Confirmations: Gregory B. Starr, James Walter Brewster, Jr., Philip S. Goldberg

— Domani Spero

On November 14, the U.S. Senate confirmed the following nominations for the Department of State:

  • Gregory B. Starr – to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Diplomatic Security)
  • James Walter Brewster, Jr. – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Dominican Republic
  • Philip S. Goldberg – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of the Philippines

A/S Gregory Starr is not a stranger to Diplomatic Security, of course.  From July 2004 through March 2007, Mr. Starr served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Countermeasures where he was responsible for “formulating security policy and plans for countermeasures in the areas of physical security, technical security, and Diplomatic Courier operations for the Department’s overseas and domestic operations and facilities.”  He previously served as Director of the Diplomatic Security Service from April 2007 until his retirement in May 2009.  From May 2009 until January 2013, Mr. Starr served as United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security.  But he was soon back to the fold.  On February 1, 2013, he was named acting Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.  Mr. Starr succeeds Eric J. Boswell who held the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security job from 2008 until 2012, when the later was snared by Benghazi. But it looks like not everyone is happy to welcome Mr. Starr back.  In September, current and former State Department officials dished to The Cable’s John Hudson that “confirming Starr could be a mistake and raised a string of fresh allegations against him.” (See Allegations Swirl Around Obama’s Pick for State Department Security Chief).  That made a brief splash but  State stood behind the nominee, including the State Department Chief of Staff David Wade.  And Mr. Starr is now officially the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.

James Walter Brewster, Jr. was nominated by President Obama back in July.  Officially In: James “Wally” Brewster, Jr. to the Dominican Republic, an Island of Grace and Tolerance. Lots of noise about this nominee. Religious groups in the Dominican Republic were reportedly outraged by the nomination of a gay ambassador to this conservative country. They even organized  “Black Monday” protests. And then this happened:  Dominican Republic: Cardinal uses the word “faggot” to refer to US ambassador nominee. And this:  Diocese Of Catholic Cardinal Who Called Obama Ambassador Nominee ‘Faggot’ Has Pedophilia Scandal.   The end. The former National LGBT Co-Chair for the Democratic National Committee and Board Member of the Human Rights Campaign fund should soon be in Santo Domingo.

Philip S. Goldberg until recently was A/S to State/INR.   He was previously ambassador to Bolivia in 2006 and in 2008, Evo Knievel’s government gave him 72 hours to leave the country, after declaring him persona non grata.  He succeeds Ambassador Harry Thomas who departed the Philippines in October 2014.  With the departure of Ambassador Thomas, Deputy Chief of Mission Brian L. Goldbeck assumed duties as the Chargé d’Affaires.  US Embassy Manila’s presser says that “Chargé d’Affaires Brian L. Goldbeck led a joint U.S. government team to areas affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda to assess the damage and review relief operations with the Government of the Philippines.”  Sorry, no photos or videos available.

Currently unfolding in Ambassador Goldberg’s new host country is Operation Damayan, the U.S. humanitarian aid and disaster relief effort in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.  Below is BGEN Paul Kennedy, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade commander, talking to a Rueters reporter about his mission in the Philipines with Operation Damayan.

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington and support vessels arrived in the Philippines Nov. 14, 2013, to aid assistance efforts.  USNS Charles Drew, USS Emory S. Land, USS Bowditch, USS Lassen and USNS Yukon are now in the Philippines to provide relief efforts.  The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet on November 13 also directed the activation of USNS Mercy to prepare the hospital ship for possible deployment to the Philippines. If deployed, the ship currently berthed in San Diego will arrive in the island nation in December.

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Benghazi Attack: Closed-Door Briefings and Hearings All This Week

The Hill reports that three congressional panels will be holding closed-door briefings this week with administration officials at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Nov.13), the Senate homeland security panel (Nov.14) and the House and Senate intelligence panels (Nov.15). State Department officials are reportedly scheduled to brief the chairmen and ranking members of several House committees with jurisdiction over national security.

For two State Department officials, this week will be a packed schedule on the Hill.

  • Tuesday (Nov 13): Under Secretary Kennedy and Assistant Secretary Boswell will brief members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Wednesday (Nov 14): Under Secretary Kennedy and Assistant Secretary Boswell will brief members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
  • Thursday AM (Nov 15):  Under Secretary Kennedy will testify in a closed hearing before the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee
  • Thursday PM (Nov 15): Under Secretary Kennedy will testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Friday AM (Nov 16): Under Secretary Kennedy will brief Chairmen and ranking members from the House

During the House Oversight Committee hearing on October 10, U/S Kennedy and Charlene Lamb (Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs) testified on behalf of the State Department.  The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service Scott P. Bultrowicz, the most senior special agent did not testify.  Neither did Eric J. Boswell, the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, the top guy at Diplomatic Security, and who by the way, also reports directly to U/S Kennedy.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearings is “To Review Circumstances Surrounding September 11, 2012, Terrorist Attack in Libya and Intelligence and Security in Region”  and will focus on:

  • The intelligence collection and threat reporting relating to Libya and other Middle East countries prior to the September 11 attack, how and when that information was disseminated, and what actions were taken in response;
  • What is now known about the events of September 11, who was responsible for the attack, and what efforts are being made to find and hold those responsible to account;
  •  The Intelligence Community’s collection capabilities in the Middle East and North Africa, to include the levels of funding and availability of intelligence personnel with language and other skills necessary to operate in that part of the world; and
  • The level and adequacy of security at the State Department and other U.S. government facilities in the Middle East and North Africa, and whether current arrangements for providing security at these facilities are appropriate.

The House Intelligence Committee (also a closed hearing) will reportedly have Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Matt Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, CIA Director David Petraeus Acting Director Michael Morell and the State Department’s Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy who is probably the lowest ranked official among those invited.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) will also have a November 15 closed hearing on “Benghazi and Beyond: What Went Wrong on September 11, 2012 and How to Prevent it from Happening at other Frontline Posts” and currently has two witnesses listed:

  • Mr. Michael Courts, Acting Director, International Affairs and Trade, Government Accountability Office
  • Mr. William Young, Senior Policy Analyst, RAND Corporation

The Hill is however reporting that Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who has the inside track on the gavel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the 113th Congress, has “promised his Republican colleagues he would conduct a vigorous investigation of Libya.” Would have been much preferable if he promised the “American public” not just his “Republican colleagues” but it is what it is. We’ll see what happens next year.

We should note that the congressionally mandated Accountability Review Board for the Benghazi Attack started work the week of October 3.  Unless Ambassador Pickering requires additional time for the Board, the report and recommendations should be available to the Secretary at the end of the specified 60 day mark, which would be the week of December 3 or thereabouts.  The report presumably will be made available to the public given the interest on this case but for sure, it will also have a restricted classified annex given the other component.