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Six Secretaries of State Together for the U.S. Diplomacy Center (USDC) Groundbreaking Ceremony

— Domani Spero

 

On September 3, the State Department held a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for the new  U.S. Diplomacy Center.  The ceremony was hosted by Secretary Kerry and attended by his five predecessors, former Secretaries of State  Hillary Rodham Clinton, Madeleine K. Albright, Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker, III,  and Colin L. Powell. Wait, somebody’s missing!  What happened to Condoleezza Rice?

Whoops!  We missed one more!

Via WaPo’s Dana Milbank:

Kerry likely forgot about the 93-year-old Shultz, who, though not in attendance, is still very much alive. Or perhaps Kerry was symbolically eliminating Condi Rice, also absent; she was, after all, a key adviser to the man who defeated him for the presidency in 2004.
[…]
The groundbreaking for the future U.S. Diplomacy Center began with a before-noon cocktail reception and ended with the six secretaries outside the 21st Street entrance to the State Department, each holding a silver spade embossed with the State emblem. They dug up about a tablespoon apiece of earth in the 90-degree heat and then were promptly relieved of their digging implements as they exited the construction site via a carpeted walkway. “They wouldn’t even let us keep the shovel,” groused Baker.

Of course not. Kerry had already eliminated one former secretary of state. They couldn’t afford to lose another.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the groundbreaking ceremony for the U.S. Diplomacy Center with former Secretaries of State  Hillary Rodham Clinton, Madeleine K. Albright, Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker, III,  and Colin L. Powell on September 3, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

 

According to the State Department, the USDC (http://diplomacy.state.gov), is a state-of-the-art museum and education center that will dedicate 40,000 square feet “to bringing the story of American diplomacy to life.” This will be our country’s first museum and education center devoted exclusively to exploring the history, practice, and challenges of American diplomacy.  The $25 million project is funded by private institutional and individual donors through the Diplomacy Center Foundation.

Screen Shot 2014-09-03

Night-time rendering oftheUSDC  Pavilionhttp://diplomacy.state.gov

Last May, the State Department announced the contract for building the center:

The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced the award of a $25 million contract to begin construction of the U.S. Diplomacy Center—the nation’s first museum and education center devoted exclusively to exploring the history, practice, and challenges of U.S. Diplomacy. The project is privately funded with donations to build a 21st century, state-of-the-art glass pavilion that will become a new public entrance at the Department of State’s headquarters.

GSA will oversee construction and awarded the construction contract to Gilbane Building Company through an open and competitive process. The architectural firm of Beyer Blinder Belle provided the modern concept design. Construction is set to begin early summer 2014 and it will take 18 months to construct the U.S. Diplomacy Center.

Something else to look forward to in 2016!

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State/OIG Releases Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process

— By Domani Spero

The State Department’s Office of the Inspector General released its Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process.  [See Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process (ISP-I-13-44A)  [491 Kb]  Posted on September 25, 2013].  The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between April 15 and August 13, 2013. The names of the inspectors have been redacted per [FOIA Exemption (b) (6)]  which “exempts from disclosure records or information which if disclosed would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” (Argh!!!)

The OIG report in short form says “The Accountability Review Board process operates as intended—independently and without bias—to identify vulnerabilities in the Department of State’s security programs.”

Among its key judgments are 1) the implementation of Accountability Review Board recommendations works best when the Secretary of State and other Department of State principals take full ownership and oversight of the implementation process; 2) per Benghazi ARB recommendation to enable future Boards to recommend that the Department of State take disciplinary action in cases of unsatisfactory leadership performance related to a security incident, State “plans to revise the Foreign Affairs Manual and request that Congress amend the applicable statute to incorporate this change.”

According to the report, the OIG team interviewed the four secretaries who held office between 1998 and 2012. “All stated that the ARB process was an effective tool that could provide the Department with important lessons for enhancing the security and safety of U.S. diplomatic facilities and employees. The interviews revealed that the secretaries had engaged actively in the ARB process and had taken the ARB and the resulting recommendations with utmost seriousness.”

The report does not include the names of the interviewees but the four SecState would have been Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), Colin Powell (2001-2005), Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (2009-2013)

The very same report notes that the “OIG team was not able to identify an institutionalized process by which the Secretary or Deputy Secretary engaged beyond the drafting and submission of the Secretary’s legislated report to Congress.”

Two former secretaries “raised questions as to whether the process is sufficiently robust for handling investigations of major, complex incidents, especially those in which the interests and actions of several agencies were involved.”

The report further noted that all four former secretaries described the inherent tug of war between risks and rewards as the Department conducts its business in dangerous places around the world:

Typically, the strong preference among those responsible for advancing U.S. policy objectives is to keep posts open whenever possible, even in dangerous places, while those officials responsible for security give priority to the risks and the possibilities for harm. Within the Department, these sometimes contradictory positions tend to be represented respectively by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and the Under Secretary of State for Management. For that reason, two former secretaries were strongly of the view that responsibility for reconciling these perspectives should be vested at the deputy secretary level. Indeed, one former Secretary told the OIG team that this concern was at the heart of the original proposal to create a second deputy secretary position, one that would have as a principal responsibility overseeing and reconciling these competing interests of policy and security on a daily basis.

The second deputy secretary position was first filled in 2009 during Secretary Clinton’s tenure.  The State Department describes the position as the Chief Operating Officer of the Department, but the official title is Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (D/MR).   The position “serves as principal adviser to the Secretary on overall supervision and direction of resource allocation and management activities of the Department.” The job summary posted online makes no special mention of this position as the arbiter when the competing interests between policy and security comes to the fore.

From 2009-2010, Jacob J. Lew was D/MR and oversaw the civilian surge in Afghanistan. From 2011-2013, Thomas R. Nides was D/MR and delivered State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  Most recently, President Obama announced the nomination of Heather Higginbottom, the new Counselor in the Office of the Secretary of State to be the third Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

We hope to do a follow-up post on the ARB Permanent Coordinating Committee and how come no ARB was convened following the attack at the US Embassy in Tunis in September 2012 despite “significant destruction of property.”

 (O_O)

Foggy Bottom Race: And the next Secretary of State is ….well, go ahead and speculate

With the presidential election over, the parlor game on who will be the next secretary of state has officially intensified with Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), current chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Susan Rice, current US Ambassador to the UN as front-runners. They are not the only ones mentioned but Kerry and Rice appears to be the the names that fuel the most media speculation.  “Unnamed officials” and “sources” are also working their media contacts, obviously with “inside” information highlighting their candidate’s prospects in this run for Foggy Bottom.

Senator John Kerry

One source quoted by Politico who is “familiar with the circumstances,” reported that Kerry “has the inside track,” having worked on President Obama’s debate-prep during the campaign.

Jezebel notes that the US hasn’t had a white male Secretary of State since 1997 and asks, “Is America ready?” It writes that “John Kerry’s tenure as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been remarkably free of in-chamber shootings,” and concludes that “any testosterone-producing, low emotion man is a ticking time bomb.”

James Traub over at FP asks, Would John Kerry do a good job of filling Hillary Clinton’s shoes? Traub writes that “the same restraint and reserve which made him such an unsatisfying presidential candidate have also made him the kind of consummate diplomat whom the White House has counted on to soothe troubled waters in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and elsewhere. [… If anyone can talk those guys off a ledge, it’s Kerry. […] Kerry has shortcomings. Who doesn’t? But I can’t think of anyone who would be better for the job.”

Hey! Even the Russians have a pick: “An unnamed source in the Russian foreign ministry told the Kommersant business daily that Moscow would “much prefer” to see Mr. Kerry take the post.

Yesterday, WaPo reported that President Obama is “considering John Kerry for job of defense secretary.” Apparently, Senator Kerry is surprised about the buzz that he is being considered as possible SecDef.

 

Ambassador Susan Rice

James Traub who wrote the “Secretary Kerry” piece over at FP explains why Ambassador Rice may not be the best choice: “Susan Rice is a pugnacious team player who, like Donilon, is more insider than outsider, and is notably deficient in that unctuous fluid which issues from the pores of professional diplomats.”

New York Times cites one administration characterizing Rice as “crippled” having been a favorite Republican target since she provided the administration’s initial accounts on the Benghazi attack.

Bloomberg News claimed she had emerged as the odds-on favorite blaring, UN Envoy Susan Rice Is Top Candidate to Succeed Clinton.  She is reportedly emerging as the “favored candidate” even with her baggage on Benghazi: “Six current or former White House officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said Rice remains close to President Barack Obama and shares many of his views on foreign policy.”

Today, the NYT also reports that “Ms. Rice, an outspoken, ambitious diplomat with close ties to Mr. Obama, has emerged as the clear favorite.”

WaPo adds that “senior administration officials familiar with the transition planning said that nomination will almost certainly go to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.”

 

National Security Advisor Tom Donilon

According to Traub’s FP piece, the current U.S. National Security Advisor “is a highly competent administrator who would die of impatience halfway through an interminable lunch with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.”

Now we can’t have that, can we?

The National Interest reported that “…in 2008 Donilon was considered for deputy secretary of state, but the Obama team thought that his previous role as in-house counsel to Fannie Mae was “toxic” and that he “might have serious problems in a Senate confirmation.”

Other names mentioned though not as loudly:

Bill Burns – currently Deputy Secretary of State, a respected career diplomat but not an Obama insider.

Chuck Hagel—the former Nebraska Senate Republican and co-chairman of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

Jon Huntsman – former Obama ambassador to China and GOP presidential primary contender 2012

Dick Lugar – Outgoing senator and soon to be former ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Moderate Voice writes: “Lugar would need no on the job training to become State secretary. He’s an old pro on the international stage and knows his way around Washington as well. He could take up the reins at the State Department with confidence. As a marathon runner who participated in one of the 26.2-mile races just a few weeks ago, he has the physical stamina for the job of chief US diplomat despite advancing years.” Senator Lugar is 80 years old.

Howard Berman – Outgoing chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. LAT writes that Berman who is 71, “has worked closely with the White House over four years on sensitive issues such as Iran and is known as competent and discreet, traits much prized by President Obama.”

How about a Colin Powell comeback?

George W. Bush’s first secretary of State has been speculated as a possible SecDef.  What about a comeback at State?  He endorsed President Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. Secretary Powell got the “The president would like to make a change” conversation eight days after George W. Bush’s second term reelection.  Don’t know if he would have stayed for the second term without that conversation but we know that he was mindful of the lasting blot on his record after that UN speech.  Another term as a secretary of state might help repair that damage?

But not a comeback for Condi Rice

Don’t call her maybe.  Condoleezza Rice already said she wouldn’t be interested in succeeding Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, even if asked to do so by President Barack Obama.

 

 

 

Former Secretaries of State in the News: Book Signing, Benghazi, Endorsement

Madeleine Albright who was Secretary of State from January 23, 1997 – January 20, 2001 under Bill Clinton was in a verbal altercation with a group of pro-Serbian activists at a book signing in Prague. And of course, they had their camera rolling and it made the news and YouTube:

Condi Rice who was SoS from January 26, 2005 – January 20, 2009 under George W. Bush was on Fox News about the Benghazi attack. She told Greta Van Susteren that “The Accountability Review Board… will indeed take a look at whether or not the preparations were adequate, given what was known about the intelligence picture. I myself have received reports from Accountability Review Boards.” And folks turned off their teevee.

Colin Powell who was SecState from January 20, 2001  –  January 26, 2005 under George W. Bush endorsed President Obama for the second term made a smaller splash than his 2008 endorsement. But Mr. Sununu (of the Air Sununu fame) suggested that Secretary Powell endorsed President O because both men are African American, and the endorsement became bigger news.  But … but Mr. Sununu and Mr. Romney are both … does that mean …. ?  Mr. Sununu went soft and all and  said in statement from the campaign that“Colin Powell is a friend, and I respect the endorsement decision he made, and I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the President’s policies.”  I don’t think these guy are getting together for Thanksgiving this year.