Asst Secretary For Western Hemisphere Kimberly Breier Quits; Second Loss For Regional Bureaus in 2019

 

 

The Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) Kimberly Breier who assumed charge of the bureau on October 15,  2018 has resigned. She was barely 10 months into her tenure (she was with S/P prior to her WHA appointment). The AP reports that she “stepped down earlier this week, although they offered differing reasons for her departure.” Two AP sources say that Breier cited personal reasons for her decision, but that “the two officials suggested it was prompted by differences over a recent migration accord with Guatemala.” A congressional aide told the AP that her departure was “mainly driven by family responsibilities.” The WaPo report includes an item about a clash with White House darling Stephen Miller over Trump’s Guatemala asylum accord.
Secretary Pompeo tweeted that Ms. Breier is “stepping down to spend more time with her family.” [Sorry, gotta LOL here. He really did tweet that]. Ms. Breier also tweeted her “profound thanks” to the president and the secretary of state, and for the “friendship and support” of the president’s daughter and son-in-law.
This resignation follows the departure of EUR’s Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell who left his post after some 16 months on the job. A/S Mitchell took office in October 2017 and left Foggy Bottom in February 2019 (see EUR’s Wess Mitchell Quits, New Acting EUR A/S Millard Reportedly to Retire 2/22).  That position is currently filled by career diplomat Philip T. Reeker who has been appointed Acting Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs since March 18, 2019. As far as we are aware, no nominee for EUR has been announced.
The latest departure means that three of the seven  geographic bureaus within the State Department will have officials appointed in an acting capacity (SCA, EUR, WHA).  Assistant secretaries appointed to EAP and NEA were just confirmed this past June.
So now the next question becomes, who will be the new assistant secretary at WHA? If State follows its normal ladder, career diplomat Julie Chung who assumed position as WHA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in November 2018 would be the Acting Assistant Secretary until a new nominee is announced and confirmed.  But these days, under the chaos strategy intended to confuse friends and enemies alike, we just don’t really know anymore.

 

Assistant Secretary Breier and Special Representative Abrams Meets With With Fabiana Rosales, Wife of Interim President Guaido
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Kimberly Breier and Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams meet with Fabiana Rosales, wife of Interim President Juan Guaido of Venezuela, and Venezuelan Ambassador to the U.S. Carlos Vecchio at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 27, 2019. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]


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Amb Philip Reeker to Return to @StateDept as EUR’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary

Posted: 12:01 am EDT

 

Via @StateDept deputy spox:

“We are delighted to welcome back Ambassador Philip Reeker to Washington later this month. On March 18th, he will become the principal deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary of the Department of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Now, Ambassador Reeker is a career Foreign Service officer who’s currently the civilian deputy commander at the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart. He’s previously served as the consul general in Milan; as the deputy assistant secretary for the Balkans, Central Europe, as well as Holocaust issues; as the United States ambassador to what is now North Macedonia; and – the only blight on his entire professional career – he was previously the department’s deputy spokesperson.”

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EUR’s Wess Mitchell Quits, New Acting EUR A/S Millard Reportedly to Retire 2/22

Posted: 1:57 am EST

Big news last week was the soon to be departure of EUR’s Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell who is leaving his post after some 15 months on the job. A/S Mitchell took office in October 2017 and is resigning from his appointment effective February 15. The State Department announced that the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) Elisabeth Millard will serve as Acting A/S for the European and Eurasian Affairs. We’re not sure how long she will be in that acting capacity as we understand that her paperwork has been submitted to retire on February 22. The bureau appears to have six career DASes, two special envoys (one career, one noncareer), and one vacancy (Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia  – is this a newly created position?). In any case, let us know when you know who will be the next Acting A/S.

Tillerson Swears-In Wess Mitchell as Asst Secretary For European and Eurasian Affairs (State/EUR)

Posted: 3:06 pm ET
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After almost ten months, the State Department formally gets its first assistant secretary for one of its six geographic bureaus. On November 2, Secretary Tilerson sworn-in A. Wess Mitchell as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.  The Department of State first established a Division of Western European Affairs in 1909, which handled European nations primarily bordering on the Atlantic Ocean and their colonies. The name changed to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs on August 8, 2001. A/S Mitchell’s predecessors include Victoria Nuland (2013–2017), Philip H. GordonRichard Charles Albert Holbrooke (1994–1996); Lawrence Sidney Eagleburger (1981–1982), and Walter John Stoessel Jr. (1972–1974) to name a few.

Related:

Assistant Secretaries of State for Geographic Areas (Historical List)

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Senate Confirms Mitchell (EUR), Siberell (Bahrain), Bass (Afghanistan), Huntsman (Russia)

Posted: 12:40 am ET
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On September 28, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination for the new Assistant Secretary for State for EUR, and the nominees as chiefs of mission to Bahrain, Afghanistan, and Russia.

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SFRC Clears Huntsman (Russia), Siberell (Bahrain), Mitchell (EUR), Dowd (AfDB)

Posted: 12:12 am ET
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On September 26, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the following nominations:

Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., of Utah, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Russian Federation (Sep 26, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report).

Justin Hicks Siberell, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

A. Wess Mitchell, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (European and Eurasian Affairs), vice Victoria Nuland.

The SFRC also cleared the nomination of J. Steven Dowd, of Florida, to be the United States Director of the African Development Bank for a term of five years, vice Walter Crawford Jones, who resigned.

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More Departures: John Heffern (EUR), Tracey Ann Jacobson (IO), Bill Brownfield (INL)

Posted: 4:16 am  ET
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Last week, FP reported that Tracey Ann Jacobson, 52, a career foreign service officer who served as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau for International Organization Affairs (IO), announced her plans to take early retirement to her staff.  The current Assistant Secretary of State of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William R. Brownfield who was appointed to post in January 10, 2011, reportedly also told his bureau that he would step down by the end of September.  Just a few weeks ago, Ambassador Brownfirled was still rumored as in the running for the WHA post. The two departures in addition to the Acting Assistant Secretary of the European Affairs Ambassador John Heffern who also stepped down from post before the confirmation of the EUR nominee.

With the exception of EUR, no nominees have been announced for IO or INL, which means, the musical chairs will continue in Foggy Bottom. In the case of Ambassador Heffern, he is stepping down prior to the confirmation of the EUR nominee Wess Mitchell (2017-07-25 PN816 Department of State | A. Wess Mitchell, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (European and Eurasian Affairs)).  Presumably, the nominee will be confirmed but we won’t really know until it happens or when. As of this writing, Mr. Mitchell’s nomination is pending in the SFRC and no hearing schedule has been announced.  This has now become a trend in Foggy Bottom — acting assistant secretaries replaced with other acting assistant secretaries absent the nomination of actual nominees. Which doesn’t make sense, folks adjusting to these new bosses who will be gone when later new bosses will be appointed to take their places.

It could always get worse, of course. Maybe you’ll show up for work on Monday reporting to a two-eyed new boss, and by Friday, you get a three-eyed new boss.

We don’t know who will be in acting capacities for IO and INL but we were informed that Ambassador Elisabeth I. Millard, a career diplomat who was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to Tajikistan on December 14, 2015 is coming in a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (PDAS) and presumably will be acting EUR pending the Mitchell confirmation.  Under normal times, she would be on a typical 3-year tour so she would not be expected to rotate out of Tajikistan until next year. But these are abnormal times.  Abnormal times in more ways than one. Would anyone actually be surprised if it turns out that a top official is pushed out in all likelihood because of a tweet?

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Nomination: CEPA’s A. Wess Mitchell to be Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs

Posted: 1:30 am ET
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On July 20, President Trump announced his intent to nominate A. Wess Mitchell to be the Assistant Secretary of State for the European and Eurasian Affairs. The WH released a brief bio:

A. Wess Mitchell of Virginia to be an Assistant Secretary of State, European and Eurasian Affairs. Mr. Mitchell is an expert on NATO and transatlantic relations. In 2005 he co-founded the Center for European Policy Analysis and has served as its President and CEO since 2009. He serves on numerous policy boards in the United States and Europe. Mr. Mitchell earned a B.A. from Texas Tech University, a M.A. from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and recently completed his Ph.D. at Freie Universität, in Berlin, Germany. He speaks German and has studied Dutch and Czech.

Clips:

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Ken Weisbrode’s The Atlanticists: An American Diplomacy Story as Cracks Appear in U.S.-Europe Alliance

Posted: 12:07 pm PT
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Kenneth Weisbrode is a historian at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Fiesole, Italy. He was formerly a defense analyst at the Atlantic Council of the U.S. and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

His book, The Atlanticists is “the history of the American commitment to Europe in the twentieth century as seen through the eyes of the personalities who made it. Such commitment did not emerge serendipitously. It was carefully constructed and cemented by a network of diplomats and politicians that imagined, built, and sustained a new international system centered on the Atlantic. In their vision, America and Europe were essential parts of a single, cooperative community, not rivals or one another’s periodic savior. Mr. Weisbrode reveals–for the first time, warts and all–the insider’s story of the people who built this community.”

Given the current strain in the U.S.-European relationships, and the danger of the alliance coming apart, this is the book we’re currently reading. He writes:

Roosevelt was not the first president to serve as his own foreign minister but he took the practice to new lengths in sowing so much confusion, redundancy, rivalry and antipathy in the bureaucratic  ranks that the young foreign service was very nearly nipped in the bud. The New Dealers he promoted in Washington were willing coconspirators in the emasculation of what many of them considered to be a heavily Republican State Department. What they did not erode from negligence they wounded by frontal attack.

Oh. So what’s going on right now … ‘All this has happened before, and will happen again’, like the Cylons’ mantra. Time to re-watch Galactica!

But hey, did you know about that young diplomat who was recalled from an overseas post because the then secretary of state was reportedly infatuated with the diplomat’s wife?  That young diplomat was later given the task of remaking the State Department — not by the infatuated secretary of state — but by a successor named “sleepy Phil.” Pause here and imagine the nicknames they’re going to call you in the history books.

And get this, the first head of the EUR bureau was the son of a senator who apparently demanded it as a condition for supporting the legislation for the 1909 departmental reorganization.

This, this note though about the secretary of state: “treated as a clerk who receives orders which he has to obey at once and without question” is almost too funny to read now.

Or the then secretary of state after his resignation who wrote to his nephew John Foster Dulles, “The question asked is, ‘where is he to find a rubber stamp?'”  Those diplomats, they never unintentionally throw an insult; and they know enough to put it in writing for historians to find.

Ken Weisbrode’s other books include:

Below is an excerpt courtesy of Kindle Preview:

 

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Coming Soon to PBS — That CG Istanbul Position Is Apparently Another Foggy Bottom Drama

Posted: 2:50 pm EDT
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This is a follow-up post to Whoa! The Next Consul General in Istanbul Will Be a Political Appointee?  When we wrote about this last week, it was not clear to us if the rumored candidate for the CG Istanbul position is a Civil Service employe or a political appointee of the bundler kind. We’ve since learned that the candidate is neither.

Three sources informed us that the new CG slated for Istanbul is a newly minted FS-01. For some readers not familiar with Foreign Service ranking, that’s the topmost rank in the Foreign Service below the Senior Foreign Service. An FS-01 is equivalent in rank to a colonel in the U.S. military.  Counselor, the lowest rank in the Senior Foreign Service is equivalent in rank to a one star general in the U.S. military. One source put it this way:

While it’s a bit unusual that CDA would grant a senior cede to allow [snip](an FS-01) to take such a high profile SFS job, [snip] was Executive Assistant to the Secretary.  I imagine that helped with HR.  Some would argue that’s a bit of a scandal (not me though…) but I think we can all agree, even if that is a scandal, it’s a lot less of a scandal, than a political appointee taking that job.

So the good news is that the WH/State Department is not sending an Obama bundler to assume the Consul General’s position in Istanbul. Yo! We can hear your collective sigh of relief all the way here! But we can also hear all the drama going on.

CDA is the Office of Career Development and Assignments at the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources. Since this is a stretch assignment across the senior threshold (think colonel assigned to a general’s position), this would require what’s called a “senior cede” which HR/CDA/SL usually grants only after determining that no senior employee is seeking the senior position.

Seriously, no senior diplomat of the C, MC or CM kind asked to go to Istanbul? Who believes that?  Or perhaps the more interesting question is who drove the John Deere high speed dozer to clear the obstacle path from the 7th Floor to Istanbul?

Here’s the Hiawatha by the way, at a ready in Istanbul for whoever ends up going there.

IST_hiawata

A separate source informed us that the next Consul General to Istanbul was not only a previous member of Secretary Kerry’s staff, the staffer also worked for an Executive Secretary of the State Department. That Executive Secretary is now the U.S. ambassador to Turkey.

We understand that there was “a ton of drama” associated with this assignment.  “Crammed down EUR’s throat,” that is, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs’ throat, we heard.   There are apparently, “heartaches” in Foggy Bottom related to this appointment. Another alleged that the assignment was done through “irregular means” and that the “job wasn’t announced in FSBid” among other things.

And just like on teevee, there’s more.

CG Istanbul is a language designated position. That means you either need to already know Turkish  or must get the Turkish language level required for the job. Allegations have also surfaced that the State Department has now reportedly waived the language requirement for this position.  Language waivers are not unheard of, of course, but … given what’s going on in Turkey ….

Say, is this the best the State Department can do for its diplomatic post and staff in Istanbul?

Our man in Istanbul, Chuck Hunter has been an FSO since 1990, so he has some 25 years of experience in the Foreign Service. He was Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq (2011-12) and served in Damascus as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy to Syria (2009-11). He previously worked in Cairo, Tunis, Muscat and Jerusalem. In addition to various D.C. tours, he also served as the Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader, based in Al-Hillah, Iraq.  He speaks Turkish, Arabic and French.

The principal officer in Adana, the smallest constituent post in Turkey (with four direct hire employees) is Linda Stuart Specht who assumed her duties last August.  She has been an FSO since 1989. She has spent about 26 years in some difficult and dangerous places around the world. She previously served in positions in U.S. missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, and Suriname.  Her most recent previous assignments were as Deputy Director of Pakistan Affairs (2012-2014), Director of the Office of Economic Sanctions and Counter Terrorism Finance (2011-2012), and Deputy Director for Arabian Peninsula Affairs (2009-2011). She speaks Turkish, Dutch, French, and Vietnamese.

We should note that the Consulate General in Istanbul is actually larger than many embassies around the world. So, it looks like next year, an FS-01 will oversee U.S. Government relations in a city that is the commercial, financial, cultural, educational, and media capital of Turkey. The same official will also supervise other FS-01s in Istanbul.  The last time we’ve seen a midlevel official successfully appointed to a similar high profile posting was in 2005 when an FS-02 became an Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.

In any case, back in the fall of 2014, there was also a rumor that a staffer from the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, (the Department’s fourth-ranking official), allegedly wanted the Iran Watcher position in London. (see Is This Iran Watcher London Position Not Bidlisted About to Go to a “P” Staffer?). After a fuss was raised, the job apparently went to an FSO. Another Iran Watcher job was reportedly then created in Amsterdam. But there was an Iran Watcher already in language training whose assignment to Erbil, Iraq was cancelled; that individual eventually ended up with the Amsterdam assignment.

Assignments on the 7th floor must be quite hazardous and perilous. One staffer almost end up in London, then Amsterdam, and now one is reportedly going to Istanbul. Who’s next? Secretary Kerry’s pilot as the next Consul General to Bora Bora? Yes, we know there is no CG Bora Bora … well, not yet, anyway.

It’s a good thing that the State Department as an institution has “embraced” what is apparently “an overarching set of Leadership Principles” contained in 3 FAM 1214. This part of the FAM talks about supervisors and managers having “a unique opportunity and responsibility to lead by example.” 

Hey, look!  Things are growing crazy as heck over in Turkey.

Oh, yeah?

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