the Navy’s Flagship monthly magazine, All Hands; the staffs of the Chief of Naval Personnel, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, Chief of Naval Operations, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Media Operations.

Kirby also served as the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Information (CHINFO), serving as the principal spokesman for the Department of the Navy and providing strategic communication counsel to the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations. As CHINFO, he led the Navy’s public affairs community consisting of more than 2,700 active and reserve officer, enlisted and civilian communication professionals.

John Kirby grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla., graduating from St. Petersburg Catholic High School in 1981. He is a 1985 graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla., where he received a Bachelor’s degree in History. He holds a Master of Science degree in International Relations from Troy State University and a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.

According to history.state.gov, the Department of State created the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Public and Cultural Relations during a general reorganization in Dec 1944, after Congress authorized an increase in the number of Assistant Secretaries in the Department from four to six (Dec 8, 1944; P.L. 78-472; 58 Stat. 798). The reorganization was the first to designate substantive designations for specific Assistant Secretary positions. The Department changed the title to Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs in 1946. American poet Archibald MacLeish served as the first Assistant Secretary from December 1944-August 1945.

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Related posts:

@StateDept’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs: Doug Frantz Out, John Kirby In

Don’t Worry, Be Happy — John Kirby Officially Takes Over as @StateDeptSpox

Tweet of the Day: Admiral John Kirby as Next Foggy Bottom Spokesman

Shuffling the Spoxes: Admiral Kirby Out, Psaki to White House, New Spoxes Race Is On!

 

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@StateDept’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs: Doug Frantz Out, John Kirby In

Posted: 12:28  pm PDT
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In our Burn Bag mail today:

“Kirby in as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. Will that most bureaucratic of bureaus finally be fixed?”

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State Department Spokesperson John Kirby watches as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters on August 6, 2015, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, during a news conference following two days of meetings at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

Douglas Frantz was a newspaper reporter and editor for more than 35 years before joining the State Department in September 2013 as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. He previously worked for then-Senator John Kerry as deputy staff director and chief investigator of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC).  We understand that Frantz is slated to move to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

John Kirby was appointed as the Spokesperson for the Department of State on May 12, 2015. Kirby previously served as Pentagon Press Secretary, serving for more than a year as the chief spokesman for the Department of Defense and for former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. He retired from the Navy in May 2015 with the rank of Rear Admiral.

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Leaks in the Department of State in 1963, and a Scolding on Leaks in 2015

Posted: 1:40 am EDT
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Foreign Policy’s John Hudson recently did a report on Secretary John Kerry admonishing State Department employees about making unauthorized disclosures to the press.

In a tense Monday meeting about leaks, which was promptly, well, leaked to Foreign Policy, Kerry told staff to keep a lid on internal deliberations or find a new place to work.
[…]
“In slightly more polite words, Kerry said if you want to leak, you can get the f— out,” a State Department official said.

Asked about the meeting, State Department spokesman John Kirby said at no time did Kerry “discourage anybody at the State Department not to talk to the media.”

Read more  (registration may be required):

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The National Archives,  did a blogpost on Leaks in the Department of State, 1963 on March 17, 2015. That post includes an 8-page memo to President Kennedy on how Under Secretary of State George W. Ball (then the Department’s #2 official) plan to deal with the issue.

On April 28, Mr. Langbart posted additional documentation on what led to that memorandum in his post,  Leaks in the Department of State, 1963: Antecedents.

By early September 1962, President Kennedy and Under Secretary Ball were discussing how to handle relations with the press.  To brief the Under Secretary and provide him with food for thought, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Robert Manning to sent Ball a long memorandum.

Among the points he made were (the following are all direct quotations from Manning’s memo to Ball, 1962):

  • [O]ccasionally top officials of the government display a certain lack of reality about (a) the degree to which we can expect the day-to-day coverage of foreign policy to reflect only the assessments and characteristics that we believe are the correct ones, and (b) the degree to which we react to individual stories or pieces of speculation we do not like.
  •  [I]n almost all instances where given stories or reports seem to raise serious problems for us, experience shows that a few hours or a few days later there was, in fact, no real cause for demonstrable concern. We too often allow ourselves to react when in fact the problem would disappear — or prove to have been non-existent — if we were to just relax and move on to other matters.
  •  [W]e have to give more thought to what can be done to protect the main objective, namely the pursuit of the national interest, from harm or mischief that can be done by ill-considered reporting or ill-considered talk and gossip by government officials.
  •  I would be deeply concerned — for the government, for the Administration and for the President himself — if this concern were to provoke us into oppressive practices or other inhibitions that would not solve the problem yet might very well hamper the ability of officials to get the information they need and use it for legitimate conduct of their duties.
  •  I might give a few opinions on what produces the kind of talk and gossip and bits and pieces of fact and fancy that make up a large part of the dialogue between officials and the press in Washington.
  •  There is no doubt . . . that the official State Department position is that within the limits of national security and national interests there is supposed to be direct dialogue between officiers [sic] dealing with policy and members of the press. . . . and it is in the interests of the competent men dealing with policies to take a direct responsibility for making those policies clear to responsible correspondents.
  •  People who talk to the press are supposed to be motivated by the simple purpose of the Department policy, namely to explain policies to the American people and to make a public use of the power of the press and of public discussion to help carry its policies forward.
  •  Often, however, those who talk are propelled by other impulses:

— There are a few who get a simple personal enjoyment out of talking with newsmen, out of cultivating them, their acquaintance, their approval, and . . . out of the personal publicity and identity that can be attained by press, and . . . public attention.

 — There are the simply garrulous types who in fact enjoy being in the know and are apt occasionally to try to demonstrate this point. . . .

 — There are those who use the channel of the press to leak partial information on policies they oppose, in the hope that such publicity will defeat or amend those policies; or who, conversely, will talk prematurely in order to push a policy into the open and therefore closer to acceptance. . . .

—  There are those who in all sincerity believe they have all the facts at their command and that they have a mandate to make them clear and forthright within the confines of security practices and other restrictions.  This type represents the best and in my estimate should be protected should there be any attempt to bring the other types under control.

 — There is the person whose primary function is to talk to the press on behalf of the government in the role of information officer or public affairs adviser or spokesman or whatever you want to call him. Since this is the breed that includes . . .  myself . . . , I have a particular interest in promoting their worth and enhancing their value. . . .  I do feel strongly however that more has to be done about bringing this group or a representative of this group into the very middle of the most delicate situations. . . .   Once a correspondent knows he is talking with a person “who was there” and once he has come to trust that person, he is willing to stake his own reputation on the information he gets. . . . .

  • I do not believe that there are any simple mechanical ways in which the problem of leaks and unknowing conversations can be completely cured. I would be strongly opposed to any steps designed sharply to inhibit responsible officers from contacts with the press . . . [as they] would have unfortunate repercussions in the actual performance of officials in the Department.
  • It may be possible . . . to produce a sharper awareness of the problem and to get some useful result if you were to follow your idea of talking personally to officials . . . of the Department about the nature of this problem and the concern that is felt by you, the Secretary and the President.
  • [I]t would also be of immense help if some similar educational process could be applied to that area of the White House staff that maintains its own intimate and, frequently, very thorough intercourse with the press.

Read the original post here via Text Message.

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Quote of the Day: “Take responsible risks…Don’t take a big crazy risk … Mm…hmm

— Domani Spero

Here is Doug Frantz, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs via nextgov.com:

“Social media is an interactive platform, so if you wait to come back to the State Department to get clearance on how to respond to a question over Twitter it will take days if not weeks and the conversation will be over,” Frantz said. “So you want people to be engaged. You want them to be willing and able to take responsible risks…Don’t take a big crazy risk and try to change our policy on Iran, but if you’re behaving responsibly, we can expect small mistakes.”

In many ways, the department is vulnerable to those risks whether or not officials are actively engaging on social media.

Frantz cited the case of a diplomatic security officer and his wife who were expelled from India after making derogatory comments about the country on their personal Facebook pages. “I tell people never tweet anything you don’t want to see on the front page of the Washington Post,” Frantz said.

We should be impressed at this enlightened approach of employees being allowed to afford small mistakes.  Except that elements of the State Department continue to harass Foreign Service bloggers who write in their private capacity on blogs and other social media sites.  Remember my Conversation with Self About Serial Blog Killers and the 21st Century Statecraft?  Different folks get on and off the bus, but this is just as real today.

Harassment, as always, is conducted without a paper trail unless, it’s a PR nightmare like Peter Van Buren, in which case, there is a paper trail.  So an FSO-blogger’s difficulties in obtaining an onward assignment has nothing to do with his/her blog, or his/her tweets. Just bad luck of the draw, see?  Oh, stop doing that winky wink stuff with your eyes!

Anybody know if there is an SOP on how to intimidate diplo-bloggers into going back into writing in their diaries and hiding those under their pillows until the year 2065? Dammit! No SOP needed?

So, no witnesses, no paper trail and  no bruises, just nasty impressive stuff done under the table.  Baby, we need a hero —

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