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Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 05/02/2013

State Department public diplomacy post still unfilled


(Ambassador’s residence in Paris - State Department photo)
There was chatter recently in diplomatic circles that Charles Rivkin, now ambassador to France, would be headed home soon to take the job of undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry apparently alluded to a new job for Rivkin during a trade meeting March 27 with French business leaders in Paris.

But a senior State Department official told us Thursday morning that Rivkin, a huge Obama contributor and bundler in 2008, and former media executive (president and CEO of the Jim Henson Company, was not taking that job.

Filling the public diplomacy post has not been hard — keeping it filled it seems, has been much more difficult.

Since the U.S. Information Agency merged into the State Department in 1999, there have been eight undersecretaries, and the average tenure is about 15 months, with former Bush counselor Karen Hughes serving the longest, a bit more than two years.

The unredacted version of a new IG report on the state of the Bureau of International Information Programs the modern successor to the USIA and a part of the underscretary’s portfolio, says that “leadership fostered an atmosphere of secrecy, suspicion and uncertainty” and where staff “describe the . . . atmosphere as toxic and leadership’s tolerance of dissenting views as non-existent.”

There’s a “pervasive perception of cronyism,” the 50-page draft report says, “aggravating the serious morale problem.” But before you think the place needs a good old-fashioned reorganization, staffers already talk about what the report calls “reorganization fatigue,” for the constant prior reorganizations.

Maybe they could start with a simple mission statement?

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Charles Rivkin was in line to be the next undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. A senior State Department official said that is not accurate. The story has been corrected.

By  |  08:00 AM ET, 05/02/2013

Tags:  transition, washingtonintransition

 
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