@StateDept Loses One More Under Secretary as Bruce Wharton (Public Diplomacy/Public Affairs) Steps Down

Posted: 4:31 am ET
Updated: July 29, 1:50 pm PT
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One of the State Department’s top three senior officials is retiring this week. Ambassador D. Bruce Wharton was designated as Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R) on December 8, 2016.  He was one of the top two senior officials who remained at the State Department after the January 20 transition (the other official was  Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. who is Under Secretary for Political Affairs). Ambassador Wharton’s main task is public diplomacy and public affairs engagement and to oversee the following bureaus: Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA)Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP)Bureau of Public Affairs (PA)Global Engagement Center (GEC); and the Office of Policy, Planning and Resources (R/PPR).

U/S Wharton’s second in command is listed as Mark Taplin, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). We understand that Mr. Taplin is also stepping down, so he will not be Acting “R”.

Apparently, there are no senior officials in the bureau who were previously confirmed by the U.S. Senate.  It is not clear to anyone on who might assume Ambassador Wharton’s duties and responsibilities when he steps down this week. The Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center is currently vacant and the deputy assistant secretaries (DASes) in the Public Affairs bureau are all on “acting” status.

We understand that Ambassador Wharton will transition to retirement via FSI’s retirement seminar but will retain and exercise the authorities needed to keep everything moving forward until another person is appointed to assume those authorities. But the retirement seminar is not very long, so at some point, absent a new nominee, Secretary Tillerson will need to appoint a senior official in an acting capacity to oversee “R.” 

Per authority delegated under section 308(a) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, as amended, the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (who is now also in an acting capacity) may recall any retired career member of the Service for active duty whenever he or she determines that the needs of the Service so require. This authority was used previously to fill temporary vacancies but apparently as of last Monday, recalled retired FSOs have had their recalls cancelled.

Ambassador Wharton served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs from 2015-2016. Prior to that he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe from September 2012 to November 2015. He has also served as the Bureau of African Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy, African Affairs Director of the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and Deputy Coordinator of the Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs. From 2003 to 2006 he was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala.

Bruce Wharton entered the Foreign Service in 1985 and has served at U.S. embassies in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. In Africa, he has also had temporary duty in Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana. From 1992 to 1995 he worked in Washington, D.C. on Andean Affairs and Western Hemisphere policy issues. He has received Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards from the Department of State and the U.S. Information Agency, and was the 2011 recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy.  He is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin and speaks Spanish and German.

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POTUS Designates Amb. Bruce Wharton Acting U/S For Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs

Posted: 12:28 am ET
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On December 8, Ambassador Bruce Wharton was designated as acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R). Quick bio below:

Ambassador Wharton served as as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs from 2015-2016. Prior to that he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe from September 2012 to November 2015. He has also served as the Bureau of African Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy, AF Director of the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and Deputy Coordinator of the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs. From 2003 to 2006 he was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala.

Bruce Wharton entered the Foreign Service in 1985 and has served at U.S. embassies in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. In Africa, he has also had temporary duty in Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana. From 1992 to 1995 he worked in Washington, D.C. on Andean Affairs and Western Hemisphere policy issues. He has received Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards from the Department of State and the U.S. Information Agency, and was the 2011 recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy.

He is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin and speaks Spanish and German.

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Confirmations: Cunningham, Cretz, Malac, Armbruster, Wharton, Holtz, Laskaris, Ries, Koenig, Kirby

On August 2nd, the United States Senate confirmed the following ambassadorial nominees:

PN1826 – James B. Cunningham, of New York, to be Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Executive Calendar #858 Gene Allan Cretz, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Ghana.

Executive Calendar #859 Deborah Ruth Malac, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Liberia.

Executive Calendar #860 Thomas Hart Armbruster, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Executive Calendar #861 David Bruce Wharton, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Zimbabwe.

Executive Calendar #862 Greta Christine Holtz, of Maryland, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Sultanate of Oman.

Executive Calendar #863 Alexander Mark Laskaris, of Maryland, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Guinea.

Executive Calendar #864 Marcie B. Ries, of the District of Columbia to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Bulgaria.

Executive Calendar #865 John M. Koenig, of Washington, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Cyprus.

Executive Calendar #866 Michael David Kirby, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Serbia.

That leaves Carlos Pascual, of the District of Columbia, nominated to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Energy Resources) as the only State Department nominee stuck in the Senate.  This nomination has been on the Executive Calendar since March 2012.  We are guessing that there is a senate hold on this but cannot find the tale of that hold as of this writing.

Also, the nominee for US Ambassador to Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Olson had his SFRC hearing on July 31st but it does not look like his nomination made it out of committee.

The Senate will have pro forma sessions starting Friday, August 3rd until Friday, September 7th and reconvenes on September 10 at 2:00 p.m.

Domani Spero

SFRC Clears Cretz, Malac, Wharton, Laskaris, Ries, Koenig, Kirby, Armbruster, Holtz

The Hill reports that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) on Thursday unanimously approved the following nominees for ambassadorships, setting up their possible approval by the full Senate before the August recess.

  • The Honorable Gene Allan Cretz, of New York, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana
  • Ms. Deborah Ruth Malac, of Virginia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Liberia
  • Mr. David Bruce Wharton, of Virginia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Zimbabwe
  • Mr. Alexander Mark Laskaris, of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea
  • The Honorable Marcie B. Ries, of the District of Columbia, to be an Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria
  • Mr. John M. Koenig, of Washington, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus
  • The Honorable Michael David Kirby, of Virginia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia
  • Mr. Thomas Hart Armbruster, of New York, to be Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • Ms. Greta Christine Holtz, of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman

The nine nominees will now join Carlos Pascual in the wait for the confirmation of the full senate. Mr. Pascual who was nominated to be the State Department’s first Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources was cleared by the SFRC in March 2012.

Domani Spero