- By Laura RozenLaura Rozen writes The Cable daily at ForeignPolicy.com.
Rexon Ryu, the former State Department nonproliferation analyst and Republican Senate staff aide, has started working this month at the National Security Council, on detail from the Office of Management and Budget, The Cable has learned. Ryu is working as one of a handful of directors in the NSC’s nonproliferation directorate, handling Iran and Syria nuclear issues. Apparently, national security advisor Gen. James L. Jones (ret.) and White House WMD czar Gary Samore have not yet named a senior director for nonproliferation.
Ryu was retired Sen. Chuck Hagel‘s foreign-policy advisor and interacted with then Sen. Barack Obama during the summer of 2008, when the two senators traveled together to Afghanistan and Iraq.
As an analyst at the State Department, Ryu butted heads with former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton over proliferation issues. He then worked for former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as a special assistant before joining Hagel’s staff.
After signing on as an advisor to the Obama-Biden transition, Ryu later assisted Susan Rice in her confirmation hearings to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, leading to speculation — and some preemptive resentment among Democrats — that he would get a high-level NSC job. The NSC director position has him in the NSC, but on the payroll of another federal agency for now.
Ryu "is a man of immense character and integrity," Hagel told Foreign Policy in a January interview. He has "a good global assessment of reality and policy … and can talk simply, straightly, directly."
Hagel, who has succeeded General Jones as chairman of the board of the Atlantic Council, credited his close relationship with the national security advisor as well as his time with Obama on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) in helping position his former staffer for the job.
"The connection started to develop when Obama was on the SFRC and Rexon was my foreign-relations counsel," Hagel said. "Rexon got well acquainted with Mark Lippert, who was Senator Obama’s foreign policy advisor," and is now the NSC chief of staff.
"I’ve known Jones for a long time," Hagel said. "He’s really one of the premier geopolitical thinkers in our country. I really always admired his thinking and depth and completeness of how he saw the world."
Ryu is not the only former Hagel staffer to switch political sides. Michael Pevzner, Hagel’s former liaison on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the 110th Congress, now has the same position for Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), replacing Todd Rosenblum, who has become a deputy to the DHS undersecretary for intelligence. Chad Kreikemeier, who was Ryu’s deputy, is now Sen. Jeanne Shaheen‘s (D-NH) foreign-policy advisor as she gets up to speed as a SFRC member.
"For all those conservative Republicans who complained that Hagel was a closet Democrat on foreign policy matters, these staff moves are compelling evidence," a Senate staffer noted.
Ryu and the NSC spokesman did not immediately respond to queries.
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| The Complex |
Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge.| The E-Ring |