Names: Esther Brimmer, the USAID mystery, and more NSC titles

Names: Esther Brimmer, the USAID mystery, and more NSC titles

State Department

Sources say that Esther Brimmer, a former State Department office of policy planning member who is now deputy director of the Johns Hopkins SAIS Center for Transatlantic Relations, has been tapped as assistant secretary of state for international organizations (I/O). Brimmer advised the Obama campaign’s international organizations group, and is said to be close with both Susan Rice, the new U.S. ambassador to the U.N. (who was sworn in tonight), and Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state. Brimmer’s office said on her behalf that she would have no comment.


It’s still unclear who will be named USAID administrator. Sources have said that Hillary Clinton is floating some possible names on Capital Hill. Development community sources suggest that among them is George Rupp, the head of the International Rescue Committee and former president of Columbia University (his office said he didn’t have any comment). Other names we have heard were recently in the mix include former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), now a fellow at the German Marshall Fund and a consultant at Kissinger McLarty Associates focusing on development and migration issues, and CARE head and former CDC director Helene Gayle (who also didn’t respond to a query. NGO community sources suggested she may go back to head the CDC). It’s also not clear where Gayle Smith, the Clintonera NSC Africa hand and Obama campaign development and Africa advisor, will land (we’ve heard everything from a new possible development post at the NSC to liaison between different development agencies; she didn’t respond to a query).

“The international development community is very upset and nervous on why it is taking so long for a USAID head to be named,” said one Hill aide. “They fear it bespeaks a lack of prioritization in the new administration. Hillary Clinton’s visit to USAID last Friday helped a little. They’re also nervous that [deputy secretary of state] Jack Lew will be the unofficial development czar.”

UPDATE: Another name USAID-ers are hearing: Sylvia Matthews Burwell, currently the president of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Apparently she’s tight with Lew,” one said. (Matthews was the OMB deputy director in the late ’90s when Lew was OMB Director.) She couldn’t immediately be reached.

National Security Council

It’s hard to keep up with the new titles at the NSC. The latest we hear on titles, joining Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.), as national security advisor, Thomas Donilon, deputy national security advisor, and Mark Lippert, NSC chief of staff:

  • Denis McDonough, NSC deputy assistant to the president, director for strategic communications. “It is a current position at the NSC and reflects the fact that Denis will continue to do the mix of policy and politics that he handled during the campaign,” The Cable was told.
  • Mara Rudman, NSC executive secretary (a post she held in the Clinton White House).
  • John Brennan, deputy national security advisor, counterterrorism and homeland security (exact title unclear)
  • Gen. Douglas Lute (Ret.), deputy national security advisor, Iraq and Afghanistan (he reportedly loses the “assistant to the president” title he had under Bush.)
  • Gary Samore, coordinator of the U.S. office for the prevention of WMD proliferation and terrorism (as of Friday, he’d been asked, but not yet accepted).
  • Daniel Shapiro, NSC senior director for the Middle East and North Africa

Sources suggest that at least two more senior directors, covering the Persian Gulf/Iran/Iraq area, and South Asia, may be named at a later point (perhaps when the NSC gets a new budget for them). Puneet Talwar, the top Iran/Iraq/Mideast advisor on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he could not comment on reports he’ll be an NSC senior director doing some combination of Iran/Iraq/Persian Gulf issues. As of yesterday, he was still seen at the Senate.

Sources suggested Sen. Chris Dodd/SFRC aide and former CIA Latin America analyst and NSC hand Fulton Armstrong is being considered for NSC senior director on Latin America.

And as previously reported, and as far as we know still accurate:

  • Jeff Bader, NSC senior director for Asia (confirmed)
  • Michelle Gavin, NSC senior director for Africa
  • Michael McFaul, NSC senior director for Russia and Eurasian affairs (confirmed)
  • Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, NSC senior director for Europe
  • Michael Hammer, NSC spokesman (confirmed)
  • UPDATE: Samantha Power, NSC senior director, multilateral affairs