July 20 SFRC Hearing: Kay Bailey Hutchison to be U.S. Ambassador to NATO

Posted: 1:22 am ET
Updated: 11:48 am PT
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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) is holding a confirmation hearing on the nomination of former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to be the next U.S. Ambassador to NATO.

Date: Thursday, July 20, 2017
Time: 09:30 AM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Corker

A live video of the hearing and the prepared testimony will be posted here when available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Per Section 712 of the Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017, the State Department is required to post the Certificates of Competency online within seven days of transmittal to the Senate.  As of this writing, there is no report available online for Senator Hutchison.

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Trump Nominates Former TX Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to be Ambassador to NATO

Posted: 3:55 am ET
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Secretary Tillerson Travels to Germany For G-20, Also @StateDept Counselor Steps Down

Posted: 12:50 am  ET
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first official trip as SecState is to Bonn, Germany from February 15-17 to participate in the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

According to a SAO, Secretary Tillerson will have “a couple of key themes from his meetings will be to reassure everyone of our continued commitment to transatlantic relations and to our commitments – transatlantic commitments in NATO and otherwise, and to urge solidarity with Europeans on Ukraine and on Russia, on the Minsk, and to push Russia to honor its commitments, both in Ukraine and elsewhere.”

He will also have a bilateral meeting with the Saudi foreign minister and a second meeting with a gathering of six of the key players (U.S., UK, the Emiratis, the Saudis, the UN, and the Omanis) to discuss Yemen.

More here.

In related news, career ambassador Kristie Kenney, one of the three remaining top senior officials at the State Department was reportedly let go this week.  Ambassador Kenney was appointed Counselor to the Secretary of State in February 2016 (see Secretary Kerry Appoints Kristie Kenney as State Department Counselor).  We do not as yet know if this is a resignation, or a retirement from the Foreign Service.  With her departure, only one Senate-confirmed official remains at the top ranks of the State Department (Tom Shannon (P)). Career diplomat Bruce Wharton who previously served as Ambassador to Zimbabwe also remains as Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R).

Seven of the nine senior State Department positions are now vacant. It looks like all under secretary positions, with the exception of “P” and “R” are vacant with no officials designated in an acting capacity. For the Under Secretary for Management, we understand that one John W. Hutchison, a member of the Trump Transition is “Acting M” for 120 days.

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How many @StateDept people remain unaccounted for after the #BrusselsAttacks? (Update #5)

Posted: 3:23 am EDT
Update #1: 7:02 pm EDT
Update #2: March 25, 12:27 am EDT
Update #3: 12:25 pm EDT
Update #4: 3:51 pm EDT
Update #5: 5:57 pm EDT
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Updated: 7:02 pm EDT: We understand that there are two individuals with the State Department who are unaccounted for in Brussels at this time. We will update when we learn more.

Updated: March 25, 12:27 am EDT: One of the two State Department individuals still missing in Brussels is a family member and part of mission under Chief of Mission authority. The second one is reportedly USG but is not part of the tri-mission (we don’t know at this time if employee or family member). 

Update #3: 12:25 am EDT: One is a family member and reportedly part of the USNATO mission; the second one who is USG but is not part of the tri-mission is also a family member.  

Update #4: 3:51 pm EDT:  The two unaccounted for are now the first two confirmed USG fatalities in Brussels. According to the AP  the State Department has confirmed that the families of two Americans had been informed of their deaths in the attacks Tuesday. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said the names were being withheld out of privacy considerations. 

Update #5: 5:57 pm EDT: According to ABCNews, the two Americans killed in Brussels this week have been confirmed as the spouses of U.S. personnel. “A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that the two Americans were living in Europe at the time of the attacks. Their names have not been released and the families have asked for privacy.”

Via state.gov | Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson, Daily Press Briefing, March 23, 2016:

“So in terms of State Department or U.S. Government personnel, that is still also ongoing. We still have not accounted for every official U.S. Government employee or their members – or family members on the ground in Belgium – or in Brussels, rather. Partly, that reflects the size of the mission or three missions. There’s a bilateral mission, there’s a mission to the EU, as well as a mission to NATO. And as I said, partly reflects the fact that there’s a number of injured in the hospital – in hospitals around the city, and we’re still trying to gain access and trying to determine the identity of those and the nationality, obviously, of those individuals.”

The Brussels Tri-Mission includes U.S. Embassy Brussels, the U.S. Mission to the European Union (USEU), and the U.S. Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (USNATO). Each mission has its own ambassador and DCM. Posts often have an administrative “warden” system for the official U.S. citizen community.  Shortly after the attacks, the mission’s or tri-mission’s phone tree/notifications would have been activated. But we should also note that the Tri-Mission has one of the heaviest visitor workloads in the world due to the num­ber of U.S. agencies that conduct business in Brussels.

 

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Around the Foreign Service — Remembrances and Commemorations, Memorial Day 2015

Posted: 5:28 pm  PDT
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US Embassy Belgium

U.S. Memorial Day commemorations in Belgium | Each year, the U.S. Embassy to the Kingdom of Belgium observes Memorial Day by participating in commemoration ceremonies to honor the more than 14,000 American soldiers buried in Belgium in World War One and World War Two cemeteries.

Photo by US Embassy Brussels/FB

Photo by US Embassy Brussels/FB

US Embassy Romania

US Embassy Bucharest, Romania |  Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Dean Thompson at the occasion of Memorial Day Ceremony. Bucharest, May 22, 2015 (Lucian Crusoveanu / Public Diplomacy Office)

Photo by US Embassy Romania/Flickr

Photo by US Embassy Romania/Flickr

US Mission NATO

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US Embassy United Kingdom

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USCG Strasbourg, France

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US Consulate Halifax, Canada

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US Embassy New Zealand

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US Embassy Netherlands

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Snapshot: Defense Spending in NATO Member States

— Domani Spero
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On September 2, President Obama arrived in Tallinn, Estonia. From September 4-5, he will be in Wales for the NATO Summit. There will be 60 world leaders, 70 foreign ministers, 70 defence ministers and 28 NATO member countries invited to the UK summit.

According to the CRS, the formal summit agenda is expected to focus on three main issues:

• Enhancing allied readiness and strengthening collective defense and military capabilities, including through increased troop rotations and military exercises in Central and Eastern Europe;

• Marking the conclusion of NATO’s decade-long mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014 and launching a planned follow-on training mission; and

• Enhancing NATO’s support of partner countries outside the alliance, including through a new “Defense Capacity Building Initiative.”

Apparently, also a key discussion that must be had during the summit is the defense spending of member states.  Below via the CRS:

A key question underlying summit deliberations on collective defense will be whether the allies are willing to devote the resources necessary to meet their stated commitments. As such, a primary objective of NATO leaders and U.S. and UK officials, among others, is to secure allied pledges to reverse the ongoing downward trend in allied defense spending.

In 2013, total defense spending by NATO European allies as a percentage of GDP was about 1.6%; just four NATO allies (Estonia, Greece, the UK, and the United States) met the alliance’s goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense (see Appendix for more allied defense spending figures).  Since 2001, the U.S. share of total allied defense spending has grown from 63% to 72%.13 Many analysts and U.S. officials have long asserted that defense spending in many European countries is not only too low; it is also inefficient, with disproportionately high personnel costs coming at the expense of much-needed research, development, and procurement. In 2013, only four allies (France, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States) met a NATO guideline to devote 20% of defense expenditures to the purchase of major equipment, considered a key indicator of the pace of military modernization.

via CRS

via CRS (click on image for larger view)

Follow the NATO Summit Wales 2014 via GOV.UK here.

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Round-Up: Swearing-In the New American Ambassadors

— Domani Spero

US Mission to the United Nations
@VP Biden swears in Samantha Power as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. on August 5, 2013

@VP Biden swears in Samantha Power as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. on August 5, 2013

US Mission NATO
The new #US Ambassador to #NATO, Douglas Lute was sworn in by #SecKerry on Aug 15.

The new #US Ambassador to #NATO, Douglas Lute was sworn in by #SecKerry on Aug 15.

US Embassy United Kingdom
Barzun_swearing_in_at_State_15aug2013-pic2_300x234

15 August 2013 – Ambassador Matthew Winthrop Barzun is sworn in by Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department in Washington (State Dept. photo)

U.S. Embassy Republic of Congo
US Embbrazaville

Ambassador to the Republic of Congo Stephanie S. Sullivan was sworn-in in August at the State Department by Deputy Secretary Burns.

U.S. Embassy Ukraine
Deputy Secretary Bill Burns swears to office new U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt at the State Department on July 30, 2013 (State Department photo)

Deputy Secretary Bill Burns swears in new U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt at the State Department on July 30, 2013 (State Department photo)

U.S. Embassy Cote d’Ivoire
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a swearing-in ceremony for Terry McCulley as U.S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on October 18, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a swearing-in ceremony for Terry McCulley as U.S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on October 18, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

 

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Today at the SFRC: Nuland, Lute, Baer

By Domani Spero

 

Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold confirmation hearings for the following State Department nominees:

Presiding: Senator Murphy

Date: Thursday, July 11, 2013

Time: 02:15 PM

Location: Senate Dirksen 419

Nominees:

  • The Honorable Victoria Nuland of Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
  • Mr. Douglas Edward Lute of Indiana, to be United States Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • Mr. Daniel Brooks Baer of Colorado, to be U.S. Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in EuropeClick here to view the  scheduled live webcast and prepared testimonies.

 

A live webcast and the prepared testimonies of the nominees will be posted here when available.

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Thursday Inbox: Is it appropriate to send a retired general to be ambassador to USNATO?

From our inbox, a question about the recent nomination to NATO:

I don’t know Doug Lute.  And I have no reason to doubt that he is a smart and very accomplished person, who has earned the President’s trust.  However, that’s not the issue.  What *is* an issue is the fact that Lute is a military man.  And I think there need to be some probing questions asked asked about the appropriateness of sending a retired general to be ambassador USNATO.

The U.S. Ambassador to NATO is actually a shorthand title — s/he is the U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council (NAC).  The NAC is NATO’s political decision-making body.

The United States has, of course, had veterans in the USUN job before, but never, to the best of my knowledge, a retired career military person.  Indeed, the whole point of the North Atlantic Council is that it is run by civilians.  That’s why it is the top and sovereign body in NATO.

Those responsible for this appointment either don’t know or care about the history of NATO and why the NAC exists.

Sending a career military man to [USUN] USNATO is similar to, although different in degree, naming a Secretary of Defense who is a retired general.  In the United States, we have civilian control of the military.  These kinds of appointments blur that distinction in a dangerous way.

By the way — lest anyone make the argument that, since Lute is retired, we really should just ignore his whole military career and view him as a civilian, that is a laughable argument on two fronts:

(1) The only thing that makes him a candidate for any senior government job is that very military experience; and

(2) The White House even calls him *General* Lute in their announcement of the nomination!  So much for the civilian stuff.

A final note:

There is actually a quasi-counterpart to the North Atlantic Council for military reps at NATO — the NATO Military Committee.

Can one assume that, when the current 3-star who is the U.S. rep on the Military Committee leaves, he will be replaced by some just-retired FSO?  Of course, the answer is no.

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Below via history.state.gov | The Chief of Mission has the title of U.S. Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Prior to 1 July 1967 the Representative on the Council of NATO was the Chief of the U.S. Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nad European Regional Organizations at Paris.

 

Since post was created, only five six of those appointed as ambassador to USNATO were career diplomats from the U.S. Foreign Service. One of those FSOs and the sole female appointee is Victoria Nuland, former State spokesperson and current nominee to be Assistant Secretary for the EUR Bureau. Update: One of our readers wrote to inform us that although Kurt Volker was a “non-career appointment” to the USNATO position he actually was a career FSO for a number of years. We understand that he was not in the Senior Foreign Service when appointed ambassador. Whether by mistake or oversight, both Volker and Nuland are listed by history.state.gov as non-career appointees.  Since Volker was in the FS and Nuland is currently in the FS (just promoted to FE-CM in 2012) we’re listing them both as FSOs in this blog post.

Only one previous appointee is a retired former military official – William Henry Draper Jr. who served during World War II as a major in the infantry, left and became a banker but stayed in the Army Reserves.  He later became a brigadier-general after World War II,  was promoted to major-general, and became the first under secretary of the Army from September 18, 1947 to February 28, 1949.

General Lute graduated from West Point in 1975 and left active duty in 2010.

Lieutenant General David R. Hogg is currently the United States Military Representative to the NATO Military Committee (USMILREP).

Updated to clarify details on Volker and Draper. Thanks to readers who helped!   

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Officially In: Douglas E. Lute from the WH to NATO

— By Domani Spero

On May 23, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Douglas E. Lute as the United States Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The WH released the following brief bio:

Douglas E. Lute is Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for South Asia on the White House National Security Staff.  He retired from active duty in the United States Army as a Lieutenant General in 2010, after 35 years of service.  From 2007 to 2009, he was Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan.  From 2006 to 2007, he was Director of Operations (J3) on the Joint Staff.  Previously, from 2004 to 2006, he was Director of Operations for the United States Central Command.  General Lute’s previous positions include Deputy Director of Operations for the United States European Command in Stuttgart, Germany; Assistant Division Commander in the 1st Infantry Division in Schweinfurt, Germany; Commander of U.S. Forces in Kosovo; and Commander of the Second Cavalry Regiment.

He received a B.S. from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an M.P.A. from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

If confirmed, General Lute would succeed Ivo Daalder who has been the U.S. Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization since May 2009. Previous occupants of this position includes Victoria NulandR. Nicholas BurnsDonald Rumsfeld, and William Henry Draper, Jr. who served as the first U.S. Ambassador to NATO in Paris.

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Related item:

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts May 23, 2013


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