U.S. Senate Makes Minor Dent in Logjam, Confirms Lewis (PM), Robinson (INL), Phee (AF), Medina (OES), Donfried (EUR)

Updated: 9/29/21

SFRC’s Jessica Lewis to be Asst Secretary for Political-Military Affairs (State/PM)

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On April 23, 2021 President Biden announced his intent to nominate Jessica Lewis to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs. The WH released a brief bio:

Jessica LewisNominee for Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Department of State

Jessica Lewis currently serves as Democratic Staff Director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Previously, from 2007 – 2014, she was the National Security Advisor and Foreign Policy Advisor, and then Senior National Security Advisor, to Senate Majority/Minority Leader Harry Reid. Earlier, Lewis was the Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to Senator Robert Menendez and, before that the Democratic Staff Director for the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, Ranking Member Robert Menendez. She also worked as Manager, New Initiative Development, and as Manager, Net Corps America, at the Organization of American States. Lewis received an MPA degree from Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, an MA degree from Johns Hopkins University, and a BA degree from Haverford College.

The last career appointee to the Pol-Mil bureau was Ambassador Thomas Edmund McNamara who served from 1994–1998. If confirmed, Ms. Lewis would succeed R. Clarke Cooper who served from 2019-2021.
Ambassador Tina Kaidanow served as Acting A/S prior to Cooper’s confirmation.  Senior FSO Timothy Betts has served as Acting A/S since the beginning of the Biden Administration.


R. Clarke Cooper Sworn-In as Asst. Secretary for Political-Military Affairs (State/T/PM)


R. Clarke Cooper was confirmed as Assistant Secretary for Political Military Affairs on April 30, 2019. He was sworn-in to office by Under Secretary Andrea Thompson on May 3rd. Pol-Mil is a bureau under the Arms Control and International Security (T) family. He succeeds Puneet Talwar who was bureau head from 2014–2017.  Ambassador Tina Kaidanow served as Acting A/S for Pol-Mil until her retirement from the Foreign Service in and move to the Pentagon in 2018.


Bureau of Counterterrorism’s Tina Kaidanow Moves to Pol-Mil Affairs, Justin Siberell Now Acting Coordinator

Posted: 1:35 am EDT
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The Bureau of Counterterrorism leads the Department of State in the whole-of-government effort to counter terrorism abroad and to secure the United States against foreign terrorist threats.

Via state.gov:

In 1994, Congress officially mandated the Bureau of Counterterrorism in Public Law 103-236 [H.R. 2333]. In 1998, Congress further defined the role of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism in Public Law 105-277 [H.R. 4328]:

“There is within the office of the Secretary of State a Coordinator for Counterterrorism…who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate…. The principal duty of the coordinator shall be the overall supervision (including policy oversight of resources) of international counterterrorism activities. The Coordinator shall be the principal adviser to the Secretary of State on international counterterrorism matters. The coordinator shall be the principal counterterrorism official within the senior management of the Department of State and shall report directly to the Secretary of State…The Coordinator shall have the rank and status of Ambassador at Large.”

Ambassador Tina Kaidanow who served as Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism (State/CT) since February 2014 has officially moved to the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs where she was designated Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State on February 22, 2016.  It looks like she is dual-hatted and is also the Acting Assistant Secretary for the PM bureau.

We’re not exactly sure when but Justin H. Siberell has also been designated as the Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Mr. Siberell entered the Foreign Service in March 1993, and joined the CT Bureau in July 2012.   He is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and was recently confirmed by the Senate to the rank of Minister-Counselor. Below is a brief bio via state.gov:

Before joining the CT Bureau, Mr. Siberell was Principal Officer in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Other overseas assignments include service at U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Baghdad, Iraq; Amman, Jordan; Alexandria, Egypt; and Panama City, Panama.

In Washington, Mr. Siberell completed tours in the State Department Operations Center and Executive Secretariat; as Desk Officer for Iran in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; and as Executive Assistant to the National Security Advisor at the White House.

Mr. Siberell was raised in California, and attended the University of California at Berkeley where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History.

Mr. Siberell is a 2002 graduate of the State Department’s Arabic Language Field School in Tunis, Tunisia. Mr. Siberell speaks Arabic and Spanish.

With some ten months left in this administration, we don’t know if there will actually be a new nominee for the counterterrorism bureau. The CT coordinator is ambassador rank and requires a Senate confirmation.  Is there a nominee waiting in the wings?  Even if there is one, it’s hard to say if that individual could even get confirmation, which seems to be worse than pulling an elephant’s teeth these days.  The leadership of the Bureau of Counterterrorism currently includes the following officials: