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Steinberg leaving State, Burns moves up

Steinberg leaving State, Burns moves up


Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg is leaving the Obama administration and Undersecretary of State Bill Burns will be nominated to replace him, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told her employees on Wednesday.

"For more than two years, Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg has helped guide this Department and our nation’s foreign policy. He has been an invaluable friend and colleague — a calm head during crises, a voice of reason and experience during policy debates, and always a consistent advocate for the women and men of the State Department and USAID," Clinton wrote in a Wednesday email to staff.

"So it is with sadness for all of us but excitement for him that I am writing to share the news that Jim has accepted a new job as Dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, one of our nation’s finest institutions and a place dear to my own heart."

Steinberg had been rumored to be leaving State for some time. The Cable had reported that he had explored the idea of becoming dean of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. He had originally told the White House he was interested in staying at State for two years; he leaves his position almost exactly two years after taking office.

In her note, Clinton focused on the fact that Steinberg had been intimately involved in a wide range of policy issues while at State, especially those dealing with the Asia Pacific region. He was a key official in the Obama administration’s policy toward China and coined the term "strategic reassurance," though that phrase never really caught on.

He was also a key part of the administration’s drive to increase pressure on Iran and became the lead Obama official in dealing with the Balkan countries, an issue he was deeply invested in. He pushed for adherence to principles of non-proliferation when making civilian nuclear agreements with other countries. He was an important voice regarding the administration’s policy in Sudan.

Steinberg also represented the State Department at the White House on regular basis in both deputy-level and principle-level meetings. Some speculated that Steinberg was the White House’s guy at State, more connected to Obama than to Clinton. But Clinton depended on Steinberg and trusted him to represent her in almost any situation.

"He has been a fixture at the meetings convened by the National Security Council, sharing his wisdom and experience with our colleagues from across the government," Clinton wrote. "For me, Jim has been a friend and invaluable counselor. For two years he played Oscar to [former Deputy Secretary] Jack Lew‘s Felix, and forged a new and effective partnership with [new] Deputy Secretary Tom Nides. This building really won’t be the same without him."

Clinton announced that Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns will be nominated to replace Steinberg. Burns, the highest-ranking career foreign-service officer at State, breaks the mold by taking what is usually a job given to political appointees.

But Burns has been at the center of the State Department’s handling of the wave of Arab revolutions. He is also Clinton’s trusted partner, and is well respected throughout Foggy Bottom.

"Bill is one of our nation’s most distinguished diplomats and most talented public servants.  As our most senior Foreign Service Officer, he has served all over the world and all over the Building," wrote Clinton. "If confirmed, he will bring incomparable depth and experience to the job, as well as important continuity during a time of change and upheaval in the world."

Full text of Clinton’s letter after the jump:

From: Secretary Clinton
Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 10:15 AM
Subject: Jim Steinberg

THE SECRETARY OF STATE

WASHINGTON

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

For more than two years, Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg has helped guide this Department and our nation’s foreign policy.  He has been an invaluable friend and colleague — a calm head during crises, a voice of reason and experience during policy debates, and always a consistent advocate for the women and men of the State Department and USAID. 

So it is with sadness for all of us but excitement for him that I am writing to share the news that Jim has accepted a new job as Dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, one of our nation’s finest institutions and a place dear to my own heart.  We will miss Jim — he really is one of a kind — but I am pleased that his talents and insights will be dedicated to molding future leaders and thinkers.

I learned to trust Jim’s intellect, instincts and his deep understanding of international affairs during the 1990s. So when I became Secretary of State, he was a natural choice for Deputy.  I could not have predicted, however, how indispensable he would be. On every foreign policy challenge, big and small, he has helped formulate our policy and oversee its execution. 

Jim has been particularly instrumental in shaping our renewed engagement in the Asia-Pacific, where much of the history of the 21st century will be written. From managing our expanding relationship with China to reaffirming our historic alliance with Japan to addressing challenges on the Korean Peninsula, Jim has been at the center of shaping of our efforts. 

He has also ably and effectively represented the State Department in the interagency process here in Washington.  He has been a fixture at the meetings convened by the National Security Council, sharing his wisdom and experience with our colleagues from across the government. And he has also been a frequent and forceful voice in public debates — including on the Hill — always making the case for a thoughtful and principled foreign policy.

For me, Jim has been a friend and invaluable counselor.  For two years he played Oscar to Jack Lew’s Felix, and forged a new and effective partnership with Deputy Secretary Tom Nides. This building really won’t be the same without him.

While it is not possible to replace Jim Steinberg, I am delighted to announce that President Obama intends to nominate Under Secretary Bill Burns to follow Jim as our next Deputy.  Bill is one of our nation’s most distinguished diplomats and most talented public servants.  As our most senior Foreign Service Officer, he has served all over the world and all over the Building. If confirmed, he will bring incomparable depth and experience to the job, as well as important continuity during a time of change and upheaval in the world. 

Please join me in bidding a fond farewell to Jim and wishing him all the best in his future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Hillary Rodham Clinton