Heather Higginbottom Confirmed as Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources

— Domani Spero

On December 13, 2013, the U.S. Senate confirmed Heather Anne Higginbottom, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources with a 74-17 votes.

The next roll call votes will be at 5:30pm on Monday, December 16th for the confirmation of Ambassador Anne Patterson as Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs.

Now that Ms. Higginbottom is officially D/MR, there’s another vacancy in the top ranks of Foggy Bottom.  Citing senior officials, Laura Rozen of the Back Channel reported back in August that the former US Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon is likely to get tapped to succeed Ms. Higginbottom as Counselor to Secretary Kerry.

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Related posts:

 

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Interim Win For Diplomats Slows Down March To Another War. For Now.

— Domani Spero

(L to R) British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and US Secretary of State John Kerry,, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister

(L to R) British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, EU’s Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister (Photo via US Mission Geneva)

Here is the Fact Sheet: First Step Understandings Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program released by the WH on November 23.  You might also want to read Jeffrey Lewis’ piece on FP asking, if we can’t ease sanctions in exchange for concessions, what was the point of pressuring Iran. He is the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Lots of articles coming out right now on the Geneva deal, but there are a couple you don’t want to miss.  The Associated Press reported on the cloak and dagger diplomacy that happened behind the klieg lights with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, and National Security Council aide Puneet Talwar. See Secret talks between U.S., Iran set stage for historic nuclear deal.  As well, see Al-Monitor’s Exclusive: Burns led secret US back channel to Iran.

Of course, now folks will start wondering what’s real in the public schedule posted on state.gov.

But please — a toast to the diplomats and the support staff!  For every foreign minister present in the photo above, there were numerous nameless individuals who made the work in Geneva possible. Bravissimo for a win that did not involved a drone, a gun, or a deadly karate chop! Diplomacy still works and it did not wear combat boots this time.

Also, yesterday, Reuters reported that former hostage Bruce Laingen, the US chargé d’affaires in Tehran in 1979 favors diplomacy, “despite humiliation, solitary confinement and having a gun held to his head during the U.S. Embassy crisis in Iran three decades ago.” The report notes that “Former hostages who were diplomats appear more in favor of rebuilding a relationship with Iran than those who were military personnel at the time.” See  Former Iran hostages: amid rapprochement they still want apologies.   

Apparently, some pols are livid about this Iran deal, lining up before microphones, furiously writing op-eds, plotting the next moves and …..

Oh, hey, accuweather says the East Coast winter storm will snark Thanksgiving travel.  Safe travel peeps!

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Acting A/S Beth Jones Yanks Out “Disaster” DCM from NEA Post — Brava!

Back in January, we posted a brief item about Ambassador Beth Jones, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State of Near Eastern Affairs. (see QotW:  Will Beth Jones Be Formally Nominated as Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs?)

Recently, Laura Rozen of the Back Channel posted more on the rumored potential successor to Jeffrey Feltman at the NEA Bureau. Excerpt:

Acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs Beth Jones will not stay in the job in Obama’s second term, the Back Channel has previously reported. Among the rumored candidates in the mix to possibly succeed her, US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, Syria envoy Ford, and US Ambassador to Jordan Stuart Jones, who previously served as deputy US Ambassador in Iraq and DAS for Europe, diplomatic sources said. Other possibilities mentioned include US envoy to Iraq Robert Stephen Beecroft, US envoy to Turkey Francis Ricciardone, and NSS Senior Director for the Persian Gulf Puneet Talwar. The administration is, however, unlikely to pick an outsider/non career diplomat for the sensitive NEA post, especially in the wake of Benghazi, diplomatic sources said Friday, and suggested Patterson or Ford, both with past ambassadorships in the Arab world, would have an edge.

Read in full here.

While Ambassador Jones is not in the running for the top job at the NEA Bureau, we think she deserves credit for yanking out a deputy chief of mission described as “a disaster” from one of her NEA posts. Instead of letting things fester, as is often the case in the bureaucracy, this one was sent out packing to land back in WashDC.

The traditional arrangement for running an embassy assigns internal management of the mission to the deputy chief of mission. And while we recognize the many challenges in doing that, we are also convinced that not everyone who is a DCM is cut out to be one.  When the bureau let it stew too long particularly in a  sort of pressure cooker place, the mission gets, well, overly chewy and unpleasant.

So let’s hope that whoever takes over Ambassador Jones’ job at the NEA Bureau will show a similar propensity for tackling difficult managers in our overseas missions.  And while Secretary Kerry is reportedly relying on senior managers to take care of the big house while he is starting to beef up his miles, he ought to do something about the State Department’s  Recycling Division for bad managers.  We’re getting awfully tired seeing recyclees pop up here, there and the most unexpected places.

Dear Secretary Kerry, can you please send these recyclees to a leadership bootcamp, and no we don’t mean to the NFATC/ Foreign Service Institute where they cure them with Myers-Briggs.

A side note —

We recently posted about the “abysmal morale” at the US Embassy in Cairo, another NEA post (see US Embassy Bangui: 15% Danger Post With Terrifically Bad Trimmings, It’s Not Alone –Wassup Cairo?).  While writing this post, we received a note that a high-level visitor from DC will soon be in Cairo to discuss post morale.  We hope that trip is fruitful. We’d volunteer to be baggage handler so we can live-tweet the trip and the expected town hall with mission staff but folks might get shy ….

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QotW: Will Beth Jones Be Formally Nominated as Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs?

Laura Rozen of The Back Channel has the Buzz on Obama 2.0 Middle East team.  Excerpt below related to the ARB fallout:

Among the top questions is whether acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Affairs Beth Jones will be formally nominated for the post under Secretary of State-nominee John Kerry , or whether someone new will be tapped.  Jones, a career foreign service officer, is, like Kerry, the child of US Foreign Service parents, who spent much of her childhood living abroad accompanying them on foreign assignments, including in Germany and Moscow.

Jones, who previously served as Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East, and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (2001-2005), came out of retirement in the private sector (APCO Worldwide) to assist in the Near East bureau in 2011. She assumed the Acting Assistant Secretary job for the bureau after Jeff Feltman retired to take the number three job at the United Nations last May.

Department sources said, however, that some State rank and file officers are troubled that the Benghazi investigation resulted in the departure of Jones’ deputy, Raymond Maxwell, who had come out of retirement to serve as deputy assistant secretary of state for Libya in 2011, department sources told the Back Channel. The perception among some in the ranks is that Jones let Maxwell take the fall, while escaping blame herself, in part because of her relationship with Tom Pickering, the veteran diplomat who chaired the Benghazi Accountability Review Board investigation, a department source who declined to speak for attribution said. Jones and Maxwell did not immediately return requests for comment.

Read in full here.

So that’s the question of the week.

We have previously blogged about the ARB fallout on personnel at State, both in the DS and NEA bureaus here and here.  We do not think that Ms. Jones will be formally nominated for a couple of reasons:

  1. While it is true that she has been on the job for about three months as acting Assistant Secretary at NEA when the September 11 attack occurred, she was the incumbent sitting at the top of the accountable regional bureau during the Benghazi Attacks. Formally nominating her for the job would look like a promotion despite the deadly fiasco inside the bureau in the lead up to the attacks.  That’s not good optics and the conspiracy sector will have a field day.  Frankly, we can’t even imagine what that confirmation would be like at the SFRC with Senators John McCain and Rand Paul plus newly minted senator from Arizona named Flake, joining in the fun, if she is nominated.
  2. If rank and file officers were troubled with the departure of NEA DAS Raymond Maxwell in the aftermath of the ARB report, imagine what the morale would be like if she formally assumes the job. With a new secretary of state, not sure, this is something he would really want to deal with at the start of his tenure. The incoming SecState has an opportunity to start with a new slate, we think that’s what he’ll do — not because of inside knowledge (we have none) but because that makes the most sense.

Besides — what’s this proclivity with calling people back from retirement?  How about these folks?  None of them qualified to run the bureau with lots of countries in the hotzones?  Where’s the next generation of State Department leaders coming up the ladder? Zap us an email if you know their undisclosed locations.

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