NSC’s Christopher Ford to be Asst Secretary For International Security and Non-Proliferation

Posted: 4:16 am ET
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On October 31, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Christopher A. Ford, currently with the National Security Council to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation (ISN). The WH released the following brief bio:

Christopher Ashley Ford of Maryland to be an Assistant Secretary of State, International Security and Non-Proliferation.  Dr. Ford currently serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Counterproliferation at the National Security Council.  Dr. Ford served on several different committees in the U.S. Senate, served as a State Department official, and worked as a senior fellow at Hudson Institute.  Dr. Ford is the author of three books – China Looks at the West: Identity, Global Ambitions, and the Future of Sino-American Relations (2015), The Mind of Empire: China’s History and Modern Foreign Relations (2010), and The Admirals’ Advantage: U.S. Navy Operational Intelligence in World War II and the Cold War (2005) – and scores of articles and monographs.  He also served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, receiving an Honorable Discharge at the rank of Lieutenant Commander.  Dr. Ford earned an A.B., summa cum laude, at Harvard University, a D.Phil. at Oxford University in the United Kingdom (as a Rhodes Scholar), and a J.D. at Yale Law School.  A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, he lives with his family in Bethesda, Maryland.

Back in January, in a piece about the NSC, WaPo notes the following:

Longtime senate staffer Christopher Ford has joined the NSC staff to work on non-proliferation and nuclear issues. Ford has served as chief council for the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Banking Committee and most recently the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During the George W. Bush administration, Ford was a deputy assistant secretary of state in the bureau of arms control and international security, then led by John Bolton.

His Wikipedia page is here.

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U.S. Navy Vet Sean P. Lawler to Move From NSC to @StateDept to be Chief of Protocol

Posted: 12:51 am ET
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On September 9, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Sean P. Lawler to be Chief of Protocol. The WH released the following bio:

Sean P. Lawler of Maryland to be Chief of Protocol and to have the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service. Mr. Lawler is the Director for Visits, Planning, and Diplomatic Affairs at the National Security Council. Prior to that, Mr. Lawler was the Chief, Office of Visits and Protocol at the U.S. Cyber Command in Fort Meade, Maryland. A veteran with more than 20 years of service in the U.S Navy, Mr. Lawler capped his military service as the Director of Administration at the Naval Support Facility Thurmont (Camp David) in Thurmont, Maryland. Earlier, he was the Administrative Department Leading Chief Petty Officer and Ship’s Secretary on the USS John C. Stennis and he was an Executive Assistant to the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

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K.T. McFarland: From the National Security Council to U.S. Embassy Singapore

Posted: 2:07 am ET
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On May 19, President Trump announced his intent to nominate K.T. McFarland to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. The nomination was received by the Senate on June 15 and was referred (PN605) to the Committee on Foreign Relations for consideration. No confirmation hearing has been scheduled as of this writing.

Below is the WH statement on McFarland’s nomination:

President Donald J. Trump announces his intention to nominate Kathleen Troia (“K.T.”) McFarland to be the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore. Ms. McFarland currently serves as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor. As a highly-respected national security professional, Ms. McFarland has provided extensive analysis for Fox News. She served in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations on the National Security Council, and in the Department of Defense before joining the Trump Administration.

“I am pleased to nominate K.T. McFarland to be Ambassador to Singapore, one of America’s great allies,” President Trump said. ”While I am sorry to lose her, K.T.’s work in developing policies that put American interests first will have a lasting impact. She will remain an essential team member as she fulfills this new and important role.”

“K.T. provided essential and steadfast leadership during this transition,” said Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s National Security Advisor. ”She initiated and laid the foundation of the first strategic policy reviews that the NSC will continue to build upon. K.T. is leaving a great team in place to support the President, and our friends in Singapore know they are getting one of his top aides as their American ambassador.”

”I am honored by President Trump’s trust in me,” Ms. McFarland said. ”It’s been an incredible experience to serve here in the White House during his early months in office, and now I’m looking forward to implementing his policy with one of our key allies in Asia. I wish all my colleagues the very best, especially Lieutenant General McMaster, and I look forward to continuing to coordinate closely with them from my new perch in Singapore.”

McFarland’s successor at the NSC is Dr. Rick Waddell. Dr. Waddell spent 17 years working in the private sector in South America, living 12 of those years in Sao Paulo. Dr. Waddell, who is also a Major General in the U.S. Army Reserve, most recently commanded the 76th Division (Operational Response), an organization responsible for protecting the United States homeland. Dr. Waddell served multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Rhodes Scholar and author of three books, Dr. Waddell holds a PhD in International Relations from Columbia, an MA in History and Portuguese from Oxford, and a BS from West Point.

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Ambassador Chas Freeman: “NSC staff has evolved to resemble the machinery in a planetarium …”

Posted: 1:13 am ET
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Below is an excerpt from The End of the American Empire remarks to East Bay Citizens for Peace, the Barrington Congregational Church, and the American Friends Service Committee by Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.), Senior Fellow, the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, 2 April 2016, Barrington, Rhode Island:

We went into Afghanistan to take out the perpetrators of 9/11 and punish the Taliban regime that had sheltered them.  We did that, but we’re still there.  Why?  Because we can be?  To promote girls’ education?  Against Islamic government?  To protect the world’s heroin supply?  No one can provide a clear answer.

We went into Iraq to ensure that weapons of mass destruction that did not exist did not fall into the hands of terrorists who did not exist until our arrival created them.  We’re still there.  Why?  Is it to ensure the rule of the Sh`ia majority in Iraq?  To secure Iraq for Iranian influence?  To divide Iraq between Kurds and Sunni and Sh`ia Arabs?  To protect China’s access to Iraqi oil?  To combat the terrorists our presence creates?  Or what?  No one can provide a clear answer

Amidst this inexcusable confusion, our Congress now routinely asks combatant commanders to make policy recommendations independent of those proposed by their civilian commander-in-chief or the secretary of state.  Our generals not only provide such advice; they openly advocate actions in places like Ukraine and the South China Sea that undercut White House guidance while appeasing hawkish congressional opinion.  We must add the erosion of civilian control of the military to the lengthening list of constitutional crises our imperial adventurism is brewing up.  In a land of bewildered civilians, the military offer can-do attitudes and discipline that are comparatively appealing.  But American militarism now has a well-attested record of failure to deliver anything but escalating violence and debt.

This brings me to the sources of civilian incompetence.  As President Obama recently said, there’s a Washington playbook that dictates military action as the first response to international challenges.  This is the game we’ve been playing – and losing – all around the world.  The cause of our misadventures is homemade, not foreign.  And it is structural, not a consequence of the party in power or who’s in the Oval Office.  The evolution of the National Security Council Staff helps understand why.

The National Security Council is a cabinet body established in 1947 as the Cold War began to discuss and coordinate policy as directed by the president.  It originally had no staff or policy role independent of the cabinet.  The modern NSC staff began with President Kennedy.  He wanted a few assistants to help him run a hands-on, activist foreign policy.  So far, so good.  But the staff he created has grown over decades to replace the cabinet as the center of gravity in Washington’s decisions on foreign affairs.  And, as it has evolved, its main task has become to make sure that foreign relations don’t get the president in trouble in Washington.

Kennedy’s initial NSC staff numbered six men, some of whom, like McGeorge Bundy and Walt Rostow, achieved infamy as the authors of the Vietnam War.  Twenty years later, when Ronald Reagan took office, the NSC staff had grown to around 50.   By the time Barack Obama became president in 2009, it numbered about 370, plus another 230 or so people off the books and on temporary duty, for a total of around 600.  The bloat has not abated.  If anyone knows how many men and women now man the NSC, he or she is not talking.  The NSC staff, like the department of defense, has never been audited.

What was once a personal staff for the president has long since become an independent agency whose official and temporary employees duplicate the subject expertise of executive branch departments.  This relieves the president of the need to draw on the insights, resources, and checks and balances of the government as a whole, while enabling the centralization of power in the White House.  The NSC staff has achieved critical mass.  It has become a bureaucracy whose officers look mainly to each other for affirmation, not to the civil, military, foreign, or intelligence services..  Their focus is on protecting or enhancing the president’s domestic political reputation by trimming foreign policy to the parameters of the Washington bubble.  Results abroad are important mainly to the extent they serve this objective.

From the National Security Adviser on down, NSC staff members are not confirmed by the Senate.  They are immune from congressional or public oversight on grounds of executive privilege.  Recent cabinet secretaries – especially secretaries of defense – have consistently complained that NSC staffers no longer coordinate and monitor policy formulation and implementation but seek to direct policy and to carry out diplomatic and military policy functions on their own.  This leaves the cabinet departments to clean up after them as well as cover for them in congressional testimony.  Remember Oliver North, the Iran-Contra fiasco, and the key-shaped cake?  That episode suggested that the Keystone Cops might have seized control of our foreign policy.  That was a glimpse of a future that has now arrived.

Size and numbers matter.  Among other things, they foster overspecialization.  This creates what the Chinese call the 井底之蛙 [“jĭng dĭ zhī wā”] phenomenon – the narrow vision of a frog at the bottom of  a well.  The frog looks up and sees a tiny circle of light that it imagines is the entire universe outside its habitat.  With so many people now on the NSC staff, there are now a hundred frogs in a hundred wells, each evaluating what is happening in the world by the little bit of reality it perceives.  There is no effective process that synergizes a comprehensive appreciation of trends, events, and their causes from these fragmentary views.

This decision-making structure makes strategic reasoning next to impossible. It all but guarantees that the response to any stimulus will be narrowly tactical.  It focuses the government on the buzz du jour in Washington, not what is important to the long-term wellbeing of the United States. And it makes its decisions mainly by reference to their impact at home, not abroad.  Not incidentally, this system also removes foreign policy from the congressional oversight that the Constitution prescribes.  As such, it adds to the rancor in relations between the executive and legislative branches of the federal establishment.

In many ways too, the NSC staff  has evolved to resemble the machinery in a planetarium.  It turns this way and that and, to those within its ambit, the heavens appear to turn with it.  But this is an apparatus that projects illusions.  Inside its event horizon, everything is comfortingly predictable.  Outside – who knows? – there may be a hurricane brewing.  This is a system that creates and implements foreign policies suited to Washington narratives but detached from external realities, often to the point of delusion, as America’s misadventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria illustrate.  And the system never admits mistakes.  To do so would be a political gaffe, even if it might be a learning experience.

Read in full here.

Well, that’s not all.  On April 14, WaPo’s David Ignatius has the following Robert Gates’ nugget:

Gates criticized the current National Security Council’s implementation of policy, arguing that “micromanagement” by a very large NSC staff undercut Obama’s efforts to use power against the Islamic State and contain China in the South China Sea. “It becomes so incremental that the message is lost. It makes them look reluctant,” he said.

Gates’s criticism of the NSC is noteworthy because he served as deputy to national security adviser Brent Scowcroft in President George H.W. Bush’s NSC, which Obama has cited as a model for how policy should be managed. By that standard, Gates implied, the current NSC team, led by Susan Rice, needs to lift its game.

And then here’s the following extracted from Brett D. Schaefer‘s How to Make the State Department More Effective at Implementing U.S. Foreign Policy (backgrounder via heritage.org, April 20, 2016):

…To increase their direct control over foreign policy and their perceived capacity to deal with fast-evolving crises, modern Presidents have also increasingly empowered and expanded the size of the National Security Council (NSC).

The original NSC, established in 1947, comprised only a handful of key advisers to the President. It grew slowly at first. Total NSC staff did not exceed 20 until the 1970s, or 60 until the mid-1990s.[10] The size of the NSC spiked in the late 1990s and stabilized at roughly 100 staff in the post-9/11 period. NSC growth resumed in the latter part of the George W. Bush Administration, and this trend has accelerated under President Barack Obama. Currently, the NSC staff is estimated to be over 400 people, more than twice the number at the end of the Bush Administration.[11] This growth has been a direct result of the President relying more on the NSC to devise and implement his foreign policy than on the Department of State.

The expanding responsibilities of the NSC can undermine several of its critical functions: serving as an honest broker of differing perspectives and equities among the various parts of the executive branch, managing the President’s scarce time to focus on the most important issues, and providing medium-term and long-term strategic thinking and perspective to the President. The Hart–Rudman Commission noted this problem 15 years ago: “The power to determine national security policy has migrated toward the National Security Council (NSC) staff. The staff now assumes policymaking and operational roles, with the result that its ability to act as an honest broker and policy coordinator has suffered.”[12 ]While not new, this problem has grown since then. As explained by former Assistant Secretary of State and current Heritage Foundation fellow Kim Holmes,

The 24-hour news cycle has thrust many issues, no matter how trivial, into the limelight, making them the President’s responsibility. The news media expect every tactical detail, from the timing of a raid on a terrorist bunker to the targets of drone attacks, to be known and controlled by the President. As a result, the NSC staff gets overly involved not only in the minutiae of operations, but also in politics. It begins to operate more as a personal White House staff than as an advisory and policy coordination staff, sometimes even to the point of acting like a Praetorian Guard for the President’s political fortunes, which is particularly inappropriate given that many people on the staff are career civil servants from national security agencies rather than political appointees. The results are quite often disastrous.[13]

 

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Secretary Kerry With U.S. Delegation Set For Ceremonial Reopening of U.S. Embassy Cuba

Posted: 12:21 am EDT
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Secretary Kerry will be on a historic trip to Havana this Friday where he will preside over the ceremonial reopening of  the U.S. Embassy there. At a State Department background briefing, a senior administration official gave a quick rundown of the secretary’s events in Havana:

The opening ceremony, which is the flag-raising ceremony at the embassy, is principally a government-to-government event. It’ll include officials from the Cuban Government, a range of U.S. Government agencies, as well as members of Congress. There will be some U.S. and Cuban private citizens there, but it is primarily a government-to-government event, and it is extremely constrained in space. If you’ve ever been to our embassy, you know what the – I was somewhat amused to see it described as our front lawn, because it’s a very constrained space. But it is principally a government-to-government event, signifying this new relationship and the reopening of an embassy.

Later in the day, we are having a large event at the chief of mission’s residence, which is also a diplomatic installation, in which a broad range of groups will be invited, including the Cuban Government, Cuban Americans, Cuban artists and cultural leaders, the Diplomatic Corps, entrepreneurs, and Cuban political human rights and media activists.
[….]
On the issues of the Secretary’s delegation, let me say that I think, for example, one of the things that is most important to us is to make sure that our colleagues at the Treasury Department and the Commerce Department are recognized for their work in the change in policy, so there will be senior representatives from both those departments on the Secretary’s delegation. The regulations that were put in place after the President’s December 17th announcement were Treasury and Commerce regulations, and so it’s particularly important to us that those departments be represented by senior members. Obviously, we’ve long had colleagues from the Department of Homeland Security involved in our relationship with Cuba as part of our migration talk because they work on – for example, the Coast Guard has had a relationship with Cuba for a number of years now, a very productive operational relationship. So I think that it is those kinds of other agencies that will be part of this delegation.

Here’s a couple of interesting pieces on the road to this day:

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The State Department says that this visit is the first by a Secretary of State in 60 years. Or perhaps 70 years?

 

The U.S. Delegation, who’s in and who’s not?

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He’s not part of the official delegation but let’s give a shoutout 📣 to career diplomat Ricardo Zuniga!

In May, 2015, Mr. Zuniga completed a three-year detail with the National Security Council Staff, where he served as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs.  Last month, he assumed charged as Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

ricardo zuniga

President Barack Obama talks with Ricardo Zuniga, National Security Council’s Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, after the President delivered a statement on Cuba and the release of American Alan Gross in the Oval Office, Dec. 17, 2014. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice watches from the doorway. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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