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January 12, 2017

This Week: President-Elect Trump announced the appointment of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to be Senior Advisor to the President

Dr. David Shulkin was selected by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs, replacing outgoing Secretary Robert McDonald. Since 2015, Shulkin has led the Veterans Health Administration, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as the Under Secretary for Health. From 2010 to 2015, Shulkin was President of the Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey. Prior to that, he was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Beth Israel Medical Center and the Chief Medical Officer at Temple University. Shulkin earned his bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College and his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania. This announcement leaves the Department of Agriculture as the only federal department without a Trump nominee.
 
President-elect Trump also announced the appointment of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to be Senior Advisor to the President.  Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump, will begin his new role on January 20, 2017.  He plans to resign from the management positions he holds, including Chief Executive Officer of Kushner Companies and Publisher of The Observer, to avoid conflicts of interest after he enters the White House.  Kushner played a major role in Trump’s presidential campaign and has continued to be influential during Trump’s transition to the White House. 
 
In addition, President-elect Trump announced his intent to nominate Dan Coats to be the Director of National Intelligence. Coats has served as a U.S. Senator representing Indiana twice, from  2011 to 2017 and from 1989 to 1999. He was the U.S. Ambassador to Germany from 2001 to 2005. After that, Coats was Senior Counsel at the law firm King & Spalding LLP from 2005 to 2009. He has a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Illinois and a law degree from the University of Indiana.
 

 

 

January 5, 2017

This Week: President-Elect Trump Continues with nominations and appointments

President-elect Donald Trump announced a number of White House appointments this past week, starting with three Deputy Chiefs of Staff. Katie Walsh, currently Chief of Staff at the Republican National Committee, will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff to the White House. Rick Dearborn, currently Chief of Staff to Senator Jeff Sessions and Executive Director of the President-Elect’s Transition Team (PTT), will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Implementation. And Joe Hagin, former staffer to President Ronald Reagan and both President Bushes, will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations.
 
Trump also made the following appointments: Marc Short as Assistant to the President and Director of Legislative Affairs, John DeStefano as Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Personnel, Omarosa Manigault as Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, Josh Pitcock as Assistant to President and Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Keith Schiller as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Oval Office Operations, George Gigicos as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Advance, Jessica Ditto as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Communications Director, Raj Shah as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Communications Director and Research Director, Bill Stepien as Deputy Assistant to the President and Political Director, Jen Pavlik as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President, and John McEntee as Special Assistant to the President and Personal Aide to the President.
 
The president-elect also announced his intent to nominate Jay Clayton to be the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission andRobert Lighthizer to be the U.S. Trade Representative. Clayton is a partner at the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LP, where he focuses on mergers and acquisitions as well as regulatory issues. He has bachelor’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Cambridge, and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Lighthizer is an International Trade Partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. He served as Deputy Trade Representative to President Ronald Reagan and was Vice Chairman of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Lighthizer graduated from Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1969 and a law degree in 1973.

 

 

 

December 29, 2016

This Week: President-Elect Trump Continues with nominations and appointments

President-elect Donald J. Trump announced Jason Greenblatt to be his Special Representative for International Negotiations. Greenblatt, who has worked for Trump since 1997, is the Chief Legal Officer and Executive Vice President at the Trump Organization, LLC.  During the presidential campaign, he served as the Co-Chair for Trump’s Israel Advisory Committee. Greenblatt graduated from the New York University School of Law in 1992.
 
President-elect Trump also named Thomas Bossert to be Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Bossert previously served as the Deputy Homeland Security Advisor to President George W. Bush. Prior to that, he was the Director of Infrastructure Protection Policy at the Homeland Security Council and the Deputy Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate. Bossert earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh and his doctorate from The George Washington University.
 
Lastly, Kellyanne Conway was selected to be Counselor to the President. In this position, Conway will work with Trump’s administration to create effective rhetoric and communication strategies. Conway is the President and Chief Executive Officer at the Polling Company, Inc. She is also a Senior Advisor on the President-Elect’s Transition Team. Conway graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 1989 from Trinity College and obtained her doctorate from the George Washington University in 1992.

 

 

 

December 22, 2016

This Week: President-Elect Trump Continues with nominations and appointments

This week, President-elect Trump announced that U.S. Representative Mick Mulvaney will be nominated to be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the White House. Mulvaney has represented South Carolina in the House of Representatives since 2011 and currently sits on the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He is Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Healthcare, Benefits, and Administrative Rules and the Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade. Prior to being a U.S. Representative, Mulvaney was a State Senator in the South Carolina Senate from 2009 to 2011 and a State Representative in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2007 to 2008. He previously was a founding partner at Mulvaney and Fisher and an Attorney at James, McElroy & Diehl. He received his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and his law degree from the University of North Carolina.
 
President-elect Trump also announced his intent to nominate retired Army Major Vincent “Vinnie” Viola to be Secretary of the Army, a position that reports directly to the Secretary of Defense. Viola founded Virtu Financial in 2008, and was partner and Chief Executive Officer before becoming Chief Executive Chairman in November 2013. After graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1977, Viola went on to pass Ranger School and join the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. He earned his doctorate at New York Law School in 1983 and was the New York Mercantile Exchange’s Vice Chairman from 1993 to 1996 and Chairman from 2001 to 2004. He is also the majority owner of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers.
 
David Friedman has been selected to be Ambassador to Israel. Mr. Friedman is a founding partner at the law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP, where he specializes in bankruptcy law. Mr. Friedman, who does not have any diplomatic experience, said in a statement that he intends to serve as Ambassador “from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.” The embassy is currently located in Tel Aviv, and longstanding U.S. policy has been that the status of Jerusalem should be negotiated as part of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Friedman has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a law degree from New York University.
 
President-elect Trump also announced a number of appointments. At the National Security Council, retired Army Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg will serve as Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary and Monica Crowley will serve as Senior Director of Strategic Communications. Lieutenant General Kellogg served in the United States Army from 1967 to 2003, and notable assignments included being Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers under the Joint Chiefs of Chaff. He also served as an advisor to President-elect Trump’s campaign. Dr. Crowley, who holds a PhD from Columbia University, is an author and former contributor to Fox News Channel. From 1990 to 1994, Crowley was a Foreign Policy Assistant and Communications Director to former President Richard Nixon. Lastly, President-elect Trump announced that Dr. Peter Navarro will head the White House National Trade Council as Assistant to the President and Director of Trade and Industrial Policy and Carl Icahn, current Chairman of Icahn Enterprises L.P., will be Special Advisor to the President on Regulatory Reform. Navarro served as an advisor to President-elect Trump’s campaign and is currently a professor at the University of California-Irvine. 
 
 
 
 

December 15, 2016

This Week: President-Elect Trump Continues with nominations and appointments

President-elect Trump made two more White House appointments this past week. First, he named Gary Cohn to be Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council. In this role, Cohn will serve as President-elect Trump’s chief advisor on economic issues. Cohn has worked at The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. since 1990 and is currently its President and Chief Operating Officer. He also serves on the Board of Directors of The Institute of International Finance, Inc. and the Board of Trustees at American University. The second appointment was Stephen Miller to be Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the President for Policy. Miller is currently serving as National Policy Director for the President-Elect’s Transition Team and also served as a Senior Policy Advisor for Trump’s campaign. He previously served as Communications Director for Senator Jeff Sessions and also served as Press Secretary for former U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann. Cohn and Miller will begin their new roles on January 20, 2017.
 
President-elect Trump also announced a number of nominations. Retired four-star Marine Corps General John Kelly was selected to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Kelly’s long military career started when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1970. Kelly was discharged in 1972, but after graduating from the University of Massachusetts in 1976, he was commissioned into the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant. Kelly has served three tours of duty and has held various positions, including Deputy Commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force from 2007 to 2008 and Commander of the Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North from 2008 to 2011. In addition, he served as Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense from March 2011 to October 2012. Kelly was most recently the Commander for the U.S. Southern Command from 2012 to January 2016. He graduated from the National War College in 1995 and also serves as a member on the Homeland Security Advisory Council at DHS.
 
President-elect Trump intends to nominate James Richard “Rick” Perry as the next Secretary of the Department of Energy. Perry, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in the 2012 and 2016 primaries, serves on the Board of Directors of Energy Transfer Equity, L.P. and Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. He was the Governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015 and served as Lieutenant Governor from 1998 to 2000. Prior to that, Perry was Texas’s Agricultural Commissioner from 1991 to 1999 and a State Representative from 1985 to 1991. He also served in the U.S. Air Force from 1972 to 1977 before leaving as a Captain and becoming a cotton farmer. Perry graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University in 1972.
 
President-elect Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Rex Tillerson, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil,to be Secretary of the Department of State. Tillerson, who has no government experience, has held his current position since 2006. He has spent his entire career at ExxonMobil (and Exxon, prior to the merger), first joining in 1975 as a Production Engineer. From 2010 to 2012, Tillerson was President of the Boy Scouts of America. He is on the board of the American Petroleum Institute, and is a member of the National Petroleum Council. Tillerson has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
 
Lastly, Trump will nominate U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke from Montana to serve as Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Zinke has been serving in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2015 and has served on the Committee on Natural Resources and the Subcommittee on Federal Lands since being elected. Prior to that, Zinke served as a Montana State Senator from 2009 to 2013.  He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and master’s degrees from National University and the University of San Diego.

 

 

December 8, 2016

This Week: President-Elect Trump Continues with nominations

President-elect Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate Dr. Benjamin “Ben” Carson to be the 17th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Carson serves as National Chairman for My Faith Votes and is the President and Co-Founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, where he is currently on leave. Dr. Carson ran for the presidential nomination in the 2016 Republican primaries, but ultimately endorsed his former rival Donald Trump and later joined the Presidential Transition Team Executive Committee as Vice Chair. He is most prominently known for his work as a neurosurgeon at the John Hopkins Children’s Center, where he was Director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery from 1984 until his retirement from the medical field in 2013. Dr. Carson earned his Bachelor of Arts from Yale in 1973 and his medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1977.
 
President-elect Trump also selected retired U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis to be Secretary of Defense. Mattis is currently the Davis Family Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, a position he has held since retiring from the military in 2013, and sits on the Board of Directors of General Dynamics Corporation and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). His notable Department of Defense (DoD) positions include serving as Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which is responsible for U.S. security interests in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, from 2010 to 2013, and commanding U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) from 2007-2010. Mattis earned his bachelor’s degree from Central Washington University and also graduated from the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the National War College. Since Mattis has not been out of military service for at least seven years, a requirement to become Secretary of Defense, Congress will need to pass a waiver for him to be confirmed.
 
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been tapped to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the government agency tasked with protecting the environment. Pruitt is a Republican, and is a climate change skeptic who has been involved in numerous lawsuits against the EPA during the Obama administration. He has served as Attorney General since 2011 and was previously an Oklahoma State Senator from 1998 to 2006. Pruitt graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown College in 1990 and earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Tulsa in 1993.
 
President-elect Trump also intends to nominate Linda McMahon to be Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), a Cabinet-rank position. McMahon currently serves as a Member of the International Advisory Council at APCO Worldwide, Inc. She is best known for co-founding World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. with her husband Vince McMahon, and she served as its Chief Executive Officer from 1997 to 2009. She ran to represent Connecticut in the United States Senate twice, once in 2010 and again in 2012. McMahon also served on the State Board of Education for Connecticut from 2009 to 2010. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from East Carolina University.
 
Finally, President-elect Trump picked Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to be Ambassador to China. Branstad first served as Governor of Iowa from 1983 to 1999, and was elected again in 2010. He was Iowa’s Lieutenant Governor from 1979 to 1983, and was a member of the Iowa House of Representatives from 1973 to 1979. Branstad has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa and a law degree from Drake University. The current Ambassador to China is also a politician—the former U.S. Senator from Montana, Max Baucus.
 

 

December 1, 2016

This Week: President-Elect Trump Continues with nominations

During the past week, President-elect Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate five cabinet secretaries along with many other political appointments. First is U.S. Representative Thomas E. Price, who was tapped to be Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Elected in 2004, Price represents Georgia’s 6th District. He is Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget and served as Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee from 2011 to 2013 and the Republican Study Committee from 2009 to 2011. Price obtained both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan.
 
At the Department of the Treasury, Trump selected Steven Mnuchin to be the 77th Secretary of the Treasury. Mnuchin is a Co-Founder, Co-Chief Executive Officer and Chairman at Dune Capital Management LP. He served as Trump’s Finance Chairman during the general election. In 2004, Mnuchin co-founded OneWest Bank Group N.A., formerly IndyMac, and served as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He graduated from Yale University with his bachelor’s degree in 1985.
 
Trump also announced his intent to nominate Wilbur Ross as Secretary of the Department of Commerce. Ross was Executive Managing Director of Rothschild Inc. from 1976 to 2000. He is currently the Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of the private equity firm WL Ross and Co., which he founded in 1997. Ross has a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and an M.B.A from Harvard University.
 
Elaine Chao was selected to be Secretaryof the Department of Transportation. Cho served as Secretary of Labor during the George W. Bush administration and was Deputy Secretary of Transportation from 1989 to 1991. She is currently a Distinguished Fellow at the Hudson Institute and serves on multiple corporate and nonprofit boards. Chao has a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College and an M.B.A. from Harvard University.
 
For the last cabinet announcement, the President-elect selected Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education. DeVos is the Chairman of the American Federation for Children, and serves as a board member on The Philanthropy Roundtable and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.
 
For other nominations, Trump named Seema Verma to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Verma is the Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Indiana-based healthcare consulting company SVC, Inc., where she has been since 2001. She attended the University of Maryland and earned her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. He also selected Todd Ricketts to be  Deputy Secretary of Commerce. Ricketts is a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and serves on the board of TD Ameritrade, which was founded by his father, Joe Ricketts. Todd Ricketts earned his bachelor’s degree from Loyola University.
 
Trump also named two future White House appointments. First, the President-elect selected Donald F. McGahn to be Assistant to the President and White House Counsel. McGahn’s legal career includes being an Associate and Partner at Patton Boggs LLP and a membership on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from 2008 to 2013, including being Chairman in 2008. He is currently a Partner at Jones Day and serves as General Counsel to the President-Elect’s Transition Team (PTT). The second appointment is Kathleen “KT” McFarland as the administration’s Deputy National Security Advisor. McFarland held national security positions in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan Administrations, including serving as a Speechwriter to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and later becoming Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. McGahn and McFarland will both start their new roles on January 20, 2017. 

 

 

November 23, 2016

This Week: President-Elect Trump Continues with nominations

As the new administration’s transition process moves forward, President-elect Trump announced several nominations this past week, starting with his choice of U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions to lead the Department of Justice as Attorney General. Sessions has represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate since 1997 and holds notable committee memberships on the Committee on the Judiciary,the Committee on Armed Services, and the Committee on the Budget. Prior to being elected Senator, Sessions served as Attorney General for the State of Alabama from 1995 to 1997 and as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama from 1981 to 1993. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Huntingdon College and his law degree from Alabama State University.
 
President-elect Trump also announced that he will appoint retired United States Army Lieutenant General (LTG) Michael Flynn to be Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, a position commonly referred to as National Security Advisor. LTG Flynn is currently the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Flynn Intel Group, and he served as one of Trump’s key national security advisors during the presidential campaign. LTG Flynn has a long military career, most recently serving as the 18th Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014. Other notable positions he has held include Commander for the Joint Functional Component for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and Chief of Intelligence for U.S. Central Command. LTG Flynn earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island, as well as master’s degrees from the United States Army Command and General Staff College, Naval War College, and Golden Gate University.
 
In another pick, the President-elect will nominate Governor Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, replacing Ambassador Samantha Power. Haley became the first woman Governor of South Carolina after she was elected in 2011 and she previously served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2005 to 2010. Before her public service, Haley was an Accounting Supervisor at FCR, Inc. and served on the Board of Directors of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce and the Lexington County Chamber of Commerce. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Clemson.
 
Trump also intends to nominate U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Pompeo is currently serving his third term as the U.S. House Representative for Kansas’s 4th congressional district, a position he’s held since 2011. His noteworthy committee assignments include the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Prior to joining Congress, Pompeo was President of Sentry International from 2006 to 2010. He also founded Thayer Aerospace, where he worked as Chief Executive Officer from 1996 to 2006. Pompeo graduated first in his class from West Point and went on to serve as a Cavalry Officer from 1986 to 1991. He then obtained his law degree from Harvard University in 1994, where he served as Editor of the Harvard Law Review.
 
Richard Olson, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, retired from the Department of State. He had served in this position for about a year, and prior to that was Ambassador to Pakistan from 2012 to 2015. Olson first joined the State Department in 1982 and was a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He was Assistant Ambassador to Afghanistan and Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs from 2011 to 2012, and from 2008 to 2011 he served as Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said that Olson “played an invaluable role in consolidating the progress Afghanistan has made over the past 15 years, including the pursuit of an Afghan led reconciliation process.”

 

 

November 17, 2016

This Week: President-Elect Trump's Transition Team

With the election over, the focus this week shifted to the President-Elect’s Transition Team (PTT). The already hectic process of setting up a new administration was made even more tumultuous by the removal of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was replaced as Chair by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Rick Dearborn, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions’ Chief of Staff, was named Executive Director and is essentially running the day-to-day operations. These moves led to a few transition team members resigning or being forced out, including former U.S. Representative Mike Rogers and former U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor. Additionally, the transition team has been slow to take over their office space at the General Services Administration’s headquarters in Washington, DC, and has carried out many of its functions in New York. However, the transition team has made two White House personnel announcements. Reince Priebus, current Chairman of the Republican National Committee, will be the Chief of Staff, and Steve Bannon, former Chairman of the Breitbart News Network, will be Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor.
 
In other news, Mary Jo White, the Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), announced that she will be stepping down when the Obama Administration ends in January 2017. White has served as Chair since 2013, with a term scheduled to expire in 2019. Under law, the SEC has five commissioners; White’s departure will leave a third vacant slot, leaving only Commissioners Michael Piwowar and Kara Stein. It will be up to President-elect Trump to designate a new Chair when he takes office. White had a long legal career prior to arriving at the SEC. From 1993 to 2002, she served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Prior to joining the public sector in 1990 as First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, White was a Litigation Partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP from 1983-1990. White has a bachelor’s degree from William and Mary, a master’s from the New School for Social Research, and a law degree from Columbia Law School.

 

 

November 10, 2016

This Week: President-Elect Trump

In a stunning upset, Republican Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States on November 8th. The President and Chief Executive Officer of The Trump Organization, LLC defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator from New York. Despite Clinton winning the popular vote and months of predictions that she would become the first female president in U.S. history, Trump came away victorious on election night by winning the major swing states of Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Leading his transition into the White House will be New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Trump and his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, will be sworn in on January 20, 2017. This will be Trump’s first time holding political office.  

Ambassador David Pressman left his position as the Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Pressman had served in this position since 2014, and prior to that he was Counselor to Samantha Power, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN. From 2012 to 2013, Pressman served as Assistant Secretary in the Office of Policy Development at the Department of Homeland Security. He is now serving in dual roles – as a partner at the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner and as executive director of a new foundation launched by George and Amal Clooney. Pressman has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a law degree from New York University.

 

November 3, 2016

This Week: The Department of the Interior(DOI) named new heads for the Bureau of Indian Affairs(BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education(BIE)

This week, the Department of the Interior (DOI) named new heads for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). At BIA, Weldon “Bruce” Loudermilk will assume the role of Director. Loudermilk comes from BIA’s Alaska Regional Office, where he’s served as Director since 2014. He replaces 6-year Director Michael Black, who will become Senior Advisor to Loudermilk. Black has a bachelor’s degree from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and Loudermilk has a bachelor’s from Montana State. The Bureau of Indian Education has selected Tony Dearman to be its next Director, replacing Acting Director Ann Marie Bledsoe. Dearman has served as the Associate Deputy Director for BIE Operated Schools since 2015 and earned both his bachelor and master’s degrees from Northeastern State University.
 
Steve Ellis, the Deputy Director for Operations at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), announced that he will be retiring effective December 1, 2016. There is no word on his replacement. Ellis was officially named to this role in early 2014, after serving in an acting capacity for about six months. He has worked for BLM and the U.S. Forest Service for over 20 years. Ellis was BLM’s Idaho State Director from 2010 to 2013 and Supervisor of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest from 2004 to 2010. He has a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.
 
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) appointed a new person to lead its temporary safety oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail system. Angela Dluger, who has spent the past three years as Deputy Associate Administrator of the Office of Transit Safety and Oversightat the FTA, took over this past week as the Director of the WMATA Safety Oversight Team. In this role, Dluger is responsible for overseeing  the implementation of safety changes, as well as helping identify problems and defects with Metrorail, the nation’s second busiest subway system. Dluger has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master’s from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 
 
 

October 27, 2016

This Week: The Smithsonian Institution selects David Rubenstein as the next Chair of their Board of Regents

This week, the Smithsonian Institution (SI) announced the selection of David Rubenstein as the next Chair of the agency’s Board of Regents. Rubenstein will begin his three-year term on January 31, 2017, replacing current Chair John McCarter. Rubenstein is currently the Co-Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at The Carlyle Group L.P, and has served as a member of the Board of Regents since 2009. He also serves in a number of other posts, including as Chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Chair of the Board of Trustees at Duke University, and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Council on Foreign Relations.  He earned his bachelor’s degree from Duke and his doctorate from the University of Chicago.
 
The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) appointed Lisa Terry as its first Chief Ethics Officer. Terry, who is also Senior Vice President, leads EXIM’s Office of Ethics, a new office that was mandated by EXIM’s 2015 Charter. She previously served as General Counsel for the U.S. Office of Special Counselfrom 2013 to 2016. Her appointment as Chief Ethics Officer marks a return to EXIM; from 2006 to 2013, Terry served as the Bank’s Assistant General Counsel for Administration. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a law degree from Vanderbilt University.
 
The U.S. National Central Bureau of INTERPOL (INTERPOL Washington), the United States’ official representative to the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), announced that current Director Geoffrey S. Shank will retire on October 31, 2016. Before becoming Director of INTERPOL Washington in 2015, Shank served as the organization’s Deputy Director from 2012-2015. Prior to that, he worked at the United States Marshals Service (USMS), serving as Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Investigative Operations Division. Shank earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland. Taking over as Acting Director will be Wayne H. Salzgaber, who has served as Deputy Director  since 2015. Salzgaber previously served as Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Field Operations at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He earned his bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo University.  

 

October 20, 2016

This Week: DoD selects Dr. John Zangardi as Principal Deputy Chief Information Officer

The Department of Defense (DoD) selected Dr. John Zangardi to be its new Principal Deputy Chief Information Officer. He started early October and reports to Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen. Zangardi was previously the Department of the Navy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for C4I and Space Programs. He served as the Navy’s Acting Chief Information Officer from 2014-2015 and, before that, Zangardi served as the Navy Programs Division Director in the Office of Legislative Affairs. He earned his master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School and his doctorate from George Mason University. Zangardi replaces David DeVries, who joined the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as Chief Information Officer earlier this year.
 
The Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASAB) appointed Patrick McNamee as a member. His term at will begin on January 1, 2017, and he will fill the spot currently held by Sam McCall, whose term is expiring. McNamee has had a long career working in government auditing. He previously served as Deputy State Auditor for Florida and also served as a City Auditor for Tallahassee, Florida. He most recently retired from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), where he was a partner. McNamee has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree from the University of Virginia. 
 
 

October 13, 2016

This Week: 18F Executive Director Aaron Snow moving to Technology Transformation Service

18F, the General Services Administration’s (GSA) office tasked with helping federal agencies build and share digital services, lost its Executive Director this week. Aaron Snow, who ran 18F since April 2015, is moving to the GSA’s Technology Transformation Service (TTS) to become an Advisor. Before becoming Executive Director, Snow served as 18F’s Deputy Executive Director from 2013-2015 and worked under 18F’s first Executive Director, Greg Godbout, who went on to become Chief Technology Officer at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). David Zvenyach, former Acquisition Management Director at 18F, will now serve as the acting head of the office. From 2011-2015, Zvenyach served as General Counsel for the Council of the District of Columbia. He has a bachelor’s degree from Wisconsin and a law degree from The George Washington University.
 
In other departure news, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)announced the resignation of General Counsel P. David Lopez, who will be leaving in early December 2016. Lopez served as General Counsel for six and a half years after being nominated by President Obama in 2010 and again in 2014, making him the agency’s longest-serving General Counsel. Prior to holding that title, Lopez served as a Supervisory Trial Attorney at the EEOC’s Phoenix (AZ) District Office and as a Special Assistant to former Chairman Gilbert Casellas. Lopez earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and graduated from Harvard University with a law degree in 1988. There is no word on an acting replacement.
 
Evan McMullin, an independent presidential candidate who is trying to appeal to Republicans dissatisfied with Donald Trump, announced Mindy Finn as his running mate this past week. Finn is a Republican digital strategist who, from 2014 to 2015, served as Digital Director to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Prior to that, she worked for Twitter’s Washington office as the Head of Strategic Partnerships. Other titles include Director of eStrategy for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2007 and Deputy Webmaster for President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004. Finn also co-founded the political media firm Engage, where she was partner. She has a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a master’s from The George Washington University.
 
 

October 6, 2016

This Week: DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas resigns

The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas, announced that his last day will be October 28, 2016. Mayorkas started as Deputy Secretary in December of 2013 and has served as DHS’s second-in-command for the past 34 months. In his tenure, he has racked up a number of accomplishments, including leading DHS’s delegation to Cuba to establish the first homeland security agreement with the country. Before becoming Deputy Secretary, Mayorkas served as the Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from 2009-2013. Prior to that, he was a Partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP from 2001-2009. He earned his BA from the University of California-Berkeley and his JD from Loyola Marymount University. Russell Deyo, current Under Secretary for Management at DHS, will serve as Acting Deputy Secretary upon Mayorkas’ departure.
 
In other big departure news, Katrina McFarland is stepping down from her position as Acting Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology and Army Acquisition Executive, effective November 1, 2016. She has served in this role since February of this year, and has had a long career in defense acquisition. McFarland served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition from 2012 to 2016. Prior to that, she was President of the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) from 2010-2012. From 2006 to 2010, McFarland was Director for Acquisition at the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). As of this writing, there is no word on who her acting replacement will be at the United States Department of the Army (USA).
 
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a bureau of the Department of the Interior (DOI),is opening a new office at 5 Partners Place in Norman, Oklahoma, that will consolidate its Tulsa and Oklahoma City field offices.Administrative Officer Paul McGuire explained the move by saying, “Bringing our two offices together was designed to improve efficiency in terms of serving our customers and the public.” Employees of the two former offices are temporarily located at 200 Northwest 4th Street, Room 2401, until the new facility opens on October 24, 2016. The office will be led Steve Tryon, who has been the Tulsa Field Manager since 2010.
 
 

September 29, 2016

This Week: First U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in over 50 years

This week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the departure of John Carlin, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the National Security Division at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Carlin has served as the head of the Division and DOJ’s top national security attorney since 2014, after being confirmed by the United States Senate. His responsibilities have included combating terrorism, espionage, and cyber threats. He also played a large role in the Department’s prosecution in the Boston Marathon bombing cases. Prior to becoming Assistant Attorney General, Carlin held a number of positions at DOJ, including Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel to the Director at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). His last day is October 15, 2016.

At the Department of State (DOS), President Obama nominated Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in over 50 years. DeLaurentis is already the highest ranking official at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, where he has served as Chargé d’Affaires since 2015. To become Ambassador, his nomination will need to be confirmed by the Senate. DeLaurentis is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, and from 2014 to 2015 he was the head of United States Interests Section in Cuba, which is how the U.S. was represented there prior to the reopening of the Embassy in 2015. In a statement, President Obama said of DeLaurentis, “He is exactly the type of person we want to represent the United States in Cuba, and we only hurt ourselves by not being represented by an Ambassador.” DeLaurentis has a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s degree from Columbia University.

In the midst of ongoing sexual harassment claims at the National Park Service (NPS), agency Director Jonathan Jarvis announced that he will be retiring in January 2017. The scandals began at the Grand Canyon National Park and complaints have spread to other NPS offices. In a House hearing this past week, lawmakers from both parties criticized Jarvis and some demanded that he resign early. Jarvis is the 18th NPS Director and was confirmed by the Senate on September 24, 2009. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from The College of William and Mary and has been with the National Park Service since 1976.

 
 

September 22, 2016

This Week: Justin Siberell named Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Ambassador at Large 

President Obama nominated Justin Siberell to be the Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Ambassador at Large at the Department of State. Siberell has been acting in this position since early this year. He has served as the Principal Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism since 2014. Siberell joined the Foreign Service in 1993, and became a career member of the Senior Foreign Service in 2013. He has had many overseas postings, including in the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Panama. Before joining the Foreign Service, he served on the National Security Council (NSC). Siberell has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California at Berkeley.

At the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), Anne Rung, announced she will be leaving her position. Her last day will be September 30. Rung came over to OMB in 2014 to serve as a Senior Advisor after serving in a number of procurement positions at the General Services Administration (GSA). She was confirmed to lead the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in 2014. She has a bachelor’s degree from Penn State and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics. As of this writing, there is no word on an acting replacement.

At the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), it was announced that Colorado native Andrew Archuleta will serve as District Manager for the Northwest District Office in Colorado. Archuleta is currently the Field Manager of the San Luis Valley (CO) Field Office and will assume his new duties on October 2. He obtained both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Colorado State University. He will replace Joseph “Joe” Meyer, who has been selected to lead the Southwest District Office in Colorado starting on October 2. Meyer previously worked as a Field Manager in Wyoming and brings over 30 years of government experience to the Southwest District.


 

September 15, 2016

This Week: Gregory Touhill named Federal Chief Information Security Officer

The Obama Administration announced retired Brigadier General Gregory J. Touhill as the first ever Federal Chief Information Security Officer, a position based out of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the White House. Previously the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), General Touhill will be responsible for planning and implementing cybersecurity policy across the federal government. Prior to joining DHS, General Touhill was Director of Command, Control, Communications and Cyber Systems (J6) at U.S. Transportation Command. In addition to the hiring of the first Federal Chief Information Security Officer, Grant Schneider was named Acting Deputy Chief Information Security Officer. Schneider comes over from the National Security Council Staff, where he was Director for Cybersecurity Policy. Prior to that, Schneider served as a Senior Advisor at OMB and was also the Chief Information Officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
 
In campaign news, Donald Trump for President, Inc. announced that James Woolsey is serving as a Senior Advisor. Woolsey served in the federal government for over a decade, under both Democratic and Republican presidents. He was Director of the Central Intelligence Agency during President Bill Clinton’s administration from 1993-1995. During President Jimmy Carter’s administration, Woolsey served as Under Secretary of the Navy. He is currently Of Counsel to the Washington, D.C. office of the law firm Goodwin Procter, and is a Venture Partner at Lux Capital Management. Woolsey has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, a master’s degree from Oxford University, and an LL.B from Yale Law School.

 

September 8, 2016

This Week: Trump campaign hires David Bossie as Deputy Campaign Manager

Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. hired David Bossie as Deputy Campaign Manager. Bossie is the President of the conservative Citizens United Super PAC LLC, a position he has held since 2001. The organization is best known for its role in the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Bossie is a longtime critic of the Clintons and has written books and produced films about them. Trump’s campaign also named Sarah Huckabee Sanders to a new role on its communications team. She had been serving as a senior advisor since February. Huckabee Sanders is the daughter of former governor Mike Huckabee, and she managed his 2016 presidential campaign. In 2014, Huckabee Sanders served as a senior advisor to Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) reelection campaign, and in 2010 she managed Senator John Boozman’s (R-AR) campaign.
 
The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), the independent agency tasked with regulating U.S. international ocean transportation, announced a number of staff changes this week. First was the retirement of Vern W. Hill, who had served as Managing Director since 2013. Karen V. Gregory, former Secretary at the Commission, has taken over the role of Managing Director. Serving as Acting Secretary is Rachel E. Dickon, who has worked as Assistant Secretary at the Commission since 2010. In addition, Peter J. King has been promoted to Deputy Managing Director. He was most recently the Director of the Bureau of Enforcement, which is now managed by Acting Director Brian L. Troiano.

 

September 1, 2016

This Week: Trump campaign hires Bill Stepien as National Field Director

Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. hired Bill Stepien as national field director. Stepien is a longtime Republican operative who managed both of Chris Christie’s campaigns for New Jersey Governor. He was also national field director for Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign in 2007-2008, before joining the McCain campaign as Regional Campaign Manager for New York and New Jersey. Stepien has a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University. The Trump campaign also hired Susie Wiles as a Communications Adviser. Wiles is a Co-Chair of Trump’s campaign in Florida, and is a managing partner in the Jacksonville office of Ballard Partners, a lobbying firm.  She managed Florida Governor Rick Scott’s campaign in 2010. Wiles has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland.
 
Adam Hodge left his position as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of the Treasury. In that role, he was responsible for issues relating to domestic finance. Hodge had been at Treasury since 2013, previously serving as the Spokesperson for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Prior to that, Hodge worked at the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He has a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University.
 
Trevor Kincaid left the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, where he had served as Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public and Media Affairs since 2014. Kincaid has joined FWD.us, a lobbying group founded by Mark Zuckerberg, as a senior communications strategist. He worked on Capitol Hill and for Congressional campaigns for several years, including for Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL, 9th), and former Representative Nick Lampson (D-TX, 22nd). 

 

August 25, 2016

This Week: Paul Manafort resigns as Chairman of Donald J. Trump for President

Paul Manafort resigned as Donald J. Trump for President’s chairman, a day after Trump named a new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, and a chief executive, Stephen Bannon. The Trump campaign has gone through a series of leadership changes. In June, Trump fired his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Manafort has been involved with many Republican presidential campaigns over the course of several decades, and his consulting clients include former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych. Recently there have been news reports about Manafort receiving millions of dollars off the books from his former Ukrainian clients. He has both a bachelor’s and a law degree from Georgetown University.
 
The Federal Election Commission announced that Acting General Counsel Daniel Petalas will be leaving his position in September. Petalas has been Acting General Counsel since August 2015. He was initially appointed for a 120 day period, which was then extended. The FEC has been plagued by political gridlock, and has had difficulty finding a permanent General Counsel that the commissioners from both parties can agree on. Petalas was a rare person who was seen as a consensus choice – hence why his initial acting term was extended. Upon his departure next month, he will become an owner at the law firm Garvey Schubert Barer. Petalas has a bachelor’s degree from California State University-Fullerton, a master’s in English literature from Texas A&M University, and a law degree from the University of Texas.
 
Amtrak named Charles “Wick” Moorman as its new president and CEO, effective September 1st. Moorman is the former head of Norfolk Southern, where he worked for over 40 years. He will be replacing current Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman, who had announced his impending retirement almost a year ago. Moorman serves on multiple boards, including that of Duke Energy and Chevron. He graduated from Georgia Tech and Harvard Business School. 

 

August 11, 2016

This Week: Former House staffer Evan McMullin launches Independent presidential campaign

It was an odd week for the presidential election as Evan McMullin threw his hat into the race. A relative unknown outside of the Beltway, McMullin was a staffer with the U.S. House of Representatives for close to four years. He first joined the staff of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2013, later jumping ship to the Office of Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, 5th), where he served a short stint as her Senior Policy Director. McMullin concurrently served as the Policy Director for the House Republican Conference, a position he held for a little less than two years. Prior to that, McMullin spent three years in the financial sector with Goldman Sachs and had an eleven-year career with the Central Intelligence Agencyas an Operations Officer. With little or no national recognition and a platform catering almost exclusively to the anti-Donald Trump wing of the Republican Party, it’s unlikely that McMullin will make much headway in the November elections. Realistically, he may be trying to set himself up for another election in either 2018 or 2020. That said, never count out the Never Trump movement, which has managed to remain a thorn in the GOP nominee’s side for months now and doesn’t look likely to go away anytime soon. If nothing else, McMullin could conceivably peel off conservative voters who don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton but don’t want to encourage the Libertarian Party.
 
It was a big week for the Federal IT sector as the Department of Defense lost its Deputy CIO to the Office of Personnel Management. David Lee De Vries has been the Principal Deputy Chief Information Officer at DOD since March of 2014, making him the number two information technology official in the entire defense sector. A former officer in the United States Army, De Vries retired at the rank of Colonel back in 2009, finishing out his tour of duty as Deputy Commander of Operations at U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command. He immediately transitioned into the Career Senior Executive Service and an assignment as the Principal Director of Information Management and Defense, a position he held from 2009 to 2012. He later moved up to Deputy Chief Information Officer for Information Enterprise. De Vries briefly took charge as Acting Chief Information Officer when Teri Takai stepped down in 2014 before handing the reins over to Terry Halvorsen and steppinginto his current role as Principal Deputy. De Vries graduated from West Point in 1980 and later earned his MSEE at the University of Washington.
 
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also made waves this week, naming David J. Nelson as its new Chief Information Officer. Nelson currently serves as the Director and Chief Information Officer of the Office of Enterprise Information at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, his second time in this role. In the interim, he had a brief run as the Deputy Chief Operating OfficerBefore that, he had a hectic year or two at the Office of Enterprise Management, where he served as Deputy Director, Acting Director, and then full-on Director. Earlier in his career, he was the Director of Data Analytics and Control Group and Director of the Call Center Systems Division. Prior to joining the federal government, Nelson was the Vice President of Operations for Alternative Broadband Access, Chief Operating Officer at Satius, Vice President of Operations and Professional Services at Wisor Telecom, and Vice President of Network Operations at e-centives, among others. He graduated from the University of Phoenix.
 

 

August 5, 2016

This Week: Donald Trump fires several senior aides

The Joint Chiefs of Staff finished a historic turnover this week as Army National Guard General Frank Grass stepped down and retired. Grass had been head of the National Guard Bureau, and was the last holdout of the previous generation of Joint Chiefs, a group that included Ray Odierno, Mark Welsh, and Martin Dempsey, among others. With his departure, Air National Guard General Joseph Lengyel becomes the final member of the Joint Chiefs to be put in place during the Obama Administration. Lengyel previously served as Vice Chief of the National Guard under Grass. Before that he was head of the Office of the Defense Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, and before that he was Vice Commander of Air Forces Northern and the 1st Air Force. His last staff officer assignment was as a Military Assistant at A8 Strategic Plans and Programs, which followed a stint as Deputy Director of the Air National Guard and Commander of the Air National Guard Readiness Center. Lengyel graduated from the University of North Texas at Denton in 1981 and went on to earn an MBA at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
 
There was also continued unrest on the campaign trail this week as Donald Trump fired several senior aides and hired at least one new senior staffer. Among those fired was Ed Brookover, formerly a strategist with Carson America, who had joined the Trump campaign back in March as a senior advisor. Brookover was best known for his stint as Political Director at the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 1990s, where he helped usher in a wave of conservative victories. Before the dust had even settled, Trump hired John Rader, the Chief of Staff for Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), to serve as a member of his transition team, as well as Jason Simmons and Matt Mowers, to serve as North Carolina State Director and National Field Coordinator, respectively. Clinton brought on board Matt Mittenthal, formerly the Press Secretary to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, to serve as a spokesman for her rapid response team, along with a host of other hires. While Clinton has enjoyed a poll bounce following last week’s national convention, Trump remains in the media spotlight and third-partiers Gary Johnson and Jill Steinremain poised to act as spoilers for both campaigns.
 
Outside of regular politics and the campaign trail, it was also a big week for President Obama himself. Not only did the nation’s 44th president celebrate his 55th birthday – his last one in office – but he also designated the site of his future presidential library: Jackson Park in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. The center is currently in its design phase; no construction date has been set, but it’s expected to be complete sometime around 2020.
 

 

July 28, 2016

This Week: Hillary Clinton officially nominated as Democratic candidate for President

Hillary Clinton officially became the first woman in American history to win the presidential nomination of a major political party this week. Clinton’s longest lasting primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), personally called to scrap a roll call vote and give her the nomination by acclamation, signaling a move by Sanders and the majority of his supporters to mend fences with the Clinton camp. While a vocal minority remains opposed to Clinton, the convention has generally been a lesson in contrasts to its Republican counterpart in Cleveland last week: A picture of relative unity with most speakers staying on message. Clinton is a veteran lawyer who spent fifteen years with the Rose Law Firm, remaining active throughout both of her stints as First Lady of Arkansas. She only tabled her legal career in 1992, when her husband, Bill, became the 42nd President of the United States. Clinton emerged early in her husband’s campaign and subsequent administration as a politically active figure in her own right, lobbying hard in favor of universal healthcare and education; she was one of the most active First Ladies in living memory. As Bill Clinton’s time in office wound down, Hillary launched her independent political career by seeking and winning office as a Senator from New York, a position she held until 2009. She made her first run at the White House against then-upstart Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), bowing out after a contest not too different from her own match-up with Sanders. Clinton later joined the Obama Administration as Secretary of State, a position she held for the better part of five years. She graduated from Wellesley in 1969 and earned her law degree from Yale in 1973.
 
Clinton also named her running mate this week: Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), widely seen as a tame, safe choice. A former Governor of Virginia, Kaine was elected to the Senate in 2012, succeeding former senator and also-ran candidate Jim Webb, defeating former senator and governor George Allen in the process. Although he’s kept a relatively low profile since then, Kaine is a popular senator and previously headed the Democratic National Committee, a role in which he succeeded another former governor and one-time presidential candidate, Howard Dean. Prior to his governorship, Kaine served a term as Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Before that he was President of the Virginia Senate and earlier still he served as Mayor of the City of Richmond. He got his start as a lawyer specializing in housing discrimination before being elected to the Richmond City Council in 1994. Kaine graduated from the University of Missouri in 1979 and Harvard Law School in 1983.
 
This week also saw Neil DeGrasse Tyson join the Defense Innovation Advisory Board at the Department of Defense. Other new appointees included Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Adam Grant of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, noted entrepreneur and tech wonk Danny Hillis, Eric Lander of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Marne Levine of Instagram, J. Michael McQuade of United Technologies, Milo Medin of Google, Richard Murray of the California Institute of Technology, Jennifer Pahlka of Code for America, and Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School. They join previous appointees Eric Schmidt of Alphabet Inc., Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and Greylock Partners, Walter Isaacson of theAspen Institute, and retired Admiral William McRaven of the University of Texas. Tyson, America’s popular science guru and astrophysicist, currently serves as the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, a position he’s held since 2003. 
 

 

July 22, 2016

This Week: Donald Trump officially nominated as Republican candidate for President

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign once again rocketed to the forefront in media coverage this week. His nomination as the Republican candidate to be President of the United States became official, despite a couple of large bumps in the road, and he rolled out his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. The governor is a solid, unquestionably conservative addition to the campaign, one that Trump hopes will help him win over the very establishment he tore down during the primary season – especially the donors that Trump must now rely on to close an enormous financing gap with the Clinton campaign. Pence previously served six terms in the United States House of Representatives, where he served as Republican Conference Chair and was seen by many as a rising star with the potential to one day become House Speaker. Prior to actually winning a House seat, Pence was best known as the host of The Mike Pence Show, a conservative radio talk show with a more sedate tone than his contemporaries. He ran for Congress twice against Phil Sharp (D-IN, 2nd), losing both times, before sweeping into office in 2000. Prior to that, Pence served as President of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a state-focused think tank. He got his start as an Attorney at Stark Doniger Mernitz and Smith. Pence graduated Hanover College in 1981 and Indiana University in 1986.
 
Outside of election news, the biggest story this week was also one of the quietest: newly-minted Vice Admiral Jan Tighe left her old job at U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and took over as the new Director of Naval Intelligence and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations at N2/N6 Information Warfare, the directorate of the Navy Staff that oversees all things naval intelligence and most things IT. Tighe’s swearing-in also marks the effective end of the career of Vice Admiral Ted Branch, a once-shining officer whose career went hard off the rails right as he was beginning his own N2/N6 tenure. Branch has the dubious distinction of being the highest-ranking naval official implicated or otherwise involved in the so-called Fat Leonard Scandal, in which a defense contractor spent years bribing navy personnel with everything from underage prostitutes to Lady Gaga tickets. Branch was also infamous for spending most of his tenure as Director of Naval Intelligence without a security clearance – meaning he had to leave the room any time there was a discussion involving classified information. Effectively unable to do most of his job, Branch instead spent two years hammering out personnel reforms while his deputies ran the show in his stead. Compounding the Navy’s embarrassment, several attempts to replace Branch failed, the most recent being Rear Admiral Elizabeth Train, the one-time commander of the Office of Naval Intelligence, who was canned shortly after her assignment to N2/N6 over accusations over creating a hostile work environment.
 
This week also saw the confirmations of six new ambassadors: Anne Hall, Lawrence Robert Silverman, Carol Z. Perez, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, Douglas Alan Silliman, and Marie L. Yovanovitch, who will represent the United States to the countries of Lithuania, Kuwait, Chile, Greece, Iraq, and Ukraine, respectively. While all six are likely to be juggling crises for the remainder of the Obama Administration, it’s tough to say whose job will be the most difficult. Silliman is currently serving as Ambassador to Kuwait, and in Iraq he’s expected to play an integral role in US attempts to stabilize the country and push back against ISIS. Yovanovitch comes to Ukraine from her current position as Dean of the School of Language Studies at the Foreign Service Institute. She’ll have the unenviable task of trying to mitigate Ukrainian civil unrest, Russian influences, and the mistrust of America caused by both. Pyatt, Yovanovitch’s predecessor, moves to Greece, where he gets to contend with lingering economic difficulties and the current Brexit-induced turmoil in the European Union
 

 

July 14, 2016

This Week: Bernie Sanders endorses, campaigns with Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump ginned up publicity for his campaign this week with speculation about his running mate, complete with reports of a big announcement by Friday, but the big story was Bernie Sanders effectively conceding the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton when he endorsed her run for the White House. The announcement was greeted with mixed enthusiasm. Many considered it overdue and possibly even diminished because of how long Sanders took, while some of his most strident supporters greeted the endorsement as a betrayal. Whatever you think, Sanders was able to leverage endorsement negotiations to get approximately four-fifths of his policy goals into the 2016 Democratic campaign platform – an astounding win for one of the unlikeliest major candidates in living memory, and one that had an immediate impact as the Clinton campaign, as well as President Obama, have begun focusing on ideas like free college and a health care public option. Sanders’ campaign apparatus is likely to remain functional in some capacity until the Democratic National Convention later this month, and it’s a decent bet that he’ll technically remain a candidate all the way to the convention floor, but the primaries for both parties are effectively over. From here on out, it’s Clinton versus Trump, with third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein getting occasional media coverage along the way.
 
Off the campaign trail, United States Coast Guard Vice Admiral Marshall B. Lytle made a bit of history this week when he became one of, if not the highest-ranking Coast Guardsman to ever hold an office within the actual Department of Defense. Lytle assumed command of the Joint Staff’s J6 Command, Control, Communications and Computers/Cyber/Chief Information Officer Directorate, putting him close to the top of the Defense IT food chain. The staff move, and Lytle’s accompanying promotion, had been in the works for close to a year and follows the departure and subsequent retirement of Army Lieutenant General Mark Bowman, the previous J6. Before starting his new job, Lytle served as Commander of Coast Guard Cyber Command and Assistant Commandant and Chief Information Officer in charge of the Coast Guard’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Information Technology Directorate. He previously served as Acting Deputy Commandant for Mission Support. Before that, his last joint assignment was as Chief Information Officer at United States Cyber Command. Lytle first enlisted in 1981 as a graduate from the Coast Guard Academy. In 1991, he earned an MS from the University of Miami.
 
This week also saw the nomination of Joseph R. Donovan Jr. as the next Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia. Donovan currently serves as Managing Director of the Washington Office of the American Institute in Taiwan, a government-funded non-profit corporation that’s served as a makeshift embassy to Taiwan ever since the federal government recognized the current Chinese government back in 1979. If confirmed, Indonesia would mark Donovan’s first official ambassadorship, although he might not be in office for too long with election season looming. Donovan previously served as Foreign Policy Advisor in the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Before that, he was a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Earlier positions include Consul General in the Hong Kong and Macau Consulate, Deputy Chief of Mission in the United States Embassy to Japan, and Director of the Office for Chinese and Mongolian Affairs. Donovan is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He graduated from Georgetown in 1973 and the Naval Postgraduate School in 1993.
 

July 1, 2016

This Week: Top-level changes at the Air Force and Air National Guard signal an end of an era

It was the end of an era this week as Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh stepped down and Air National Guard Lieutenant General Joseph Lengyel was confirmed to be the new head of the National Guard Bureau. Together, Welsh and Lengyel’s predecessor, Army National Guard General Frank Grass, were the old guards of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – both of them took office within about a month of each other in 2012. With their departures, all of the most senior uniformed military positions have changed hands within about a year of each other; it’s the kind of sea change that hasn’t happened for nearly forty years. Welsh is moving on to serve as Dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, putting him within driving distance of fellow retired officer-turned-academic heavyweight, William McRaven, who is Chancellor of the University of Texas System. Prior to stepping up as Chief of Staff, Welsh served as Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe for about two years. Before that he served a stint with the Central Intelligence Agency as an Associate Director for Military Support. Earlier, he served as Vice Commander of Air Education and Training Command, Deputy Commander for Strategic Command’s ISR component, and Director of Global Power Programs in the office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition. Welsh graduated from the Air Force Academy and began his career as an officer in 1976. He later earned degrees at Webster University and the Naval War College. His son, Mark Welsh IV, is an energy investor.
 
As Welsh stepped down, General David Goldfein took office as the new Chief of Staff, just a few days after his confirmation in the Senate. Goldfein previously served about a year as the Vice Chief of Staff under Welsh. His appointment provides more continuity than some had been expecting, as Goldfein beat out wildcards like Air Force Space Command’s General John Hyten or Air Force Materiel Command’s Ellen Pawlikowski, among others. A career aviator with over 4,200 flight hours to his name, Goldfein is very much cut from the same cloth as Welsh; roughly half of his career has been spent in fighter squadrons, groups, and wings. Prior to his assignment as Vice Chief of Staff, Goldfein was Director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, where he served under then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. Before that he was Commander of Air Forces Central Command, Director of Operations at Air Combat Command, and Deputy Director of Programs at the Air Force’s A5 Strategic Plans and Programsdirectorate. Goldfein began his military career right out of college in 1983, when he graduated from the Air Force Academy. He later earned an MBA at Oklahoma City University.
 
This week also saw the confirmation of R. David Harden as a new Assistant Administrator with the U.S. Agency for International Development. Harden will head up USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. As of this writing, he still serves in one of the toughest jobs at the agency, if not in the international community in general: Mission Director for the West Bank and Gaza. Prior to his current assignment, he served at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, where he was primarily the Deputy Mission Director for the USAID office there. Harden also served a brief stint as USAID-Iraq’s Acting Mission Director. Before that, he was Senior Advisor to the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, a position he held for three years. Earlier still, he was a Senior Development Advisor in Libya, Deputy Mission Director for the West Bank and Gaza, and Regional Legal Advisor in both Central and South Asia. He graduated from Franklin and Marshall College and also earned degrees from Columbia and Georgetown. 
 

June 23, 2016

This Week: Donald Trump fires campaign manager Corey Lewandowski

In between fundraising woes, delegates spoiling for a convention fight, and the firing of his campaign manager, it wasn’t a good week for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The aforementioned manager, Corey Lewandowski, had been an early supporter of Trump’s campaign bid, and is widely credited as the architect behind Trump’s rise from long shot to presumptive nominee. He was also someone Trump ardently defended through several dust-ups with the media, including an alleged assault on a reporter. Lewandowski first jumped onto the campaign trail from Americans for Prosperity (AFP), where he was the National Director for Voter Registration. He previously spent the better part of six years as AFP’s East Coast Regional Director. Before that, Lewandowski worked for about eight years at Schwartz MSL, a public affairs firm in Boston. Earlier still, he was the Executive Director of the New England Seafood Producers Association. His last overtly political job was as Campaign Manager and Communications Director for Friends of Senator Bob Smith in New Hampshire. His first big break came in 2001 with a brief stint as Legislative Political Director for the Northeast Region of the Republican National Committee. Lewandowski’s future in politics is simultaneously uncertain and assured; nobody knows where he’ll end up, but he helped craft one of the most unique primary campaigns in the country’s history, which will look good on his resume no matter how Trump fares in the general.
 
Not one to let a political rival off easy, Hillary Clinton took more than a few swipes at Trump this week, mostly focusing on his business record. She also hired several senior staffers, including a new state communications director in Michigan, a new national economic advisor, and a new Deputy Political Director, Carlos Sanchez. Sanchez joins the campaign from the Office of Representative Joaquín Castro (D-TX, 20th), where he serves as Rep. Castro’s Chief of Staff. Sanchez previously served as a Policy Advisor and Deputy Press Secretary in the Office of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 8th), the culmination of several years working with Rep. Pelosi as a Press Advisor, first when she was a regular Representative, then as Speaker of the House, and finally as Democratic Leader.  Prior to that, he worked as a Communications Director with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and spent about two years in the Office of Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY, 14th), first as a Staff Assistant and later as a Press Assistant. He graduated from Texas A&M in 2001.
 
The Department of Veterans Affairs garnered some of the spotlight as Danny G.I. Pummill announced his impending retirement from the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), where he is serving as Acting Under Secretary. Pummill stepped up from his job as Principal Deputy last October, when his old boss, Allison Hickey, resigned. Pummill previously served as the Director of a DOD/VA Interagency Program Office. Prior to that, he joined VBA as a Deputy Director of Compensation and Pension, following two years as Assistant Deputy for Human Resources at the United States Department of the Army’s Manpower and Reserve Affairs office. Pummill had originally been scheduled to retire last year, but stuck around after Hickey’s departure. Back in March, Pummill was hit with a two-week suspension for his part in a relocation scandal involving two other senior officials. His replacement, Thomas Murphy, will likely run the VBA for the remainder of the Obama Administration.
 
 

June 16, 2016

This Week: William Nettles steps down as US Attorney for the District of South Carolina

William N. Nettles, the United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina, surprised court watchers this week by stepping down from his office just a few months before the slated trial of suspected church shooter Dylan Roof. There’s room to speculate that he may have stepped down over Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s decision to pursue the death penalty in the case. As the longest-serving South Carolina U.S. Attorney in almost half a century, Nettles’ fingerprints are all over most of the biggest stings, busts, and anti-crime initiatives in the state’s history. Nettles now heads back into private practice, where he previously ran his own offices for the better part of fifteen years; first as a Partner at Banks and Nettles, then starting his own practice before joining his father-in-law, Alex Sanders, as part of the Law Offices of Sanders and Nettles. Along the way, he also served as President of the South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He got his start as an Attorney for the County of Richland, South Carolina. He graduated from the Citadel in 1983 and earned his JD at Widener University in 1992. His wife, Zoe, and father-in-law currently head up the latest incarnation of the family law firm.
 
This week also saw the departure of David I. Gelfand, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Litigationin the Civil Enforcement section of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. Like Nettles, Gelfand is returning to private practice, specifically his old stomping grounds at Cleary Gottlieb, an international law firm, where he’ll serve as a partner in the DC office, focusing on global antitrust, litigation, and regulatory matters – basically the same job he held for thirteen years before joining the DOJ in 2013. During his first tenure as partner, Gelfand also had a three-year stint as a resident in Cleary Gottlieb’s Brussels office. He first joined the firm as an Associate in 1991, following about four years as an Associate with Miller Cassidy Larroca and Lewin. Gelfand previously worked as a Manager for Ferox Microsystems. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1981 and earned his JD at Georgetown University in 1987.
 
While the DOJ was saying goodbye to Gelfand this week, the Department of Defense was saying hello to the three new faces who joined the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, one of the keystone organizations of Secretary Ash Carter’s push to modernize his department’s hiring, research, and contracting processes. The board’s chair, Silicon Valley superstar Eric E. Schmidt, of Alphabet Inc. fame, was announced back in March. He was joined this week by Reid Hoffman, Walter S. Isaacson, and retired Vice Admiral William H. McRaven, respectively the heads of LinkedInThe Aspen Institute, and the University of Texas. As Carter whittles his way through the board’s vacancies and struggles to win over converts, it remains to be seen what impact it will have on the defense sector as a whole.
 
 

June 9, 2016

This Week: Clinton clinches Democratic nomination

Former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made history this week, effectively clinching the Democratic nomination for President of the United States after a grueling race with Senator Bernie Sanders. While Sanders has yet to concede the race as of this writing, and 113 delegates remain to be pledged, Clinton effectively eliminated him in the most recent round of primary voting – she has a lead of almost 400 delegates on her insurgent rival, not counting the vast majority of party super delegates who’ve pledged their votes for her. In his most recent speeches and interviews, Sanders has vowed to fight all the way to the convention, but rumors of mass layoffs at his campaign have already begun spreading like wildfire. Clinton has begun maneuvering into position to take on Republican nominee Donald Trump, setting the stage for what promises to be a bitterly fought election between two of the most divisive candidates in living memory, with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson looming on the sidelines as a possible spoiler to either of them. Clinton’s path to the nomination has not been an easy one. As the current embodiment of the establishment and a canny, enduring politician used to reinventing herself, it remains to be seen how she’ll fare against Trump, who managed to steamroll his way to the Republican nomination in a year of unprecedented backlash against establishment politics.
 
This week also saw quite a bit of movement among federal Chief Information Officers; less of a brain drain, more a game of musical chairs as the Obama Administration winds down towards its conclusion in January. Over at the Department of Transportation, CIO Jason Carroll is heading for the door and the department is currently looking for his replacement, while the Department of State is reassigning its current CIO, Steve Taylor, to an as-yet-unknown position with the Foreign Service; his acting replacement hasn’t been named as of this writing. The Department of Education hired Jason Gray, who left DOT last month, and Kevin Smith is joining the Census Bureau from his old job at the Patent and Trade Office, where he was Chief Information Security Officer.
 
Rounding out the week, Frank Benenati jumped from the Executive Office of the President to the Environmental Protection Agency, where he’ll serve as the new Associate Administrator for Public Affairs. Benenati spent the past two years as an Assistant Press Secretary to the President, making him a frequently seen face of the Obama Administration during press conferences and interviews. Prior to that, he was Press Secretary for Communications in the Office of Management and Budget, and before that he had a short stint with Precision Strategies in 2013. He was a Regional Press Secretary for Obama for Americaduring the president’s re-election campaign, and earlier still he served as Press Secretary in the Office of Representative Louise M. Slaughter. Benenati also served as a professional staffer in the Office of Representative Linda T. Sánchez, where he was a Press Assistant and Legislative Correspondent. He graduated from American in 2005.
 
 

June 2, 2016

This Week: Admiral William Moran becomes Vice Chief of Naval Operations

Admiral Michelle Howard left the Navy Staff this week, turning over the office of Vice Chief of Naval Operations to newly-frocked Admiral William Moran in the process. The change is an abrupt one in some ways – Howard was first confirmed for the job back at the tail end of 2013, but had to wait about a year to take office because she and so many other flag officers were caught in the wake of the Fat Leonard scandal. Neither Howard nor Moran nor their predecessor, Admiral Mark Ferguson, were ever implicated in the scandal; it just bogged down the entire Navy that badly. Howard now heads to US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, where she will again replace Ferguson, while also positioning herself as a possible candidate to become Chief of Naval Operations when Admiral John Richardson steps down. Her own replacement, Bill Moran, comes to the Vice Chief’s office from the Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS), where he was responsible for the uniformed segment of the Navy’s manpower, personnel, training, and education programs. Prior to taking over BUPERS, Moran spent about three years as Deputy Director and then Director of the Air Warfare Divisionunder N9 Warfare Systems. Before that he was an Executive Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations. Earlier still, he served as Deputy Director of the Navy Staff. Moran graduated from the Naval Academy in 1981 and earned an advanced degree at the National War College in 2006.

This week also saw the confirmation of Laura S. H. Holgate to be Representative of the United States of America to the International Atomic Energy Agency at the Vienna Office of the United Nations, complete with a new ambassadorial title and rank. Holgate’s confirmation comes after nearly a year of grinding through the Senate, where she was first nominated last August and spent a combined total of about eight months without making any real progress between hearings and committee votes. As of this writing, Holgate currently serves as a Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorism, and Threat Reduction on the National Security Council (NSC), a position that renders her a de facto special assistant to President Obama. Holgate has been in that position since the Obama Administration’s early days, starting off all the way back in 2009. Prior to that, she was the Vice President for Russia and the Newly Independent States at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a position she held from 2001 all the way up to her NSC appointment. Earlier, she served as the Director of the Office of Fissile Material Disposition at the Department of Energy, and before that she worked at the Department of Defense as Special Coordinator and Director for Cooperative Threat Reduction. Her first DOD gig was as a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. Before her government service, Holgate spent about two years as a Project Coordinator at the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She graduated from Princeton and later earned a graduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 
In campaign news, this week featured the Libertarian Party once again nominating former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, a relatively low-key climax to a convention that featured more viral content than the rest of the party’s primary combined. Johnson survived a contested convention, beating out challenges from Austin Petersen and John McAfee to clinch the nomination. Fellow former governor William F. Weld, who led Massachusetts for six years, was selected as Johnson’s running mate. While their odds of winning are very low and their odds of even getting onto the debate stage with their Republican and Democratic counterparts aren’t much better, they are currently polling higher than any ticket in the Libertarian Party’s history – around 10% in a hypothetical three-way matchup with Clinton and Trump. Since both Johnson and Weld are former Republicans, their nomination also signals a possible sea change as dissatisfied segments of the Republican Party continue to look for an alternative to Trump, his movement, and the Establishment he’s becoming increasingly friendly with. For his part, Trump continued his long-term offensive push against pretty much everyone this week, dismissing his would-be Libertarian challenges out-of-hand and sniping at the media over coverage of a veterans charity event. Clinton, on the other hand, remains locked in an increasingly bitter, drawn-out contest with Bernie Sanders. She might finally succeed in putting him away next week when California goes to vote, but Sanders could just as easily pull another rabbit out of his hat.
 
 

May 26, 2016

This Week: Rand Beers apppointed to National Infrastructure Advisory Council

A former administration heavyweight returned to the limelight this week as President Obama announced his intention to appoint Rand Beers to the National Infrastructure Advisory Council. Beers most recently served as Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security. Prior to that, his most recent full-on job was a four-year stint as Under Secretary and Counterterrorism Coordinator at the Department of Homeland Security. Beers capped this stint off with one hectic year where he was also Acting Deputy Secretary for four months and Acting Secretary for three; he was technically the last person to hold the office before the current secretary, Jeh Johnson, took over. Before all of that, he was both a Counselor to the Secretary and had his first run as Acting Deputy Secretary following several months with the Obama Transition Team’s Homeland Security Review Team. His last jump into politics before that was as a National Security Advisor to theKerry-Edwards 2004 campaign, a move that had him jumping ship from the Bush Administration, where Beers had been a Special Assistant to the President. Before that, he was an Assistant Secretary of State under both Bush and Clinton, and before that he had a string of intelligence and law enforcement roles in the Clinton White House. Outside of his government work, Beers is best known as the President and Founder of the National Security Network. He joined the United States Marine Corps fresh out of Dartmouth College in 1964, and later earned a graduate degree at Michigan in 1970.

This week also saw a major shake-up at the Transportation Security Administration, where retired Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger laid down the law on now-former Assistant Administrator Kelly C. Hoggan, who had overseen the TSA’s Office of Security Operations for about three years. Hoggan currently stands accused of whistleblower retaliation and embezzlement in the form of illicit bonuses. It remains to be seen whether Hoggan is a sacrificial lamb to appease members of Congress or if Neffenger actually got rid of him as part of an overall attempt to clean up the TSA – or both – but his replacement was prompt and without ceremony: Hoggan is succeeded by his former deputy, Darby LaJoye, best known for his stint as Federal Security Director at Los Angeles International Airport.
 
There was also a pretty big change over at the Federal Aviation Administration, where Deputy Administrator Michael G. Whitaker announced his intention to step down at the end of next month. Whitaker joined the FAA in 2013 following a lengthy career in the private sector. His most recent job was as a Business Development Consultant for InterGlobe Enterprises Limited, from 2011 to 2013. Prior to that he was Interglobe’s Group Chief Executive Officer for Travel, Technology and Aviation Services. Earlier, he was a Senior Counsel, Vice President and then Senior Vice President at United Airlines, specializing in Alliances, International and Regulatory Affairs. Before all that, Whitaker was an Assistant General Counsel at Trans World Airlines. He graduated from the University of Louisville and earned his law degree at Georgetown in 1987.
 
 
May 19, 2016

This Week: Eric Fanning confirmed as Secretary of the Army 

History was made this week as Eric K. Fanning became the first openly gay official to formally head a branch of the armed services. After months of grinding his way through the Senate, Fanning was unanimously confirmed as the new Secretary of the United States Army. While Fanning didn’t have an easy path to his office and his term will almost certainly be short-lived, his appointment nonetheless represents a tectonic shift within the defense community as a whole and the Army in particular. Fanning previously served as Acting Secretary of the Army before being forced out over Senate objections to him occupying a position he was being considered for. Before that, he served a brief stint as Acting Under Secretary of the Army and Chief Management Officer, a position he held until shortly before Patrick Murphy was confirmed. Last year, Fanning basically played musical chairs while the newly-minted Secretary of Defense Ash Carter rearranged his senior staff to his liking. First he was wrapping up his tenure as Under Secretary of the Air Force, then he was Carter’s Special Assistant and later took on added duties as Chief of Staff, then he went to the Army. Previously, he also made history as Acting Under Secretary of the Army, and remains one of only a few people to have headed up both branches in even an acting capacity. Earlier in his career, he served as Deputy Under Secretary for Business Operations and Transformation and Deputy Chief Management Officer of the Navy under Ray Mabus. He first joined the Obama Administration in 2009 as a Special Assistant to Secretary Robert Gates.
 
Fanning wasn’t the only one making history though. Air Force General Lori J. Robinson became the first woman to ever head one of the Department of Defense’s Unified Combatant Commands when she took over US Northern Command this week, which also landed her in the top seat at NORAD and put her in charge of one of the largest administrative bodies in the entire department. Already a trailblazer for being one of only a handful of female flag and general officers to earn a fourth star, Robinson previously served as Commander of Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii. Before that she was Vice Commander at Air Combat Command, Deputy Commander for US Air Forces Central Command, and earlier still she served as head of the Air Force’s Directorate of Legislative Liaison. Depending on a variety of factors, Robinson now joins fellow Air Force General Ellen Pawlikowski and Navy Admiral Michelle Howard as one of the only three women in the armed services with an immediate shot at sitting on the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the next opening comes up in a few years. She graduated New Hampshire in 1981 and Troy State in 1992.
 

It was also a banner week for the State Department, with several important confirmations and plenty of new nominations. Among others, Sung Y. Kim was nominated as the next Ambassador to the Philippines. The nomination represents a turning point for Kim, who’s spent most of his recent career focusing more on the Korean peninsula. In his current job, he serves as both a Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and as the Special Representative for North Korea Policy in the Office for North Korea Affairs. He previously served as the Ambassador to Korea from 2011 to 2014. Prior to that, he was the Director for Six-Party Talks, a position that made him one of the key figures in attempting to disarm and dissuade North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, and before that he was the Director of the Office of Korean Affairs. Earlier still, he was a Political/Military Affairs officer at the United States Embassy in Korea. His last non-Korea-related position was as a Political Officer in Japan. Before that he was a Staff Assistant in the same Bureau he works at today. He joined the State Department after a stint as a Public Prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney in the Office of the District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles. He graduated from Pennsylvania in 1982 and went on to earn law degrees from Loyola and the London School of Economics. 

 

May 12, 2016

This Week: The Air National Guard gets a new Director

The Air National Guard changed hands this week, as newly frocked Lieutenant General Leon Scott Rice took over from acting director Major General Brian G. Neal, who had been keeping the seat warm since Stanley Clarke's departure and retirement late last year. Rice comes to the Pentagon from the Massachusetts National Guard, where he served as Adjutant General. Prior to that, he was the Air National Guard Assistant to the Commander of US Air Forces in Europe. Aside from that and an earlier stint at RAF Lakenheath in England, most of Rice's career to date has been spent with state guards, particularly in Idaho and Massachusetts. For the better part of twenty-five years, he worked his way up the Massachusetts National Guard chain of command, with assignments as Director of Operations, Assistant Adjutant General, Chief of Staff, and Interim Adjutant General, among others. He also spent time dual-hatting as an assistant and information officer to former Air National Guard Director Henry Wyatt. He became Adjutant General in 2012. Rice graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1980 and 1981, respectively.

This week also included the announcement of an organizational overhaul at the National Institutes of Health, the nation's largest and most prominent medical research and treatment establishment, with the intent of bringing its staff structure more in-line with those of other hospitals. Among other things, Director Francis Collins is looking to put in place a new Chief Executive, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Medical Officer, along with establishing several new offices and boards. The reorganization effort follows several rough patches in recent years, including an FDA inspection that found problems with the Institutes' pharmacy operations and an independent review that found staff prioritized research over patient safety. The reorganization is expected to take up the remainder of the year.
 
This week also saw the announcement of Carol Zelis Perez as the next Ambassador to the Republic of Chile. If confirmed, she'll replace the outgoing ambassador, Michael Hammer, who's been in place since 2014. Perez currently serves as a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department's Bureau of Human Resources, a position she's held since early last year. She was previously a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, a position she held for about two years. Prior to that, she was the Deputy Assistant Secretary in charge of Air Wing and Resource Management. Earlier in her career, she served as the head of the Milan Consulate General in Italy, and before that she spent six years as Executive Director of the department's Executive Secretariat. Earlier still, she headed up the Barcelona Consulate General in Spain. She graduated from Hiram College and the George Washington University.

 

 

May 5, 2016

This Week: Trump wins GOP nomination as Cruz and Kasich drop out 

The knockout bell rang in Indiana this week as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Governor John Kasich of Ohio officially called it quits, leaving real estate mogul and reality TV show star Donald Trump as the last candidate standing. He is now the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee to become the President of the United States. The writing had been on the wall for months now, but both Cruz and Kasich held on as long as they could. At one point, they even attempted to collaborate as part of a strategy to force Trump into a contested convention – an alliance that effectively fell apart almost the day it was announced. The defeat is especially bitter for Cruz, whose combination of a superb ground game and outsider credentials probably would have clinched him the nomination against anyone else in this year’s flock of also-rans. While Kasich will return to Ohio with bruises to show for it, Cruz will likely be on damage control for the next couple of months as he rebuilds his brand from a combination of strategic errors and political side-swipes, including allegations of collaborating with the Republican establishment. Trump’s likely opponent, former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has not officially beaten out her only remaining rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, but the attacks have already started rolling in on both sides. It remains to be seen how much longer Sanders will hold out, especially with talk of a contested convention shifting over to the Democrats, but his paths to victory get a little more esoteric by the day. It’s less a matter of if he calls it quits and more a matter of how gracefully the self-styled political revolutionary bows out, and how effectively he’ll be able to urge his supporters to shift over to Clinton for the general.

On a less dramatic note, this week also featured the confirmation of Roberta S. Jacobson as the next U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Jacobson’s confirmation marks the end of an eleven-month slog through the United States Senate, where Senator and former presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) held her up over opposition to the Obama Administration’s thawing of relations with Cuba. As of both her confirmation and this writing, Jacobson is serving as the Assistant Secretary in charge of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department, a position she’s held since 2012. Jacobson has been with the Bureau in one capacity or another since 1996, barring only a two-year stint at the Embassy of the United States in Peru, where she served as Deputy Chief of Mission. Spanning three administrations, she’s variously served as the Bureau’s Director of Policy Planning and Coordination, Director of Mexican Affairs, Deputy Assistant Secretary and NAFTA Coordinator, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. She graduated from Brown University in 1982 and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1986.

Rounding out the week were a series of high-level changes at the United States Army, starting at Fort Leavenworth and chaining all the way around the world – the long way – to Stuttgart, Germany. It started with the promotion and departure of General Robert B. Brown, who was replaced at his old jobs as Commandant of the Command and General Staff College and Commanding General of the Army Combined Arms Center by Brigadier General John S. Kem on an interim basis. Brown then went over to U.S. Army Pacific Command in Hawaii, where he took command from General Vincent K. Brooks. Brooks then went over to South Korea, where he took over U.S. Forces Korea from General Curtis Michael Scaparrotti. Scaparrotti then flew to the Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, where he took over U.S. European Command, along with the position of Supreme Allied Commander Europe for NATO, from Air Force General Philip M. Breedlove. Breedlove, finally, didn’t go anywhere or take over from anyone – he’s retiring after a career spanning almost forty years with the Air Force. 

 

 

April 28, 2016

This Week: Trump sweeps, while Clinton takes four out of five 

After a few weeks of deliberating, President Obama and Defense Secretary Carter went with a relatively safe pick for the next Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force: General David Goldfein, who beat out frontrunners like Space Command’s John Hyten and Materiel Command’s Ellen Pawlikowski to secure the nomination. Goldfein currently serves as the Air Force’s Vice Chief of Staff, a position he’s held since last August, when he came over from his old job as Director of the Joint Staff. Whereas several of Obama’s new Joint Chiefs and senior commanders come from logistics and special operations backgrounds, Goldfein is a conventional pilot who spent most of his career managing operations, in addition to serving occasional stints in policy or staff assignments. Prior to his Joint Staff position, he was the Commander for Air Forces Central Command, and before that he was Director of Operations over at Air Combat Command. He served on theAir Staff for about a year and a half as Deputy Director of Programs, and before that led a string of fighter squadrons and wings dating back to the late 1990s. He graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1983, earning a degree in philosophy, before earning his MBA at Oklahoma City in 1987. Most recently he graduated from Air Command and Staff College and Air War College in 1995 and 1998, respectively. 

Aside from the Goldfein nomination, this week was largely dominated by elections. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, long the frontrunners of their respective parties, each came several steps closer to locking in the nomination. Clinton took four states in the latest round of voting, losing only Rhode Island. Her only remaining rival, Bernie Sanders, is hanging on by a thread at this point; he’s close to being mathematically eliminated and has already begun downsizing his campaign. While Sanders has done much to shake up the race and drag the normally centrist Clinton to the left, the writing is pretty much on the wall at this point. It remains to be seen how long he’ll hold out, but he’s already begun scaling back the ferocity of his language against her, which is usually one of the first moves ahead of an outright concession. Barring another miracle win from nowhere or a continued protest campaign to try and drum up interest in the Democratic Party and Sanders’ own political ideals, his campaign is likely to run out of gas sometime in the next few weeks.

Trump, on the other hand, swept all five states on Tuesday in spite of a lukewarm, seemingly short-lived alliance between his remaining rivals, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, whose combined vote share still fell short of the Republican frontrunner in every state. While Kasich mostly kept a low profile after the defeat, Cruz sought to mitigate the damage by naming former rival and one-time Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina as his running mate – a move which immediately raised eyebrows more out of surprise than because of its strategic value. Fiorina herself dropped out of the race back in February after weeks of low polling numbers. Her big moment in the campaign so far was being able to briefly stall Trump in one of the early debates, not to mention wrangling her way into those debates despite her low poll numbers. It remains to be seen how effective she’ll be on the campaign trail, and Cruz is facing long odds if he seriously wants to win, but this has been a season of surprises and there might be a few left before it’s over.

 

 

 

April 21, 2016

This Week: VA gets a new IG, and Clinton and Trump win big in New York 

The Department of Veterans Affairs got a new Inspector General this week: Michael J. Missal, who was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday evening. Missal arrives at VA after a grueling six month confirmation process, four of which were spent in limbo after being voted through committee in January. Much like his new boss, Secretary Robert McDonald, Missal is an unconventional choice for a department weighed down by continuing scandals: he has no experience as an Inspector General and only minimal connections to the military, most of them by way of his father, a World War II veteran. Like McDonald, most of Missal’s claim to fame comes from a career in the private sector, where he spent most of the past thirty years as a partner with various incarnations of K&L Gates LLP, an international law firm, where he focused mainly on financial investigations and enforcement. Before that, his last government service was a Senior Counsel in the Reagan-era Securities and Exchange Commission, a position he held for five years after a year-long clerkship with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He got his start as a Staff Assistant to President Jimmy Carter back in the 70s. He graduated from Washington and Lee in 1978 and Columbus School of Law in 1982.

President Obama flexed his executive muscle this week, appointing ten members to the recently established Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity: Retired Army General and former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander, Dr. Annie I. Anton of the Georgia Institute of TechnologyMasterCardPresident and CEO Ajay Banga, Steven Chabinsky of CrowdStrike, Dr. Patrick Gallagher of the University of PittsburghMicrosoft Corporation’s Peter Lee, Dr. Herbert Lin from Stanford University, private investor Heather Murren, Uber Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan, and former Frontier CommunicationsCEO and Chairman Maggie Wilderotter. They join the Commission’s existing Executive Director, Kiersten Todt, and its Chair and Vice Chair, Thomas Donilon and Samuel Palmisano. The Commission will focus on making detailed policy recommendations to strengthen cybersecurity and privacy in both the public and private sectors. It’s slated to terminate fifteen days after its final report, but the exact timeline for its reports haven’t been provided yet, and President Obama left himself and his successors enough wiggle-room to keep the Commission going as long as necessary.

For supporters of long-shot candidates, this was also the week the Empire State struck back as New York handed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump solid wins in the Democratic and Republican primaries. Clinton carried her former Senate state by a margin of 58% to 42%, not only retaining the near-250 delegate lead she’s had on insurgent Bernie Sanders throughout most of the contest, but also further solidifying her lead in the popular vote. It didn’t help Sanders that he hired, and then abruptly suspended, a Jewish outreach specialist who lobbed personal insults at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump, on the other hand, crushed both John Kasich and Ted Cruz, winning 60.4% of the vote. With the Republican convention looming, Cruz and Kasich aren’t being very subtle with their plans to try and force a contested convention. New York effectively eliminated Cruz’s chances of winning before a second round of voting, but he might be able to hang on long enough to clinch it on round two or three. Kasich, at this point, just seems to be sticking around as a spoiler in northeastern and otherwise moderate states. While Trump still has a near-lock on the nomination, his general election polling numbers have been awful for a while now, perhaps explaining why he’s decided to shake up his campaign staff by hiring conventional political veterans like Rick Wiley, formerly the campaign director for Scott Walker’s short-lived presidential bid, among others. It remains to be seen whether this will lead to Trump toning down the bombastic rhetoric that’s gotten him this far, or whether his anti-establishment base will be happy to hear about establishment figures finally buddying up to him.Office of the Secretary of Education, a role where she’s advised both Duncan and his successor, current Secretary John King. Of the three, Lehrich graduated from Boston University, McIntosh graduated from both Harvard College and Harvard Business School, and Whalen graduated from Stanford.

 

 

April 14, 2016

This Week: Changes to the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Joint Chiefs of Staff resumed a long-running game of musical chairs this week, as General Mark A. Welsh III announced his retirement on July 1st. His eventual replacement will bring an end to one of the largest periods of transition in the military’s history – within one year, all of the Joint Chief positions will have rotated. While that replacement has not been officially named, Air Force Space Command’s General John E. Hyten has emerged as an early frontrunner in the media. Other possible contenders include Generals Darren McDew at Transportation Command, Hawk Carlisle at Air Combat Command, and a dark horse with Ellen Pawlikowski at Air Force Materiel Command. If Hyten does get the eventual nod, it’ll be the first time in the Air Force’s history that a non-pilot has been chosen to lead it, signifying the growing importance of both space and cyber as part of the Air Force’s mission profile. Pawlikowski would be the first woman to ever head the uniform section of a military department, and while her selection would be in keeping with the Obama Administration’s push for more logistics and special operations personnel in high-ranking positions, it’s more likely that honor will one day go to Navy Admiral Michelle Howard. Welsh himself was arguably a dark horse back when he was chosen for the job in 2012 – his previous post was as the commander of US Air Forces in Europe, rather than a joint combatant command or a service-wide support command, possibly reflecting tensions with Russia at the time. Welsh graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1976, Webster University in 1987, and Naval War College in 1993. His son, Mark A. Welsh IV, is a prominent energy investor.
 
Brad Carson also stepped down this week, bringing to an end a long, painful, and ultimately futile battle with Senate Republicans. A former congressman himself, Carson had been acting for most of a year as the Obama Administration’s ninth military personnel chief, first as the formal Acting Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness, then as the Principal Deputy while continuing to perform the duties of his former role. Part of this was the recent pushback against people acting in the roles they’re nominated for, but most of it has been attributed to a variety of missteps and miscommunications between Carson and the Senate Armed Services Committee. This awkward relationship reached core meltdown when Carson went before the Committee in February; his Force of the Future policy initiative was eviscerated, even if most of its changes were individually praised, and his nomination was subsequently withdrawn. Carson stayed on for another month or so to allow for Peter Levine to take over as the new Acting Under Secretary. Like Carson, who previously served as Under Secretary and Chief Management Officer of the Army, Levine will start off dual-hatting his current job as the Department of Defense’s Deputy Chief Management Officer, at least in the short-term. It remains to be seen if, also like Carson, he’ll wind up stepping out of his old job in order to focus on his new one.
 
On a lighter note, this week also saw nominations for three Assistant Secretary positions at the Department of Education. Matthew Lehrich, Amy McIntosh, and Ann Whalen were named as Obama’s picks for Assistant Secretaries of Communications and Outreach, Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, and Elementary and Secondary Education, respectively. Lehrich currently serves as Education’s main Communications Director, a job he’s held since February; he was previously a Senior Advisor to Secretary Arne Duncan. McIntosh already heads up the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development as Acting Assistant Secretary, although she’s usually emphasized as the Principal Deputy. Ann Whalen is a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Education, a role where she’s advised both Duncan and his successor, current Secretary John King. Of the three, Lehrich graduated from Boston University, McIntosh graduated from both Harvard College and Harvard Business School, and Whalen graduated from Stanford.

 

 

April 7, 2016

This Week: Changes at DHA, DOS, and NASA

Jonathan Woodson announced his intention to step down as Assistant Secretary of Defense this week, closing up shop after more than five years as head of the military’s healthcare systems. Woodson first took office back in January 2011 after an eight month slog through the Senate. He soon found himself at the forefront of the transition from DOD’s old TRICARE Management Activity to its current Defense Health Agency, a change that will likely be his legacy as Assistant Secretary. Woodson actually served as TRICARE’s director, in addition to his duties as Assistant Secretary, for a period of about two years, ending with the October 2013 changeover. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, he had a lengthy military career, which included numerous hospital and brigade commands, as well as a stint as Associate Dean of the School of Medicine at Boston University. He graduated from the City College of New York and the Army War College, as well as earning his medical doctorate at New York University. Woodson leaves office on May 1st; no replacement has been announced as of this writing.

Also happening this week was the replacement of Todd Stern by Jonathan Pershing, who took office as the newly appointed Special Envoy for Climate Change at the Department of State. Pershing comes to State from the Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis at the Department of Energy, where he served as Principal Deputy Director. This isn’t Pershing’s first time with State; he’s bounced around the Obama Administration since he joined back in 2009. His first post was actually as Todd Stern’s Deputy before he moved over to the US Global Change Research Program, where he served as the State Representative. More recently, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary in the office of Climate Change Policy and Technology. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Pershing served for his six years as Director of Climate Change Programs at the World Resources Institute. Before that, he served as Director of the Environment Program at the International Energy Agency. His main claim to fame through it all was the role he played as a negotiator for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. He graduated from Queens College in 1981 and earned his doctorate from the University of Minnesota in 1990.

This week also featured a retirement announcement from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s John Grunsfeld, who heads up the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. Effective at the end of this month, Grunsfeld will close out a career spanning four decades with the world’s premier space agency. For seventeen years, Grunsfeld was a member of the Astronaut Office; he took part in five space missions, including several visits to Hubble and one of the final space shuttle flights back in 2009. He also oversaw nearly a hundred science missions, ranging from asteroid exploration to space weather strategy development, among other things. Prior to his current position as Associate Administrator, he served as NASA’s Chief Scientist, and before that he was both the chief and an instructor at the Astronaut Office’sExtravehicular Activity Branch. Earlier still, he was chief of the office’s Computer Support Branch. He graduated from MIT in 1980, earned his graduate degree at the University of Chicago in 1984, and later earned his doctorate there in 1988.Department of Education, Hunter Reed will serve as Deputy Under Secretary to Ted Mitchell, making her one of the nation’s top officials on all things higher ed. Her new appointment goes into effect early next week.

 

 

March 31, 2016

This Week: Changes at CENTCOM and SOCOM 

It was a big week for the military as the leadership of US Central Command and US Special Operations Command both changed hands. Army General Lloyd J. Austin retired, ending a long, distinguished career in the shadow of a still-ongoing revolt among CENTCOM’s intelligence analysts. While Austin’s latter years as a general staff officer were mostly defined by caution and restraint, the writing was on the wall for his retirement starting late last year with a disastrous testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the Pentagon’s train and equip program. His situation wasn’t helped much by the aforementioned revolt, which concerned accusations of doctored intelligence reports. His replacement, fellow Army General Joseph Leonard Votel, comes to CENTCOM from a career in and around special forces operations. He inherits a CENTCOM in transition and more than a little disarray – the intelligence debacle hasn’t been sorted out yet and there’s always the looming prospect of escalation in Iraq or Syria. Votel himself was replaced by newly frocked Army General Raymond A. Thomas III, who until recently served as the head of Joint Special Operations Command. Thomas’s own replacement has yet to be announced, and may not be for a while, but all signs point to it being the recently promoted Army Lieutenant General Austin Scott Miller, who recently swapped out of his command post at the US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, handing it off to Brigadier General Eric Wesley just three days after Wesley was named to the job.

 
This week also saw a major announcement coming out of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: David Medine, the board’s very first chairman, will be stepping down in early July to pursue undisclosed opportunities in the private sector. Medine was first confirmed back in May of 2013 by a near-party-line vote after a six month nomination process. He came to the board as a former partner with the DC office of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. Prior to that, he was best known as a Senior Advisor on the National Economic Council. Earlier in his career, Medine served as an Associate Director of Financial Practices with the Federal Trade Commission and as a partner with Hogan and Hartson LLP. He graduated from Hampshire College in 1975 and earned his JD at the University of Chicago in 1978. His departure, coupled with the current re-nomination of Member James Xavier Dempsey, leaves the often embattled board’s future in doubt – it actually ceased to exist for almost five years before President Obama revived it, and it was effectively non-functioning for most of a year before Medine’s confirmation.

 

Lastly, Kim Hunter Reed jumped up from state to federal government this week. Previously the Chief of Staff for the State of Louisiana’s Board of Regents, Hunter Reed spent most of the past two years catching her breath in the private sector before joining the gubernatorial transition team of John Bel Edwards late last year. Prior to those positions, she served as Executive Vice President of the University of Louisiana System, Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Kathleen Blanco, and Public Affairs Deputy Commissioner. In her new job at the Department of Education, Hunter Reed will serve as Deputy Under Secretary to Ted Mitchell, making her one of the nation’s top officials on all things higher ed. Her new appointment goes into effect early next week.

 

March 24, 2016

This Week: Flag and general officer nominations and promotions

It was a big week in defense as several flag and general officers were nominated, promoted, and in one ignoble case, sacked. The Air Force’s Lt. Gen. John Hesterman was fired from his post as Assistant Vice Chief of Staff and Director of Air Staff – effectively the #3 military position in the entire Air Force – for conduct unbecoming of an officer. While he was going down for the count, another Air Force officer was making history. General Lori Robinson, the fourth woman to ever attain a four-star rank, has been nominated to oversee US Northern Command and NORAD, making her the first woman ever to have a shot at leading one of the Department of Defense’s six combatant commands, each of which is considered a stepping stone to becoming one of the Joint Chiefs. Robinson’s fellow four-star, Navy Admiral Michelle Howard, was also named for a new post this week. If confirmed, she’ll move from being Vice Chief of Naval Operations to Commander of Naval Forces Europe, a jump that not only guarantees her retirement as an admiral but also sets her up to take over a combatant command herself. Other confirmations this week included Army General Joseph Votel to lead US Central Command, as well as Lt. Gen. Raymond Thomas to succeed Votel as head of Special Operations Command. On the civilian side of things, Janine Davidson was confirmed as the new Under Secretary of the Navy, finally putting in place a permanent successor to Robert Work nearly two years after he stepped up to become Deputy Secretary of Defense.

 
This week also saw a high-level departure at the Department of Transportation. Nearly seven years after joining the Obama Administration, Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs Susan L. Kurland is stepping down for a new job with the City of Chicago’s Department of Aviation. Kurland first came on board back in August of 2009, joining the government after a number of years in the private sector. She served as Managing Director of Jefferies & Company, a subsidiary of the Jefferies Group, as well as Deputy General Counsel and Vice President at US Airways. Before going into the private sector, she served as Deputy Corporation Counsel with Chicago’s Law Department, and General Counsel for the city’s Department of Aviation. She graduated from Brandeis and Boston University.

Rounding out the week, Federal Trade Commission member Julie Brill also announced her intention to resign, effective at the end of the month. Almost six years to the day after joining the Obama Administration, Brill is returning to private practice as a Partner and Co-Director for Privacy and Cybersecurity at Hogan Lovells. Her last jaunt through the private sector was in the late 1980s, when she served as an Associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison. In between, Brill was best known for her stints as an Assistant Attorney General with the Consumer Protection Division of the State of Vermont and as a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School. She also served as Vice-Chair of the Consumer Protection Committee of the American Bar Association. Brill got her start as a Law Clerk on the sidelines of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont, way back when she was fresh out of New York University Law School in 1985. Brill graduated from Princeton in 1981

 

March 17, 2016

This Week:  Marco Rubio suspends campaign after Florida loss


Marco Rubio finally threw in the towel this week, narrowing the Republican primary field down to just Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz, and Governor John Kasich, with Trump poised to win the whole thing. The junior senator from Florida managed to unseat Jeb Bush as the party establishment’s pick a scant four months ago, but the sudden influx of donations, endorsements, and general support just wasn’t enough to salvage his campaign. Rubio exits a distant third, having won only two states and having lost his native Florida by nearly twenty points. With his senate career already on the rocks – he declared his intention to retire last year and it’s already too late in the game to try and change his mind – Rubio faces an uncertain future likely to be marked by at least a year or two of trying to rebuild his image in the private sector. With Rubio out, the party establishment now has to face some very uncomfortable choices, many of which involve trying to force a brokered convention or accepting the insurgent Trump as the party’s flag bearer for November. It’d seem logical for them to support Kasich, who pulled off the only non-Trump win of the night in his native Ohio, but Kasich is hardly a blip on Trump’s radar. The only other option at this point is Cruz, who has a long record of butting heads with his party and making some very public enemies in the process. Either way, it looks like Trump is going to be the nominee and he’s probably going to be taking on Hillary Clinton in the general; she made a clean enough sweep on Tuesday that Sanders will have to win at least 60% of the remaining delegates to beat her – unlikely, to put it kindly.

This week also saw Brad Carson, Obama’s pick to be Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, declaring his intention to leave the Department of Defense after nearly nine months of slogging through the Senate and more time still spent performing the duties of that position. Carson previously served as the Under Secretary of the Army under John McHugh, and tried to jump ship not long after his old boss left. For about two months, he was actually dual-hatting as both Under Secretary of the Army and Under Secretary of Defense, stepping down from the Army gig when Eric Fanning took over. Not long after that, Carson’s nomination stalled in the Senate. More recently, he had to step down as Acting Under Secretary while continuing to perform the duties of the job in a lesser role, which also coincided with a similar move by fellow nominee Eric Fanning, who’s currently stuck waiting for confirmation as Secretary of the Army. As with Fanning, most of the objection to Carson seemed to be more personal than substantial – for all the flak he got during his disastrous visit to Capitol Hill, relatively few of his policy decisions were directly criticized. Carson’s nomination hasn’t been officially withdrawn as of this writing, but it probably won’t be long before the paperwork cycles through. Prior to joining the Department of the Army as General Counsel back in 2012, Carson was best known for his four years in the United States House of Representatives. He made a failed bid at Oklahoma’s open senate seat in 2004. Earlier in his career, he worked at the Clinton Department of Defense as a Special Assistant, served as both an Adjunct Law Professor and Associate Professor at the University of Tulsa, and had a private practice. He graduated from Baylor, Oxford, and Oklahoma.

And on a lighter note, John King successfully made it through the Senate this week, clearing what was expected to be a year-long brawl of a nomination in barely a month. He now formally takes office as head of the Department of Education succeeding Arne Duncan as the nation’s top teacher. King first joined the department in 2014 as a Senior Advisor to Secretary Duncan, later playing a game of musical chairs for several months as Duncan headed for the door and the Obama administration mulled the possibility of nominating him. He first took over the duties of Deputy Secretary after James Shelton left in late 2015, then took over the duties of Acting Secretary of Education after Duncan left; for a little while, at least, he was actually doing both. With his confirmation, King handed off the Deputy Secretary job to James Cole and settled into his new, full-time gig as Secretary. Prior to joining the department, he was best known for his years in the New York State Education Department, where he served on a number of commissions. He was also the head and founder of several education nonprofits. He graduated Harvard, Columbia, and Yale, returning to Columbia later on to earn his doctorate.

 

March 10, 2016

This Week:  Republican Establishment begins to move to Cruz

It was a rough week for Marco Rubio as Donald Trump crushed him in multiple primaries and Ted Cruz started sidling up to the very Establishment supporters that he’s relying on to stay in the race. Cruz picked up the quiet Bush brother, Neil, as a member of his finance team, and then nabbed an endorsement from former competitor Carly Fiorina. On Tuesday night, Cruz was the only candidate to beat Trump in any state, preventing the current frontrunner from making a clean sweep; he won Idaho convincingly, barely edged out John Kasich for the number two spot in Michigan, and held second place comfortably in both Hawaii and Mississippi. Rubio, by comparison, only finished in third place in Hawaii and Michigan; he was dead last in Mississippi and Idaho. Rubio still has a lock on third place nationally, bolstered by his recent win in Puerto Rico, but many are calling Florida his make-or-break point and Trump is currently clobbering him in polls there. Ohio Governor John Kasich is likewise hanging on for dear life. His 54 delegates might help make for a brokered convention if Trump isn’t able to secure a solid majority, but calls for him to drop out will probably intensify if he can’t win his home state. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders pulled off a narrow upset in Michigan, but still looks set to lose the race against Hillary Clinton in the long term. Not only will Michigan’s delegates be split up almost evenly, but Clinton crushed him in a landslide down in Mississippi. Clinton has held a lead of about two hundred delegates for much of the race, not counting superdelegates, and while Sanders consistently beats her among youth voters, Clinton is winning with most of the other groups that make up the base of the Democratic Party.
 
Outside of elections, the biggest newsmaker this week was Therese McMillan, who formally withdrew her nomination to be head of the Federal Transit Administration after more than a year and a half of being stuck in the Senate. McMillan was first nominated back in July 2014 to replace her old boss, Peter Rogoff. That was also about the same time she started her tenure as Acting Administrator – one of many such acting nominees that were, until very recently, an uncontroversial way of keeping the lights on during the Senate confirmation process. Prior to her stint as Acting Administrator, McMillan was the agency’s Deputy Administrator, a position she held for almost five and a half years. Before that, she was best known for the twenty-five years she spent working on transportation issues in California. Her first big job was as the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Manager for Finance, which later included additional duties managing External Affairs. She also spent nearly eight years as the Deputy Executive Director of Policy, jumping off only to join the Obama Administration back in 2009. McMillan returns to California at the end of the month, where she’s slated to become Chief of Real Property Management and Development with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. McMillan graduated from UC Davis in 1980 and UC Berkeley in 1983.
 
As McMillan’s confirmation quest was drawing to a close, others had only just begun. Dr. Christopher Brummer and Brian Quintenz both had their nominations finally reach the Senate record this week, with both men being named to seats on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Brummer is a career academic for the most part – he got his start as an Associate with Cravath, Swaine, and Moore LLP back in 2004, then jumped to Vanderbilt University in 2006. Brummer jumped from Vanderbilt to Georgetown University in 2009, where he became a Professor of Law and Faculty Director for the Institute of International Economic Law, positions he still holds as of this writing. In the interim, he held a variety of fellowships and visiting professorships with other schools and organizations like the Atlantic Council and theMilken Institute, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission. Quintenz is almost his opposite number career-wise – he’s been in the private and public sector for most of his career. He got his start with the Presidential Exploratory Committee of Congressman John Kasich back in 1999, stuck with the congressman’s office until 2001, and then jumped ship over to the Office of Representative Deborah Pryce (R-OH), where he stayed until 2007, ultimately rising to the role of Senior Policy Advisor. Quintenz took a few years off before joining the private sector at Hill-Townsend Capital LLC, where he served as an Analyst and later as a Senior Associate. He currently works as Founder, Managing Principal, and Chief Investment Officer of Saeculum Capital Management LLC, a risk management-focused investment firm he founded in 2013. Quintenz graduated from Duke and Georgetown University. Brummer graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, Columbia University Law School, and earned his PhD at the University of Chicago. 

 

 

 

March 3, 2016

This Week:  Trump and Clinton win big on Super Tuesday

Campaigns again took center stage this week as Democrats and Republicans battled it out internally for Super Tuesday. Current frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both scored seven-state wins, with Clinton crushing Sanders for six of hers and Trump scoring solid pluralities in five of his. Bernie Sanders barely lost Massachusetts but convincingly won Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and his home state of Vermont. Ted Cruz won three states, including Texas, and Marco Rubio finally took home a win in Minnesota. Barring upsets or campaign disasters, it’s already looking like Clinton and Trump will go at it in the general, with everybody else eking out just enough support to justify hanging on a while longer – everyone but Ben Carson, at least. Carson failed to win or place in the top three in any states. The very next day, Carson seemingly threw in the towel and withdrew from Thursday’s GOP debate, citing the lack of a ‘political path forward’ after Super Tuesday. His official statement left some room for doubt though, and Carson appears to have one last speech to make at this year’s CPAC before he can be counted out for sure. His likely departure leaves John Kasich as the fourth man in what’s barely a three-way race; lagging in most polls, but still able to put up a fight in the kinds of places that Ted Cruz has trouble with. It’s probably also worth noting that Rubio lost his communications director Tuesday afternoon, as Micah Johnson returned to the Office of Senator Bob Corker (R-TN); not a very good sign for the Establishment favorite.
 
It was also a momentous week for US Forces – Afghanistan, as Army General John Campbell stepped down and retired following about two years near the front lines of America’s longest war. Campbell previously served as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army from 2013 to 2014, and was one of the odds-on favorites to succeed his old boss, General Ray Odierno, when he neared retirement last year. Unless there’s another round of mission creep or an unexpected emergency of some kind, Campbell’s successor, Army General John W. Nicholson Jr., will probably be the last four-star officer to command American forces in Afghanistan. Nicholson will oversee a force of about 14,000 troops, a shadow of the 101,000 troops present during the peak of American operations. Nicholson previously served as the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne, a position he held for two years. His father, John W. Nicholson Sr., is a retired Army brigadier general who served as an Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the George W. Bush Administration. His uncle, R. James Nicholson, is a former ambassador who served as Bush’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs; he’s currently a Senior Counsel with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP. Nicholson Jr. graduated from West Point in 1982.
 
This week was also a roller coaster ride for the Department of Veterans Affairs, where several senior medical center staffers were shuffled around due to alleged misconduct, a Veterans Integrated Service Network director retired to avoid being fired, and a new Principal Deputy Under Secretary was appointed at the Veterans Health Administration. Former Major General Richard A. Stone comes to the VA from Booz Allen Hamilton, where he served for two years as a principal following his retirement from the US Army Reserve. His final assignment was a dual-hat role – Deputy Surgeon General of the Army and Deputy Commanding General for Support at US Army Medical Command. Stone graduated from Western Michigan in 1973, Wayne State University in 1977, and later earned an advanced degree from the Army War College. He takes office as the right-hand man to David J. Shulkin, the Under Secretary for Health.

 

 

February 25, 2016

This Week:  Jeb Bush suspends his presidential campaign 

After months of low poll numbers and poor finishes in every one of the big three early primary states, Jeb Bush finally bowed out of the race for the Republican nomination on Saturday. His suspension speech marked the end of a campaign that started on top of the world with high poll numbers, ringing endorsements, and a staggering super PAC, only to start collapsing almost immediately. Gaffe-prone and rusty after spending most of the last decade in the private sector, Bush tried to run a positive, upbeat, sometimes moderate campaign in a year of vengeful outsider candidates and bombastic rhetoric. On the occasions when he tried to cut loose and join the rest of the pack, he never managed to stand out. Whenever he tried to carve out a moderate stance on anything, he got burned for it. It’s hard to nail down exactly when his campaign went terminal, especially with Donald Trump’s constant attacks, but it was probably the moment when his old protégé, Marco Rubio, outflanked him in a debate and began locking down the support of the Establishment that Bush was so reliant upon. Bush’s departure leaves John Kasich as the last governor standing in the entire race, having outlasted not only Bush, but also Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki, as well as Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee on the Democratic side. The Republican race now boils down to a three-way brawl between frontrunner Donald Trump and first-term senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, with Kasich poised to swoop in and replace Rubio if his campaign goes off the rails. Ben Carson is also hanging on as of this writing, although it seems less and less likely by the day that he’ll be able to recover his prior frontrunner status, much less finish anywhere in the top three.

Outside of campaign season, this week was busy for the federal government as a whole, with no fewer than four major CIO moves. At the Office of Personnel Management, Donna K. Seymour ended a tenure of about three years on a low note, resigning just two days before she was scheduled to testify before Congress about last year’s infamous data thefts. At the Department of Education, longtime CIO Danny Harris announced his intention to step down after almost eight years on the job, possibly connected to health issues after being grilled by lawmakers over cybersecurity. His deputy, Steve Grewal, will take over in March. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, Deputy CIO Art Gonzalez is stepping down after about two and a half years, to be replaced by Susan McHugh-Polley in early March. Lastly, Darren B. Ash is making the jump from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to the Farm Service Agency, effectively trading one CIO hat for another in the process. Ash has the distinction of being one of the only federal CIOs to have served at his job longer than Danny Harris; he took office way back in 2007.

Lastly, this week saw the confirmation of Dr. Robert McKinnon Califf to serve as Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, bringing to an end a six month grind through the Senate, wherein Califf faced serious bipartisan opposition, especially from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Most of Sanders’ objections stemmed from Califf’s close ties to the pharmaceutical industry, but they apparently weren’t enough to stop the new commissioner from getting an 89-4 pass when his nomination finally made it to the floor. Califf previously served as the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco, a position he took early last year. Prior to that, he was best known for the years he spent in academia, especially his tenure as Associate Vice Chancellor and then Vice Chancellor of Clinical Research at Duke University. Califf graduated from Duke twice, earning his bachelor of science in 1973 and his medical doctorate in 1978.

 

 

February 18, 2016

This Week:  Presidential race speeds up for Clinton, Cruz, Kasich and Trump

Friday ended up being huge for the State Department as Senator Ted Cruz lifted his holds on six nominees, all of whom were confirmed before the morning was out. The five newly confirmed ambassadors – Azita Raji, Samuel D. Heins, John L. Estrada, Thomas A. Shannon Jr., and David McKean – join Scot Alan Marciel, who was confirmed earlier in the week. The sixth Friday confirmation, Brian Egan, will go on to become Legal Adviser to the Department of State as a whole. Prior to confirmation, Egan served as a Deputy Counsel to President Obama. Earlier in his career, Egan was the Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement and Intelligence at the Department of the Treasury. Prior to that, he was an Associate Counsel with the White House. He first joined the Obama Administration back in 2009, serving as a Deputy Legal Adviser on the National Security Staff. Before Obama, he served at George W. Bush’s Department of State, where he was an Attorney-Advisor in the very office that he’s now confirmed to lead. Egan got his start doing five years as an Associate with Goodwin Procter. He graduated from Stanford and UC Berkeley.
 
It was also a big week for the Department of Education, as President Obama finally got around to nominating Dr. John B. King Jr. as Secretary of Education, completing a selection process that began in earnest with the December retirement of Arne Duncan. King’s nomination is a long shot given the current environment on Capitol Hill, and it might get even bumpier with the recent trend against acting nominees. Starting with Eric Fanning at the Department of the Army and continuing with Beth Cobert at the Office of Personnel Management, there seems to be a growing pushback against the administration’s ability to make use of qualified personnel while their nominations are pending. Given the long-term difficulty that the administration has faced in filling a significant number of mid- and high-level positions, it remains to be seen how this will affect government as a whole. King himself previously served as Senior Advisor to Secretary Duncan while performing the duties of Deputy Secretary of Education. Prior to that, he was best known for his time in the New York State Education System, where he served a combined six years in as many offices and commissions. Prior to that, he had a short stint as a Fellow with the Aspen Institute’s New Schools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Program, along with about eight years with Uncommon Schools, where he variously served as a charter school co-founder, managing director, and co-director. King graduated from Harvard, Columbia, and Yale.
 
And in campaign news, long shot candidate Jim Gilmore finally called it quits after back-to-back disappointments in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Where other candidates, like the recently dropped Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie, struggled to gain traction in this campaign season, Gilmore struggled just to get name recognition. It wasn’t hard to guess that he’d be withdrawing from the race after Iowa, where he racked up an abysmal twelve votes out of the more than hundred thousand that were cast that night. Gilmore returns to private life, but the race for the White House continues to pick up speed: Clinton, Cruz, Kasich and Trump all made high-level hires this week, including a digital director and a social media outreach director.

 

 

February 11, 2016

This Week:  The race is over for Christie and Florina
 
Chris Christie suspended his presidential campaign on Wednesday, a day after finishing in sixth place in the New Hampshire primary. New Hampshire is known for its relatively moderate Republican electorate, and Christie concluded that since he could not perform well there, he was unlikely to do so anywhere else. Christie had been harshly attacking Marco Rubio in the days leading up to the primary. At Saturday’s debate, he succeeded in rattling him, contributing to Rubio’s disappointing fifth place finish in New Hampshire. However, while his attacks weakened Rubio, they did not translate into votes for Christie. In the end, Christie’s charisma and strong debate performances were not enough for him to break through in a field led by an even bigger personality – Donald Trump. He returns home to New Jersey, where his term as governor expires in January 2018.
 
Carly Fiorina also announced on Wednesday that she will be suspending her campaign. She finished seventh in New Hampshire, behind Christie, receiving 4.1% of the vote. Fiorina has faded from the headlines in recent months after a couple strong debate performances last fall and summer. Her poll numbers peaked after a debate in which she had a memorable clash with Donald Trump, but since then she has been relegated to the “undercard” debates and her campaign failed to gain traction.
 
In other campaign news, Rand Paul’s former campaign manager, Chip Englander, has joined Marco Rubio for President as a senior political advisor. He will be focused on the Midwest. Englander managed Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s campaign, and is currently a senior advisor at Michael Best Strategies.
  
Also this week, the Senate confirmed Lieutenant General John “Mick” Nicholson as Commander of U.S. Forces -Afghanistan. He has had a long military career, most recently serving as NATO’s Commander of Allied Land Command, based in Turkey. Nicholson also served as Commanding General of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Divisionfrom 2012-2014. He will be replacing General John Campbell, who has been Commander in Afghanistan since 2014. The transition date has not yet been announced. Nicholson earned Bachelor’s degrees from Georgetown University and West Point, and Master’s degrees from the School of Advanced Military Studies and the National Defense University.

 

 

February 4, 2016

Iowa Caucus Results
It was a barnburner of a week for elections, and not a good one if you happened to be leading in the polls. With a near-flawless ground game and heavy support from evangelicals, Ted Cruz managed a not-quite-unpredicted upset against Donald Trump in Iowa for the Republican Caucus, while Hillary Clinton barely eked out a win over insurgent candidate Bernie Sanders in the neighboring Democratic Caucus – a race so close it was determined by coin tosses in several districts.
 
The fallout from Iowa was immediate and overwhelming: The campaigns of Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, both of whom had been short-term frontrunners back in 2008 and 2012, respectively, finally called it quits after months of lagging in the polls. Rand Paul, himself an insurgent who once stood enough of a chance to threaten the GOP’s foreign policy establishment, also closed shop the following day, presumably to focus more on his struggling Senate campaign.
 
On the Democratic side, former Maryland Governor and resident moderate everyman Martin O’Malley also gave up the ghost following months of poor polling and a night where he failed to capture more than .6% of the vote – not a typo. While Clinton made history as the first woman to win an Iowa Caucus, Marco Rubio appears to have been the big winner of the night – he came within a one-point striking distance of Trump and has emerged as the Establishment candidate. If Bush, Christie, and Kasich all drop in the near future, he’s the odds-on favorite to pick up their support. Eyes have already fallen on the Carson campaign as being especially vulnerable thanks to its multiple shake-ups, tragedies, and poor performance in the actual Iowa Caucus. As of this writing, it remains to be seen who else, if anyone at all, will drop before the next round of voting on February 9th.
 
Last week the Inspector Generals of both the Office of Personnel Management and the U.S. Postal Serviceannounced their resignations. Patrick McFarland’s last day as OPM’s IG will be February 16th. He has held the position since 1990. Prior to that, he had a 22 year career with the Secret Service. McFarland has a Master’s degree from American University and a Bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University. His deputy, Norbert Vint, will serve as acting IG. David C. Williams will be departing the U.S. Postal Service on February 19th. He has served as IG since 2003. He was also IG for the Social Security Administration and the Department of the Treasury, among other agencies. He began his career with the federal government as a Secret Service agent. He received a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois and a Bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University. Deputy IG Tammy Whitcomb will take over as acting IG.
 
Katie Beirne Fallon, President Obama’s Director of Legislative Affairs, announced last week that she will be leaving her position. She has been in this job since 2013, when she was tasked with improving the fraught relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill.  Fallon developed a close relationship with the president, who credits her with helping to protect the Iranian nuclear deal and renewing the Export-Import Bank, among other victories. She worked as Senator Chuck Schumer’s Legislative Director from 2008-2011 and as Staff Director for the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center from 2011 to 2013. Fallon will be replaced by her deputy, Amy Rosenbaum, who formerly worked for Nancy Pelosi. Rosenbaum had previously covered Fallon’s duties while Fallon was on leave in 2015. Fallon holds Masters degrees from the London School of Economics and Queens University Belfast, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame.

 

 

January 28, 2016

This Week: Deputy Secretary of Agriculture to resign her post in February
 
The Senate confirmed Lisa Disbrow as Under Secretary of the Air Force last week before heading out of town as the snow storm approached. Disbrow had been serving as Acting Under Secretary since April 2015 and was officially nominated in September. She is a retired Air Force Colonel who has had a long career in Washington, most recently serving as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller. She is a Middle East specialist, and served as Special Advisor for Policy Implementation and Execution in the National Security Council of the Bush Administration from 2006-2007. Disbrow received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia in 1984 and holds two Masters degrees, from George Washington University and the National War College.                                                                                                                     
Additionally, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, President Obama’s longest serving cabinet member, is losing a member of his original team. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden will be leaving her position at the end of February. Harden joined the Department of Agriculture in May 2009 as Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations. She served as Vilsack’s chief of staff from January 2011 to August 2013 before assuming her current position as Deputy Secretary. Harden has a deep personal connection to agriculture, coming from three generation of Georgia farmers. Her tenure at USDA has been particularly focused on increasing farm ownership among women, young people, and veterans. She has not announced where she is headed next.
 
In other news, Brown University President Christina Paxson has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. She will serve on the nine person board as one of three Class B directors, who are selected by the member banks to represent the general public. She will serve a three year term on the Board, with the possibility of a second term. In addition to serving as Brown’s president since 2012, Paxson is also a professor of economics and public policy. She began her career teaching at Princeton, where she served as Chair of the Department of Economics in 2008 before becoming Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 2009. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College and her Master’s degree and doctoral degree from  Columbia University. 


 

January 21, 2016

This Week:  On the campaign trail, support for Ted Cruz surges in Iowa
 
It’s been a bad couple of weeks for the Carson America campaign, which has recently suffered from several high-profile defections, the tragic loss of several volunteers, and slumping poll numbers. The latest body blow to the Carson campaign came when Dean Parker, the National Finance Chair, announced his resignation last Thursday. While there’s still a chance that Carson can rally in time for the Iowa Caucus, it’s beginning to look like the writing is on the wall for the one-time frontrunner. His campaign has largely fallen by the wayside as media’s attention shifts to Ted Cruz, who is now surging in Iowa and stands a very good chance of becoming the eventual nominee. The contest appears to be a brawl between current frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, with Marco Rubio as a possible wild card. Rubio has emerged as a potential replacement for Jeb Bush, with media touting as the Republican Establishment’s best chance of seizing a victory in the primary campaign. Even so, his chances aren’t exactly golden right now – Bush is still in the race, for better or worse, and he’s tying up the majority of Rubio’s would-be supporters, while Rubio himself still lags far behind both Cruz and Trump. At this point, Rubio could inherit supporters from both Bush and Chris Christie, generally regarded as the other establishment pick, and would probably still fall well below either of the two frontrunners in support among primary voters. There’s still one debate to go, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it will have any effect at all by the time Iowans go to caucus on February 1st.
 
This week also saw a resignation announcement from one of the Obama Administration’s most important legal figures: Deborah Leff, the attorney charged with handling the presidential pardon process, is stepping down at the end of the month. A former Senior Producer at ABC, Leff joined the administration back in 2010 as an Acting Senior Counselor for the Access to Justice Initiative. From 2014 to June of last year, she served as Acting Pardon Attorney, just before taking up the job for real. Earlier in her career, she worked as a Trial Attorney for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Leff has also held senior executive appointments with the Federal Trade CommissionNational Women’s Political CaucusThe Joyce FoundationJohn F. Kennedy Library & Museum, and the Public Welfare Foundation. She graduated from Princeton in 1973 and earned her JD at Chicago in 1977.

 

 

January 14, 2016

This Week: Acting Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning leaves post 

It was a rough week for trailblazer and would-be Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning. After just a month and a half as Acting Secretary, Fanning was effectively forced to step aside from his position in order to address concerns from Senate Republicans, particularly Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who took issue with Fanning’s acting appointment and threatened to halt his confirmation bid, if not end it outright in committee. While Fanning dedicates himself to a full-time pursuit of his nomination and, hopefully, confirmation as the nation’s first openly gay military secretary, former congressman and noted LGBT ally Patrick Murphy will serve as Acting Secretary of the Army. Murphy himself was recently confirmed to serve as the Army’s Under Secretary and Chief Management Officer, the last position Fanning had acted in prior to his own ascent to Acting Secretary. While staffers are currently reviewing the calendar for hearings and an up-or-down vote to get Fanning through the Armed Services Committee, it remains to be seen how well he’ll fare if and when he makes it to the Senate floor. For better or worse, his appointment – or lack thereof – will make history, and there are a lot of powerful, vested interests lined up both for and against him. In the meantime, it’s possible that he’ll either return to Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s office or serve as an advisor, officially or otherwise, to Acting Secretary Murphy. 
 
It was a better week for Robert L. Nabors, Chief of Staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs. On Monday, Nabors announced his departure from government, effective January 15, in pursuit of a job opportunity with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he’ll serve as Director of Policy and Government Affairs. Nabors departs the VA after a little over a year all total; he became Secretary Bob McDonald’s Chief of Staff back in May, but he first joined the department back in 2014 as a communications troubleshooter during the fallout from the wait-time scandal, among others. Prior to that, Nabors served with the Obama White House for the better part of five years, including stints as Director of Legislative Affairs and then as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. Earlier in his career, Nabors was a congressional staffer, rising to the position of Staff Director for the House Committee on Appropriations. Prior to his time with Congress, Nabors was best known for his years with the Clinton Administration, where he rose to the position of Assistant Director for Administration and Executive Secretary at the Office of Management and Budget. Nabors graduated from Notre Dame in 1993 and North Carolina in 1996. He is the son of retired Army Major General Robert L. Nabors.

 

 

 

January 7, 2016

This Week: Meaghan Rose Smith to join private sector's SKDKnickerbocker

Angela Bailey kicked the New Year off with a bang as she announced her transition from Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Personnel Management to Chief Human Capital Officer of the Department of Homeland Security, effective January 8th. The move represents Bailey’s first agency jump since she joined OPM back in 2008, when she took a position as Deputy Associate Director for Recruitment and Hiring in OPM’s Employee Services section.  She later moved up to Associate Director for Employee Services and Chief Human Capital Officer, a position she held for about two years or so, before taking on her current job as COO. Prior to joining OPM, Bailey worked as the Executive Director for Human Resources at the Defense Contract Management Agency, a support agency with the Department of Defense. Before that, she held a variety of different positions, including Labor Relations Officer and Budget Analyst, and prior to that she worked with the Social Security Administration, where she got her start right out of high school as a clerk back in the summer of 1981. She officially joined the Senior Executive Service in 2007. Bailey earned both her bachelor and graduate degrees at Bellevue University.
 
The New Year also saw the continuation of the Obama Administration’s brain drain, as Meaghan Rose Smith became the latest public relations official to cash out in pursuit of a job in the private sector. Smith currently serves as a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. In February, she’ll become one of many Obama public affairs staffers to join SKDKnickerbocker, a political consulting firm with a focus on international companies, associations, non-profits, and advocacy groups. Smith previously served as the Communications Director for Health Care, Policy, and Strategy in her current office. Before joining HHS, she was best known for a lengthy stint as a Congressional staffer, both in the House and Senate. Most recently she worked as Communications Director in the Office of Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). Prior to that she was Deputy Communications Director for the Senate Committee on Finance, and before that she was the committee’s Press Secretary. Before joining the Senate staff, she was Communications Director in the Office of Representative John Hall (D-NY). Earlier, she got her first big break as Hall’s Press Secretary.

It was also a week for good old fashioned campaign staff poaching as Donald Trump managed to woo a member of Ted Cruz’s New Hampshire leadership team even as Cruz himself was hiring Mike Huckabee’s Communications Director. Andrew Hemingway, a former state director for Newt Gingrich and one-time gubernatorial candidate, will serve as a Co-Chair for Trump’s New Hampshire operations. Alice Stewart, who first made a name for herself as press secretary for Huckabee back when he was Governor of Arkansas, will serve as Cruz’s National Spokesperson. The Huckabee campaign itself isn’t doing too well, coming in at about 1% in recent polls, and the former governor himself has stated his intention to close up shop if he isn’t in the top three in Iowa when the votes roll in on February 1st. Between that and the recent shutdowns of the Graham and Pataki campaigns, it seems as though the Republican field is finally starting to narrow towards a final ten, if not a final four. Incidentally, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson tossed his hat in the ring this week, announcing his second campaign bid for the White House as a Libertarian candidate. It’s possible that the winnowing of the GOP field might free up some space for candidates outside of it, but Johnson has a long shot to even make it on television, let alone join the eventual debate between the Democratic and Republican nominees.

 

 

December 28, 2015

This Week: The campaign trail ends for Lindsey Graham

This week saw the end of Lindsey Graham’s presidential ambitions. After months of sagging, sometimes nonexistent poll numbers, the South Carolina Senior Senator officially threw in the towel and withdrew his name from the race. While his departure from the race probably won’t mean much in terms of shifting voter support, Graham did have a lock on many high-ranking Republican endorsements, up to and including his political soul mate and one-time Republican Presidential nominee, John McCain. This might, in turn, affect who ultimately wins the support of the wavering GOP establishment, especially now that the race seems to be winnowing down to a top four or five situation involving Trump, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, and possibly Jeb Bush – if he can hang on to the support he had early on. Graham entered the race earlier this year almost entirely as a foil to fellow senator Rand Paul, providing the earliest and most bombastic neoconservative rebuttal to Paul’s briefly popular stance of near-isolationism. Unfortunately for Graham, he was an early target of Donald Trump, and while he handled Trump’s attacks better than anyone else so far, he just didn’t have anything going for him aside from an increasingly generic, military-focused foreign policy that other candidates have either copied or exaggerated beyond recognition. Nothing about him stood out and he was never able to break out of the undercard debates the way Carly Fiorina did. It remains to be seen what role he’ll play in the coming general election.
 
This week also marks the end of Arne Duncan’s tenure as Secretary of the Department of Education, effective December 31. His departure leaves Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, as the longest-serving cabinet secretary in the Obama Administration, give or take Shaun Donovan at the Office of Management and Budget. Duncan has been allied with Obama in one way or another for decades now, dating all the way back to the president’s days in the Illinois State Senate, when Duncan was serving as Chief Executive Officer of the City of Chicago’s public school system. Duncan served in that role from 2001 to 2009, when Obama first brought him onboard as Secretary of Education. Prior to that, he spent two years as Director of Chicago’s Magnet Schools and Programs. His first major job in education was as Director of the Ariel Education Initiative, a part of Ariel Capital Management. Prior to that, Duncan was actually better known as a professional basketball player, complete with a four year stint as part of the Eastside Spectres in Australia, where he also met his wife, Karen Leanne Duncan. His presence is likely to be missed not just in the president’s cabinet, where he was considered one of Obama’s closest friends and allies, but also in any future White House basketball games. His replacement, John King, is currently serving as de facto Deputy Secretary and will take over as Acting Secretary the day after Duncan steps down; it’s possible that King will be nominated as Duncan’s permanent replacement, but it’s not especially likely that he or any other nominee will ever make it through the current Senate, meaning the position could technically be vacant until the next president takes office in 2017. 
 
Rounding out the week is the confirmation of Suzette M. Kimball as Director of the United States Geological Survey. Kimball previously served nearly three years as the agency’s Acting Director following the departure of Marcia McNutt. Her confirmation caps off a career spanning decades with the USGS, National Park Service, and Department of Interior as a whole. Her first big job with the department was a Southeast Regional Chief Scientist for the Park Service, followed by a Southeast Associate Regional Director position. She jumped ship over to the Geological Survey as a Regional Executive for Biology and later became a Regional Director, then Associate Director for Geology. This was followed by her first brief stint as Acting Director in 2009, while the USGS was waiting for a permanent appointee to take over. Kimball was bumped up to Deputy Director in 2010. Prior to her federal career, she was a Marine Scientist with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and an Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences with the University of Virginia. She graduated William & Mary in 1973, Ball State in 1981, and earned her PhD from the University Virginia.

 

 

December 17, 2015

This Week:Confirmations at the DoD fill high-level gaps in defense hierarchy

It was a big week for the Department of Defense as six outstanding nominees were confirmed in the Senate following a testimonial dust-up between Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ). The six confirmations were Marcel Lettre, Alissa Starzak, John Conger, Gabriel Camarillo, Stephen Welby, and Franklin Parker, respectively the new Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, General Counsel of the Army, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and Comptroller, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. As Carter himself noted in his pushback against McCain, all four nominations had been languishing in the Senate for months on end, leaving high-level gaps in the defense hierarchy. Stephen Welby in particular fills a position technically left vacant for three years – the previous Senate-confirmed incumbent, Zachary Lemnios, left the department all the way back in December 2012, with Alan Shaffer serving as Acting Assistant Secretary for most of interim. Welby first joined the office in 2011 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Systems Engineering, a position he still held as of his confirmation, although he had also stepped up to serve as Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary as of October. Prior to these positions, Welby spent most of his career at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, where he variously served as a Program Manager for Tactical Technology, Advanced Aerospace Systems, Land Warfare Technology, Command, Control and Communications Systems, Network Centric Enabling Technology, and Space Programs and Technology. He also had two stints as a Deputy Director, covering Information Exploitation and Tactical Technology, and a stint as Director of the Tactical Technology Office. He graduated from Cooper Union before earning three graduate degrees between Texas A&M and Johns Hopkins.

It was also a big week for at least one DOD alumnus: Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, who was bumped up from State Department Spokesperson to Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Public Affairs. A career public affairs officer who chose his profession based on the spin of a wheel in his college dorm, Kirby was a fixture of the Pentagon Press Corps for several years under Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. He even made history as the first uniformed Pentagon Press Secretary. Unfortunately for Kirby’s military career, one of Ash Carter’s very first decisions on assuming office was to unceremoniously dismiss him from his job, a choice that Kirby himself seemed to find out only a few minutes before the Press Corps itself did. After retiring and spending a month or so under the radar, the newly civilian Kirby joined the State Department in March of this year, where he began as the department’s Spokesperson. Kirby apparently did a good enough job for Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama to notice, with his new appointment coming into effect this past Friday. Prior to his final Pentagon assignment, Kirby served as Chief of the Navy’s Office of Information. Earlier in his career, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Media Operations for the entire Department of Defense, and prior to that he was the Special Assistant for Public Affairs to Admiral Michael Mullen, both during his tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as Chief of Naval Operations. He graduated South Florida in 1985 and went on to earn graduate degrees from Troy State and the Naval War College.

This week also saw the confirmation of Thomas Melia to be an Assistant Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development, where he’ll head the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia. Melia previously served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department, where he oversaw the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor for about five years. In between his time at State and the confirmation to his new job, Melia spent about nine months as Executive Director of Democracy International, a non-governmental organization that collaborates heavily with USAID and the State Department, among others. Prior to his stint as a Deputy Assistant Secretary, Melia served as Deputy Executive Director of Freedom House, another NGO focused on democratic development, and as an Adjunct Professor at The Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He also served as Director for Research at Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. He began at Georgetown as a Research Associate following a stint with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, which came after various positions, including a vice presidency, at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. Among his other early gigs, Melia worked as a Legislative Assistant in the Office of Senator Daniel Moynihan (D-NY). He earned both his baccalaureate and master’s degrees at Johns Hopkins University.

 

 

December 10, 2015

This Week: Tough times for the US Postal Service

It was a tough week for the United States Postal Service as news media caught wind of the fact that the agency’s Board of Governors currently has just three members, only one of whom has actually been confirmed by the Senate, leaving it critically short of a quorum on the eve of the agency’s busiest time of year. The Postal Service currently operates under the authority of a Temporary Emergency Committee headed up by James Bilbray – the Vice Chair, Acting Chair, and sole remaining Senate-approved Member of the Board of Governors – in addition to Megan Brennan and Ronald Stroman, respectively the Postmaster General and her deputy. The Board is supposed to have eleven members, counting two Ex-Officios in Brennan and Stroman, but Senate holds have effectively locked down all five of the current nominees: Mickey Barnett, David Bennett, Stephen Crawford, and David Shapira. Barnett in particular is a straight reappointment whose term recently ended, while Miller actually chaired the Board of Governors from 2005 to 2008. Much of the Board’s declining membership is reportedly owed to legislative holds placed by Vermont Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, who regularly voices his concerns over attempts to diminish the agency’s effectiveness. The move has earned him considerable support among postal workers, including a ringing endorsement from the 200,000-strong American Postal Workers Union early last month. Sanders could use the support – after his repeated surges during the summer and fall, he currently polls nearly 25% behind Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in some of the most recent polling. On the bright side for the would-be POTUS: TIME Magazine readers recently voted him 2015’s Person of the Year, easily topping a field that included Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, President Obama, Pope Francis, and Malala Yousafzai, among others.

In other news, Marcela X. Escobari was nominated this week to be an Assistant Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. If confirmed, she’ll replace current Acting Assistant Administrator Elizabeth Hogan, who took over shortly after the previous Assistant Administrator, Mark Feierstein, jumped up to USAID’s main office before joining the staff at the National Security Council. Escobari currently serves as Executive Director at Harvard University’s Center for International Development, a position she’s held since 2007. Prior to that, she was a Manager and Director with the OTF Group, an international export consulting firm. She began her career at JP Morgan as a Financial Analyst prior to embarking on a several year stint with the World Bank Group, where she focused on promoting growth among indigenous peoples in her native Bolivia. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 1996 and earned her MPP from Harvard’s Kennedy School in 2001.

Lastly, this week saw the revival – sort of – of the Export-Import Bank of the United States following nearly five months of the bank’s charter expiring amid Congressional infighting between far right Republicans and just about everyone else. The Bank was revived as a rider to the recent Transportation omnibus, and while it never fully ceased operations or failed on disbursements for existing loans, the Bank had been unable to authorize new ones.  Although the Ex-Im Bank is now back in business, it still can’t authorize the kind of large loans that had so many in Congress fighting for it. Much like the Postal Service, the Bank’s Board of Directors currently lacks a quorum. It has a President and Chairman, a First Vice President and Vice Chair, and a whole slew of non-voting Ex-Officios, but no regular, Senate-confirmed members and only one designee: Patricia M. Loui-Schmicker, a former member whose term ran out in August. While the White House has promised new nominees in the near future, it remains to be seen if they’ll be confirmed any time soon – even if the Senate is in a generous enough mood that nobody puts a hold on any of the would-be nominees, they’re going into recess later this month and all nominations will have to be resubmitted in January. For the time being, the Bank can only dish out loans to smaller businesses, which many of its most ardent critics would likely consider an improvement.


 

December 3, 2015

This Week: Gayle E. Smith confirmed as Administrator at the USAID

It’s been a big couple of weeks for the Department of Defense. Hot on the heels of Dr. Bill LaPlante’s retirement from Air Force headquarters and his subsequent return to the MITRE Corporation, the Army’s Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, Heidi Shyu, announced her own intention to retire at the end of January. Shyu marks the second high-level departure from the Defense Department’s acquisition and procurement wing, and her leaving fits in with the general notion of the Obama Administration suffering from a late-term brain drain. She previously served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in her current office, and before joining the Obama Administration she made her mark in the private sector with seven years of vice presidencies and directorships at Raytheon. Shyu variously oversaw the company’s programs for Unmanned and Reconnaissance Systems, Corporate Technology and Research, Technology Strategy, Unmanned Combat Systems, the Joint Strike Fighter, and JSF Integrated Radar and Electronic Warfare Sensors. Prior to becoming a vice president, Shyu was a Laboratory Manager for Electromagnetic Systems. Before joining Raytheon, she worked at Litton Industries as a Project Manager, and Grumman as a Principal Engineer for the Joint STARS Self Defense Study. She began her career with the now defunct Hughes Aircraft Company.

More recently, the Department of Defense Inspector General, Jon T. Rymer, announced his intention to step down in early January, following a little less than two and a half years on the job. Rymer’s tenure as Inspector General has been more eventful than many of his predecessors, including political bombshells about the Pentagon’s train-advise-and-assist missions in Afghanistan, abuses by allied military officials, the removal of multiple senior military officials for a variety of indiscretions, and skewed intelligence reports, though he was most concerned with stopping a longtime trend of cost overruns on military contracting and procurement. Prior to his confirmation as DOD IG, Rymer spent about seven years as Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. For about a year, he concurrently served as Interim Inspector General for the Securities and Exchange Commission, filling the gap between Harold David Kotz and Carl Hoecker, respectively the former and current Inspectors General for the Commission. Prior to joining the FDIC, Rymer was best known for the twenty-three years he spent in the financial sector, which he joined straight out of college in 1981. Among other things, Rymer has served as Executive Vice President at First American National Bank, Executive Vice President at Bank of America, and Director at KPMG, LLP. He also spent more than thirty years enlisted in the active and reserve components of the Army, attaining the rank of Command Sergeant Major by the time of his retirement. Rymer will be replaced on an Acting basis by his current deputy, Glenn Fine. He plans on rejoining the financial sector after a stint of volunteer work with a number of veteran-servicing nonprofits and charities.

Outside of the defense sector, the big story this week was the confirmation and swearing in of Gayle E. Smith as Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development. Smith’s confirmation comes almost six months to the day after her nomination in April. She initially joined the Obama Administration back in 2008 during the Transition Team days, where she was the Team Leader for the Foreign Assistance Review Team and a member the National Security Policy Working Group. Once Obama and his people were settled into office in early 2009, Smith jumped ship to the White House itself, where she spent the next six years as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy in the International Economics section of Obama’s National Security Council Staff. Prior to her stint with Obama, Smith’s last government appointments were with the Clinton Administration, where she served first as a Senior Advisor to the Administrator and Chief of Staff at USAID before moving over to the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs on the National Security Council. In between democratic administrations, Smith worked for a number of nonprofits and think tanks, including the William J. Clinton Foundation’s Global Initiative, where she chaired the Global Poverty Working Group. Smith previously lived and worked in Africa as a journalist and aid worker. She earned her BA from the University of Colorado Boulder.

 

 

November 19, 2015

This Week:  Will politics figure in the future of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal?

The Jindal for President campaign sputtered to an anticlimactic end this week. After months of lagging in the polls and being repeatedly consigned to undercard debates, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s campaign suspension didn’t even bring in the farewell media attention given to fellow long-shots like Lincoln Chafee or Jim Webb. Like several struggling candidates in both parties, including several fellow current and former governors, Jindal just wasn’t able to carve out any kind of niche for himself. He lacked foreign policy credentials and his stances on education and healthcare were party-line enough that a strong, almost belligerent record of support for privatization and voucher programs didn’t help him stand out, and several other candidates, most notably sometime frontrunner Ben Carson, were able to completely lock him out of competition for the evangelical vote. Jindal’s campaign pulled through five debates before reality finally set in and the governor decided to pull the plug. Barring some kind of return to Congress or a senior appointment in a future administration, the campaign suspension probably heralds the end of Jindal’s political ambitions; without several flat-out miracles that would have him successfully run to replace Louisiana Senator David Vitter, his next realistic opportunity to run for a nationally significant office is either 2018 for the House or the early 2020s for the Senate. It wouldn’t be unheard of for a former representative-turned-state governor to return to the House after a prolonged absence – just ask Mark Sanford of South Carolina – but many would view it as a step down and the odds of Jindal even pulling it off are relatively low. With Jindal’s poll numbers as low as they have been throughout the race, it’s unlikely that his departure, or even his potential endorsement, will have much of an impact, but he could still become an effective campaign surrogate for the eventual Republican nominee. It remains to be seen whether any other candidates will drop before the next round of debates in December, though eyes are switching back and forth between the troubled campaigns of Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, and one-time establishment frontrunner Jeb Bush.

Earlier in the week, Luis A. Aguilar of the Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed his intention to step down at the end of the year or sooner depending on the earlier confirmation and swearing-in of his designated successor, Lisa Fairfax. Aguilar’s departure from the Commission comes after about seven years, including nearly six months of service after his term ran out in June. Aguilar was first nominated to office by President Bush back in early 2008, replacing five-year Commissioner Roel Campos in the process. President Obama re-nominated Aguilar in 2011, followed by four months of grinding through the Senate before he was confirmed once more. Prior to his first term as Commissioner, Aguilar was best known for his time as a lawyer in the private sector. He spent a number of years with firms like Alston and BirdMcKenna Long and Aldridge, usually as a Partner. Earlier in his career he was a General Counsel, Executive Vice President, and Recording Secretary for Invesco, an investment management company in Georgia. He also worked as Invesco’s Managing Director for Latin America during the 1990s. Aguilar got his start as a Staff Attorney at the SEC back in 1979, just after earning his JD at the University of Georgia. He went on to earn an MLT at Emory in 1985. Aguilar graduated Georgia Southern in 1976. 

This week also saw the announcement of Dr. William A. LaPlante’s departure from the office of Assistant Secretary for Acquisition at the United States Air Force, effective at the end of this month. LaPlante has been the Air Force’s top acquisition chief since February of last year, when he was sworn in after about three and a half months of grinding through the Senate, a process which included being nominated twice due to the end of the legislative calendar year. LaPlante previously served in the same office as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, a position he held for about a year before being confirmed to his current job. Before joining SAF/AQ in 2013, LaPlante spent most of his career as a researcher at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, where he began as a lowly research assistant and eventually rose to Global Engagement Department Head, a position he held for about eight years. In between, he variously served as the lab’s Chief Scientist and Technical Director for a number of at-sea submarine experiments, Program Area Manager for the Strategic Submarine Security Program, Business Area Executive for Undersea Warfare, and Associate National Security Technology Department Head for Undersea Warfare, Homeland Security and Biomedicine. From 2011 to 2013, LaPlante dabbled in the private sector as a Missile Defense Portfolio Director for the MITRE Corporation. Somewhere along the way, LaPlante found the time to serve as a member of the Defense Science BoardUSSTRATCOM’s Strategic Advisory Group, and give lectures at the Catholic University of America. Official statements indicate that LaPlante is leaving the Air Force to return to MITRE, where he’s expected to hold a senior position while resuming his membership with the Defense Science Board. He earned his BSEP at Illinois in 1985, an MSAP at Johns Hopkins in 1988, and a PhDME at Catholic in 1998.

 

 

November 12, 2015

This Week:  Beth Cobert named to head the Office of Personnel Management

President Obama decided to make it official this week when he nominated Beth Cobert to become the permanent head of the Office of Personnel Management. Cobert has been the office’s Acting Director since July, following revelations of the largest known hack of a government database in the nation’s history and the subsequent resignation of her predecessor, Katherine Archuleta. Cobert previously served as the nation’s Chief Performance Officer and Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget. Concurrently, Cobert served as a regular member and chair on several of the federal government’s highest boards and committees, including Chair of thePresident’s Management Advisory Board, several Executive Chair positions, membership on both the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer Councils, and principal membership on the Chief Acquisition Officers Council. Prior to joining the Obama Administration in 2013, Cobert was best known for her time as Director and Co-Leader of Global Marketing and Sales at the San Francisco office of McKinsey & Company, a position she held for about four years and change. She previously served as the Office Head from 2005 to 2008. Cobert got her start as a professional when she was a recent graduate from Princeton back in 1980; when she became an Analyst for the Goldman Sachs Group. She went on to earn an MBA at Stanford in 1984.

Some overdue paperwork for a withdrawal also went through this week: Kenneth J. Kopocis, who had been on tap to become the Assistant Administrator for Water at the Environmental Protection Agency. Kopocis had been serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator since 2014, following a stint as Senior Advisor to his former boss and would-have-been predecessor, Peter Silva. Instead, with his nomination languishing nearly five months in the Senate and increasingly unlikely to be confirmed thanks to legislative apathy and/or hostility to the EPA as a whole, Kopocis decided to step down and retire this month. It remains to be seen who, if anyone, will be nominated to fill the Assistant Administrator position, which might very well end up being another long-term casualty of Senate intransigence. Before his advisorship, Kopocis was best known as a career legislative staffer, with most of his time spent working for House committees and subcommittees on water resources, the environment, and transportation and infrastructure. His last appointment there was as Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation back in 2011. Before that, Kopocis was an attorney with the General Accounting Office. His first federal job was as an attorney with the General Services Administration, following about two years in the private sector as an attorney for Rees, Broome & Diaz. Kopocis got his start back in 1980 as a Law Clerk for the 19th Circuit Court of Virginia, right after he graduated from the College of William & Mary with a JD. He earned his BS in 1977 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

This week also saw the appointment of Brian Burns as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Information Security Operations at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Burns, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, previously worked at the Department of Defense as Principal Director of Information Enterprise within the Office of the Chief Information Officer, a position he held from 2012 to 2014. Before that, he served as Deputy Director of Warfighter Systems Integration and Deployment under the Air Force CIO. Earlier in his career, he served as a Deputy Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer with the Department of Education, following a stint as that department’s Acting Director of Information Technology Services and, one title change later, Information Services. Before that, he spent several years between the Departments of Health and Human Services and the Interior, where he variously served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau-level Chief Information Officer, and Chief Technology Officer for Infrastructure. Burns graduated from Drexel in 1985 with a BS and earned his MA at George Mason in 1992. His appointment comes concurrent with a position as Deputy Director of the DoD/VA Interagency Program Office.

 


 

November 5, 2015

This Week:  John McHugh steps downs as Secretary of the Army

Lawrence Lessig dropped out of the Democratic Primary this week, bringing to an end one of the longest of long-shot campaigns in the 2016 cycle. Lessig had hoped to replicate and build upon the success of current runner-up Bernie Sanders by tapping into a groundswell of populist support surrounding the issue of campaign finance reform. Unfortunately for Lessig, the support just wasn’t there – the media never took him seriously, the Democratic Party barely acknowledged him, and he was a truly single issue candidate whose platform was just a little too detail-oriented to catch fire among the Democratic base. Among his more unusual goals was to become the nation’s first Referendum President. He wanted to get elected into office based on the goal of campaign finance reform, resolve that issue, and then step down immediately afterwards to be replaced by whoever his own voters chose as vice president. It remains to be seen if such a candidate will pop up again in this cycle or any future ones, but the odds are low. Lessig first rose to prominence in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and made his name as an early opponent of the current campaign finance regime. While Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have both echoed some of Lessig’s rhetoric and sentiment in their own ways, most of the current candidates have not. Lessig’s departure, even if its impact is minimal in the long run, further clears the way for a Clinton-Sanders showdown in Iowa, with Martin O’Malley still hanging on as an increasingly distant third option.

In non-election news, this week included the departure of John McHugh, now the former Secretary of the Army.McHugh left office with the longest term since Secretary John Marsh, having overseen the protracted drawdowns and occasional flare-ups of two wars. He guided the Army through one of the most contentious periods of transition since the Vietnam War, a period which included congressionally imposed budget cuts and troop reductions, front-line integration of women, the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the Army’s first steps towards inclusiveness of transgendered soldiers. McHugh was also the second-most senior member of the Obama Administration’s military apparatus, just a few weeks behind Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, and one of the most senior members of the administration as a whole alongside outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former HUD Secretary and current OMB Director Shaun Donovan, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. As with several of his former colleagues, McHugh is a former Republican congressman, variously representing New York’s 23rd and 24th Districts throughout his legislative career, and was also the most senior Republican left in the administration at the time of his departure. He graduated from Utica College in 1970 and earned an MPA at SUNY Albany in 1977.

This week also saw the return of the Obama Administration’s high tech brain drain. The latest departure: Frank H. Baitman, the Assistant Secretary of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer for the Department of Health and Human Services. Baitman jumped over to HHS back in 2012 after a two year stint with the Social Security Administration, where he was the Chief Information Officer. Baitman was among the officials who oversaw the troubled, sometimes disastrous rollout of the Healthcare.gov website, and he was one of the key people responsible for fixing it – in the middle of a government shutdown, no less. Baitman outlasted his boss at the time, Katherine Sebelius, and continued on as one of the Obama Administration’s IT heavy-hitters. His departure becomes effective at the end of the month. Baitman is another SUNY Albany alum, and also graduated from the University of Maryland.

 

 

October 29, 2015

This Week:  Two more candidates end their presidential campaigns

Following the pattern set by Jim Webb a week ago, Lincoln Chafee’s campaign finally earned some airtime this week – by ending. The former Mayor, Senator, and Governor of Rhode Island bowed out of the race early Friday morning after nearly six months of polling below 5%, including two months of media figures and fellow politicians flat-out calling for him to end his campaign. Where Webb has left the door open for an independent run and Vice President Biden has effectively bowed out at the top of his game, Chafee’s campaign comes to an end with barely a whimper one way or another. The former Republican, Independent, then Democrat never really managed to catch fire with anyone and the only issue on which he ever managed to stand out was trying to convert the United States over to the metric system, a fact which arguably did him more harm than good since it was all the media focused on when covering him. His departure coupled, with Lawrence Lessig’s relative anonymity, leaves former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley as the sole alternative to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, though O’Malley himself has seldom gotten more than 5% in recent polls. 

On the Republican side of the campaign trail, Jeb Bush’s financial woes came to the forefront this week as campaign fundraising disclosures came out, followed almost immediately by the flagging Bush campaign undergoing a reorganization with a large number of staffers being converted from paid to unpaid volunteers.  Bush’s steady collapse from presumptive frontrunner status is almost unprecedented in modern politics, especially with his pedigree as the son of one president, brother of another, and former governor of a key swing state, not to mention the unheard of war chest of his Right to Rise super PAC. While longtime insurgent frontrunner Donald Trump has recently sunk beneath fellow non-politician Ben Carson, both of them still have double digit leads over Bush and his nearest competitors, Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. Rubio, incidentally, is currently in third place; Bush is tied with Fiorina for the fourth spot. It remains to be seen when or if Bush will drop, but comparisons are already being drawn between him and also-rans Scott Walker and Rick Perry.

This week also saw some shake-ups at both the Departments of Defense and State, with Special Envoy John Allenbeginning what some call his farewell tour and Secretary Carter consolidating operational authority with Army Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland and his III Corps. Allen has been the lead envoy for ISIS-related diplomatic affairs for the past thirteen months or so; he’s a former Marine Corps general who headed US Forces Afghanistanand the International Security Assistance Force for about two years before his retirement. He joined the State Department after roughly two years in the non-profit sector, where he was a Distinguished Fellow at the Brookings Institution, member of the Board of Directors for the Center for a New American Security, and a member of the Board of Advisors for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He formally steps down on the 12th of November. With Secretary Carter’s recent decision to consolidate, LTG MacFarland, who formally took command of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve last month, is now officially the top authority for all combat missions against ISIS, presumably including the recent and highly publicized raids by American special operators. The long-term impact of such missions remains to be seen.

 

 

October 22, 2015

This Week: Will the Democratic Primary be a race between Clinton and Sanders?

With a speech worthy of the campaign trail, Vice President Joe Biden effectively took over the news on Wednesday and laid to rest the prospect of a 2016 presidential run. Biden had been teasing at running for most of the year, complete with visits to early primary states and several unofficial and unaffiliated Draft Biden campaigns rooting him on from the sidelines, but in his own words, the timing just didn’t work out. Additionally, the VP is still in mourning after the death of his son, Beau Biden, earlier this year, the latest in a long string of personal tragedies that have helped to cement his public image as one of America’s most resilient and sympathetic politicians. Biden has been a power player throughout President Obama’s time in office, with one of his most memorable moments being his blunt statement of support for LGBT marriage rights at a time when the rest of the administration was still mulling it over; called a gaffe at the time, it effectively spurred a sea change that resonated through the entire Democratic Party. With Biden’s definitive refusal to run, the Democratic Primary now looks to be a long-term grind between Hillary Clintonand Bernie Sanders, with Martin O’Malley lingering in a distant third place.

Incidentally, former senator Jim Webb probably called it quits this week, suspending his campaign to become the democratic nominee but leaving the way open to declare a run as an independent sometime within the next few weeks. A relative conservative trying to break into one of the most liberal campaign fields in recent memory, Webb was never able to ignite much passion among the democratic base. His military experience and the time he served as Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy could have sparked interest from some Republican voters, but it didn’t resonate very well with a party currently focused more on domestic social issues. During his suspension speech, Webb appeared at times almost overcome with emotion. He was choked up, angry, at times rambling, and took more than one parting shot at both the current frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party’s debate practices, which Webb considers biased in her favor. Even putting aside the possibility of an independent run, it remains to be seen whether the former senator from Virginia will remain a democrat. His departure from the campaign trail might not have much of an impact either way. Webb consistently polled around one to two percent on good months. Assuming his supporters remain active and engaged, they might bolster the campaigns of Lincoln Chafee or Martin O’Malley,although they probably won’t do much for Larry Lessig, whose poll numbers currently fall below the one percent minimum required to get on the debate stage. 

Off the campaign trail, there were two new nominations announced for the Securities and Exchange Commissionthis week: Hester Maria Peirce and Lisa M. Fairfax. It’s worth noting that if they can make it through the Senate confirmation process, the SEC will have a majority female commission for the first time in its eighty-one year history, an event coming nearly forty years after President Carter successfully nominated Roberta S. Karmel as the first woman to serve there. Of the new nominees, Ms. Peirce is set to replace Republican Commissioner Daniel Gallagher, who left earlier this month with complaints that the White House had taken too long to pick his successor, while Ms. Fairfax is set to replace outgoing Democratic Commissioner Luis Aguilar, who’s reportedly sticking around until the end of the year after his term ran out in June. Peirce comes to the Commission from George Mason University, where she serves as a Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Financial Markets Working Group at the Mercatus Center.Fairfax currently serves as the Leroy Sorenson Merrifield Research Professor, among other things, at the George Washington University Law School. Where Fairfax is more or less a career academic with some experience as a regulator, Peirce is a former senate staffer with both private and public sector experience, and also worked for four years as Counsel to former Securities and Exchange Commissioner Paul Atkins. Both women are Ivy League alumni, with Fairfax earning her AB and JD from Harvard and Peirce earning her BA from Case Western before attaining a JD at Yale.

Also nominated this week were four ambassadors at the State Department: Jean Elizabeth Manes, Scot Alan Marciel, David McKean, and Linda Swartz Taglialatela, representing America to the countries of El Salvador, Burma/Myanmar, Luxembourg, and Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, respectively. All four nominees are career members of the Foreign Service, with Taglialatela currently serving as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Resources, McKean serving as Director of Policy Planning, Marciel serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Manes serving as Principal Deputy Coordinator in the Bureau of International Information Programs. Three of the four have been at their jobs since 2013, with Taglialatela serving in hers since 2002. They join a growing list of ambassadorial nominees likely to need resubmission in January due to the current atmosphere of gridlock in the Senate, although their odds are better than some – the current Senate has displayed some favor for career bureaucrats while political appointees drawn from the ranks of campaign bundlers, celebrities, and businesspeople have found their nominations stalled almost indefinitely.

 

 

October 15, 2015

This Week:  Obama Administration executives continue to leave government jobs

The Obama Administration brain drain kicked back into full swing this week with the departure of several mid- and high-level technology executives. Most notable among them: Greg Ambrose, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Deputy Chief Information Officer for Product Development, who’s looking to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Ambrose’s departure raises a few eyebrows because it comes so soon after joining the VA – he’s only been there for about five months. Prior to joining the VA, he served about two years as Director of Consular Systems and Technology for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department, about two years as Information Technology Management Director for the Office of Biometric Identity Management at DHS, and about three years as a Systems Engineering Chief at the Department of Defense; he isn’t exactly known for jumping ship so quickly. Behind his departure, the most significant techie flight belonged to Thomas Kelley, who formerly served five years as Senior Video Producer in the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House, where he had a leading role in establishing the Obama administration’s online presence. Like Ambrose, Kelley also is also joining the private sector, specifically Kivvit, a newly-formed public affairs firm. Kelley also serves as an adjunct professor at George Washington University.

This week also saw the departure of one of the administration’s leading international trade negotiators, Wendy Cutler, who stepped down from her post as Acting Deputy US Trade Representative in order to join the Asia Society, a non-profit organization focused on cultural diplomacy and international development. Cutler is best known for the roles she played in negotiating the 2007 Free Trade Agreement with South Korea and Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations with Japan in 2013. Prior to those roles, Cutler served stints as Assistant US Trade Representative for North Asian Affairs and Assistant US Representative for Services, Investment, and Intellectual Property. She also served as US Negotiator for the 1997 WTO Financial Services Agreement. She joined USTR from the Department of Commerce in 1988, where she had worked for five years as a trade specialist. She graduated from George Washington in 1979 and Georgetown in 1983.

But it wasn’t all departures this week. Along with a glut of other confirmations, Stephen C. Hedger cleared the Senate this week to become Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, finally closing out one of the more embarrassing long-term vacancies in the Obama Administration’s upper echelons. The previous Assistant Secretary, Elizabeth King, left for a staff directorship at the Senate Armed Services Committee back in January. Hedger himself comes from a similar legislative background to his predecessor, with nearly eleven years as a staffer in both the House and Senate. He got his start as a scheduler and then Legislative Assistant for Representative Steve Israel before moving over to Delegate Madeleine Bordallo’s office as a Military Legislative Assistant. In 2007 he jumped up to the Senate, where he began a seven year stint with Claire McCaskill, first as Military Legislative Assistant and then as Legislative Director. He jumped ship to the executive branch last year, where he served as a Senate Legislative Affairs Liaison for the President before finally joining the DOD as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs. Before all that, Hedger served in the Army as an infantry officer, complete with a two-year tour in Iraq. He graduated from West Point in 1999.

 

 

October 8, 2015

This Week:  Who will be named as new Secretary of Education?

Arne Duncan stole the show this Friday when he announced his plans to step down as Secretary of Education sometime in December. Clocking in at nearly seven years, Duncan is one of the longest-lasting members of the Obama Administration as a whole, and one of only two freshman cabinet-level secretaries who are still in their original positions near the end of Obama’s time in office. Duncan’s time in office has been one of the most momentous periods in the Education Department’s history, full of pitched but ultimately low-profile policy battles that have fundamentally altered the nation’s educational landscape. With relatively few resources, Duncan managed to shift the country towards the Common Core standards, cracked down on for-profit colleges and universities, and spearheaded the first real efforts to combat the country’s trillion dollar student debt crisis. A lifelong educator and politician himself, it’s likely that Duncan will pursue some sort of education activism after he steps down, and may very well lay the groundwork for the president’s own after-office activism if Michelle Obama’s recent comments are anything to go by. Prior to becoming Education Secretary, Duncan was best known for his eight years as Chief Executive Officer of Chicago’s Public School system. Before that he served as Deputy Chief of Staff to the City Council and Director of Magnet Schools and Programs. From 1992 to 1998, Duncan worked in the private sector as a Director for Ariel Capital Management – which was actually his first big job after four years as a professional basketball player. Needless to say, Duncan’s presence will be missed if President Obama ever hosts another basketball game. He graduated Harvard in 1987.

With Duncan stepping aside and education a more hot button issue now than it’s ever been, it’s not exactly guaranteed that Obama’s choice for the next Education Secretary will be confirmed. That possibility didn’t stop him from nominating Dr. John B. King as Duncan’s replacement. King currently serves as the de facto Acting Deputy Secretary of Education, placing him in charge of the department’s higher education wing. Before he was delegated the responsibilities of Deputy Secretary, King served as a Commissioner for the New York State Education Department, variously heading the state’s Office of P-12 Education, the Education Reform Commission, the Equity and Excellence Commission, and the Commission on National and Community Service. Before that, he was best known as a Co-Founder, Co-Director for Curriculum and Instruction, and finally Managing Director for Uncommon Schools, a nonprofit group. His academic record is a bit more expansive than his would-be predecessor, with degrees from Harvard, Columbia, and Yale.

Outside of Education, this week also saw the nomination of John F. Kotek to serve as Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, a position in which he’s been acting July. Kotek stepped up from his main job as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in that office following the departure of Bruce Lyons. He previously served as a Principal and then Partner at Gallatin Public Affairs, following several years at the Idaho Department of Energy and the American Nuclear Society. Along the way, Kotek also served as a member of the Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance Council. Earlier in his career he served as a Deputy Manager in the Idaho Operations Office. He also worked as a Manager for the Nuclear Technology Division at Argonne National Laboratory. He got his start in the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology, with roles ranging from Associate Director for Technology to Chief of Staff. He graduated from Illinois and Maryland. 

 

 

October 1, 2015

This Week: DoD's "Old Soldiers" retire and make way for a new era

Uniformed command of the military changed hands this week as Army General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Marty Dempsey stepped down and retired, passing the job and the responsibility to Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford. The transition, which included several days of Air Force General and Deputy Chairman Paul Selva acting in Dunford’s place while he moved offices and got his bureaucratic bearings, marks the beginning of a new era for the Department of Defense – for the first time in almost forty years, almost all of the Joint Chiefs are new to office, with changes to the leadership of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and National Guard. The current old man of the Joint Chiefs, Air Force General Mark Welsh, is scheduled to retire sometime in the summer of next year, giving a few more months for candidates like TRANSCOM’s Darren McDew or Air Combat Command’s Hawk Carlisle to jockey for position as his replacement. Incidentally, the past week saw Chairman Dunford give his old job as Marine Corps Commandant to General Bob Neller, who previously commanded Marine Corps Forces Command. Both the Army and Navy transitions happened a little earlier this month, with General Mark Milley and Admiral John Richardson succeeding Ray Odierno and Jon Greenert, respectively. It remains to be seen how the new Chiefs will lead, and it also remains to be seen where their predecessors will go next; Odierno has already joined investment giant J.P. Morgan but Dempsey and Greenert have so far kept a low profile. Paul Selva’s predecessor, Sandy Winnefeld, has so far eschewed any big money offers in favor of a professorship at Georgia Tech.

This week also saw the sunset of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the agency that was responsible for tracking funds related to 2009’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and relief efforts following 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. The Board might have been born in controversy from Obama and Congressional Democrats’ attempts to stimulate the economy following the 2008 economic crisis, but six years later it went away quietly without much in the way of media coverage. In the Board’s farewell press release, dated to September 11th, the agency was credited with $157 million in recoveries, forfeitures, seizures, and estimated savings for American taxpayers. The final board membership consisted of Kathleen Tighe, Calvin Scovel, Phyllis Fong, Gregory Friedman, Russell George, Daniel Levinson, Eric Thorson, Mary Kendall, Michael Horowitz, John Roth, and Jon Rymer.

In addition to RATB’s sunset, the Valles Caldera Trust was formally absorbed into the Department of Interior this week, joining the National Park Service as the Valles Caldera National Preserve.  While the Preserve has been a national natural landmark since 1975, the Trust itself was born in July of 2000, courtesy of Bill Clinton, setting aside about 95,000 acres of land as part of an experimental private/public partnership effort that was supposed to achieve financial independence by 2020. By the end of Fiscal Year 2010, the writing was on the wall that the experiment hadn’t worked. It took about five years, but Congress finally redesignated the Trust as a part of the National Park system with the passage of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. The new Preserve will continue to be overseen by Jorge Silva-Banuelos, who previously served as the Trust’s Executive Director. 

 

 

September 24, 2015

This Week:  Scott Walker, one-time frontrunner, ends campaign

After a rapid descent into the media sidelines, the Scott Walker campaign finally captured national attention this week – by coming to an abrupt end on Monday night. The one-time frontrunner, who had initially been considered an up-and-coming threat to the once inevitable Jeb Bush, officially suspended his campaign following two lackluster debate performances and sudden, insurmountable fundraising problems. Walker finally succeeded in taking on a leadership role as he exited the stage, imploring other candidates, though none by name, to drop out in a bid to consolidate opposition to the current frontrunner, Donald Trump. He returns to Wisconsin without much to show for the months he spent trying to build up support for his national campaign, with more than a few burned bridges in the state legislature, and with an uncertain political future as the state gears up for its next election cycle in 2016. Time will tell if Walker, known at least in part for surviving three elections in four years, one of them for his union-busting and his opposition to Wisconsin’s state university system, will be able to pull another rabbit out of his hat. It also remains to be seen whether or not Walker, who spent several years in political recovery after losing his first bid for office back in Milwaukee, will try to reinvent himself and spread his brand around nationally for another run in either 2016 or 2020. He may also come back later in this cycle as a VP candidate.

This week also saw the Department of Defense make history with the long expected nomination of Eric K. Fanning as Secretary of the Army. If confirmed, Fanning will be the first openly gay service secretary in the nation’s history, and one of the first, if not the first, openly gay member of a presidential cabinet – depending mostly on how you count Fred Hochberg during his tenure as acting SBA chief under Bill Clinton. Fanning’s nomination immediately drew a combination of flak from social conservatives, overwhelming support from social liberals, the defense industry, bureaucracy, senior officers, and a resounding shrug from the rank and file. He’s certainly one of the best qualified candidates for the job, having previously served as Under Secretary and then Acting Secretary of the Air Force during the run-up to current Secretary Debbie James’ confirmation. He also had a brief stint as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s Chief of Staff, and served four years as the Deputy Chief Management Officer of the Navy. Fanning’s nomination came within a day or two of another momentous appointment: Amanda R. Simpson, who was sworn in as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy, making her the highest-ranked, openly transgendered person in United States military history, as well as one of the highest-ranked transgendered people in the history of the nation as a whole. Simpson previously served as the Executive Director of the Office of Energy Initiatives, also located in the Army. Both Fanning and Simpson represent stark and ongoing changes in the armed services which, until very recently, forbid people like them from even serving openly.

The Department of Defense received a bevy of other nominations to go along with Fanning, some of which were actually connected to him in one way or another. Lisa Disbrow, who stepped in to fill the void Fanning left when he moved to Secretary Carter’s office in January, was formally nominated to be Under Secretary of the Air Force. She’s currently acting in that position and pulling double duty as the Air Force Comptroller. Luckily, Obama also nominated her successor: Professor Ricardo Aguilera of National Defense University, best known for his prior stint as Special Assistant to the DOD’s Deputy Comptroller for Program and Budget. The Navy also got an Under Secretary nominee in Janine Davidson, who would replace the current acting Thomas Hicks if she gets confirmed. Rounding out the group is Jennifer M. O’Connor, the nominee to replace the retired Stephen Preston, who left for the private sector this summer.

 


 

September 17, 2015

This Week:  John Wayne Jones sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Poland

For this presidential primary season, something unusual happened this week: the pool of candidates actually got smaller. Rick Perry became the first of the twenty-three would-be nominees in either party to drop out of the race, following several weeks of high-profile campaign defections and well-publicized money troubles. Perry was a brief frontrunner back in the 2012 primaries before getting sunk by a bad performance in one of the debates. Much of his candidacy this time around looked and felt like an attempt at redeeming himself, with fewer gaffes and an image makeover that included glasses and an emphasis on military service and border security. Unfortunately for Perry, he emerged into a crowded field where he had considerable overlap with most of the other candidates; nothing stood out about him and he was never able to gain any traction, especially not when current frontrunner Donald Trump started sucking the campaign oxygen out of the room. Still, Perry might become an important figure down the line if he can leverage his connections properly – he’s the longest-serving governor in Texas history and most of its current politicians are a part of his legacy, whether they came into office because of him or in spite of him. He might be able to exert some influence when it comes time to endorse, assuming Trump doesn’t suck the oxygen out of that as well.

This week also featured the long awaited nomination of a new Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Robert M. Califf currently serves as the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner, a position he’s held since January. He previously served as Vice Chancellor of Clinical Research at Duke University, where he was also Director of the university’s Translational Medicine Institute, the Clinical Research Institute, and a Professor of Medicine. In addition to the thirty-three years he spent as a member of the university’s administration, Califf also served on the committees of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy, the IOM’s Clinical Research Roundtable, the Committee on Medication Errors, and the Board on Health Sciences Policy. He earned both his undergraduate and doctoral degrees at Duke in the 1970s. If confirmed, Califf will replace his current boss and probable rival for the top job, Acting Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Ostroff, who used to serve as the FDA’s Chief Scientist.

This week also saw the swearing-in of three ambassadors and the nominations of another five. Paul Wayne Jones won the race to office by two days this week, when he was formally sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Poland by Secretary John Kerry. Jones previously served as a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs following a three year stint as Ambassador to Malaysia. Later in the week, Ambassadors William Heidt and Jennifer Zimdahl Galt were sworn in, representing the U.S. to Cambodia and Mongolia, respectively. Both are first-time ambassadors. Nominees for the week include Deborah R. Malac, Lisa J. Peterson, H. Dean Pittman, Eric Seth Rubin, and Kyle R. Scott, who will represent the U.S. to Uganda, Swaziland, Mozambique, Bulgaria, and Serbia, respectively. Of the five prospects, only Malac is a sitting Ambassador, representing the U.S. to Liberia, while the others are all senior-level officials, both current and former. 

 

 

September 10, 2015

This Week:  State Department appoints 'Email Czar' as investigations heat up

Securities and Exchange Commission member Daniel Gallagher decided he was going to call it quits early this week, four months after declaring his intention to stay on until the confirmation of a successor. Noting his frustration with the White House’s delays in even nominating a successor, Gallagher has stated his new intention to step down early next month. Gallagher has been with the SEC off and on for the better part of a decade now, starting as Counsel to Commissioner Paul Atkins during the Bush Administration. He later served under Chairman Christopher Cox, also during the Bush Administration, before becoming Deputy Director and Acting Co-Director for Trading and Markets. He took about a year or so off to join the private sector as a Partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he primarily oversaw Securities Litigation and Enforcement Practice. He returned to the Commission in 2011 and replaced Kathleen L. Casey following what was, for the Obama Administration, a lightning fast confirmation process that only took five months. He graduated Georgetown in 1994 and Columbus Law in 1998. In stating his intention to step down, Gallagher did leave himself a little wiggle room: He might step down early in the extremely unlikely event that a successor is nominated and confirmed between now and October – a grueling six to ten month process that would have to be compressed into about three weeks. 

This week also saw the formal announcement of Larry Sweet’s departure from NASA, the highlight to a summer-long shuffle throughout Federal IT’s upper echelons. Sweet is stepping down as Chief Information Officer and taking up a short-term advisory gig once his successor, former EPA CIO Renee Wynn, takes office – he’ll fully retire at the end of November, capping off a nearly thirty-year career with the agency. Sweet became the CIO in 2013, when he replaced Linda Cureton. He previously served as the Director and Chief Information Officer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, a position he held for most of five years before his current job. He spent about twenty years bouncing around Johnson Space Center and NASA Headquarters, most of them spent in managerial or supervisory roles, before landing in the center’s CIO seat. He graduated from Texas Lutheran in 1978.

Rounding out the week was the appointment of Ambassador Janice Lee Jacobs as the State Department’s new Transparency Coordinator – colloquially nicknamed the ‘Email Czar’ – in response to continued interest in former Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for official email.Jacobs’ appointment comes at a time when the scandal has threatened to cause lasting damage to the Clinton campaign, which is currently under siege-by-proxy from Congressional Republicans investigating possible security breaches on her watch. Jacobs previously served as the State Department’s Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs, a position she held through both the Bush and Obama administrations. A career Foreign Service officer focused on consular affairs, Jacobs earned her ambassadorship in Senegal from 2006 to 2007. She graduated from Southern Illinois in 1968 and the National War College in 1995. It remains to be seen how much of a role Jacobs will have in the Clinton investigation, but her appointment wasn’t the only news likely to affect the Democratic Primary this week: Harvard Professor and noted campaign finance critic Larry Lessig announced his run for office, emerging as the ultimate small money candidate in the race for 2016. Lessig might not have much of an impact on the race overall, but his opposition to the current campaign finance regime is second-to-none and his focus on running as a single-issue candidate could easily force everyone but Sanders to the left when debate season starts – assuming he’s able to make it on stage, of course.

 

 

September 3, 2015

This Week:  President focuses resources on Alaska's climate change

President Obama focused on Alaska this week. While his most public gestures involved restoring the name of Denali to the state’s most iconic natural feature and taking time off to guest star on Bear Grylls’ survival reality show, Obama also shined a spotlight on the Denali Commission, naming it the lead coordinating agency for Federal, State, and Tribal resources aimed at assisting communities in dealing with climate change. The Denali Commission will act as a “one-stop-shop” for all things coastal, including the voluntary relocation of communities threatened by rising sea levels or permafrost degradation. Obama’s own Arctic Executive Steering Committee will take on an advisory role.  The USDA’s Rural Development agency is also getting in on the action, finalizing a rule that increases the availability of grants to rural villages threatened by water system vulnerabilities. Other departments and agencies involved include the Department of Energy, The Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which are partnering with the non-profit Rockefeller Foundation and Cities of Service to launch Resilience AmeriCorps, a pilot program aimed at embedding AmeriCorps VISTA members in ten communities over the course of two years. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is also getting involved as a cross-agency coordinator, developing shared principles for climate-related relocation and managed retreat from high-risk areas; Alaska will be one of the test beds for these new principles, which are expected to apply around the country. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be involved as a consultant for disaster relief planning. The Bureau of Indian Affairs will focus on supporting internships for tribal youth working on climate change. It remains to be seen how these efforts will be measured against Obama’s overall record on climate change, especially in light of recent decisions to allow drilling in Alaska.

But before Obama zeroed in on Alaska, he was making headlines by appointing the nation’s first Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, James C. O’Brien. O’Brien’s appointment comes at a time when the government is facing increased scrutiny and criticism for its no-payments policy on American hostages, which has arguably contributed to at least one high-profile tragedy in recent years. While international affairs and national security experts generally agree that the policy is a good one, hostages’ families have come out against it as cruel and obstructive. O’Brien will work with the Secretary of State and the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell in efforts to bring home American hostages, an effort which will include direct outreach to the families of hostages. O’Brien is currently with Albright Stonebridge, with his membership dating back to its days as the Albright Group, where he started as a Principal. He currently serves as Vice Chair. He previously served as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State under Madeleine Albright. He’s best known for the role he played the build-up to the Dayton Accords and guided American support for the tribunal that ultimately brought Slobodan Milosovic to justice. 

Rounding out the week was a flurry of departures and hires among presidential candidates. The big headliner there was the floundering Rick Perry campaign, which lost its last paid staffer in New Hampshire as Michael Dennehy resigned from his position as a senior advisor. John Kasich rolled out members of his Ohio and Iowa teams, including Aaron Trost, who managed Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb)’s campaign. Bernie Sanders hired three new members of his digital team, including Zack Exley and Pinky Weitzman, formerly of the Wikimedia Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, respectively. Trump continues to lead most polls for the GOP, with Ben Carson recently surging into second place and bumping the alleged frontrunner, Jeb Bush, down to the third spot. CNN has announced a rules change that makes it more likely for Carly Fiorina to join the main debate on the 16th. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is still in the lead but has come under persistent fire from conservatives and the media over her private email server, while Vice President Biden is still on the fence about a potential run. Sanders remains the party’s only current viable alternative to the former Secretary of State, and he’s doing pretty well for someone without a super PAC – recent polls show him continuing to close in on Clinton, and he’s got a reasonably comfortable margin of victory over Trump in a hypothetical general matchup.

 

 

August 27, 2015

This Week:  Will Sam Clovis stick with the Trump's campaign?

Elections dominated the week as Donald Trump started poaching from the ailing campaign of former Texas Governor Rick Perry. Sam Clovis, an outspoken Tea Party activist, radio personality, and professor of economics at Morningside College, previously served as Perry’s State Chairman for Iowa. Clovis is a borderline perennial candidate himself, having run for both the U.S. Senate and Iowa State Treasurer before jumping onboard the Perry campaign. He’s best known as one of the people current Senator Joni Ernst beat to win her freshman term. While he got a step up from State Chair for Perry to National Co-Chair for Trump, it remains to be seen how long he’ll stick with the current frontrunner’s campaign – backers from the Perry Campaign have already released emails with Clovis disparaging his new boss both on cultural and political grounds.

Incidentally, things don’t look good for Perry himself right now. He’s likely to enter into a de facto scuffle with Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Carly Fiorina over who gets airtime during the next GOP Primary Debate in September. Both Kasich and Fiorina have been going up in the polls since their performances earlier this month, while Perry’s had trouble carving out a spot from the get-go, and Christie is doing so bad that at least one opposition group recently closed up shop with the claim that he’s doing more damage to himself than they can. It remains to be seen whether Fiorina will make it out of the opening debates and into the top ten, but Perry may well become the first candidate to drop out of the race if he fails to impress at the next debate. Trump, meanwhile, remains solidly in the lead despite – or maybe even because of – his ongoing feuds with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and most of the Latino-American media community, in addition to slow-boiling attempts by state party heads to block him from the ballot in Virginia and North Carolina. His next nearest competitor, Jeb Bush, remains the expected winner by establishment and media-types, but he’s also stepped into it with his own gaffes lately. Bush has also, reportedly, suspended pay for staffers in a few key states; despite having the largest network of super PACs in the race, Bush is still seriously outgunned in terms of actual campaign cash, lagging behind Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, among others.

 

 

August 20, 2015

This Week:  In the air and at sea, big changes in nation's military

It was a big week for the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard with changes both at and near the top for each service.The biggest of the three was the retirement of the Army’s Chief of Staff, General Ray Odierno, a literal giant of a man best known to most Americans for shaving Stephen Colbert’s head some years ago. After issuing some final statements on military policy and future operations, Odierno stepped down and was immediately replaced by General Mark Milley, who hit the ground running with a speech that touched upon military families, budget cuts, and the Army’s intended purpose versus its real world missions. At the same time Odierno and Milley were exchanging power, the Navy was gearing up for its own Chief change-up: Admiral John Richardson handed over the keys to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program to Admiral James Caldwell, clearing Richardson’s calendar for a month-long transition period to his next job as Chief of Naval Operations. Richardson is set to replace the outgoing Admiral Jon Greenert, who’s been at the helm for about four years now. A few days after Milley and Caldwell took their new jobs, the Coast Guard’s new Vice Commandant took office. Vice Admiral Charles D. Michel fills the vacancy left by the now-retired Peter Neffenger, who left the Guard to turn things around at the embattled Transportation Security Administration. All three men have joint military experience, either operational or administrative, with Milley in particular being an Iraq War veteran while both Caldwell and Michel have backgrounds in military law and international operations.

On the civilian side, the White House made history with the appointment of its first openly transgender official, one of only a tiny handful of such appointments in the entire federal government, most of which have happened under the Obama administration. The newly named Outreach and Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, comes to the White House from the National Center for Transgender Equality, where she was a Policy Advisor for the Center’s Racial and Economic Justice Initiative. Prior to that, Freedman-Gurspan served as a Legislative Director in the Massachusetts House of Representative. Earlier, she worked for the City of Somerville, Massachusetts as an LGBT Liaison, and earlier still she got her start with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. She graduated from St. Olaf College in 2009.

 

This week also saw the announcement of Dr. Joshua D. Wright’s impending departure from the Federal Trade Commission, effective next Monday. Alongside the Federal Communications Commission’s Arjit Pai, Wright is best known as one of the most prominent federal opponents of Net Neutrality. Wright was also one of the largest conservative voices remaining at the FTC, and his departure leaves the Commission slanted with three Democrats and one Republican. Wright is also known as an ally of Google, something which caused him to formally recuse himself from cases involving the search engine giant when he was appointed. A career academic since 2003, Wright returns to George Mason University this Fall, where he previously spent several years as a Professor of Law. Earlier in his career, he worked at both UCLA and Pepperdine University, served out a Law Clerkship with Judge James Selna of California, and spent time as a Scholar-in-Residence at the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. Wright graduated from UC San Diego in 1998, and earned both his JD and PhD at UCLA in 2002 and 2003, respectively.

 

 

August 13, 2015

This Week:  National Cybersecurity to rise in prominence at DHS

It was a big week for the Air Force, and the military in general, as General Larry Spencer stepped down and retired following a three year run as Vice Chief of Staff. A career comptroller with multiple joint assignments under his belt, Spencer previously served as Director for both J6 and J8 – the Joint Staff’s cyber and finance directorates, respectively. With budget cuts either looming or in effect throughout Spencer’s time as Vice Chief, his background in military finance prepared him well to help manage the ongoing downsizing of the Air Force. His replacement, the newly minted General David Goldfein, is more of a generalist in that his assignments have varied from cyber to policy to actual operations to personnel management. Goldfein most recently served as the Director of the Joint Staff – effectively the joint chief of staff to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Prior to his Joint Staff assignment he spent two years as Commander of Air Forces Central Command, as well as two years as Director of Air and Space Operations at Air Combat Command. Spencer graduated from Southern Illinois in 1979, Webster in 1987, Marine Corps Command University in 1990, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1994. Goldfein graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1983 and Oklahoma City in 1987. Spencer enters civilian life as President of the Air Force Association, effective later this year.

There were also some shake-ups on the campaign trail this week, including a few dispiriting revelations about several campaigns. It’s no secret that a lot of the current Republican prospects are struggling to keep up with the Bush behemoth. Rick Santorum’s poor campaign fundraising has gotten the most press in recent weeks, and now it’s come to light that Rick Perry has had to cut pay to staffers in all of the Big Three early primary states. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not either or both of them will be able to hang on all the way to Iowa, never mind several upcoming debates. Donald Trump has also seen some unusual shake-ups this week, courtesy of his ongoing feud with Fox News host Megyn Kelly. Top advisor Roger Stone was either fired or quit early this week – exactly what went down depends on who you ask – while the Trump campaign itself is preparing to go on a hiring spree ahead of the next round of debates. For all that, the Trump campaign remains the frontrunner in most recent polls, with his lead either remaining flat or shrinking by a small margin depending on the pollster.

This week also saw shuffles at the Department of Homeland Security, where the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center is soon to be elevated within the department’s structure. This is part of a broader effort to make DHS into the federal government’s go-to for cybersecurity, a role that it currently plays in a somewhat diminished capacity.  Andy Ozment, the Assistant Secretary of Cybersecurity and Communications, will assume direct oversight of the center as a dual responsibility, with retired Coast Guard Captain John Felker handling day-to-day operations. Felker previously served as a Deputy Director for Coast Guard Cyber Command. Ozment previously served as the Senior Director for Cybersecurity at the National Security Council.

 

 

August 6, 2015

This Week:  A New Era For The Joint Chiefs of Staff

This week, Air Force General Paul Selva was confirmed and sworn in as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signaling the beginning of the end of an era for the military’s top brass. For the first time in nearly four decades – and the first time ever with the current roster of service chief positions – every member of the Joint Chiefs will retire and be replaced in the space of just one year. As the first member of a wave of new service chiefs, Selva is already well-positioned to replace his future boss, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, as the Chairman during the next presidency. For now though, he gets to be #2 for the entire uniformed section of the Department of Defense. Selva comes to the Joint Chiefs from his previous position as head of Transportation Command, one of the military’s big two logistics outfits. Selva has spent his entire career in and around Air Force logistics, with a handful of joint assignments sprinkled in. Notable assignments include a stint as Assistant to previous Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, a post which also put Selva in close touch with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Earlier in his career, he was an Assistant to Andrew Marshall, the longtime director of the Office of Net Assessment. Prior to his TRANSCOM command, Selva spent two years in charge of Air Mobility Command, which followed a year-long stint as Vice Commander of Pacific Air Forces. Selva got his start as co-pilot and aircraft commander for a cargo plane with the 917th Air Refueling Squadron. His predecessor, Navy Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, retired the same day that Selva was sworn in. Winnefeld was an early contender for the chairmanship but ultimately lost out to Selva’s future boss, Joseph Dunford.

This week also saw a number of mid-level appointments elsewhere in the government. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity got a new Director, the General Services Administration got a new Inspector General, and both the National Security Agency and Department of Agriculture picked up new General Counsels. Of the counsel appointments, Jeffrey Michael Prieto spent nearly five months grinding his way through the Senate confirmation process before being confirmed at the end of July. Prieto had previously served for over half a year as the Acting General Counsel, joining the USDA after nearly sixteen years with the Justice Department. The NSA’s new General Counsel, Glenn Gerstell, is a former campaign bundler for President Obama who spent most of his career in private practice with the firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. He was a Managing Partner in both their Singapore and Hong Kong offices, as well as a Partner and Group Head. Along the way, he also chaired the Water and Sewer Authority for the District of Columbia. Prieto graduated UC Santa Barbara in 1983, UCLA in 1995, and Princeton in 1997. Gerstell graduated NYU in 1974 and Columbia in 1976.

And this week had a few new high-profile offices and positions open up. Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, the Defense Department’s new outreach effort in Silicon Valley, opened its doors for the first time. Its new Director is George D. Duchak, formerly the head of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Information Directorate and a veteran of Silicon Valley’s techie start-up culture. The Secret Service finally named its first Chief Operating Officer, George D. Mulligan Jr., formerly of the Washington Headquarters Service and also a former head of the White House Military Office. Finally, the Comptroller of the Currency named its first Chief Risk Officer, Linda Cunningham, who previously served as the Comptroller’s Examiner-in-Charge for Bank of America. Before that she was Examiner-in-Charge for KeyCorp, Mellon Financial Corporation, and The PNC Financial Services Group.

 

 

July 30, 2015

This Week:  It Was a Quiet Week....

It was a relatively quiet week for federal appointments, but that didn’t stop the administration from making a few waves. The biggest was the appointment of Michael Ratney as the new Special Envoy for Syria, replacing Daniel Rubinstein, who now awaits confirmation as the next Ambassador to Tunisia. Ratney is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, currently holding the rank of Minister-Counselor, with a history of service spanning twenty-five years, most of which have been spent in or focusing on the Middle East. Ratney most recently served a three-year stint as Consul General in Jersualem. Before that he was Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Media Engagement, Deputy Director for the Office of Press and Public Diplomacy, Chargé d’Affaires and then Deputy Chief of Mission in Qatar, and Regional Coordinator of the Basrah Branch Office of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, along with additional assignments in Lebanon, Morocco, and the odd assignment or two in Mexico. His wife, Karen Hideko Sasahara, currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Yemen. Ratney graduated from Boston in 1983 and George Washington in 1989.

The other big appointment this week, at least insofar as the general public is likely to be concerned, was Lee D. Martin as the Internal Revenue Service’s new Whistleblower Office, effective next Monday. A member of the Career Senior Executive Service, Martin previously served as Deputy Director and then Acting Director of for the IRS’ Office of Professional Responsibility. To certain critics, Martin’s appointment could look like an internal revolving door at work, but it isn’t. While he succeeds Stephen A. Whitlock, who was a previous Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility, there’s a considerable amount of lag time between their respective service dates. Whitlock’s return to OPR as its new full-time director comes after an eight year run as head of the Whistleblower Office. For his part, Martin’s career before becoming an ethics watchdog was mostly centered on technology and project management. His first IRS post was as Director of Enterprise Network Operations. Before that he was all over the tech sector, including positions with AT&T, SBC Interactive, SmartPages.com, Telcel, and Cable Northwest. He usually served as a vice president or assistant vice president. Martin graduated from Friends University with a Bachelor of Science and holds an MBA from Webster.

And finally, this week saw at least one appointment slip by with relatively minimal fanfare: Dr. Raymond Cook has been named as an Assistant Director of National Intelligence and the Chief Information Officer of the Intelligence Community. Cook currently serves dual assignments with the National Reconnaissance Office and the Central Intelligence Agency as Mission Operations Director and Space Reconnaissance Director, respectively. As with most intelligence appointees, Cook’s career is largely kept under wraps, but it is known that he was a longtime engineer for the CIA, holding multiple technical and leadership roles during a career spanning twenty-two years with the federal government. He earned his undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Cook takes office at a time of critical transition – and vulnerability – for the US intelligence community, which is still reeling from the Snowden disclosures and, more recently, the data breach that compromised upwards of twenty million current and former federal employees, contractors, and their families. Sufficed to say, Cook has his work cut out for him. He replaces Al Tarasiuk, the longtime CIO for the Intelligence Community, who retired earlier this year.

 

 

July 23, 2015

This Week:  Big Changes at DISA

The field of presidential candidates somehow managed to get even bigger this week as Ohio Governor John Kasich tossed his hat in the race. As candidate number sixteen among Republicans and twenty-two overall, Kasich is an exception to a lot of the beltway rules governing this campaign cycle. He’s a relative moderate who’s managed to strike the right balance between toeing the party line and being pragmatic, best demonstrated with his expansion of Medicaid. While many people are likely to know him mainly as a former FOX News personality, Kasich spent about twenty years in Congress as a Representative from Ohio, where he ultimately rose to chair the House Budget Committee for the latter half of the 90s. He actually considered a run for the White House back in 1999 but withdrew early due to poor fundraising and wound up endorsing the eventual winner, George Bush. Kasich joined FOX almost immediately after his congressional term ended, and stayed onboard as the host of Heartland and an occasional guest host for the O’Reilly Factor. He left the network in 2007 and later emerged as an Associate of the Schottenstein Stores Corporation, a position he held for about two years before beginning his run for Governor of Ohio. Throughout his time in the private sector, Kasich sat on the Boards of Directors for several companies, and spent all of his FOX News tenure as a Managing Director for Lehman Brothers’ Investment Banking Group. While the odds of a Kasich success are long, especially with so many other candidates to contend with, he’s a shoe-in for a cabinet appointment and might make for a good Secretary of Commerce or Treasury. Kasich graduated from Ohio State in 1974.

There were also some big shake-ups in the current president’s administration this week. Among the biggest: Steven L. Antonakes announced his resignation from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he currently serves as the second Deputy Director in the young bureau’s history. Antonakes first joined the Bureau back in 2010 as an Assistant Director, where he oversaw the Office of Large Bank Supervision. In early 2013 he replaced Rajeev Date, serving several months as Acting Deputy Director before his senate confirmation. Prior to his federal service, Antonakes spent eight years as a Commissioner with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, where he headed up the Division of Banks. Earlier, he had served as the office’s First Deputy Commissioner, and he got his start there as a Bank Examiner. Throughout much of this time, Antonakes was also a member of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, where he served as District I Chairman, Treasurer, Secretary, and Vice Chairman. He graduated Penn State in 1990, Salem State in 1993, and earned his doctorate at Northeastern in 1998.

As of this writing, there are also big changes going down later this week at the Defense Information Systems Agency. After a three-year stint as agency director, Air Force Lieutenant General Ronnie D. Hawkins is stepping down and, after a career spanning nearly forty years, he’s also hanging up his uniform. Hawkins has led the agency through several major transitions, spearheading overhauls to the Department of Defense’s entire IT structure and even streamlining DISA itself in the process. Provided he doesn’t feel like fading out completely, Hawkins is guaranteed his pick of high-level corporate appointments in the tech sector; he’s easily the most desirable military-to-civilian hire since Keith Alexander left the NSA, and may even be better in some regards. Hawkins has served all over the Air Force, in the field, and on the Joint Staff, including recent assignments as the J6 Deputy Director, Director of Infrastructure Delivery and Deputy Director for Policy and Resources with the Air Force CIO, and Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications and Information Systems as part of Multi-National Force-Iraq. He also had a two-year stint as Vice Director of DISA, just like his successor, soon-to-be Army Lieutenant General Alan R. Lynn. Hawkins graduated Angelo State in 1977, Abilene Christian in 1985, National Defense University in 1997, and Liberty Theological Seminary in 2013.

 

 

July 16, 2015

This Week:  Will others follow Archuleta out the door of the OPM?

After hanging on for a couple of weeks, fallout from the hack of the Office of Personnel Management finally brought down Katherine Archuleta. While Archuleta isn’t the highest-level member of the Obama Administration to go down from a scandal – that dubious distinction probably still belongs to Eric Shinseki – she is one of the closest to the president himself. Archuleta served as Obama’s National Political Director during his re-election campaign, a position that helped put the president’s entire career on her shoulders for a few heady months from 2011 to 2012. Prior to that, she had been Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Labor, a position she held from the start of the Obama Administration all the way to the re-election campaign. After the re-election, Archuleta was one of a relative handful of nominees to make it through the Senate meat grinder before Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) changed the rules for executive appointees in late 2013, squeaking by at the end of October and being sworn into office not long after. The now-former OPM Director had endured numerous calls for her resignation from federal unions, legislators, and the media, and even went before Congress several times to defend herself and explain the situation, but her departure was almost a foregone conclusion from the moment the news broke. With Archuleta out the way, the Office of Management and Budget’s Beth Cobert has taken over as Acting Director while the administration searches for a replacement.  It’s worth noting that OPM Chief Information Office Donna Seymour is still in place. Seymour seems to have survived the controversy so far by just being a lower priority target than her old boss; with Archuleta gone, she probably won’t last a whole lot longer.

On the Presidential Campaign front, Scott Walker finally announced his candidacy after months of build-up and a slightly botched early rollout on Twitter. The Wisconsin Governor joins the most crowded primary pool in history with a better chance than most of his rivals – he’s polling well so far and enjoys the personal support of the Koch Brothers, whose prolific campaign contributions have transformed the national political dialogue over the past decade. Walker is best known for going after public sector unions and surviving a recall attempt early into his first term as governor. He’s also made a name for himself by repeatedly cutting funds to the University of Wisconsin, and was one of the earliest potential candidates to advocate a total ban on abortion without exceptions for rape or incest. As things stand right now, he’s got one of the best chances of taking down the long-term frontrunner, Jeb Bush, provided the current Donald Trump publicity storm blows over. Prior to assuming the governorship in 2011, Walker served for eight years as the County Executive of Milwaukee, and had a prior nine years in the Wisconsin State Assembly. Earlier on, he was an Accounts Administrator for the International Business Machines Corporation and a Financial Development Specialist for the Greater Milwaukee Chapter of the American Red Cross. Walker is also unique in recent history, whether as a candidate, an eventual nominee, or even as president: He’s the first credible, national-level candidate without a college degree in nearly seventy years. While he attended Marquette University and was both in good standing and on track to graduate, Walker dropped out in 1990 for reasons that have never been made clear.

 

 

July 9, 2015 

This Week:  Another round of musical chairs at the Pentagon

It was a huge week for diplomacy as the US and Cuba announced their official resumption of diplomatic relations, bringing to an end a fifty-four year freeze between the two countries. While the American Embassy in Cuba won’t fully open until later this month and the official appointment of an ambassador might not come until the next presidency, the first Charge d’Affaires has already been appointed. Jeffrey DeLaurentis succeeds Daniel M. Braddock, who held the post when it was abolished by President Eisenhower back in 1961. During the interim, American interests in Cuba have largely been represented by a string of section chiefs, including DeLaurentis and his immediate predecessor, John Caulfield. While he’s never been a formal, nation-assigned ambassador himself and might not get the nod for a long while, DeLaurentis is the likely frontrunner should the president attempt to nominate anyone. He’s a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, ranked Minister-Counselor, and served two previous assignments in Havana as a Consular Officer and Political-Economic Section Chief in the 1990s and early 2000s; the consular assignment was actually his very first job at the State Department. He’s also served assignments in Colombia and at State Department headquarters. Most recently, he was the Alternate U.S. Representative for Special Political Affairs for the United States Mission to the United Nations, a position he held from 2011 to 2014. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. DeLaurentis graduated from Georgetown in 1976 and later earned a degree from Columbia University. His wife, Jennifer Lee DeLaurentis, currently serves as the Secretary for the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council.

This week also saw another round of musical chairs at the Pentagon as the president finally nominated Brad Carson to serve as Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Carson is currently acting in the role and, for a little while, actually managed to juggle it with his previous job as Undersecretary of the Army. With his formal nomination as Under Secretary of Defense, Carson left the Army behind and Secretary Ash Carter punted somebody new into it: Eric Fanning, a Pentagon trailblazer. Fanning most recently served as Carter’s Chief of Staff; before that he served as Under Secretary of the Air Force and even had a brief stint as Acting Secretary back when Michael Donley stepped down. Fanning is now the odds-on favorite to succeed Secretary of the Army John McHugh when he steps down later this year. If he’s nominated and confirmed, it’ll mark the first time in history that a gay person has officially led one of the four armed services, a milestone for diversity and a possible feather in President Obama’s legacy cap. With Fanning’s new job came a very short-lived vacancy at his old one: Secretary Carter promoted Eric Rosenbach to be his new Chief of Staff, which actually marks his third job change since Carter took over, although one of those assignments only lasted about a week before Rosenbach was given a new one. Rosenbach is best known as the architect of the DOD’s current IT policy, and still serves as Carter’s principal advisor for all things cyber. He previously served as Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense and Global Strategic Affairs, and spent a few months as Acting Assistant Secretary for one of its predecessor offices, Global Strategic Affairs. He’s better known for the three or four years he spent serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber Policy, which is arguably where he made his greatest impact. Fanning might get all the press attention now, but Rosenbach may be the one destined to take over the department one day, assuming he doesn’t top out as DOD CIO under some future administration.

And rounding out the week was an announcement about an announcement from not-quite-perennial candidate Jim Gilmore, a former Republican Governor of Virginia who also ran in 2007 before switching to the Senate race and being electorally obliterated by his Democratic rival, Mark Warner. Odds are good that Gilmore is mostly just running to elevate his standing and put his name on the radar for a cabinet post with a possible Republican administration. He served as Virginia Governor from 1998 to 2002 and, in the wake of 9/11, chaired the Congressional Advisory Commission on Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction, a.k.a. the National Commission on Homeland Security, a.k.a. the Gilmore Commission. Following his stint as governor, Gilmore was Chairman of the Republican National Committee for a year before going into private practice and subsequently dropping off the radar. These days he sits on the boards of directors for several companies. In an election cycle that’s already bursting at the seams, Gilmore faces an almost comically uphill battle just to get face time during a televised debate, never mind his actual chances of winning.

 

 

July 2, 2015

 This Week:  Many obstacles on Gov. Christie's path to nomination for Prez

The administration of the Smithsonian effectively changed hands this week as Dr. David J. Skorton took the keys from former Acting Secretary Albert G. Horvath, who now returns to his regular job as the Institution’s Under Secretary and Chief Financial Officer. Skorton replaces former Secretary Gerald Wayne Clough, who stepped down last year after nearly six years on the job. Skorton comes to the Smithsonian from Cornell University, where he served for the past nine years as President. He was previously the President of the University of Iowa, a position he held from 2003 to 2006. Skorton actually spent most of his academic career at the University of Iowa, beginning as a Director of the Cardiovascular Image Processing Laboratory all the way back in 1982. He went on to serve as a Division Director, Associate Chairman, and Vice President of Research. Later, he had External Relations tacked onto his vice presidency. Outside of direct academia, he’s been closely involved with the Business-Higher Education Forum, and he spent several years on the Board of Directors for the Association of American Medical Colleges. He graduated Northwestern in 1970 and 1974, earning his undergrad and medical doctorate, respectively.

In the military, Ash Carter continued his top-level staff shuffle in preparation for the retirements or transfers of most of the Joint Chiefs of Staff later this year. Rounding out the crowd of new chiefs will be Lieutenant General Robert B. Neller, who presently serves as Commander of U.S. Marine Forces Command and U.S. Marine Forces Europe. If confirmed, Neller will take his fourth star and replace the current commandant, General Joseph Dunford, who himself is slated to replace retiring Chairman General Martin Dempsey. Neller represents the latest in a string of institutionally comfortable appointments by Secretary Carter, who spent most of his career in and around the Department of Defense and has a great deal of personal familiarity with most of the recent promotions. In Neller’s case, Carter met and worked with him during the general’s time as J3 Director on the Joint Staff; Carter’s tenure as the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer was winding down and Neller’s tenure as its operational point man on the Joint Staff was winding up. Neller apparently left enough of an impression to beat SOUTHCOM’s Gen. John Kelly, among others. If confirmed, it’s likely that Neller will be well-placed to rescue the Marine Corps from several inter-service struggles with the Army, Navy, and Air Force regarding acquisition, ammunition, and close air support. Never doubt the power of personal connections.

In election news, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made an epic leap and a somewhat disappointing splash into the already crowded pool of the Republican Primary contest. Once considered one of the strongest potential candidates in the wake of his kingmaking role in the 2012 Presidential Election – where his cooperation with President Obama was widely considered a bipartisan coup in a time of domestic crisis – Christie has since been taken down peg by peg with a string of scandals and bad press coverage. While he was initially able to brush many of them off, the Bridgegate Scandal in particular has hung around his neck like an albatross for the better part of a year and a half or more. It cost him several senior staffers and a huge chunk of political goodwill among residents of his native New Jersey – a key population that Christie cannot afford to lose if he wants to stand a chance against the Jeb Bush machine, to say nothing of the other thirteen current and two future candidates, which does not include the eventual GOP nominee’s Democratic rival, who will likely be chosen from a smaller pool of just seven or eight candidates. Christie will also have the added hurdle of overcoming the Curse of the North. The Republican Party hasn’t fielded a candidate from the modern Northeast since the 1970s or earlier and the last big name to risk it, former “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani, failed spectacularly on the national stage without winning or even performing credibly in a single state back in 2008. While Christie might do better, he’s generally coasted by on a reputation for tough talk and getting results, many of which have proven questionable or outright unpopular in his home state. For all its viciousness the Presidential campaign is a much more genial competition that could see his tough talking persona torpedoed as early as Iowa or New Hampshire. And putting aside the small army of current candidates, Ohio Governor John Kasich is expected to announce soon and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker looms large as the undeclared rising challenger to Jeb Bush.


 

June 25, 2015

This Week:  Shulkin confirmed and welcomed at VA

The big story this week was the confirmation of Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter V. Neffenger as the new head of the Transportation Security Administration, passing the Senate by a comfortable margin of 81-1 – most of the remaining Senators were on a delegation abroad and the lone dissenter, Ben Sasse (R-NE), only objected to the nomination as a protest vote on the TSA as a whole. Neffenger becomes the second senior-level Coast Guardsman to head the agency, following in the footsteps of former Admiral and Commandant of the Coast Guard Peter Loy, who himself was TSA’s second Administrator. While it’s a bit hazy as to whether or not he actually has to retire from the Coast Guard, Neffenger will most likely follow in Loy’s footsteps again and take office as a civilian and most official sources have congratulated him in the past tense on his thirty years of uniformed service. While he is popular on the Hill and among both the military and security communities, Neffenger has his work cut out for him – TSA has taken a beating over everything from its internal work culture to its overall effectiveness and whether or not the agency is even necessary in light of some recent and highly publicized failures. As of this writing, Neffenger currently serves as Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, a position he’s held since the middle of last year. He previously served as Deputy Commandant for Operations, and had a string of command-level positions that placed him close to the Guard’s former commandant, retired Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr.. He graduated from Baldwin-Wallace and earned masters’ degrees from the Naval War College, JFK School of Government, and Central Michigan.

While it’s likely to go under the radar compared to Neffenger, this week also saw the confirmation of David J. Shulkin as Under Secretary for Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin’s confirmation marks a milestone for the department as the position has been sitting vacant for over a year now and the previous nominee, Jeffrey Murawsky, was derailed as part of the blowback from the Phoenix VA Scandal. The previous incumbent, Robert Petzel, had the dubious distinction of being the highest-level resignation in the scandal until Eric Shinseki himself called it quits just a few weeks later. Where both of them were career public servants, Shulkin is closer to the example set by the current VA Secretary, Bob McDonald, in that he’s spent most of his career outside of the government. He first rose to prominence as the Chief Quality Officer for the College of Medicine at Drexel University, then later moved to Temple University’s School of Medicine, where he was Chief Medical Officer. He later served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Beth Israel Medical Center, followed by a stint as President of the Morristown Medical Center. As of this writing, he currently serves as Vice President of the Atlantic Health System. He earned his medical doctorate from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1986.

Rounding out the week was a long-expected announcement from the Governor of Louisiana: Bobby Jindal is running for president. Jindal first rose to prominence as the first of a string of seemingly doomed respondents to President Obama’s early State of the Union addresses, although like Marco Rubio who was left reeling for years from his infamous sip of water, Jindal has recovered well enough to be a credible national-level candidate. While Jindal is a noted opponent of climate science and abortion, most of his reputation in recent years has been built on his opposition to the president’s health care and education policies, and he’s arguably better known for the latter: Jindal was one of the first, and is still among the loudest, successful critics of the Common Core Education Standards, and has pushed a private school-aimed education agenda with a solid degree of success despite numerous legal battles that constantly threaten to undermine it. Jindal’s entry into the race marks a new level of diversity in national politics – he was the very first Indian to hold a Governorship, beating out South Carolina’s Nikki Haley by a good three years, and now he’s the first Indian, and the first Asian-American in general, to vie for the White House. Although he faces the same long odds as most of the current Republican field, he does stand a good chance of flanking Jeb Bush on education and pro-life issues. If he falls short in the primary, he’ll probably take up the role of a campaign surrogate, as he did in 2012, with the long-term possibility of a cabinet appointment at Health and Human Services or Education. Jindal graduated from Brown in 1991 and earned his graduate degree at Oxford in 1994.

 

 

June 18, 2105

This Week: OPM hacked in the nation's first 'digital' Pearl Harbor

After nearly six months of one of the least subtle shadow campaigns in recent memory, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced his candidacy for the White House this week. As the latest superstar from one of America’s largest political dynasties, Bush is the odds-on favorite and de facto frontrunner for the Republican Party, setting up the possibility of a proxy rematch from both 1992, where his father lost to Bill Clinton, and 2000, where his brother beat Clinton’s vice president in the most narrowly contested election in the country’s history, assuming the former First Lady Hillary Clinton hangs onto the lead in the Democratic primary. Bush’s early candidacy has already been defined as an epic balancing act, running both with and against his family name, with and against his entire party’s recent platforms on immigration, abortion, education, and foreign policy, and with and against his own personal record on those same issues. Bush is best known for the eight years he spent as Governor of the State of Florida, where he first rose to national prominence with allegations of interference in the 2000 election. He later returned to the national consciousness during the Terri Schiavo incident. Following the end of his time in office, Bush became an early proponent of the Common Core education standards, lending his formidable connections and influence to help them pass in conservative states that would have otherwise opposed them – many of which now oppose them anyway. While the conservative base has largely turned against Common Core, Bush has mostly stuck to it. He’s also broken with the mainstream of his party in advocating a softer stance on immigration, going so far as to not only show off his Spanish language skills during his big campaign announcement, but to guarantee immigration reform to a group of protesters if elected.

While Bush is now the man to beat in the Republican primaries, he wasn’t the only one to announce this week.Donald Trump threw his hat in the ring Tuesday, effectively supplanting Ben Carson as the primary cycle’s resident Celebrity Candidate. While the odds of him winning, or even appearing in the various debates, are largely considered astronomically low, Trump has enough appeal with a certain portion of the Republican electorate and the media that he might linger in some capacity long after the FEC filing deadline runs out; he has until about July 1st but as of this writing, he still hasn’t put in the paperwork to become an official candidate.

Outside of the steady build-up to 2016, the big story this week was the ongoing fallout from the nation’s first true digital Pearl Harbor, which saw the personal information of nearly four million Federal employees, and possibly many or all of the government’s seven to nine million contractors, get stolen by an alleged state-level actor. Put bluntly: It has not been a good week for Katherine Archuleta, the current Director of the Office of Personnel Management, which stores and maintains all of the hacked files. In addition to a chilly reception when called to testify before Congress about the hack, Archuleta has been facing a growing number of calls for her resignation. Thus far, the President has supported her, but he also threw in behind Eric Shinseki during the first few weeks of the Veterans Healthcare Scandal. Archuleta’s best defense thus far actually came from Andy Ozment, the Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, who noted that the attackers had gained valid user credentials and taken advantage of the OPM’s lack of multifactor authentication. Ozment went on to cite social engineering as the likely means of obtaining user credentials – in layman’s terms, somebody got phished by a super villain or, more likely, a foreign intelligence agency managed to compromise the system through old-fashioned spy work. While Ozment’s defense makes sense and, with other information, would logically take the heat off of Archuleta, politics doesn’t work that way. If she goes down, expect a host of senior-level OPM officials to follow suit, including the office’s CIO, Donna Seymour.

 

 

June 11, 2015

This Week:  General Janet C. Wolfenbarger announces retirement

Defense took center stage this week with John M. McHugh’s announcement that he plans to step down as Secretary of the Army sometime later this year. McHugh has served as Secretary since September of 2009, and currently serves as both the highest ranking and longest lasting Republican in the entire Obama administration. In point of fact, McHugh’s estimated date of retirement marks him as the second longest-lasting Secretary of the Army, behind only John O. Marsh Jr., who served under both Presidents Reagan and Bush 41. Along with Ray Mabus, McHugh has been a relatively low-key pillar of stability in the armed forces, serving continuously through four Secretaries of Defense and numerous lower shake-ups in and around the ranks. Prior to joining the Obama administration, he was best known for his sixteen years as a member of the US House of Representatives, where he represented New York’s 23rd District. For a time, he was Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Co-Chair of the House Army Caucus, and Co-Chair of the Northern Border Caucus. He was also the Chair of the United States Military Academy’s Board of Visitors. McHugh served for eight years in the New York State Senate before he was elected to Congress, and prior to that he was a Local Government Liaison to State Senator Douglas Barclay. He got his start as an Assistant to the City Manager of Watertown all the way back in 1968, before he had even graduated college at Syracuse. He later earned an MPA at SUNY Albany.  Although he stated plans to retire no later than November, there’s the possibility that he might check out sooner if a successor can make it through the Senate in time.

This week also saw the retirement of General Janet C. Wolfenbarger, the first woman to attain a four-star rank in the Air Force, and one of only four in the history of the American military to have achieved such an honor thus far, with the latest being her successor, the newly frocked General Ellen Pawlikowski; their transfer of power was yet another first for the armed services, as no four-star lady general had ever handed a command over to another before it happened. Wolfenbarger retires after a career spanning nearly thirty years with assignments all over the Air Force. She got her start as a Technical Intelligence Analyst in 1980, later became the Executive Officer for Air Force Systems Command, took over the B-2 System Program in 2000 and vaulted from there into a string of command-level assignments that helped her climb to the top of the ranks. She was the Director of the Acquisition Center of Excellence, Director of Intelligence and Requirements and then Vice Commander for Air Force Materiel Command. She spent about a year as the Military Deputy for the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition before embarking on her final assignment, once again with Air Force Materiel Command, in 2012. Wolfenbarger graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1980, and went on to earn graduate degrees from MIT, Air Command and Staff College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

But it wasn’t all DOD this week. Over at the Department of Education, Michael Keith Yudin was finally sworn in as Assistant Secretary of Special Education and Rehabilitation after being confirmed by the Senate all the way back in March of this year. Yudin previously served as Acting Assistant Secretary for nearly three years before his confirmation, so it’s quite possible he just wanted a well-earned vacation before he was sworn in. He now officiallyreplaces the previous Assistant Secretary, Alexa Posny, who stepped down in 2012, along with Sue Swenson, who acted in the job for a month or three while Yudin was out. Yudin previously served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives with the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, a position he held from 2010 to 2012. During this time, he also did his first stint as an Acting Assistant Secretary, also with Elementary and Secondary Education. Prior to joining the Obama administration, Yudin served for eight years as a Senate staffer, starting as a Counsel with the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, moving to Jeff Bingaman’s office as Chief Education Counsel, and finally ending his Senate career as a Legislative Director for Jeanne Shaheen. Before that, he was an Overseer at Emerson College. He graduated SUNY Albany in 1985 and earned his JD at Western New England. 

 

 

 

June 4, 2015

 This Week:  Shakeup at TSA - Screening Processes 97% Ineffective

The 2016 presidential primaries took center-stage this week with announcements from Lindsey Graham, Martin O’Malley, George Pataki, Lincoln Chafee, and another announcement about an announcement from Bobby Jindal. Put simply: It’s getting (even more) crowded. Graham entered into the race as its sixth current or former Senator, most of them Republicans. He almost automatically displaces the younger Marco Rubio as the primary season’s biggest foreign policy hawk, and his ties to the Benghazi investigation are likely to serve him well as he moves against fellow Senators and Tea Party sweethearts Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. George Pataki, best known as the former Republican Governor of New York, threw his hat into the race in a longshot bid that may fair somewhat better than that of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Either way, Pataki replaces the embattled and as-yet-undeclared Governor Chris Christie as the Republican primary roster’s resident Northern Moderate. The Democratic field literally doubled with the additions of former governors O’Malley and Chafee, both of whom are expected to be even bigger underdogs than Senator Bernie Sanders. Both men are governors of reliably blue states, and neither of them enjoys an especially high national profile at this point in the race, although if nothing else the race may change that, positioning them well as candidates in 2020 should the Democrats fail to hold the White House next year. And as mentioned above, this week also saw Bobby Jindal floating his trial balloon a little higher in the run-up to his likely announcement later this month, with a tentative date set for June 24. With Jeb Bush currently slumping hard, Jindal may actually stand the best chance of taking the former Florida governor down – he’s a Southern governor with a strong evangelical base, considerable pro-life credentials, and a record as one of the most outspoken critics of the Common Core standards; all things that Bush has either downplayed, remained mum on, or previously supported, and all things that will play well to voters in a Republican primary.

This week also saw a shake-up at the Transportation Security Administration, courtesy of revelations from the agency’s inspector general that current screening processes, in addition to being inconvenient, are also 97% ineffective at detecting explosives or weapons. Within a day of the report’s general findings being made public, TSA’s acting head Melvin Carraway was ‘reassigned’ to a different, currently unknown job somewhere in the Department of Homeland Security. Carraway had served as Acting Assistant Secretary since earlier this year, and previously served as the TSA’s Deputy Administrator beginning last year. His acting replacement as Deputy Administrator, who will also serve as the TSA’s head for the foreseeable future, is Mark O. Hatfield Jr., who previously worked as the Federal Security Director for Newark and Miami international airports. On the bright side, this week also saw progress on the nomination of the Coast Guard’s Vice Admiral Peter V. Neffenger, who looks to be on the fast track to confirmation with a vote in the Senate’s Commerce Committee. Neffenger has unusually bright prospects for a Democratic nominee facing a Republican Senate, something often attributed to the enduring popularity of the Coast Guard. It remains to be seen how well the admiral will actually do if confirmed, never mind how kindly the Senate will treat him once he’s taken the helm.

Rounding out the week was the announcement of Susannah Fox as the new Chief Technology Officer for the Department of Health and Human Services. Fox comes to HHS from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where she was an Entrepreneur in Residence. She was previously best known for the fourteen years she spent as Associate Director of Editorials for the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. Earlier in her career, during the heady days of 90s internet, Fox worked as an Editor for USNews.com, which she helped to launch back in 1995. Before that she was an Associate with RealNetworks, an early start-up multimedia company, and a Research Assistant with the Harwood Group. She graduated Wesleyan in 1992, finishing the bachelor’s degree she began at Smith College.

 

 

 

May 28, 2015

This Week:  Levine Confimed as Deputy Chief Management Officer at DOD

It was a big week for the Navy as one of its highest-ranking admirals, and a former candidate for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stepped down and retired. Admiral Sam Locklear presided over much of the Obama administration’s more recent efforts to pivot the focus of the defense department from Europe and the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region, was an ally in the president’s push to make climate change a national security issue, and was one of the first big names to be cleared from the Navy’s so-called Fat Leonard Scandal, wherein a defense contractor bribed Navy officers and officials in exchange for lucrative logistics support contracts. Locklear came to PACOM after two years commanding the Navy’s forces in Europe and Africa. Prior to that he served as the Director of the Navy Staff, a position he held for about a year or so. Earlier in his career he commanded the US Third Fleet, an assignment he held for a little over two years. Earlier still, he served as the commanding officer for the USS Nimitz and what is now Carrier Strike Group Eleven. His shore assignments include Surface Warfare Deputy Director under the Navy’s N9 directorate, Assessments Division Director under N8, and Planning and Programming Division Director under the Joint Staff’s J5 directorate. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1977 and went on to earn advanced degrees from the National Defense University and George Washington University.

Locklear was replaced by Admiral Harry Harris, formerly the commander of the Pacific Fleet, who was actually confirmed to the job back in December of last year. Where Locklear was known to carry water for the administration’s policy goals, Harris has already struck a more traditional focus on maritime security issues, such as China’s land building efforts in the South China Sea, and seems less concerned with stepping into the policy arena. While he wasn’t in the running to succeed Chairman Dempsey or Vice Chairman Winnefeld, Harris’ name has come up with some regularity as a candidate for Chief of Naval Operations, although he’d likely have to beat Strategic Command’s Admiral Cecil Haney for the job. It wouldn’t be the first time that Harris has been given the call right after taking on a new assignment – he hadn’t even settled in as Pacific Fleet Commander when his nomination to succeed Admiral Locklear was announced. Prior to his Pacific Fleet assignment, Harris served all over the Navy, on the Joint Staff, and on the staff for at least one joint command. Standout assignments include a stint as Assistant to Chairman Dempsey from 2011 to 2013, Deputy Commander for Naval Forces Europe and Africa, and Commander of the 6thFleet. Earlier in his career, he also served as the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Communications, the last before it was merged with Navy Intelligence into the modern Information Dominance directorate. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1978.

This week also saw the confirmation of Peter K. Levine as Deputy Chief Management Officer of the Department of Defense, possibly the last one before that position merges with the Chief Information Officer sometime near the end of the Obama administration or the beginning of its successor. Levine joins the Defense Department after several decades as a professional legislative staffer in the Senate, where he was best known for his longtime association with former Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin. Throughout his senate staff career, Levine mainly focused on defense – emerging threats and capabilities were a part of his portfolio, along with personnel, readiness and management, all things that will be a key focus in his new job as the Defense Department works to modernize its human resources systems and combat insider threats. Levine most recently served as the Armed Services Committee’s Staff Director, a position he held from 2013 to 2015. He began his career as an Associate with Crowell and Moring. Levine graduated Harvard in 1979 and 1983.

Rounding out the week was another entry into the presidential field as former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum threw his hat into the Republican ring, bringing the primary season’s senate entry count up to five current and one former. While he’s spent the past several years as Chief Executive Officer of EchoLight Studios, a niche movie production company, Santorum is best known for being one of the more evangelically-aligned contenders from the 2012 campaign season, where he vied with Mike Huckabee for the support of the Conservative Christian wing of the Republican Party. Santorum previously served for twelve years in the Senate, six of which he spent as Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. After his Senate career he mostly worked in consultancies, contributed on Fox News, and penned columns for the Philadelphia Inquirer, among others. Prior to his Senate career, Santorum served four years in the House of Representatives, where he represented Pennsylvania’s 18th District. Earlier, Santorum was a state legislative staffer, serving as an Administrative Assistant to Pennsylvania State Senator J. Corman, followed by a stint as Director of the state’s Transportation Committee. He spent about four years as an Associate Attorney with Kirkpatrick and Lockhart. He graduated Penn State in 1980, Pittsburgh in 1981, and Dickinson Law in 1986.

 

 

 

May 21, 2015

This Week:   D.C.'s Mad Dash for the 2016 Race

This week saw hints that the 2016 field is about to grow even more crowded as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee. Jindal, who was speculated heavily as a contender for 2012, would be in line with New Jersey’s Chris Christie as a well-known governor making his first real foray into national politics. While Jindal has earned notoriety in the past as a campaign surrogate for Mitt Romney and a leading voice of opposition to and alternatives for the Common Core education standards, he hasn’t yet faced the kind of scrutiny and blunt force rhetoric that’s common to a national election. Like many in the current flock of Republican prospects, Jindal would be a long shot against current presumptive frontrunners Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Interestingly, he was considered a top pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services under a theoretical Romney administration, and he might yet be a shoe-in for either that job if Jeb Bush were to prevail in the general. Jindal previously served in Congress as the Representative for Louisiana’s First District, and spent most of three years as Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation during the most recent Bush administration. Prior to his federal service, he was also the President of the University of Louisiana system, a position he held from 1999 to 2001. He graduated from Brown in 1991 and Oxford in 1994.

Jindal wasn’t the only one with a big announcement this week – South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham had an announcement about an announcement, setting the stage for his likely entry into the race on June 1st. If he enters, and by his own estimate there’s a 99.9% chance that he will, Graham will be one of five Senators in the race, four of whom are Republicans. While his chances for winning on the national stage are relatively slim, Graham is a seasoned campaigner who’s managed to survive multiple insurgencies from his own conservative base in South Carolina. He was the establishment game changer whose primary victory broke the Tea Party wave in one of the ugliest Senate campaigns in the past election cycle. Should he fall short in the primary, Graham is almost a guaranteed candidate for a cabinet secretary position with the Departments of Defense or Homeland Security, and his bombastic hawkishness combined with the ability to wheel and deal might even play well in a Republican-run State Department. Graham has been in the Senate since 2002, when he succeeded Senator Strom Thurmond to become South Carolina’s first new senator since 1965. He currently serves as Chairman of the Subcommittees on Personnel, Crime and Terrorism, and State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, with a legislative portfolio leaning heavily on international relations and the military. Graham also has military service to fall back on – he served for six years as an active Air Force officer before transitioning into the Reserves, where he currently serves as a Colonel attached to the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1977 and 1981, respectively.

The number of high-profile staff hires also increased this week, with Hillary Clinton announcing the hiring of Lorella Praeli, an immigration advocate and a former DREAMer who previously worked for United We Dream. Bernie Sanders, who currently enjoys standing as the only real opposition to Hillary Clinton among Democrats, also started staffing up his campaign by shuffling a few of his Senate staffers onto the campaign trail. Phil Fiermonte will act as Sanders’ Field Director and Jeff Weaver will be the Senator’s Campaign Manager.

 

 

 

May 14, 2015

This Week: James H. Baker Named as Director of Office of Net Assessment

It was a huge week for the defense community as the Joint Chiefs swap-out continued with the announcements of General Mark A. Milley and Admiral John M. Richardson as Chief of Staff for the Army and Chief of Naval Operations, respectively. Milley will replace General Ray Odierno, an almost larger-than-life figure who guided the Army through Sequestration and previously oversaw US Joint Forces Command; he was, in fact, its last commander. Odierno also spent two years heading up US Central Command, and was considered a dark horse candidate to replace retiring Chairman of the Joint Staff Martin Dempsey. For all that, the public probably best knows Odierno as the bald guy who shaved Stephen Colbert’s head at his last episode. Richardson’s predecessor, current Chief of Naval Operations Jon Greenert, is a much more low-key leader. While he never commanded any of the Defense Department’s unified combatant commands, Greenert did oversee the Seventh Fleet and served as Commander for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, with in-between assignments as Deputy Chief and then Vice Chief of Naval Operations. And just in case Richardson and Milley’s assignments weren’t enough, this week also saw the transition of now-former Rear Admiral John Kirby to the State Department. Kirby previously served as the first uniformed Press Secretary for the Department of Defense, a role in which he was highly regarded by the Pentagon Press Corps, even if he was a frequent target of derision from Senator John McCain. When Secretary Carter came onboard in January, one of his first big personnel shifts was relieving Kirby of his post – effectively firing him and forcing him into retirement. Kirby, arguably the most senior public affairs staffer in the entire US government, was promptly scooped up by the State Department, although they only confirmed the appointment on Tuesday.

This week also saw the appointment of a long-awaited successor to the legendary Andrew Marshall, the founding director of the Office of Net Assessment and one of the longest-serving high-level bureaucrats in government history. Retired Air Force Colonel and Career Senior Executive James H. Baker was named to the post late Wednesday afternoon, bringing to a close nearly five months of ONA functioning without a head. Baker previously served as the Principal Deputy Director for Strategic Plans and Policy on the Joint Staff, a position which made him one of the lead strategists for current chairman, General Dempsey. He previously headed up the Chairman’s Action Group, a position he held for the better part of five years under Dempsey’s predecessor, Admiral Michael Mullen. He holds masters’ degrees from Michigan State, Florida University, Air Command and Staff College, and the National War College. Time will tell if Baker has anything close to the staying power of his predecessor, who remained in office from President Nixon all the way to President Obama.

But it wasn’t all defense this week. The Department of Justice welcomed Sally Quillian Yates as Deputy Attorney General on Thursday morning, following a confirmation battle that took almost as long as that of her new boss, Loretta Lynch. Yates’ appointment marks the first time that five of the department’s top positions have been held, whether formally or informally, by women – she and Lynch are both Senate-confirmed, as is Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, who heads the Criminal Division, while both the Civil Rights and Tax divisions are currently headed by women in an acting role. Yates previously served as U.S. Attorney for Georgia’s Northern District, and spent a couple of months as Acting Deputy Attorney General before her confirmation on Wednesday. She graduated Georgia in 1982 and earned her JD there in 1986.

 

 

May 7, 2015

This Week:  New Contenders Enter the Presidential Primaries

The shadow race to succeed General Martin Dempsey drew to a close this week as President Obama announced the assignment of Marine Corps General Joseph F. Dunford as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Military. Dunford, who was only recently appointed as Chief of Staff of the Marine Corps following about two years commanding US forces in Afghanistan, is only the second Marine to have ever been nominated for such a position. In order to get the nod, he had to effectively win a shadow campaign against the current Vice Chairman, Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, and Pacific Command’s Admiral Samuel Locklear, as well as possible competition from Generals Ray Odierno and Mark Welsh, respectively the chiefs of staff of the Army and Air Force, among others. Dunford’s nomination brought immediate praise from Senator John McCain (R-AZ), whose enmity with General Dempsey isn’t even an open secret at this point. While he is best known for overseeing the first portion of the drawdown in Afghanistan, Dunford’s previous assignments include command of Marine Forces Central Command and the I Marine Expeditionary Force. Before taking over US Forces Afghanistan, he was the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. Earlier, he served as Vice Director of the Joint Staff’s J3 Operations Directorate. He graduated from St. Michael’s, Georgetown, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and the Army War College, with a baccalaureate and three masters’ degrees, respectively. 

Nominated alongside General Dunford was U.S. Transportation Command’s General Paul J. Selva, an Air Force officer, who will replace Dunford’s former rival, Admiral Winnefeld as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Selva is a career logistician who got his start as a cargo pilot with the 917th Air Refueling Squadron all the way back in 1981. His career started picking up the pace in the 1990s when he served as an Assistant to Andrew Marshall, the Pentagon’s legendary Director of the Office of Net Assessment, just like dozens of other influential figures in the defense community. From there, Selva took over as 60th Operations Group Commander, 62nd Airlift Wing Commander, Tanker Airlift Control Center Vice Commander and then Commander, before finally landing a spot at his current command as Operations Director for TRANSCOM. In 2006, Selva became the Director of Strategic Planning at the Air Force’s A5 Directorate. He later served as an Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, before an assignment as Vice Commander of Pacific Air Forces. In 2012, he took over as Commander of Air Mobility Command, a position he held until receiving his current assignment just last year. Like his future boss, Joseph Dunford, Selva also earned a baccalaureate and three masters’ degrees, from the Air Force Academy, Abilene Christian University, Air Command and Staff College, and Auburn University.

This week also saw a flurry of new entries into the presidential primaries, including the first real competition for Hillary Clinton on the Democrats’ side and the return of Mike Huckabee for the Republicans. Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont who usually caucuses with the Democrats, made a surprise announcement on Wednesday night. While it would normally be easy to discount anyone running as far to the left as Sanders is, he had already raised nearly two million dollars by the end of the week, blowing away his counterparts on the Republican side by a wide margin. His presence as the only current, credible challenger to Clinton, regardless of how long his odds are, is a sharp contrast to the situation which Huckabee emerged into over the weekend. The former governor of Arkansas made his announcement around the same time as Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, and had to split the media spotlight with both of them and with prior announcements from Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul. While Huckabee was a persistent thorn in the side of previous nominee Mitt Romney, lasting so far into the race that it may have contributed to the recent revisions to Republican primary rules, it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll have the same staying power this time around. Fiorina, currently the only woman candidate among the Republican field, is already being hammered over past decisions at Hewlett-Packard. Carson remains a relative unknown, but expect him to face intense scrutiny if he manages to become a flavor of the month the way many candidates did in 2012. 

 

 

 

April 30, 2015

This Week:  A Busy Week for Confirmations, Departures, and Nominations

This was a busy week for confirmations, departures, and nominations. The confirmation and subsequent swearing-in of Loretta Lynch, accompanied by the surprisingly low-key departure of Eric Holder, could’ve been expected to dominate the news cycle. Instead, the transfer of power at the Justice Department took a back seat to the nomination of Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter V. Neffenger as head of the Transportation Security Administration. Neffenger currently serves as the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard under Admiral Paul Zukunft, a position he’s held since late last year. He previously served as the Deputy Commandant for Operations from 2012 until his current assignment, and prior to that he was best known as the Deputy Commander for the Coast Guard’s Deepwater Horizon response team. Unlike some of Obama’s past selections, Neffenger’s nomination was greeted warmly on Capitol Hill, and his confirmation is about as much of a shoe-in as could be expected in the current political climate. He’ll still have to clear the hurdles of two Senate oversight committees, but he can bank on the Coast Guard’s relative popularity and bipartisan appeal to help ease the way through. If confirmed, Neffenger will actually be the second TSA head to come from the Coast Guard under President Obama. The first, James Loy, previously served as Commandant of the Coast Guard before making the transition. There’s no official word on it, but it’s highly likely (if not outright assumed) that Neffenger will retire from the military if confirmed. He graduated from Baldwin-Wallace in 1977 and holds three graduate degrees from the Naval War College, JFK School of Government, and Central Michigan. 

A little later in the week, the intelligence community chimed in to say that Al Tarasiuk, a longtime fixture for the community’s information technology wonks, was stepping down and retiring from government service. Tarasiuk served as an Assistant Director of National Intelligence and was the Chief Information Officer for the intelligence community as a whole from 2011 until his departure this week. He previously served as the Chief Information Officer at the CIA, stepping down just prior to his appointment with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The fifty-seven year old Tarasiuk first joined the CIA in 1986 as an Electrical Engineer following a stint with Radio Free Europe as a Junior Engineer. He graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and George Washington University. Tarasiuk’s actual departure came just a few days after the announcement that Kimberly Hancher, the Chief Information Officer for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, will be leaving sometime later this spring. Hancher, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, has been the EEOC’s CIO since 2008, when she joined up from the Federal Communications Commission. She previously served as the FCC’s Deputy CIO for ten years, joining up during the Clinton Administration in 1998.Hancher graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in 1980.

The Pentagon also announced a major departure this week: Stephen Woolman Preston, a key figure in the Obama Administration’s legal battles to preserve, expand, and justify the drone strike program, is stepping down at the end of June to pursue opportunities outside of government, in addition to an adjunct faculty position at Yale University. Preston currently serves as the General Counsel of the Department of Defense and Director of the Defense Legal Services Agency, positions he’s held since his confirmation in 2013. Preston was previously the General Counsel for the CIA, a position he held from 2009 to 2013. He joined the Obama Administration after nearly nine years in the private sector, most of which were spent with the firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he was a Partner, Vice Chair, and Co-Chair for their military contracts department. Prior to his stint in the private sector, Preston served for two years as General Counsel of the Navy during the final stretch of the Clinton Administration. Before that he had three years with the Department of Justice as an Associate Attorney General, and three years as the Principal Deputy General Counsel for the Department of Defense. He also had his first stint as General Counsel during this time, acting in it for several months in 1994. It’s possible that Preston is among the cadre of mid-level and senior Obama officials looking to take an extended breather from government service before another possible Clinton Administration, but time will tell. He graduated from Yale in 1979 and earned his JD at Harvard in 1983.

 

 

 

April 23, 2015 

This Week:  What's the Deal with the Office of Attorney General?

After weeks of presidential primary hijinks, Federal finally quieted down long enough to have a good old fashioned scandal again. This time it was the Drug Enforcement Agency’s turn in the limelight with revelations of illicit parties thrown for agents, among other things, allegedly taking place in Colombia. Not long after dealing with a hostile House Oversight Committee and declaring herself powerless to punish the offending agents, DEA’s director, Michele Marie Leonhart, announced her resignation. Astute readers will remember that Colombia as the country where Secret Service agents were busted a few years back during the run-up to 2012’s Summit of the Americas. Unsurprisingly, the cases are linked, if only because the investigation into alleged corruption at the DEA was sparked by a review beginning with the Secret Service. For her part, Leonhart could be seen as a sacrificial lion, as the actual agents involved are all still under review or only faced light punishments for their part in the scandal. Her retirement may also be connected to her opposition to the president’s stance on softening of marijuana laws; Leonhart was arguably the highest voice of dissent in his administration on that front. Leonhart has been with the DEA for most of her career, and stepped in to serve as the Acting Administrator all the way back in 2007, making her one of the longest-lasting senior holdovers from the Bush Administration. She was formally confirmed to the job in 2010 and will remain there until the middle of next month. Leonhart got her start as a Police Officer in Baltimore before jumping up to the DEA as a Special Agent in 1980. She switched over to recruitment in 1986 and stayed in Saint Louis for two years before jumping up to a Group Supervisor position in the San Diego Division. Under the Clinton Administration, she served as an Inspector, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Recruitment and Placement Section Chief, and Special Agent in Charge, primarily in and around California. Leonhart rode out the Clinton-Bush transition and remained a Special Agent until her nomination and confirmation as Deputy Administrator in 2004. She graduated Bemidji State in 1978. 

Considerably less scandalous was the announcement of General Larry O. Spencer’s impending retirement later this year. Spencer, who currently served as Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, is stepping down and retiring to become President of the Air Force Association, with the transition dates presumably contingent upon the confirmation of his prospective successor, Lieutenant General David Feingold. Spencer entered the Air Force right out of college in 1980, graduating from Officer Training School to a leadership position in the Air Force Reserve Headquarters’ Cost Analysis Branch. He later became a military comptroller, served as the first Assistant Chief of Staff at the White House Military Office, and had assignments with Air Combat Command, the Air Logistics Center, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management. Unlike many senior-level officers these days, Spencer devoted most of his career to his own branch – his only joint assignments were the White House Military Officer and his two year stint with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he served as Director for J8 Force Structure, Resources and Assessment, along with a shorter stint as Director for J6 Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems. Spencer became Vice Chief of Staff under General Norton Schwartz, a working relationship which lasted about a month before Schwartz retired and was replaced by Spencer’s current boss, General Mark Welsh. A decorated serviceman and published writer, Spencer added to his college education with graduate degrees from Webster, Marine Corps Command University, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. 

This week also saw movement on the stalled nomination of Loretta Lynch, who’s been waiting in the wings to replace outgoing current Attorney General Eric Holder since late last year. Lynch’s nomination, previously considered an easy shoe-in, became bogged down in partisan bickering for the better part of several months before hitting a brick wall when the Senate broke down over anti-abortion language that had been buried in an anti-human trafficking bill. Where she was expected to be confirmed shortly after Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Lynch has been sitting on her haunches for months, give or take the occasional visit to Capitol Hill for questions and testimonial, famously declaring several times to several different Senators that she is not Eric Holder. While it currently looks like Lynch will get her vote as early as this Thursday – shortly after this writing – there are still plenty of potential controversies that could derail her all over again – including a lingering attempt by David Vitter (R-LA) to change the nature of birthright citizenship. As of this writing, whether or not Vitter or someone else manages to again derail Lynch from making history as the first African American woman to hold the office of Attorney General remains to be seen.

 

 

 

April 16, 2015

This Week:  Madam President?

Hillary Clinton struck the presidential race like an earthquake this week, causing the entire Republican field to rally around a common cause for the first time since any of them started announcing their respective exploratory committees. Clinton’s entry into the race was long expected, and her shadow campaign has been the stuff of legends and textbooks, beginning all the way back in January 2013 – before the dust had even finished settling on President Obama’s re-election campaign. Hillary’s entry into the race also sets the stage for a possible rematch between the dueling political dynasties of Bush and Clinton, as both Hillary and Jeb are considered the odds-on favorites of their respective parties. But 2016 is a long ways off and Clinton had a similar air of invincibility during the run-up to Iowa 2008. Nonetheless, Clinton is arguably one of the best qualified candidates for high office in the nation’s history, having served eight years as a Senator and another four years as Secretary of State. While it’s generally not considered a leadership position in and of itself, Clinton was also the standard-setter for politically active First Ladies, eclipsing her predecessors and oftentimes overshadowing both Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. Clinton comes in with a massive war chest, minimal competition, and the political armor that comes with surviving twenty or thirty years of opposition research and bombastic media mudslinging – there’s almost nothing left to throw at her from the right side of the American political spectrum, forcing rehashes of attacks that she’s already survived. There’s a chance she might yet get outmaneuvered from the political left, but those odds are long at best. Clinton graduated Wellesley in 1969 and Yale in 1973. She earned another honorary degree from Yale in 2009. Her husband needs no introduction while her daughter is a former Special Correspondent for NBC.  

The day after Clinton’s announcement, freshman Senator Marco Rubio threw his hat into the race as well. Rubio is a freshman who previously served eight years as a State Representative in Florida, where he was Majority Whip, Majority Leader, and finally Speaker of the House. He took a few years off before vaulting into the United States Senate in 2011, where he’s served on a host of subcommittees revolving around international affairs and the environment. As an overall candidate, Rubio runs the very real risk of getting lost in the crowd – he can be neatly pigeonholed at a glance alongside Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, both of whom have had high-profile conflicts with the administration, whereas Rubio is best known for backing away from his own immigration proposal. More like Paul, Rubio is currently trying to tout himself as a magnet for the youth vote, and he’s facing similar stumbling blocks in the process. Like Cruz, he’s also run into some flak for his parents and the alleged story of their emigration from Cuba. As if that wasn’t enough, his declaration came on the heels of both of them, such that it might easily blend together with them. Rubio is having more luck defining himself as a national security candidate, but it’s primary season and that can change in a heartbeat. He attended Tarkio, graduated Florida, and earned his law degree at Miami.April 9, 2015

 

 

 

April 9, 2015

This Week:  Big Changes as the Pentagon Reshuffles Leadership

There were big changes over at the Department of Defense this weekend, part of Secretary Carter’s slow reshuffling of Pentagon leadership. The biggest of the bunch was Brad Carson taking over Jessica Wright’s old job as Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in addition to his current job as Under Secretary of the Army. In addition to that, Eric Rosenbach jumped up from his post as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy to Deputy Chief of Staff under Eric Fanning, marking the second time in as many months that Carter has poached an Assistant Secretary for his personal staff. Lisa Disbrow, who currently serves as an Assistant Secretary and Comptroller of the Air Force, also took on extra work as Acting Under Secretary of the Air Force. The rumor mill is already churning that Carson and Disbrow are being considered for full-time nominations to their new acting posts, but the White House hasn’t made any official announcements as of this writing. Lower down on the totem pole, Bill Marion jumped ship from Air Force Space Command to a position with A1 Manpower, Personnel and Services at the Pentagon; he was formerly AFSPC’s Chief Technology Officer and now serves as A1’s Chief Information Officer, and may well be positioned as a contender for something higher up on the Air Force techie food chain sometime in the future. It wasn’t all Air Force though – the Navy quietly shuffled Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless out of his role as Intelligence Operations Director. Loveless is one of a number of senior, flag-level officers whose careers have been sidelined, if not outright terminated, by the ongoing fallout from the Fat Leonard scandal. He and his boss, Vice Admiral Ted Branch, have been hobbled for the better part of two years by the scandal, and neither man has had a security clearance since it broke.

Outside of Defense, the 2016 primaries heated up as Rand Paul formally announced his candidacy for the White House and was promptly dogpiled on all sides by rivals, operatives, the media, and then some.  The junior senator from Kentucky, whose own operatives and allies are currently waging a legal battle to change his home state of Kentucky to a caucus so that he can run for both the Senate and the White House, represents an enormous threat to the Republican Party’s foreign policy establishment – he’s the only candidate right now, prospective or otherwise, who hasn’t seriously advocated war with Iran, and he’s still on the bad side of John McCain and Lindsey Graham over stealing their filibuster thunder a few years back when he was demanding clarifications on the administration’s drone policies while they tried to rouse up support in pursuit of Benghazi inquiries. Like several other candidates this year, Paul is also carrying heavy family baggage in the form of his father, libertarian icon and Tea Party idol Ron Paul, who ran for the White House several times and was marginalized right out of the room in every single race. Paul has shown himself to be a savvier politician than his father so far, but his initial response to national scrutiny wasn’t exactly promising and his candidacy was facing long odds to begin with. He’s also facing the risk of being a primary flavor of the month thanks to his announcement falling in between Ted Cruz and the expected announcement of Marco Rubio.

And away from the limelight of military and media sensationalism alike (sort of), the director for Voice of America announced his intention to step down this week, effective at the end of May. David Ensor has headed VOA for about four years now, joining the government news agency from the State Department, where he served for about a year and a half as the Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.  Prior to his government service, Ensor worked for three years as the Executive Vice President for Strategy and Communications at Mercuria Energy Group. Earlier in his career, he was a National Security Correspondent for CNN, and he spent eighteen years as a television correspondent for ABC, where he covered the White House, Diplomacy, and served as a Bureau Chief in Warsaw. Ensor got his start as a National Security Reporter for NPR.  He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1974.

 

 

 

April 2, 2015

This Week:  Wright Leaves Government after 40 Years

Jessica Lynn Wright stepped down as Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness this week, bringing an end to a career spanning nearly forty years of service across both the military and civilian sectors of the government, where she held posts at both the State and Federal level. Wright spent most of her career with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, where she served her final assignment as Adjutant General under Governor Eddie Rendell. Shortly after her retirement from the military, Wright joined the Obama administration as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, overseeing Manpower and Personnel from 2010 to 2012. From 2011 to 2012, Wright was also the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Personnel and Readiness, which eventually became the Principal Deputy Under Secretary. In 2012, Wright stepped up to become Assistant Secretary, an appointment that was almost immediately overshadowed when she took over as Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, a position she held for the better part of two years. She was finally confirmed to actually hold the job early last year and stuck around for a little less than a year after her swearing-in ceremony. Wright graduated from Alderson-Broaddus in 1974 and Webster in 1993. 

This week also saw the departures of Jerry Williams and Brian Sivak, both of them big names in government technology. Williams retired after a thirty-one year career as a civil servant, including six years as a departmental Chief Information Officer under the Obama Administration – first with Housing and Urban Development, and more recently with Education. Among other things, Williams also had stints with the Small Business Administration and the National Security Agency. Sivak’s federal career is more straightforward: he joined the Obama administration in 2012 as Chief Technology Officer for Health and Human Services, an appointment that followed several years of working in Municipal and State government, where he was the Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia and Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Maryland. Prior to Washington, DC, Sivak worked in the private sector as Founder and Developer of InQuira and Founder of Electric Knowledge LLC. While Williams has already retired, Sivak will step down at the end of this month.  

But it wasn’t all towels being thrown in this week – Rob Nabors was announced as the replacement for retired Army General Jose D. Riojas, who currently serves as Chief of Staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Riojas joined the administration as Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Operations, Security, and Preparedness back in 2009. He managed to stick it out through the tectonic shifts in the department after the Waitlist Scandal and, now that everything seems to be calming back down, is likely to head back into the private sector. Nabors currently serves as a Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications, a role he took on just after the aforementioned scandal broke. He previously served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy at the White House, and before that he was the President’s Director of Legislative Affairs. He graduated Notre Dame in 1993 and North Carolina in 1996.

 

 

March 26, 2015

This Week: White House Personnel Plays Game of Musical Chairs

Perhaps the biggest story in federal law enforcement this week was the announcement of Byron Todd Jones’ impending departure from the Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. His departure is probably an example of the revolving door in action, but it may or may not also be connected to a recent dust-up involving a proposal to ban armor piercing ammunition under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). While the proposal was made in the most low-key manner possible for a government entity, pushback was both fierce and immediate, with the very real risk of a successful legal challenge to the GCA if the ATF were to go through with the ban. Jones, who spent about two years as Acting Director before finally becoming the agency’s first Senate-approved Director in 2013, is heading into the private sector – specifically the National Football League, where he’ll serve as Chief Disciplinary Officer. Prior to and partly concurrent with his directorship, Jones also served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota from 2009 until his confirmation in 2013. For much of that time, he was also the Chair of both the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and the Enforcement Committee. Before joining the Obama administration, he was a Business Litigation Partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, a position he held from 2001 to 2009. Following the conclusion of his military career, Jones spent most of the 1990s bouncing between the Clinton Justice Department and Greene Espel. He graduated Macalester in 1979 and Minnesota in 1983.

This week also saw the announcement of 2016’s first big name candidate, freshman United States Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). Formally announcing across social media and at a live event at Liberty University, Cruz’s entrance into the race was met with a decidedly mixed reaction – supporters lauded him as a true conservative and an underdog in the face of the Bush fundraising machine, while opposition went after him for everything from the mandatory attendance at his announcement to his role in 2013’s infamous government shutdown. Love him or hate him, Cruz’s entrance into the race serves to shake things up in a big way. As of this writing, he could be seen as having a de facto legitimacy over his opponents thanks to being the only official major candidate in either party. Everyone else is still, at least technically, in the exploratory committee phase, which gives them a major edge on fundraising but doesn’t do them any favors on direct offense. His candidacy also serves as an immediate hindrance to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), as the two have broadly similar stances on most issues that resonate with the conservative base. Paul could conceivably do better in a general election due to moderate stances on foreign policy and surveillance, but he would probably have to maneuver to the right of Cruz just to get there, and their potential dogfight may take scrutiny off of the current presumptive frontrunner, Jeb Bush, while setting him up as a more mainstream alternative to both. There’s also the possibility that, if Cruz is defeated in the primaries, he could use this campaign to set himself up for an appointment as Attorney General or as a Supreme Court Justice, assuming he isn’t eager to run again in 2020. 

In other news, the White House was treated to a round of musical chairs this week. Among other things, the Secret Service gained a new Deputy Director, Craig Magaw, whose father John once served as Director. The Secret Service also gained a new Chief Operating Officer post, currently vacant, which will be equivalent in rank to the agency’s Deputy Director. Among the President’s staff, Shailagh Murray was named as a new Senior Advisor; Joseph Goldman became the White House’s first Chief Digital Officer; and Jennifer Psaki is gearing up to start as White House Communications Director. Of the three, Psaki has been with the president’s staff since his first campaign back in 2008, Murray is a former congressional reporter who joined the administration in 2011, and Goldman has been a social media guru in the private sector for more than a decade.

 

 

 

March 19, 2015

This Week:  Judicial Shake-up over GITMO 

The other shoe dropped this week following a recent judgment regarding the judges who oversee cases at Guantanamo Bay. Retired Marine Corps Major General Vaughn A. Ary, the Director of the Office of Military Commissions and Convening Authority for trials at GITMO, was disqualified from overseeing the trial of Abd al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Abdu Al-Nashiri by Air Force Colonel Vance Spath, a military judge, which set the stage for both his and his legal staff’s disqualification from several other cases in rapid succession. Ary’s dismissal was an unintended consequence of orders from Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, who was trying to speed up the notoriously slow-moving criminal trials of several accused and suspected terrorists, including men with ties to the World Trade Center attacks. Ary attempted this by physically relocating judges to the facilities at Guantanamo Bay. Late Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced that Ary had tendered his “voluntary resignation” effective Saturday, and that he will be replaced on an interim basis by the General Counsel of the Navy, Paul Oostburg Sanz, who will serve as Convening Authority in addition to his Navy job. This will actually be Oostburg Sanz’s second stint as head of the Office of Military Commissions and overseer at GITMO. He was previously the Interim Convening Authority from March 20, 2013 to September 30, 2014 – nearly half a year longer than Ary, the would-be permanent position holder. Prior to joining the Navy in 2010, Oostburg Sanz spent three years as General Counsel for the House Committee on Armed Services, and had another five years as Deputy Chief Counsel for the Democratic Staff of the House Committee on International Relations before that. He graduated Georgetown, Princeton, and Harvard in 1991, 1997, and 1999, respectively.

This week also saw Loretta Lynch’s confirmation vote put on hold following a legislative brawl in the Senate over language in a human trafficking bill; Senate Democrats failed to notice or take issue with Republican-inserted language permanently banning funding for abortion through the Hyde Amendment. The amendment is normally included on a yearly basis as part of the Federal budget – the ban is a temporary provision that has to be renewed annually, whereas the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act would have made it a permanent law. Republicans responded by taking Lynch’s vote off the calendar; her confirmation was expected to be sometime this month, if not this week, and would have probably come down on the narrow side of possible. Lynch is largely seen as a moderate trailblazer who, in her own words to repeated questions from Senate Republicans, is “not Eric Holder.” While a delay makes her confirmation less likely since it allows her nomination to become a political football, it also puts both parties into a bind: Democrats can be painted as shooting down an easy bill on human trafficking while Republicans can be painted as needlessly holding up the first African-American woman Attorney General, among other things. The delayed vote also means that Eric Holder, who really wants to leave and who gets along pretty infamously with Republican legislators in both the House and Senate, will remain in office indefinitely while waiting for his successor. Lynch herself has remained quiet about the whole thing and, at least for now, is expected to pass when she finally gets a vote.

In lighter news this week, the Senate confirmed two Assistant Secretaries, one for Commerce and the other for Transportation. Retired Coast Guard Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown was confirmed as Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Prediction and Deputy Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Brown, who served as an officer for thirty-six years, ended his military last year as Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, a position he had held since 2012. He previously served for two years as Commander for the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area. Carlos A. Monje, Jr. was confirmed as Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy. Monje previously served as Counselor to the Secretary of Transportation. Prior to that, Monje spent most of six years with the Obama White House, coming on board from the campaign and staying on as a member of the President’s domestic policy outfit. Before joining Obama’s first election campaign, Monje worked as a Legislative Assistant for Senator Ken Salazar.

 

 

 

March 12, 2015

This Week: CIO-Mania!

It was CIO-mania this week as no fewer than four top-level positions had experienced shake-ups. The one that was arguably the biggest also came close to having the least fanfare: After nearly a year on the job, Terry Halvorsen was officially appointed Chief Information Officer of the Department of Defense. Halvorsen now formally succeeds Teri Takai, who left the office early last year following two years on the job. With a merger looming between DOD’s CIO and its Deputy Chief Management Officer, no doubt intended to bring both offices back under closer Senate scrutiny, there’s no telling how long Halvorsen’s run will actually last; with the merger’s deadline in February of 2017, he could conceivably ride out the rest of the Obama administration. He was joined this week by the arrival of Michael M. Johnson as Chief Information Officer of the Department of Energy.

No slouch to the defense sector himself, Johnson previously served as Assistant Director for Intelligence Programs with the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, a position he held for the better part of two years. Before that he was a Senior Policy Analyst in the same office, presumably a breather assignment after back-to-back stints as the first Associate Director of National Intelligence for Information Sharing with the ODNI and Chief Scientist for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. Johnson replaces former Acting CIO Donald Adcock, who took over following the departure of Robert Brese, and who now returns to his prior position as Deputy CIO.

And with two big additions, you just knew there were going to be some departures: After almost six years with the Department of Agriculture, nearly three of them spent as Chief Information Officer, Cheryl Cook abruptly stepped down this week. While there’s room to speculate that it might have had something to do with her routine commute from Pennsylvania to USDA’s headquarters in Washington, DC, Cook offered no explanation whatsoever beyond a laconic autoreply email. Cook previously served as Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Economic Development with her home state’s Agriculture Department before joining the Obama Administration as Deputy Under Secretary of Rural Development in 2009. She was Acting Under Secretary for several months that year, and jumped over to the CIO’s office in 2012.

Her departure provides a stark contrast the General Service Administration’s Sonny Hashmi, whose April departure was broken late Tuesday night and confirmed the following day; he’s explicitly pursuing opportunities in the private sector, although he hasn’t yet said which one caught his eye. Hashmi has been the GSA’s Chief Information Officer since early last year, although the appointment only became official last June.

He previously served as the agency’s Deputy Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer, a position he held from 2011 to 2014. For most of that tenure, he was also the Director of Enterprise Solutions, and for an early chunk of it he also took on an acting role as IT Portfolio Management Division Director. Prior to joining the GSA, Hashmi served as Washington, DC’s Deputy Chief Information Officer, a position he held for three years. Prior to joining Washington, DC’s CIO office, Hashmi had a string of jobs in the private sector and academia, including a three-year adjunct gig at Stratford University, about two years as a confidential advisor for Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates, and almost three years with IBM.

 

 

 March 5, 2015

This Week:  Conger and Levine in the Spotlight at Defense

Defense took center stage this week with the late-breaking announcements of two key nominations: Peter Levine as Deputy Chief Management Officer for the entire department and John Conger as Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense in the Comptroller’s office. Levine comes to his nomination following a Senate staff career spanning nearly thirty years; he got his start as a Counsel for the Committee on Governmental Affairs all the way back in 1987. From there, his Senate staff career moved across a wide range of military-related committees and subcommittees, most notably as Staff Director for the Senate Committee on Armed Services under Carl Levin from 2013 to 2015. It was the culmination of a long professional association with Senator Levin, in whose office Levine worked as a Counsel from 1995 to 1996. Prior to his Staff Directorship, he spent several years as leader of the professional staff for the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support. He graduated Harvard in 1979 and 1983, earning both his undergraduate and juris doctorate, respectively. If confirmed, Levine will replace the current acting DCMO, David Tillotson, who’s been acting in that role since May 2014. While sources have indicated Tillotson’s possible intention to stick around as Assistant Deputy Chief Management Officer, he’s being coy about his future plans so far. After nearly a year on the job, he might not want to take orders from a newcomer. There’s also the looming prospect of a reorganization courtesy of NDAA 2015, which is expected to merge the DCMO and CIO’s offices into a singular Under Secretary of Defense for Business Management and Information by early 2017. Odds are good this is why Terry Halvorsen is still merely the acting CIO for the Department, rather than a permanent appointee, and there’s no word on whether he intends to stay either. 

Conger’s appointment is relatively low-key by comparison, but no less important. If confirmed, he’ll fill a position that’s been vacant since Michael McCord moved up to replace the retired Robert Hale. Conger currently performs the duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Installations, Energy, and Environment, something he’s done in one capacity or another since 2012. He was originally the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Installations and Environment, a position he held from 2009 to 2012. Previously, he served as a professional staffer in the House of Representatives, including time with Representatives Jane Harman, Sam Gjedenson, and Chet Edwards, as well as a stint with the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Conger got his start as a Defense Analyst for Adroit Systems, where he stayed for about five years. He graduated MIT in both 1991 and 1993 before earning a second graduate degree at George Washington. 

This week also saw the announcement of Lieutenant General Ronnie Hawkins’ impending departure from the Defense Information Systems Agency and his subsequent retirement from the military, effective sometime later this year. Hawkins came to DISA back in January 2012, following about a half a year with the Joint Staff’s J6 directorate, where he served as a Deputy Director. Before that he actually spent nearly two years as DISA’s Vice Director, following an eight month run with the Air Force CIO’s office as Director of Infrastructure Delivery. Earlier in his career he was Deputy Director for Policy and Resources with the same office, which probably served as a nice cool down assignment following the year he spent as Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications and Information Systems in Iraq. Earlier in his career, he served at Air University, Air Force Headquarters’ A4 Installation and Logistics Directorate, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces, and Joint Task Force Southwest Asia, among others. He graduated from Angelo State in 1977, Abilene Christian in 1985, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1997. No word just yet on who will get the nod to replace him.

 

 

February 26, 2015

This Week:  Berry Appointed as Special Envoy for LGBT Rights

It was a historic, and busy, week for the Department of State as President Obama nominated the country’s first Ambassador to Somalia in nearly twenty years. The nomination of Katherine Simonds Dhanani, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, comes a little over eight months after relations between the US and Somalia began to re-normalize following a decades-long cool down after the events of the Somali Civil War and the collapse of the nation’s government. Dhanani currently serves under the Office of Regional and Security Affairs as head of the Bureau of African Affairs. While she has a career spanning decades and has served as Deputy Chief of Mission, Charge d’Affaires, and Consul General, this will be Dhanani’s first formal appointment as ambassador. She’s held posts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Gabon, Zimbabwe, India, Mexico, and Guyana. She also spent time as an Assistant Planner for Sacramento, California, and gave lectures at Grinnelli College in Iowa. She graduated from Kenyon in 1981 and earned her graduate degree at MIT in 1985.

The State Department also got its first Special Envoy for LGBT Rights, Randy W. Berry, an appointment stemming from recognition of problems faced by LGBT people in Russia and several countries in Africa, at least a few of which can be tied, directly or indirectly, to lobbying efforts by US citizens abroad. Whether the appointment is a response to those lobbying efforts wasn’t mentioned in the official release, but it’s likely that Berry is intended to serve as an official counterweight to citizen support of things like Uganda’s infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act or the recent Russian tilt towards institutionalized homophobia. Berry, who is himself openly gay, is a longtime member of the Foreign Service, earning his Career SFS credentials back in 2012. He was most recently Consul General in Amsterdam, and led the Auckland Consulate in New Zealand before that. He served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Nepal, and also held positions in Cape Town, South Africa. Berry graduated from Bethany College, Kansas, in 1987.

And finally, the State Department announced the departure of its chief spokesperson this week. Jennifer Psaki is leaving to join the White House as Director of Communications, following the impending departure of Jennifer Palmieri. From now until April, Psaki gets to dance the last dance with the State Department Press Corps, a notably more confrontational lot than their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon. Psaki previously served as Obama’s Deputy Director of Communications from 2009 to 2011, and served as his Traveling Press Secretary in both of his presidential campaigns. Before that she was a Regional Press Secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a position she held for about two years. Earlier in her career she served on the public affairs staff for the Kerry-Edwards Campaign in Iowa, first as an Assistant to the State Director and then as Deputy Communications Director. She graduated William & Mary in 2000. Her husband, Gregory Mecher, currently serves as Chief of Staff for Representative Joe Kennedy (D-MA), and was himself an Acting Press Secretary at the GSA. No word yet on whether Jennifer Palmieri will ride out the two months until Psaki takes over, or who would replace her in the interim if she skipped town early.

 

 

 

February 19, 2015

This Week:  And Because the Week Didn't Have Enough Going On...

This week saw the first shake-ups at the top in the Department of Defense as newly appointed Secretary Ash Carter swept into office. Among his first appointments were Major General Ron Lewis and Eric Fanning, respectively his new Senior Military Assistant and Chief of Staff. Both appointments raised a few eyebrows, as Lewis is only a two-star selected for a three-star appointment, while Fanning previously served as Under Secretary of the Air Force – a position he held right up until Carter’s swearing-in on Tuesday. Both men had previous ties to Carter, most recently working on his transition team, and Fanning’s appointment is especially groundbreaking as the Defense Department’s first openly gay Chief of Staff. It wasn’t all celebration though, as Carter unceremoniously ousted Rear Admiral John Kirby as Pentagon Press Secretary, a position Kirby is expected to hold for just a few more weeks while the search for a civilian replacement takes place. It was evident that Kirby himself had only been told the news a short while before Wednesday’s press briefing, where he struggled with several answers and was put in the unenviable position of defending his boss’s decision to get rid of him. As several media outlets have noted, Kirby’s career now hangs in limbo – he’s a two-star public affairs officer and the first uniformed Pentagon Press Secretary, with no precedent as to what he can or should do next. He previously served as Chief of Naval Information, but that position is currently held by his former subordinate, Rear Admiral Dawn Cutler. 

This week also saw the departure of Raj Shah as head of the United States Agency for International Development. Shah was appointed to the post in 2010, replacing Bush USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore and Obama’s first Administrator Alonzo Fulgham, the latter of which was never nominated or confirmed by the Senate and only held the role in an acting capacity. Shah was replaced in an acting capacity by Ambassador Alfonso Lenhardt, the agency’s Deputy Administrator, who was confirmed to his main job just a few months ago. Lenhardt previously served as Ambassador to Tanzania, a post he held for four years after his time on the Obama Transition Team. He previously served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Crime Prevention Council, and before that he was Senior Vice President for Government Relations at the Shaw Group. Prior to those appointments, Lenhardt moved in and out of government throughout his career. He served in the Army long enough to make Brigadier General and later became Sergeant-at-Arms for the US Senate. He graduated Nebraska in 1972 and went on to earn masters’ degrees from both Central Michigan and Wichita State. 

And because the week didn’t have enough going on, President Obama appointed Joseph Clancy as Director of the Secret Service. Originally brought onboard as Acting Director following the resignation of Julia Pierson, which itself came about after a string of high-profile failures at the agency, Clancy came in with a mandate for reform and hasn’t pulled any punches about it. He already forced out two senior officials and uprooted four others, and has apparently done a good enough job of cleaning house that Obama decided to make him permanent. Clancy previously served as head of the President’s personal security detail, a position he held from 2009 to 2011, followed by a three-year foray into the private sector as Director of Security for Comcast. Clancy first joined the Secret Service in 1984, following a few years spent teaching history and coaching baseball and football for the Philadelphia Archdiocese. He initially served in the Philadelphia Field Office before joining the Presidential Protective Division, an assignment that lasted eight years through both Presidents Bush and Clinton. Clancy attended West Point and graduated from Villanova.

 

 

 

Feburary 12, 2015

This Week:  Botticelli Confirmed as Director for National Drug Control Policy

It was a busy week for federal government, bookended by the appointment of Tony Scott as Federal Chief Information Officer and the impending confirmation of Ash Carter as Secretary of Defense. Scott’s appointment puts him at the head of the U.S. government’s technological infrastructure, where he’s expected to play a leading role in the President’s push towards replenishing the ranks following the last year’s techie brain drain, itself a consequence of federal fatigue and the build-up to 2016. Scott is also expected to play a major role in helping to head off any potential problems with the HealthCare.gov website, which still hasn’t managed to live down its disastrous rollout back in 2013. Scott joins the administration from VMware, a visualization software company, where he had been Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer since 2013. Previously he served in similar positions with both the Walt Disney Company and Microsoft Corporation, holding the latter from 2008 to 2013. Earlier in his career he was the Chief Technology Officer for General Motors, and before that he was Vice President of Operations for Bristol-Myers Squibb. He graduated San Francisco and earned his JD at Santa Clara. 

Ash Carter’s appointment, on the other hand, puts him in charge of the most powerful fighting force on the planet,with all the bureaucratic, economic, political, and logistical baggage that comes with it. Carter is expected to be confirmed near-unanimously following a relatively short, uncontroversial nomination process – so much so that most pundits think he’ll be the easiest confirmation for the remainder of the Obama presidency. Carter is generally regarded as one of the best qualified candidates for the job in the nation’s history, as well as one of the most unconventional. He comes from an academic background that started in medieval history from Yale and ended up with a doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford. He was ‘fired’ for disobedience from his very first job as a child, spent time working as a hospital orderly, and eventually joined the Department of Energy as an Experimental Research Associate at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Since then, he’s jumped in and out of academia and government, teaching and researching at Harvard and MIT, taking fellowships and scholarships at multiple think tanks, and building up a reputation as a premier subject matter expert on all things acquisition and international. As a veteran civil servant with decades of experience in Defense, State, and Energy bureaucracies, Carter is expected to be a stark contrast to his often marginalized predecessor, Chuck Hagel: Someone who tows the line, except when he doesn’t, and who manages to make an impact in those moments of defiance or disagreement. He’s already had a transition team set up for months and his top priorities are likely to be a combination of defense acquisition reform and information technology – two areas his department has been lacking lately.

Somewhere in between Scott and Carter, a lot of other things happened this week. One of the biggest was the Obama Administration’s announcement of the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, first explained by White House staffer Lisa Monaco, which will serve as an information analysis hub for cyber threats. The new center is expected to have about fifty staffers and a budget in the tens of millions, reporting to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and is modeled after the National Counterterrorism Center. Another major development this week was the confirmation of Michael A. Botticelli, a former alcoholic with moderate views on marijuana, as the Director of National Drug Control Policy, also known informally as the nation’s drug czar. Botticelli’s confirmation comes after three years with the Office, where he previously served as Deputy Director and spent almost a year and a half concurrently serving as Acting Director. The FDA also made headlines as Stephen Ostroff stepped up to replace outgoing Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. Ostroff currently serves as the FDA’s Chief Scientist. He originally joined the agency in 2013 as Chief Medical Officer at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. He previously served as an Assistant Surgeon General and retired from the U.S. Public Health Service as a Rear Admiral. He takes office as Acting Commissioner in March, and some are speculating that he might get the nod as her permanent replacement.

 

 

February 5, 2015

This Week:  The Internet as Utility and Bye-Bye to WH's Pfeiffer

It was a huge week for the Federal Communications Commission as Chairman Tom Wheeler announced his intention to regulate the internet under Title II authority, effectively re-classifying it as a public utility and guaranteeing the premise of Net Neutrality. The announcement, which came by way of an op-ed piece on Wired Magazine’s website, marks the culmination of a longtime debate that recently saw an enormous uptick in public interest, complete with almost four million public comments. The announcement also came as a surprise given Wheeler’s past record as an industry lobbyist, including the ten years he spent as a member of the Board of Directors at EarthLink, President and CEO of the Shiloh Group, and a concurrent stint as Managing Director of Core Capital Partners. The announcement also saw a spike in objections coming from Republican lawmakers, an escalation on what was, until recently, a largely nonpartisan issue. Given the complexities involved – small companies versus big business, barriers to entry, internet speed lanes, and the ever-present specter of government regulation in the private sector – it remains to be seen whether the FCC will be able to secure the internet as a utility or if Wheeler’s announcement is just wishful thinking. And that’s all assuming that the proposal makes it through a vote in the Commission itself, which currently seems likely but is by no means guaranteed.

It was easy to miss in the hullabaloo about the internet, but the FCC also had a slight staff shakeup this week. David Goldman and Clint Odom, respectively Commissioner Rosenworcel’s Senior Legal Advisor and Policy Director, both left the Commission for jobs as Congressional staffers. At the same time, Rosenworcel announced several promotions, including Valery Galasso as a Policy Advisor, Travis Litman as a Legal Advisor, Jennifer Thompson as a Confidential Assistant, and former Wiley Rein attorney Priscilla Delgado-Argeris as Senior Legal Advisor.

This week also saw an announcement of Dan Pfeiffer’s departure from the White House, where he serves as an Assistant and Senior Advisor to the President and his Chief of Staff. The prospect of Pfeiffer’s departure has been a subject of speculation and rumor-mongering for months now; he’s been with the President in one capacity or another for nearly eight years, dating all the way back to his initial stint as Traveling Press Secretary for Obama’s primary campaign. He later moved up to Communications Director for Obama for America, a title he also held as part of Obama’s Transition Team. Throughout his time with the administration, there was always speculation that he might move up to White House Press Secretary, but it never materialized and it’s possible he didn’t want the job. He assumed his current position back in 2013, following another four-year stint as Obama’s Director of Communications; there was a brief period back in 2009 where he wasn’t the top dog, but Anita Dunn, currently a Managing Director at SKDKnickerbocker, only lasted about six months before he took over again. Pfeiffer graduated Georgetown in 1998. His wife, Sarah E. Feinberg, is currently head of the Federal Railroad Administration. His father, Gary M. Pfeiffer, is a former Secretary of Finance for Delaware, and currently sits on the boards for several companies.

 

 

 

January 29, 2015 

This Week: Changes at the VA, EPA and Lamber-St. Louis Intl Airport

President Obama continued the slow but steady flow appointments and nominations this week. Among others were nominations to several commissions, councils, and boards, including Rich Julius as a member of the Internal Revenue Service Oversight Board and Dallas Tonsager as a member of the Farm Credit Administration. The biggest, however, was Stan Meiburg, who came out of retirement last October to serve as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Acting Deputy Administrator. It now looks as though that was a test run to see how Meiburg would do at the job, and if so, he must have passed with flying colors. Meiburg previously served as Deputy Regional Administrator for EPA’s Region 4, with two stints as the region’s acting administrator. He’s a member of the Career Senior Executive Service with nearly forty years of experience across a host of assignments spanning several regions, including Director of Region 6’s Air, Pesticides and Toxics Division from 1990 to 1995, Director of Planning and Management Staff in the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards in Durham, North Carolina from 1985 to 1990, and seven years at EPA headquarters as an Executive and Special Assistant. He started out as a Program Analyst back in 1977, shortly after graduating from Wake Forest University. He went on to earn both his graduate degree and doctorate from Johns Hopkins.

But the administration also had to contend with a few big departures this week. Among others was William Switzer, the longtime head of federal security at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, who’s stepping down in May after a tenure spanning nearly thirteen years at one of the busiest airports in the country, to say nothing of the other eight commercial airports overseen by his office. While Switzer’s departure is important, the announcement coming from Isaac Fulwood Jr. was downright eyebrow raising. Where President Obama has occasionally been cast as a micromanager by other dissatisfied former officials, Fulwood called out both the president and his longtime attorney general, Eric Holder, as being neglectors-in-chief – the U.S. Parole Commission Chair has been in office nearly six years and hasn’t had a one-on-one meeting with either of them, even though he could reasonably be expected to play a significant role in the administration’s push for lower prison sentences. Fulwood first joined the Commission under President Bush back in 2004 and stepped up as Chairman when President Obama came into office in 2009. Previously, he was a Consultant for the Systems Planning Corporation, a Senior Marketing Representative at Pepsi, and most famously the Chief of Police for the District of Columbia. In between his police days and his Pepsi job, he served about a year as Executive Director of the District’s Youth Initiatives Program.

And just in case that wasn’t enough: January may as well be Reorganization Month, with announcements coming from the military and intelligence communities all overshadowed by a department-wide re-shuffle coming out of Veterans Affairs. Since the initial waitlist scandal that claimed the careers of Erik Shinseki and a whole host of senior officials at the regional and medical center level, the VA has labored under intense scrutiny from Congress. It’s experienced serious churn as the new Secretary cleans house on longtime officials who haven’t been performing up to par. And now the entire department, which includes three different agencies, is being realigned into one five-region framework. For reference: those agencies encompass a combined total of at least thirty different regional administrative bodies, with the lion’s share going to the Veterans Health Administration and its twenty-one integrated service networks. That figure doesn’t include any extra regional layouts for offices like the Inspector General, Public Affairs, Information Technology, Human Resources, or even the General Counsel. The entire process is expected to take until at least June 30th of this year, when the new organizational map is due out. 

 

 

January 22, 2015

This Week: Major Departures and a Historic Agency Appointment

It was a mixed week for Federal government: Lots of departures across the board juxtaposed to one big appointment in the intelligence community. Arguably the biggest departure came from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), where Marilyn B. Tavenner will be leaving in late February.

As one of the last major officials tied to the flawed Healthcare.gov rollout, Tavenner actually managed to outlast her old boss, Kathleen Sebelius, by more than half a year, despite any number of calls for her head by Republicans in Congress. Tavenner is one of the longer-serving members of the administration, effectively taking over CMS when she became Acting Administrator back in 2011. She was eventually confirmed to the job for real in June of 2013, a personal victory subsequently tarnished by the troubled website rollout and numerous accusations of padding registration numbers for Obamacare.

Prior to taking over the CMS, she was the agency’s number two, serving as Principal Deputy Administrator from 2010 to 2012 – about halfway into her stint as Acting Administrator. Concurrent with both positions, she also held down the role of Chief Operating Officer, a position briefly held by Michelle Snyder and now by Timothy Love. Acting as Administrator was actually how Tavenner first joined the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services back in 2010, following a year-long stint as head of Virginia’s Health and Human Resources Secretariat under then-governor Tim Kaine.

Previously, Tavenner worked at HCA Inc., where she was President of the Central Atlantic Division, President of the Richmond Division, and Group President for Outpatient Services. From 1993 to 1996, she was Chief Executive Officer of Johnston-Willis Hospital. She graduated Virginia Commonwealth University twice, first in 1983 and then again in 1989.

Other departures this week included Lynn Rosenthal, the White House’s Senior Advisor on Violence Against Women, who had been with the administration in one capacity or another since 2009. Rosenthal joined the White House from a nonprofit background, where she previously headed up three coalitions against domestic violence in Florida, New Mexico, and DC. Dan Tangherlini, who became head of the General Services Administration in the wake of its Las Vegas conference spending scandal three years ago, also announced his departure, currently set for February 13.

Like Tavenner, Tangherlini first served as Acting Administrator before later being confirmed to the job in the Senate. Unlike Tavenner, Republicans in Congress largely left him alone. Tangherlini first joined the Obama administration in 2009, when he was appointed to serve as Assistant Secretary, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Performance Officer for the Treasury Department under Tim Geithner. He was previously the City Administrator for the District of Columbia.

But the week wasn’t a complete wipeout: The Defense Intelligence Agency is set to swear-in its first African-American Director, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, who still heads Marine Forces Cyberspace Command as of this writing.

Stewart was previously the Marine Corps’ Intelligence Director. As is fitting for one of the less well-known intelligence agencies, Stewart’s assignment, nomination, and subsequent confirmation all flew by under the radar without so much as a single public announcement – there were rumors and back channel scoops, but nothing official.

This may have been a response to increased scrutiny on Obama’s previous pick to head the agency, Army Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, whose nomination was scuttled over questions about the legality and fiscal responsibility of programs she’s overseen in the past. Stewart will replace Acting Director David Shedd, who put off his own retirement to helm the agency after Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn retired last August.

 

  

 

January 15, 2015

This Week:  Michael Boots is Walking...

It was a rough week for the administration as two senior staffers announced their departures. John Podesta and Michael Boots, respectively the President’s Counselor and the Acting Chair of the Council Environmental Quality, are both set to leave the administration in coming months, with Podesta rumored to be joining Camp Hillary and Boots’ next move unknown. Podesta’s departure, in particular, comes after months of speculation; it’s an open secret that he’s wanted out for a while now, whether to recharge his batteries before a Hillary run, or to just free himself up to join her campaign the moment she announces it. A longtime player in the Democratic coalition, Podesta first rose to prominence during the last Clinton administration, where he served in a variety of White House staff roles and jumped back and forth between the Federal and Legislative branches. Among other appointments, he served as Counselor to Senator Tom Daschle, Deputy Chief of Staff and then Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton, and Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary within the Press Secretary’s Office. Earlier in his career, during the Reagan years, Podesta worked as a Legislative Assistant to Senator Pat Leahy, as well as Chief Counsel for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. More recently, he was a member of the Obama Transition Team and later served as Chairman of the Center for American Progress, a position he held until his current appointment. He graduated from Knox College of Illinois in 1971 and Georgetown University in 1976.

Boots was originally, and still technically remains, the Council on Environmental Quality’s Chief of Staff. He was promoted up to Acting Chair last February following the departure of previous Chair, Nancy Sutley, who left the administration to become Chief Sustainability and Economic Development Officer for Los Angeles. In the run-up to and subsequent wake of the Republican Senate takeover, Boots was never given the nomination, or even trial ballooned as a possibility to take over the Council permanently. Boots first joined the administration in 2009 as the Council’s Associate Director for Land and Water Ecosystems. Prior to that, much of his career was spent bouncing around government, the private sector, and nonprofits, usually with an eye towards environmental conservation. Among other appointments, he served as Vice President for Sustainable Markets at SeaWeb, Director of the Seafood Choices Alliance, and also worked at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1992.

Obama also lost one of his key nominations this week as Antonio Weiss pulled his name out of the running to become the Under Secretary of Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department. Weiss’ nomination came late last year following several days of speculation, and was promptly rebuked by rising Democratic star Senator Elizabeth Warren, among others. The main complaints stemmed from Weiss’ career in the banking industry, which his new position would have him regulating, along with the obvious potential for a revolving door scenario. Although he won’t get the nod now, at least not officially, Weiss was given a consolation prize through his appointment as Counselor to Secretary Jack Lew, a role in which he’ll probably handle a lot of the same tasks and responsibilities he would’ve had if confirmed as Under Secretary. Weiss currently serves as the Global Head of Investment Banking for the Lazard Group, a position he’s held since 2009. He first joined Lazard in 1993 and made Managing Director in 1999. From 2006 to 2009, he served as a Vice Chairman of European Investment Banking and later became Global Head of Mergers and Acquisitions. He graduated from Yale in 1989 and Harvard in 1994. 

 

 

January 8, 2015

This Week: Rivals Begin Groundwork for 2016

With Congress back in session, President Obama started putting out nominations again. In addition to resubmitting his nominations for Defense and Justice, he also nominated Allan R. Landon to serve as a Governor of the Federal Reserve System. If confirmed, Landon will join the Fed from Community BanCapital, where he currently serves as a Partner. He previously served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for the Bank of Hawaii, a position he held from 2004 to 2010. Other positions held during Landon’s tenure with the company include his initial hiring as Chief Risk Officer in 2000, a longer stint as Chief Financial Officer from 2001 to 2004, a short stint as Chief Operating Officer in 2004, and a much longer run as President, a position which lasted from 2003 to 2008. He previously worked at First American Corporation, where he was the Chief Financial Officer from 1998 to 2000. Moving into the banking industry was actually Landon’s second career choice; he got his start as an Auditor at the law firm of Ernst & Young all the way back in 1970, rising to a Partnership in 1984 and remaining there until 1998. He graduated from Iowa State University in 1970. 

This week also saw the announcement of David B. Buckley’s departure from the Central Intelligence Agency. First appointed in 2010, Buckley has seen the agency through many of its recent storms, particularly an ongoing spat with the Senate over allegations of hacking computers used by Intelligence Committee staffers during the investigation that led to last month’s chilling torture report. Having likely made few friends among the agency or its supporters with the revelation, Buckley has stated his intention to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Buckley first came to the CIA in 2010, following what was, in those days, a lightning fast nomination and confirmation of just two months. He previously worked as a Senior Manager at Deloitte Consulting LLP, following a lengthy career in and around the federal government. Among other things, he served as Minority Staff Director for the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the House of Representatives, Assistant Inspector General for the Department of the Treasury, Assistant Director for National Security and International Affairs Investigations for the General Accounting Office, and Special Assistant to the Inspector General of the Department of Defense. From 1976 to 1991, he worked in and around the Department of Defense, including assignments as a Special Agent and Counterespionage Case Officer. He graduated from the University of Maryland. 

And this week saw one of the first big public hire in the budding race for the White House: Former Senator Jim Webb announced that he was bringing on veteran political commentator Craig Crawford to serve as Communications Director for his exploratory committee. A noted author, Crawford is best known for the five years he spent as Executive Publisher of National Journal’s Hotline, a predecessor of sorts to modern journalism outfits like Politico, along with his time at MSNBC. Webb wasn’t the only one making waves though. While he was hiring his first major staffer, prospective rivals were crawling out of the woodwork. The biggest announcement came from Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida and current heir apparent to the Bush political dynasty, who resigned from all of his nonprofit and corporate boardships, founded a brand new PAC, and began campaigning in earnest to win over big money donors and lay the groundwork for 2016, something which might put him on a collision course with Tea Party favorites like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, both expected to announce their candidacies in coming months. While staying power in a primary season is unpredictable at best, a lot of pundits are already calling for a proxy rematch from Clinton v. Bush 1992, depending on if and when Hillary decides to formally declare her campaign. Bush may have better name recognition and fewer scandals than potential rivals Chris Christie and Rick Perry, but he’s going to have to overcome everything from his brother’s legacy to his own attachment to the Common Core initiative – not easy tasks in any year, let alone one that’s already expected to favor the Democratic candidate.

 

 

December 30, 2014 

This Week: It Should've Been a Quiet Week...

It probably should’ve been a quiet week for Federal, but somebody missed the memo: President Obama declared his intention to nominate Sally Quillian Yates as Deputy Attorney General, making her the presumptive number two to his current nominee, Loretta Lynch.

If both are confirmed, this would mark the first time that one of the major departments has been helmed exclusively by women in both top spots. Yates currently serves as Attorney General for Georgia’s Northern District, and serves alongside Lynch on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.

Yates previously served two stints as Acting U.S. Attorney for her current district – once in 2004 and again from 2009 to 2010. For most of the 2000s, she was the district’s First Assistant U.S. Attorney, following a six year run as Chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Unit. Yates started at the Department of Justice in 1989, when she was appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney, also in Georgia’s Northern District. She got her start as an Associate at King & Spalding LLP. She graduated Georgia in 1982 and later earned her JD there. While Yates is generally considered an easy confirmation, both she and Lynch are currently under threat of a hold by Senators Cruz, Lee, and Vitter over President Obama’s recent immigration policies. One way or the other, her predecessor James Cole will be gone in January. With Holder itching to leave, it’s likely that Justice will have something of a leadership void at the top until Lynch and Yates are confirmed.

On a more pessimistic note, this week also saw the departure of the State Department’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure, Clifford M. Sloan. Appointed last year to help the push for closure and repatriation or trial of the prison’s population of suspected terrorists, Sloan ran afoul of bureaucracy and politics in his efforts.

Still, Sloan left with high praise from Secretary Kerry, and immediately returned to his job as a Partner in the Washington office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Sloan was previously held that job from 2008 to his appointment last year. Along the way, he also served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Public Welfare Foundation, another position he may return to now that he’s left government behind. Sloan’s prior positions include a membership with the Obama transition team, General Counsel and Vice President of Business Development for Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Company, Publisher with Slate. He served as Assistant to the Solicitor General from 1989 to 1991 and was an Assistant Counsel to President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1995. He got his start clerking for the Supreme Court from 1984 to 1989. He graduated Harvard in 1979 and earned his JD there in 1984.

But it wasn’t all dreary: Stephen G. Burns, a longtime public servant with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was formally designated Chairman of the Commission, effective Thursday. Burns was recently confirmed as a Commissioner following thirty-three years working his way up through the agency’s ranks. Only in his most recent position has Burns actually stepped outside of the Commission; he was Head of Legal Affairs for the Nuclear Energy Agency from 2012 to 2014.

Prior to that, he spent close to four years as the NRC’s General Counsel, and eleven years as the Deputy General Counsel. Previous appointments include Associate General Counsel, Director of the Appellate Adjudication Office, and Executive Assistant to the Chairman. He graduated Colgate in 1975 and earned his JD at George Washington in 1978.

 

 

December 18, 2014 

This Week: Confirmations Aside, It's Not All Sunshine and Rainbows for the Federal Government

The federal nomination process finally ended for the year this week, and not with a whimper at that. Courtesy of last second maneuvering in the Senate, nearly sixty of the President’s nominees made it through confirmation, with perhaps none of them coming closer than Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, the new Surgeon General of the United States, whose nomination had long seemed a lost cause following objections from the gun lobby.

Murthy was originally nominated all the way back in November of last year, and seemed almost a shoe-in until a combination of one tweet surfacing from 2012 and one answer to a Senate Committee question set off a firestorm that held him up until this week – not even the media blitz surrounding the Ebola crisis could nudge him any further along. Ultimately, after getting to the Senate floor and with a fair number of Democrats no longer worried about their incumbencies, Murthy squeaked by on a 51-43 vote.

He succeeds Dr. Regina Benjamin, Obama’s first Surgeon General, and Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, who’s been serving as Acting Surgeon General since last year. Murthy himself is the youngest Surgeon General in the nation’s history, but he isn’t wanting for accomplishments or political connections: He’s the Co-Founder and President of Doctors for America, a 16,000-strong grassroots interest group that’s played a key role in healthcare reform. He’s also served as Founder and Chairman of TrialNetworks, Inc., and Attending Physician and Instructor at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, positions he’s held since 2007 and 2006, respectively.

He co-founded his first non-profit, VISIONS Worldwide, at age 18 and served as President until 2000, and Chairman of the Board until 2003. Somewhere along the way he found the time to graduate both Harvard and Yale, earning his medical degree in 2003. As if that wasn’t enough, he also served as a panelist for the Washington Post’s Health Care Rx.

Because Murthy clearly wasn’t controversial enough on his own, Antony J. Blinken was also confirmed this week, presumably right over the very public objections of incoming Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain.

Best known for his tenure as Joe Biden’s former Chief of Staff, Blinken now moves from the White House to the State Department, where he’ll serve as Deputy Secretary under John Kerry. Other nominees confirmed this week include Robert M. Scher and David J. Berteau as Assistant Secretaries of Defense, Mark R. Rosekind as Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Leigh A. Bradley as General Counsel of Veterans Affairs, Paige Eve Alexander, and John Nicholas Stivers as Assistant Administrators for the United States Agency for International Development, and a whole slew of ambassadors, commissioners, and more.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, especially not at USAID. Sure, Alexander and Stivers were confirmed, but Dr. Rajiv Janardan Shah announced his intention to leave the agency after a nearly five years at the helm.

A former Under Secretary of Agriculture, Shah jumped ship to his current appointment at the end of 2009. As head of an agency tasked with distributing foreign aid and promoting democracy, Shah wore two hats in that he often either collaborated or was seen as collaborating, whether knowingly or not, with the intelligence community, most infamously with the polio vaccination campaign that helped led US forces to Osama bin Laden’s doorstep and the more recent dust-up over a subversive Twitter campaign in Cuba.

The timing of Shah’s departure and the President’s announcement of normalized relations with Cuba have already drawn speculation that the two might be connected, although an official confirmation is probably not coming any time soon. Prior to the year or so he spent serving as USDA’s Under Secretary of Research, Education and Economics, Shah was best known for his work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he served in a variety of directorships covering strategic opportunities, policy and finance, global health, and agricultural development.

Earlier in his career, he served as a member of Governor Ed Rendell’s 2003 Transition Team. Prior to that, he served as a Health Care Policy Advisor for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, and earlier still he was a Policy Aide in the United Kingdom’s House of Commons. He graduated from Michigan, the London School of Economics, Pennsylvania, and Wharton. He’s sticking around until mid-February. No word yet on a possible replacement.

 

December 11, 2014 

This Week: Ron Klain's Past and Future

It was a mixed week for Federal government thanks to a flurry of departure announcements juxtaposed to a bevy of last-minute confirmations from the Senate.

Among others, White House Senior Advisor for Nutrition Policy and Executive Director for the Let’s Move! initiative Sam Kass announced his intention to leave at the end of the year. Kass, who joined the administration in 2010 as an Assistant Chef in the White House Usher’s Office, previously served as President Obama’s personal chef back when he was an Illinois senator. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he mentioned his recent marriage to MSNBC’s Alex Wagner as the main reason for his departure. His successor will be named early next year. Prior to working for then-Senator Obama, Kass ran his own chef company, Inevitable Table. He graduated from the University of Chicago.

More important is the impending departure of Ron Klain. Formerly the Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden, Klain originally left the White House in 2011 to pursue opportunities in the private sector, including a gig writing columns for Bloomberg View and a stint at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, an international law firm, where he was a Partner and National Practice Group Chair.

Klain’s most recent private sector job is as General Counsel at Revolution LLC, where he plans to return once his White House appointment is up. Klain came back to the White House in October to coordinate the administration’s Ebola response, thanks in part to the absence of a permanent Surgeon General and the ensuing media frenzy during the run-up to this year’s mid-term elections.

There were rumors that Klain had been brought on as a precursor to another, more permanent top-level appointment, such as White House Counselor or Chief of Staff, but the administration has been relatively quick to backpedal away from such things. Right now the plan is for him to return to Revolution by March of next year, if not earlier, but Klain is on everybody’s radar as a likely campaign staffer if and when Hillary Clinton declares for 2016. He’s currently married to Monica Du Plessis Medina, the Senior Director for International Ocean Policy for the National Geographic Society. Klain graduated Georgetown in 1983 and Harvard in 1987.

This week also saw the confirmation of Ellen Dudley Williams as Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. Williams was first nominated in November of last year and has proven a surprisingly uncontroversial choice for someone with an energy industry background – she spent four years, including one during her confirmation wait, as Chief Scientist of BP.

Prior to that, she served nearly thirty years as a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, though her academic career has effectively been on hold since 2010. She founded the University’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and served as its Director from 1996 to 2009. A 1982 doctoral graduate from the California Institute of Technology, Williams joins fellow alumni Arati Prabhakar (’85) and France Cordova (’79) as head of one of the country’s premier scientific research agencies. She’s served as a Senior Advisor to Secretary Moniz since April.

 

 

December 4, 2014 

This Week: Coloretti confirmed as Deputy Secretary of HUD

It was a relatively quiet on the Federal front this week, with only a handful of confirmations and the churn of the rumor mill. At the top of the list were the confirmations of Noah Bryson Mamet and Colleen Bradley Bell, a pair of controversial nominees with financial ties to both of Obama’s presidential campaigns. Bell is best known for her work as a television producer at Bell-Phillip Television Productions, Inc., while Mamet is Founder and President of Noah Mamet & Associates, a lobbying and financing group.

Mamet also served as Senior Advisor and National Finance Director to former House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt, staying with him from his House days in 1995 to the end of his presidential campaign in 2004.

Most of the controversy surrounding the two stems from the aforementioned campaign connections: They raised a combined $3.4 million – or more – for the President in 2012 alone, with Bell contributing the lion’s share of the amount. Bell’s worst moment came during an awkward confirmation hearing with Senator John McCain (R-Az.), while Mamet had additional obstacles to overcome as a former campaign staffer and contributor for both the Clintons. Mamet will go on to serve as Ambassador to Argentina over Deputy Chief of Mission Kevin Sullivan, while Bell will serve as Ambassador to Hungary over Deputy Chief of Mission M. André Goodfriend, both career foreign service officers. 

Less ostentatious, but probably more important, was the confirmation of Nani A. Coloretti as Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, putting her in charge of running the day-to-day operations for the department under Julián Castro.

Coloretti currently serves as the Assistant Secretary for Management at the Treasury Department, a position she’s held since 2012. Since 2012, she’s also been the department’s Acting Chief Financial Officer; President Obama nominated her for the full-time job, which generally goes to the Assistant Secretary for Management, but the nomination languished for nearly two years in the Senate and was ultimately withdrawn when she was nominated to her new post. Coloretti previously served for three years as Treasury’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget.

Before joining the Obama Administration, she worked for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and prior to that she spent six years as the Director of Policy, Planning and Budget with the city’s Department of Children, Youth and Their Families. Before going municipal, she was a member of the Clinton Office of Management and Budget’s Health Financing Branch, where she served as a Budget Examiner. She began her career as a Budget Analyst with Hawaii’s Department of Public Safety. She graduated from Pennsylvania in 1991 and UC Berkeley in 1994. 

What wasn’t confirmed or even nominated this week: A new Secretary of Defense. Although many within the media have generally settled upon Ash Carter as the presumptive nominee to succeed his former and now outgoing boss, Chuck Hagel, Obama has yet to issue any formal announcements and there may yet be some backroom politics in play stalling the pick. Among other potential issues is that Carter might prove unpopular among the department’s many political appointees, most of whom will need to stay on if only because Obama can’t easily replace them in the face of a Republican Senate.

An acquisition guru with a background in physics, Carter’s main controversies stem from an article he wrote advocating military action in the Korean Peninsula. He’s also been taking fire from both sides of the budget cut debate. Carter’s background is certainly one of, if not the most unconventional of any candidate to replace Hagel: before physics, he earned a degree in medieval history, he was fired from his very first job as a child for “wise-mouthing the owner,” went on to work as a hospital orderly, counselor on a suicide prevention hotline, and mate on a fishing boat. His main gig right now is as Senior Executive of the Markle Foundation, along with some lecturing at Stanford and a fellowship with the Hoover Institution. Among other things, he’s a member of the American Physical Society, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Board of Directors for the Atlantic Council of the United States.

 

 

November 27, 2014

This Week:  Hagel resigns as Secretary of Defense and Helman and Sepich depart VA

It was a barnburner of a week for Federal as Chuck Hagel announced his resignation as Secretary of Defense.Appearing with President Obama and Vice President Biden, Hagel’s resignation was a stark, terse contrast from the emotional announcement of Eric Holder just two weeks ago: both he and the president read from prepared statements, exchanged a hug, cracked a few jokes, and beat a quick exit with minimal fanfare or eye contact. Accusations and rationalizations began flying almost as soon as the men left the room, with the general narrative emerging that Hagel, a moderate Republican with a decorated enlisted service-record and a low-key way of doing things, was marginalized and out of step with the Obama national security team. During the run-up to the announcement, three ‘leading candidates’ were already making the rounds in the Beltway rumor mill – Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Center for a New American Security CEO Michèle Flournoy, and former Deputy Secretary turned Markle Foundation Senior Executive Ash Carter. Current Deputy Secretary Bob Work, a former Marine officer who was just confirmed in May, emerged after the announcement as a potential dark horse. Of the four, Reed and Flournoy have already taken themselves out of the running, leaving Carter and Work as the odds-on favorites. Hagel himself has stated his intention to stay on with the administration until his successor, whoever that ends up being, is confirmed. 

Charles Timothy Hagel was born and raised in Nebraska as part of the Baby Boom generation. He went to war in Vietnam, serving as an enlisted man and rising to the rank of Sergeant before returning to civilian life, during which time he attended classes and served as a Radio Journalist from 1969 to 1971. Shortly after graduating from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Hagel joined the office of Representative John McCollister as a Congressional Aide and then Administrative Assistant from 1971 to 1977. Following McCollister’s loss to John Cavanaugh, Hagel jumped ship to the private sector and joined the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company’s government affairs division, where he was first an Associate Manager and then Manager. In 1981, Hagel joined the Veterans Administration, predecessor to the modern Department of Veterans Affairs, as Deputy Administrator. A year later, he returned to the private sector as President of Collins, Hagel and Clarke, Inc., followed by co-founding Vanguard Cellular Systems, Inc. In 1987, Hagel became President and Chief Executive Officer of the USO, followed by a stint with the Private Sector Council. In between he helped to organize the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations. In 1992, he joined McCarthy and Company as President, and in 1997 he ran for and won a Senate seat in his home state of Nebraska, where he remained until his retirement in 2009. During his time in the Senate, Hagel chaired several major committees and served as Deputy Majority Whip. His bipartisan appeal was such that both his future critic, John McCain, and his future boss, Barack Obama, both declared their intentions to hire him at some point if they were able to win the 2008 elections. After his departure from the Senate, Hagel joined his alma mater at Omaha as a Distinguished Professor, had a similar stint at Georgetown University, and served as Senior Advisor with the McCarthy Capital Corporation, in addition to his involvement with a host of nonprofit organizations and think tanks. Perhaps most notably, he served four years as Co-Chairman of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board, which probably helped to land him his spot as Secretary of Defense last year. No word on whether he’ll go the route of former Secretary Bob Gates and drop a scathing tell-all, but it’s probably a safe bet. 

In the shadow of Hagel’s resignation, the rest of the Federal government kept on moving. Out of all the resignations, hires, and fires of the week, Veterans Affairs stood out: Sharon Helman, the Director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System at the heart of this year’s wait list scandal, was finally, formally removed after nearly six months on paid leave while the department investigated. The firing marks an inglorious end to a once promising career, although it probably won’t do much to pacify members of Congress. Helman began as a Health System Specialist with VISN 5, the Capitol Health Care Network. She later became Associate Director for the Rosenberg, Oregon Healthcare System, and then earned her first Directorship in 2007, when she was chosen to lead the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center in Walla Walla, Washington. Concurrently, she served as Acting Director of the Spokane VAMC, an assignment that later became full-time in 2008. In 2010, Helman took over the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Illinois, followed by her fateful jump to Phoenix in 2012. All total, she was actually on the job at the Phoenix VA for about a year and a half before the scandal broke, followed by her near-instant forced leave. At the time of her suspension, Helman was a member of the Career Senior Executive Service. She graduated from National University and later earned her MBA there. Another senior official, Charles Sepich, head of the Southeast Network, is also leaving the VA in the near future. With a track record similarly marred by controversy, Sepich’s departure appears almost miraculously voluntary compared to Helman’s firing.

 

 

November 20, 2014

This Week: McGann Bids Farewell to Postal Service, New Ambassadors, and Nominee Slotkin

Federal saw the beginnings of what might be its last end-of-year confirmation surge this week, including the confirmations of fourteen ambassadors to the nations of Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei, Comoros, Fiji, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Madagascar, Nauru, Paraguay, Rwanda, Senegal,  Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvali, Vietnam, and the United Arab Emirates.

Among those confirmed was Theodore G. Osius III, the new Ambassador to Vietnam, who can now add a Senate confirmation to his long list of achievements as a career officer with the State Department. Osius got his start as a Management Officer in the US Embassy to the Vatican. In 1990, he transferred to the Philippines, where he served as a Consular Officer for two years before jumping over to the US Mission to the United Nations as a Staff Aide. His first assignment in Vietnam came in 1996, when he took a post as a Political Officer at the main US Embassy there. He later transferred to the Consulate in Ho Chi Minh.

From 1998 to 2001, Osius served as a Senior Advisor on International Affairs for Vice President Gore, followed by a three-year stint in Thailand as Regional Environmental Officer. He returned to Washington for two years to serve as Deputy Director for the Korea Office in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, then moved to the US Embassy in India, where he served as a Political Affairs Officer. From 2009 to 2012, Osius served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Indonesia. In between his Deputy Chief assignment and his latest appointment, Osius took a breather from State and spent time on the think tank circuit, where he was a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Osius graduated Harvard in 1984 and Johns Hopkins in 1989.

Among others, this week also featured the nomination of Elissa B. Slotkin, Obama’s pick to replace the outgoing Derek Chollet as Assistant Secretary of International Security Affairs at the Department of Defense. Slotkin currently serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary under Chollet, and recently wrapped up a year-long stint as Acting Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy – meaning that she actually spent most of the year as Chollet’s own boss. Slotkin previously served as International Security Affairs’ Chief of Staff, as well as Senior Advisor for Middle East Transition. Before joining the Department of Defense, she spent several years with the Department of State and the National Security Council, where she was an expert on Iraq.

Much of her prior career was spent in the intelligence community, including appointments with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, along with organizations in Israel, Tanzania, and Kenya. She graduated from both Cornell and Columbia.

There were also withdrawals and departures this week. Sharon Block, Michael Carroll, Myrna Perez, and Jo Ann Rooney had each been nominated to positions as far back as the first quarter of this year, for the positions of Under Secretary of the Navy to the Inspector General of the US Agency for International Development, and memberships with the Election Assistance Commission and the National Labor Relations Board. Block’s nomination, in particular, was probably pulled as the result of the Supreme Court ruling invalidating many of her decisions; she was an unpalatable candidate to an incoming body of opposition Senators, and at times didn’t seem to have much support among Democrats either. The others weren’t quite so easy to speculate on, although Rooney’s nomination was probably tanked by a sub-par performance at a Senate confirmation hearing. 

And on the departure front, the Postal Service announced the retirement of its longtime Corporate Information Security Officer, Charles McGann. McGann spent the past four years as head of cyber security operations for the Postal Service, and his departure comes almost in tandem with a recent data breach. The Postal Service is also losing its current Postmaster General, Pat Donohoe, although his replacement has already been announced as Megan Brennan, currently the Postal Service’s Chief Operating Officer and an Executive Vice President. The swap-out is currently scheduled for the first week of February. 

 

 

November 13, 2104

This Week: Loretta Lynch, the State Department, and More Changes at the VA

The big news on Federal this week was the announcement of Loretta E. Lynch as President Obama’s pick for Attorney General. If she can make it through the Senate, where the battle lines are already being drawn, Lynch will be both the second African-American and the second woman to hold the office in the nation’s history, following in the footsteps of both Janet Reno and her immediate predecessor, Eric Holder. Democrats aren’t expected to make a last-ditch push to confirm Lynch, setting her up for a probable confirmation slog in January.

Lynch currently serves as the U.S. Attorney for New York’s Eastern District, a position she’s held since 2010. Before that, she spent eight years as a Partner at Hogan & Hartson LLP, moonlighting from 2002 to 2007 as Special Counsel to the Prosecutor with the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. She also spent time on the State of New York’s Commission on Public Integrity. Lynch is currently on her second run as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District – her first was a three-year stint at the end of the Clinton administration, following several years as Chief of the Long Island Office. She graduated Harvard in 1981 and 1984, respectively.

Lynch has cut her teeth in recent years as a terrorism prosecutor, establishing a reputation for remaining fair and apolitical while still getting results. It remains to be seen whether that will see her through the potential minefield of the Senate confirmation process.

Slightly lower in profile was the nomination of Antony J. Blinken to succeed Bill Burns as Deputy Secretary of State, the number two to John Kerry who would actually handle most of the day-to-day operations of the department. Blinken currently serves with the National Security Council as a Deputy National Security Advisor, a position he’s held since last year. He previously spent four years advising Vice President Biden on national security, a relationship cultivated back when Blinken served as Staff Director to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Blinken’s Senate Staff gig lasted from 2002 to 2009, when he moved to the Obama transition team as leader of the National Security Council Review Team.

During the 1990s, Blinken bounced between the Clinton White House and State Department, serving in a variety of positions focused on international and security policy. He got his start as an Associate with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, right after earning his law degree at Columbia. Earlier, he graduated Harvard. His wife, Evan M. Ryan, currently serves as Assistant Secretary of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

This week also saw more changes at Veterans Affairs, part of Secretary Bob McDonald’s long-term housecleaning in the wake of the scandal. Among the announcements: Veterans Affairs is probably going to be further consolidating its IT infrastructure as it pursues one of the largest reorganizations in the department’s history. McDonald, a longtime veteran of the corporate world, seeks a more customer-oriented approach to how the VA operates, to the extent that the department is set to appoint a new Chief Customer Service Officer while establishing a single website or phone access point for every VA service, broken up by regions which might end up looking like the Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) of the Veterans Health Administration or the Areas of the Veterans Benefits Administration.

There’s currently no word on how this might affect the Memorial Service Networks of the National Cemetery Administration. There have also been substantive personnel changes stemming from McDonald’s efforts: Glen Grippen, formerly the head of VISN 19 – the Rocky Mountain Network – is coming out of retirement to serve as the Phoenix VA’s third Interim Director since the scandal broke in April. Andrew Welch, the longtime leader of the Amarillo VA, has also been named as director of the VA health care system in New Mexico. As investigations continue into the scandal, it’s almost a guarantee that more personnel changes are coming in the days and weeks ahead.

 

  

November 6, 2104

This Week: Ethics, The FBI, and Farewell to Dr. Tillemann

Federal took a back seat to elections this week, but that didn’t mean it was uneventful. For one thing, Veterans Affairs now has a nominee to serve as General Counsel. Leigh A. Bradley first joined the department earlier this year as a detail from the Department of Defense. She currently serves as Special Counsel to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, an assignment given in the wake of the same Phoenix VA Scandal that brought down nearly fifteen department officials and exposed serious lapses in ethics and health care. The special assignment is one she’s highly qualified for, as Bradley has spent the past six years as Director of the Standard of Conduct Office with the Department of Defense’s General Counsel, tasked with enforcing and providing guidance on ethics for a department of nearly three million full-time military and civilian employees. She’s also uniquely qualified to serve as General Counsel for her new department – she held the job for three years during the Clinton Administration. In the years between, Bradley served as a Partner at Holland & Knight LLP, and as Chief of Staff, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Risk, and Chief Risk Officer at the American Red Cross. Earlier in her career, she was the Principal Deputy General Counsel for the Navy, and before that she was a Senior Attorney at the Deputy General Counsel’s office in the Department of Defense. She’s also a retired military officer, having served four years as a Judge Advocate for the US Air Force. She graduated and later earned her JD from the University of Alabama.

The FBI also appointed a new Assistant Director of Intelligence in its National Security Branch. Rafael Garcia has been with the Bureau since 1995, when he began as a Special Agent at the Phoenix Field Office. He made the jump to Quantico, using his FBI headquarters assignment as a springboard for numerous other positions. He was the Deputy On-Scene Commander for FBI operations in Iraq in 2004, and later served as Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Philadelphia. He spent two years as Director of the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center before finally stepping up as Special Agent in Charge of the Intelligence Division in Los Angeles. 2014 became a banner year for Garcia, as he became Deputy Assistant Director, Acting Assistant Director, and finally earned his current post as Assistant Director of Intelligence. An Army veteran who served in the first Gulf War, Garcia graduated West Point in 1982. He later earned masters’ degrees at both the Military Intelligence College and the University of Phoenix.

This week also saw the departure of Dr. Tomicah S. Tillemann from the Department of State, where he served the past four years as Senior Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies – essentially a policy-advisor on international social engineering. Prior to that, he served as a Speechwriter with the Office of Policy Planning. Tillemann joined the department from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, where he served for four years as a Professional Staff Member tasked with commerce, diplomatic service, and foreign assistance, among other things. A Fulbright-Hays scholar and scion of a political family including a congressman and a lieutenant governor of Colorado, Tillemann is the emblematic of the ongoing Obama brain drain, as mid-level and senior officials depart the administration in droves, either burned out from the half-decade of Washington gridlock or taking time off to prepare for the Democratic primary cycle.

 

  

October 30, 2014

This Week: The Long Goodbye

The long good-bye finally ended for Ambassador William Joseph Burns this week. Months after stating his intention to retire, the Deputy Secretary of State finally stepped down, ending a thirty-two year career that took him all over the world as a member of the Foreign Service Officer corps. Burns has indicated that he’ll continue to take part in the Iranian nuclear negotiations in an informal role, but his time at State is over.

Among his other accomplishments, Burns is one of only two career State Department officials to rise to the position of Deputy Secretary. His decades of service included two terms as Ambassador, first to Jordan under President Clinton and then to Russia under President Bush. In between he served as Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, a position he held from 2001 to 2005.

He was a Co-Chair for Obama’s Department of State Transition Team before spending three years as Under Secretary for Political Affairs under Hillary Clinton. He now joins the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he’ll serve as President starting in February of 2015. Burns graduated La Salle in 1978 and earned both his Master’s and Doctorate at Oxford. He began his career as a Political Officer in Jordan in 1982.

This week also saw the appointment of Kevin K. McAleenan as Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, filling a position that had been officially vacant since David Aguilar’s retirement and subsequent jump into the private sector early last year. McAleenan had previously served as Acting Deputy Commissioner from April 2013 until his appointment this week.

Before that he spent a year as Acting Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations. His last official, full-time gig was as Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations, a position he held for two years before his leapfrogging climb to the agency’s number two spot. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, McAleenan served as Vice President of the Sentinel HS Group, a consulting firm specializing in customs and civil security policy. He previously served as Director of Customs and Border Protection operations at Los Angeles Airport, following a stint as Executive Director of Anti-Terrorism. He graduated Amherest in 1994 and earned his JD at the University of Chicago in 1998.

And rounding out the week, Jay N. Lerner was nominated as Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Lerner is the latest in a string of high- and mid-level management to start jumping ship from the Justice Department during Obama’s second term.

He currently serves as Senior Counsel to Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, a position he’s held since 2011. He was previously the Counselor to the Inspector General, a position he held from 2010 until his current appointment. Earlier appointments include a three-year stint as Assistant Chief in the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Counsel for Multilateral Affairs, and Special Assistant to the Assistant Attorney General. From 2004 to 2008, Lerner spent four years with Homeland Security, where he served as Deputy Chief Counsel in the TSA, Chief Counsel for Security, and Associate General Counsel for Strategic Oversight and Review.

Earlier in his career, he spent five years as a Trial Attorney, first handling narcotics and dangerous drugs, and then dealing with money laundering. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and earned his JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

 

 

October 23, 2014

This Week: Exit Yoda

It was a huge week for the Department of Defense as Andrew W. Marshall, affectionately known by colleagues and critics alike as “Yoda,” announced his intention to retire from the Office of Net Assessment.

At ninety-three years old, Marshall has spent more than forty years at the head of the Department’s original internal think tank, playing a major role in the formation of the country’s defense policy from the height of the Cold War to the start of the recent Pacific Pivot.

He’s lasted through the administrations of eight Presidents and twelve Secretaries of Defense, including two stints under Donald Rumsfeld, and is widely regarded as a one-man institution whose personal sway has kept Net Assessment at least outwardly apolitical; his efforts are widely credited with keeping the office alive even in the age of Sequestration and across the board budget cuts.

Prior to dedicating nearly half of his life to Net Assessment, Marshall got his start at the RAND Corporation, where he worked for nearly twenty-five years on economics and nuclear strategy. In 1972, he joined the staff of the National Security Council under Dr. Henry Kissinger before finally landing his virtual lifetime appointment at the Office of Net Assessment under President Richard Nixon and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Marshall earned his Master’s degree in 1949. There’s no word yet on who – or even if – anyone can or will replace him.

This week also saw the resignation of Allison M. Macfarlane from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Previously an Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason, Macfarlane was named to the Commission in 2012 to replace Gregory B. Jaczko and see out the remainder of his five year term, where she did well enough to warrant her own nomination, and confirmation, to a five year term ending in 2018.

As with many other heads of agencies with university backgrounds, Macfarlane is returning to academia, specifically to George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, where she’ll serve as Director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy. Prior to her appointment at the NRC, Macfarlane also spent two years as a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. Before becoming an Associate Professor, she served two stints as a Research Associate at MIT, first from 2000 to 2003, then from 2004 to 2006. In between she was an Associate Professor at Georgia Tech. She also had two fellowships, at Harvard and Stanford, respectively, focusing on international affairs and security cooperation. Macfarlane graduated Rochester and went on to earn her doctorate at MIT in 1992.

President Obama also made a few headlines this week with the appointment of Ronald A. Klain to serve as the nation’s Ebola Response Coordinator – a.k.a. the Ebola Czar – a necessary stopgap in the absence of a permanent Surgeon General.

Some are also speculating about a more permanent appointment for Klain once the crisis passes, with the rumor mill buzzing about a possible position as White House Counselor or Chief of Staff. Klain’s most recent government position was as Chief of Staff to Joe Biden, followed by a stint with Revolution LLC, where he’s still on the payroll, as of this writing, as the company’s General Counsel. Prior to his service with the Vice President, he had another run with Revolution where he served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel. Widely regarded as a Washington insider, Klain has had a variety of government, corporate, and nonprofit appointments over the years.

He was an advisor to the Gore, Clark, and Kerry presidential campaigns, and took part in the court battles surrounding the infamous Florida recounts. He’s also moonlighted with a variety of media outlets over the years, including Bloomberg and the New York Times. His first big appointment was as Legislative Director for Representative Edward J. Markey. He graduated Georgetown in 1983 and Harvard in 1987, and his wife, Monica Du Plessis Medina, is a longtime member of the Defense community.

 

 

October 16, 2014

This Week: Ebola, Civil Rights, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The administration’s Ebola response continued a steady climb this week as Andrew Charles Weber was named Deputy Ebola Coordinator with the Department of State.

Weber will ship from the Department of Defense, where he’s spent the past five years as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs, although there isn’t a guaranteed date of arrival just yet – he’ll be replacing Donald Lu, whose nomination as Ambassador to Albania has been sitting idle in the Senate since July of last year.

Weber previously served as an Advisor for Threat Reduction Policy under Bob Gates. No stranger to the State Department, he spent most of his career as a Foreign Service Officer, with assignments in Germany, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, and Kazakhstan. He also taught force and diplomacy as an Adjunct Professor at his alma mater of Georgetown, where he previously earned his graduate degree. He earned his undergrad at Cornell.

While it might not top the news charts amid election season and Ebola panic, this week also saw outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder name Vanita Gupta as Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the latest in a string of acting division heads since Tom Perez was confirmed to head the Department of Labor last year.

Gupta will also serve as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General. Both appointments take effect next Monday, and there’s plenty of room to speculate that she might land a nomination to head the division permanently depending on how things go. Previously, Gupta served as Deputy Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as the organization’s Director for its Center for Justice. Earlier, she was an Attorney for their Racial Justice Program. She’s taught clinics on civil rights litigation and advocacy at New York University School of Law since 2008. Gupta’s been making civil rights headlines from the beginning of her career, when she led an effort to win the release and pardon of 35 defendants in Texas on her very first case with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. She graduated from Yale and New York.

This week also saw Jeff Baran’s swearing-in as a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, about a month to the day after his confirmation in September. Baran joins the Commission after a lengthy tour through the halls of Congress, where he spent nearly eleven years as a professional legal staffer with the House of Representatives.

His most recent post was a dual assignment as Energy and Environment Staff Director for the Committee on Energy and Commerce and Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, a post he held since June of this year. Earlier on, he served as Senior Counsel to both committee and subcommittee, serving Energy and Power for three years and simultaneously serving Energy and Commerce for one.

From 2009 to 2011, he was a Counsel to those committees and from 2003 to 2008 he served as Counsel to the Committee on Oversight and Government. Baran got his start clerking for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio after graduating law school; he stayed with the court from 2001 to 2003. He graduated Ohio in 1998 and earned his law degree at Harvard in 2001.

 

 

October 10, 2014

This Week: A Dreary Week, A Morbid Turn, and Good News from the EPA!

Amid an otherwise dreary week of resignations and potential firings, the Environmental Protection Agency provided a bit of surprise good news. 

Dr. A. Stanley Meiburg returned from retirement to serve as the Deputy Administrator for the Agency. He left the EPA earlier this year following nearly twenty years as the Deputy Regional Administrator for the Atlanta, Georgia Office. Earlier, he served a year as Deputy Regional Administrator for the Dallas, Texas Office, becoming only the second person in the Agency’s history to have held the number two spot across multiple regions.

Previous career entries include Director of the Region 6 Air, Pesticides and Toxics Division from 1990 to 1995, Director of Planning and Management Staff in the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards in Durham, North Carolina from 1985 to 1990, and seven years as an Executive Assistant and Special Assistant in and around EPA Headquarters. His very first assignment was as a Program Analyst in the Program Evaluation Division in 1977.

He earned his BA in Politics from Wake Forest University in 1975, and earned both his MA and PhD in Political Science at Johns Hopkins in 1977 and 1986, respectively. There’s currently no word on whether the President plans on nominating him to his new job permanently, and with a prospective Senate flip looming in November it’s anyone’s guess as to whether he’d be confirmed.

Incidentally, this week also saw the announcement of an impending departure at the White House: Jonathan D. McBride, the Director of Presidential Personnel, whose job revolves around managing the daily comings, goings, and kvetching of the Obama Administration’s numerous presidential appointees.

The departure is seen by some as a sign of ill omens for the President’s remaining years in office, which will probably be plagued by high-profile vacancies in the various departments, offices, and agencies, and a Congress rendered either hostile or subject to more gridlock depending on the outcome of this November’s Senate races.

McBride originally moved into the top slot at the Presidential Personnel Office in July of last year, following the departure of Nancy Hogan, who opted to keep a low profile after stepping down. McBride previously served as Hogan’s Deputy from 2009 to 2013. Before joining the Obama Administration, he served as Chief Strategy Officer of Universum, owned the Jungle Media Group, served on the Board of Trustees for his alma mater at Connecticut College, and worked as an Equities Research Sales Associate at Goldman Sachs. He got his start as a Legislative Assistant to Senator Herb Kohl. He graduated Connecticut in 1992 and earned an MBA at Wharton in 1997.

This week also featured a slightly morbid turn of events at Veterans Affairs: Four currently suspended employees were publicly named as potential targets under the department’s new authority to fire its employees. Of the inglorious quartet, three are (or were) heads of hospitals and healthcare systems currently placed on suspension, and all are or were members of the Senior Executive Service. John Goldman, formerly the head of the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, actually intended to retire in late September but got snagged over false records and long wait times. James Talton previously oversaw the Central Alabama VA Healthcare System and went down over delays in patient appointments and unread X-rays.

Theresa Gerigk Wolf oversaw the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System and was placed on leave back in June over allegations of inappropriate conduct during the 2011 and 2012 outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease. Susan Taylor, the only non-hospital director on the list, was recently the subject of a scathing, salacious report from the department’s Inspector General which alleged, among other things, a twenty-year affair with a businessman to whom she awarded numerous contracts. Taylor is arguably the worst off of the four so far – she lost an appointment at the Department of Energy just days before she could start work there. As Secretary McDonald continues a series of high-profile moves to clean up in the wake of this summer’s scandal, it’s anybody’s guess as to who’s next.

 

 

October 2, 2014

This Week: Pierson out at the Secret Service, and good news for Veteran's Affairs

Another bombshell dropped this week with the resignation of Julia A. Pierson, formerly the Director of the Secret Service, following an increasingly shocking series of revelations about both a recent White House intrusion and previous failures to properly protect the President and First Family.

Her resignation comes after about a year and a half on the job. Pierson was originally brought in to replace the last director, Mark Sullivan, who retired in the wake of the 2012 scandal in Colombia. Pierson took over as Director after serving five years as Chief of Staff, and she spent most of her career before that in a variety of positions all over the Secret Service. Among others, she was Deputy Assistant Director of both Administration and Protective Operations, Special Agent in Charge of Protective Operations, and a Special Agent in the field.

Her resignation represents an inauspicious end to a career that began as a police officer in Orlando, Florida back in 1980. Joseph Clancy, previously a Special Agent in Charge of Presidential Protection and most recently the Director of Security for Comcast Corporation, will serve as Acting Director while the dust settles and a permanent replacement is chosen.

This week also saw the assignment of Ambassador Nancy Powell as head of the new Ebola Coordination Unit within the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs. The disease has effectively spiraled out of control in recent months, leading to a surge of military and diplomatic aid from several countries, including the United States, necessitating the need for the unit.

Powell herself recently finished up a two-year tour as the US Ambassador to India. Previously, she served as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources for the State Department.  Her other ambassadorial assignments include Nepal from 2007 to 2009, Pakistan from 2002 to 2004, and Ghana from 2001 to 2002. In between, she served as National Intelligence Officer for South Asia,

Acting Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, and perhaps most germane to her new job: Powell was the Senior Coordinator for Avian and Pandemic Influenza, the last major health scare to rattle the international community. She graduated from Northern Iowa in 1970.

This week also had some positive news for Veterans Affairs: Retired Army Brigadier General Lewis M. Boone joined the Veterans Benefits Administration as Director of Corporate Communication, replacing the recently departed Patrick Mackin.

Boone joins the VBA with a history in public affairs that includes stints with Army Forces Command, the 7th Army in Europe, the Army’s headquarters Office of Public Affairs, and US Forces Afghanistan/International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan.  For a while in 2010, he served as Acting Chief of Public Affairs for the Army as a whole, and following his tour in Afghanistan he served as Director of the US Army Physical Disability Agency until his retirement in 2013. He graduated Troy State University in 1980, Army War College in 2003, and Army Command and General Staff College in 2009.

 

 

September 25, 2014

This Week: Confirmations, Nominations, Appointments, Withdrawals, and Eric Holder

This week saw one last plethora of confirmations, nominations, appointments, and withdrawals before Congress went into its final recess ahead of the 2014 mid-term elections.

Among those confirmed were Debra S. Wada, Laura S. Wertheimer, Bradford R. Huther, Bathsheba N. Crocker, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Eric Rosenbach, D. Nathan Sheets, Charles H. Fulghum, and Alfonso E.  Lenhardt, along with a host of new ambassadors.

Among the most significant of those confirmations was Ambassador Lenhardt, a former Major General with the Army, whose appointment as Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development will effectively place him in charge of most of the day-to-day operations of the country’s sometimes embattled foreign development organization. 

Lenhardt comes to USAID after a short break following four years as the Ambassador to Tanzania. He first joined the administration in 2008 as part of the Transition Team, following several years as President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Crime Prevention Council. Previously, he spent a year as Senior Vice President for Government Relations at The Shaw Group. Earlier in his career, he served as Sergeant at Arms for the United States Senate, and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the Council on Foundations. His last military assignment was as commanding officer of U.S. Army Recruiting Command. He graduated from Nebraska and earned master’s degrees at both Central Michigan and Wichita State.

Among those nominated were Brian J. Egan, Allison Beck, Earl L. Gay, Francine Berman, Mario Cordero, Tho Dinh-Zarr, Victoria Ann Hughes, Eric P. Liu, Joseph P. Pietrzyk, Dallas P. Tonsager, and Deborah Willis, along with prospective ambassadors Maria Echaveste, Paul A. Folmsbee, Mary C. Phee, and Richard R. Verma. Echaveste and Verma could be names to watch for foreign business wonks; if confirmed, they’ll head to Mexico and India, respectively.

For those with a more humanitarian bent, Phee’s nomination to represent the country to South Sudan will be worth keeping an eye on. Echaveste has spent the past few years as a Partner with NVG, LLC, with side gigs on the Obama transition team and at the Center for American Progress. For Verma, confirmation would mean a return to the State Department following several years with Steptoe & Johnson LLP. His last government post was as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Legislative Affairs, following a year spent on the US House of Representatives’ Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. He previously cut his teeth as a policy staffer for Harry Reid. Mary Phee, a career member of the Foreign Service, recently finished a term as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia, following several years as the National Security Council’s Director for Iraq. She currently serves as the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.

This week also saw the withdrawal of the nomination for Rhea Sun Suh, previously President Obama’s choice to replace Thomas L. Strickland as Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife. The withdrawal comes on the heels of Suh’s own announcement of her impending departure from the Department of the Interior in favor of the top spot at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Suh currently serves as the Interior’s Chief Financial Officer, a position she’s held since March of 2009. She joined the Obama administration following several years with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, where she served as Conservation and Science Program Officer. Previously, she was a Program Officer for the Environment with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a Consultant for the National Park Service and a Senior Legislative Assistant to Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. She graduated Columbia in 1992 and earned her Med at Harvard in 1998.

This week also featured the bombshell news, first reported by NPR, that Eric Holder, the most embattled member of the Obama cabinet and one of the longest-serving Attorneys General in the nation’s history, will be stepping down upon confirmation of a successor.

Holder is also one of the longest lasting members of the Obama cabinet, joining when the President took office in 2009 and hanging on for five and a half years of rhetorical warfare with Congressional Republicans, often hinging on issues of border security, civil rights, and criminal justice reform.

As with some of his more notable predecessors, particularly Janet Reno and John Ashcroft, the stress of the job likely took a toll on Holder’s health: he was hospitalized earlier this year after feeling faint. Prior to his appointment as Attorney General, Holder was best known for his tenure as Deputy and then Acting Attorney General for the Clinton White House, holding the former position from 1997 to 2001, and holding the latter until the transition to the Bush administration. Following his Justice Department career, Holder went into the private sector with Covington & Burling LLP from 2001 to 2009. He graduated Columbia in 1973 and later earned his JD there.

 

 

September 18, 2014

This Week: Another deluge of confirmations, nominations...and one perhaps overdue withdrawal

Among the biggest confirmations were Anne Rung, David Radzanowski, Gordon Tanner, and Linda Schwartz, respectively the new Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy, NASA’s Chief Financial Officer, the Air Force’s new General Counsel, and the Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning at Veterans Affairs.

Other confirmations include Miranda Ballentine, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Energy and the Environment; Joseph Nimmich, Deputy Administrator for FEMA, three members of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and five Ambassadors to the countries of France, Guatemala, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, and the intergovernmental Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Radzanowski, in particular, joins NASA on the heels of the agency’s major announcement of a push forward with the full, formal commercialization of low Earth orbit as a means of freeing up resources for missions to asteroids, the Moon, and Mars.

Foremost among the spate of nominations this week was Robert M. Scher, Obama’s pick to head up global strategic affairs, plans, and capabilities as an Assistant Secretary in the Defense Department’s Policy office. A graduate of Swarthmore and Columbia, Scher got his start in the department as a Special Assistant and Presidential Management Intern in 1992. He went on to serve six years as Senior Assistant for Strategy Development in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, followed by four years as Director for Maritime Southeast Asia.

He jumped over to the State Department in 2003 and spent two years as a member of the Policy Planning Staff before returning to Defense as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Under Secretary for Asia and the Pacific. Scher checked out into the private sector for a few years, joining the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, before returning to federal government as a member of the Obama administration in 2009. He served for three years as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia before finally settling into his current position as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans. Lately, Scher has also served as Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Force Development.

This week also saw the withdrawal of Debo P. Adegbile’s nomination to be an Assistant Attorney General and head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. In today’s Senate, Adegbile is a rare case of a nomination who made it all the way to the floor only to be shot down in an up-or-down vote over objections stemming from his role in an appeal on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a convict once sentenced to death for the killing of a Philadelphia police officer.

Although Adegbile played a relatively minor role in the appeal, which came during the thirteen years he spent with the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Despite a career spent defending civil rights, including arguing before the Supreme Court on several occasions, Adegbile’s chances to head the division effectively ended with his rejection.

His nomination lingered in the Senate until it was withdrawn this week with the announcement of his move to WilmerHale. His withdrawal leaves the office’s future leadership uncertain; the current acting head is Molly Moran, but the president hasn’t named a replacement and with the Senate likely to flip this November, it might not get a permanent head for the remainder of Obama’s term. The previous Assistant Attorney General in charge of the division, Tom Perez, himself a lightning rod for assorted controversies, has since gone on to head the Labor Department.