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On April 15, President Biden announced his intent to nominate the following individuals for top positions in the geographic and functional bureaus of the State Department.
Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat to be Director General of the Foreign Service and the Chair of the Board of the Foreign Service (DGHR)
Karen Erika Donfried to be Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR)
Barbara A. Leaf to be Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (NEA)
Mary Catherine Phee to be Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (AF) and Member of the Board of Directors of the African Development Foundation (AFD)
Michele Jeanne Sison to be Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (IO)
Gentry O. Smith to be Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security (DS)
Anne A. Witkowsky to be Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) and Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization
For the geographic bureaus, President Biden previously nominated Ambassador Brian Nichols to be A/S for Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) and Ambassador Daniel J. Kritenbrink for the East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP). With these new nominees for EUR, NEA, AF and IO, we are now waiting for just SCA to complete the line up under the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P). The nominee for “P”, Victoria Nuland had her confirmation hearing before the SFRC on 4/15/21.
If all these nominees are confirmed, it looks like at the regional bureaus, Foggy Bottom will have one non-career appointee (EUR), one retired FS (NEA), four active career FS (WHA, EAP, AF, IO) , and one as yet unknown for SCA. During the previous administration, these top geographic bureau positions were all filled with non-career appointees (the assistant secretary for the AF bureau was a retired FS). This is a hopeful start.
The WH released the following brief bio:
Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, Nominee for Director General of the Foreign Service and the Chair of the Board of the Foreign Service
Marcia Bernicat, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as the Senior Official for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment and as Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs of the Department of State. Previously, she was the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh, U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea Bissau, and Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Human Resources at the State Department. She also served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassies in Barbados and Malawi and as Principal Officer of the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca, Morocco. Bernicat earned a Master of Science in Foreign Service Degree at Georgetown University and a Bachelor’s Degree at Lafayette College. Her foreign languages are French, Hindi and Russian and she is a recipient of the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award.
Karen Erika Donfried, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
Dr. Karen Donfried currently serves as President of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). Before assuming this position in April 2014, Donfried was the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council. Prior to that, she served as the National Intelligence Officer for Europe on the National Intelligence Council. She first joined GMF in 2001 after having served for ten years as a European specialist at the Congressional Research Service. When she was at GMF from 2005 to 2010, she first served as senior director of policy programs and then as executive vice president. From 2003-2005, she worked in the Policy Planning office at the U.S. Department of State, handling the Europe portfolio. Donfried has written and spoken extensively on German foreign policy, European integration, and transatlantic relations. She is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Center for European Studies. The King of the Belgians awarded the Commander of the Order of the Crown to her in 2020 and she became an Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2018. Additionally, she received the Cross of the Order of Merit from the German Government in 2011 and a Superior Service Medal from the National Intelligence Community in 2014. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Council on Germany. Donfried has a Ph.D. and MALD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, a Magister from the University of Munich, Germany and holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University. She is fluent in German.
Barbara A. Leaf, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
Barbara A. Leaf is the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Middle East and North Africa Affairs on the National Security Council. Prior to this, she was the Ruth and Sid Lapidus Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Director of the Beth and David Geduld Program on Arab Politics. She previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Arabian Peninsula in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq at the State Department. She directed the U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team in Basrah, Iraq and was the Department’s first Director of the Office of Iranian Affairs. Leaf also has served in Rome, Sarajevo, Paris, Cairo, Tunis, Jerusalem and Port-au-Prince. She speaks Arabic, French, Italian and Serbo-Croatian. Leaf has a Bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary and a Master’s degree from the University of Virginia.
Mary Catherine Phee, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the African Development Foundation
Mary Catherine Phee, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor, currently serves as Principal Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at the State Department. She was U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan from 2015 to 2017. Previously, she served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and as Chief of Staff in the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. She also was the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs and Deputy Security Council Coordinator at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, handling UN engagement in Africa for both portfolios. Earlier in her career, Phee served as Director for Iraq at the National Security Council and as Senior Civilian Representative of the Coalition Provisional Authority to Maysan Province, Iraq. She began her career in Amman, Jordan and also worked at U.S. Embassies in Cairo, Egypt and Kuwait City, Kuwait. She received the Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award for conflict resolution and peacemaking, the James A. Baker, III-C. Howard Wilkins, Jr. Award for Outstanding Deputy Chief of Mission, the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Order of the British Empire Award, and a Presidential Rank Award. She speaks Arabic. A native of Chicago, she is a graduate of Indiana University and holds a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
Michele Jeanne Sison, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
Michele Jeanne Sison, a five-time Ambassador, has extensive experience in advancing U.S. interests through multilateral diplomacy. Sison has served as U.S. Ambassador to Haiti since 2018. She also served as Deputy Representative of the United States to the United Nations (with the rank of Ambassador) from 2014 to 2018, where she helped build global coalitions to counter transnational threats to peace and security and advocated for a more effective, efficient, and accountable UN and multilateral system. She also has long experience with UN peacekeeping and the UN entities responsible for development, humanitarian relief, and human rights in the field. Previously, she served as U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Assistant Chief of Mission in Iraq, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Pakistan. Her earlier tours include India, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Benin, Togo, Haiti, and Washington. Sison received a B.A. from Wellesley College and is the recipient of numerous State Department awards, including the Distinguished Service Award and the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Service. She holds the personal rank of Career Ambassador, the highest rank in the U.S. Foreign Service.
Gentry O. Smith, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security
Gentry O. Smith leads The Gentry Group, LLC, a security consulting firm. A former career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, he served as the Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Countermeasures in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and the Director of Physical Security Programs in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the State Department. Other State Department postings include assignments as Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, Deputy Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, Burma. Smith also served as a Special Agent in the Criminal Investigative Liaison Division, Special Agent on the Secretary of State Protection Detail, and Assistant Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. He earned a B.A. in political science from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Anne A. Witkowsky, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations and Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization
Anne A. Witkowsky most recently served as the Co-Director of the Task Force on U.S. Strategy to Support Democracy and Counter Authoritarianism, a partnership of Freedom House, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the McCain Institute. She has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Stability and Humanitarian Affairs in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon and as the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Coordinator, and Deputy Assistant Coordinator, in the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism. Witkowsky was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC and earlier served as Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control on the National Security Council Staff at the White House. She earned a Master in Public Administration degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and a Bachelor’s degree from Yale. She has been recognized with a number of awards including the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service and the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service.
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