State Department gets new executive secretary

State Department gets new executive secretary

Starting next week, former Ambassador to Georgia John Bass will take up his new post as executive secretary of the State Department, a crucial high-level position.

Bass, who was replaced in Tbilisi by Richard Norlund last month, is a senior member of the Foreign Service and had been the envoy to Georgia since 2009. Before that, he spent three years as director of the State Department Operations Center, which will aid him in his new role because one of the many duties of the executive secretary is to manage the crisis centers that are stood up in emergencies such as the spate of embassy attacks in the Middle East last month.

The executive secretary, with the help of four deputies, serves as the liaison and the clearinghouse between the State Department’s many bureaus and the leadership offices of the secretary, the deputy secretaries, and the undersecretary for policy. The executive secretary’s office also manages relations between State and the White House, the NSC, and the other cabinet-level agencies.

From 2004-2005, Bass was a special advisor on Europe and Eurasia to Vice President Dick Cheney, a role similar to the one played by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland during the George W. Bush administration. His overseas assignments have included stints in Italy, Chad, and Belgium, and he was chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott during the negotiations to end the war in Kosovo.

In 2008, just before becoming ambassador to Georgia, Bass led a provincial reconstruction team in Iraq.

Bass replaces Stephen Mull, who was nominated in July and confirmed in September to be the U.S. ambassador to Poland. In a note to colleagues this week, Mull said he will go to Warsaw next month after brushing up on his Polish language skills.

“This weekend, I finish up as Executive Secretary to prepare for my assignment to Poland.  But before moving on, I wanted to thank you all for your great collegiality and support over the past couple years that we’ve worked together.  It’s been an honor to be on your team through the good times and the bad – from Wikileaks, QDDR and the Arab Spring through our transitions in Iraq and Afghanistan and the horrific tragedy in Benghazi last month – and I’ll miss working with you under Secretary Clinton’s leadership,” Mull said.

“Ambassador John Bass will begin work as the new Executive Secretary next week, and I know you’ll find him to be an extraordinary leader and reliable colleague as we take on the inevitable new challenges that await the Department.”