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David McKean to be State Department director of policy planning

David McKean to be State Department director of policy planning

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has asked David McKean to be the next director of the Policy Planning office at the State Department, two senior State Department officials confirmed.

McKean, who was the chief of staff in Kerry’s Senate office from 1999 to 2008, became Kerry’s first staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. In 2011, McKean left Congress to be a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In April 2012, he moved over to the State Department to become Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s senior advisor dealing with implementation of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), State’s first foray into setting up a mechanism for regular strategic and bureaucratic planning. He has also worked as the CEO of the John F. Kennedy library in Boston.

Kerry and McKean go way back.

“McKean was a key player in laying the groundwork for the Senator’s presidential campaign in 2004, and was a co-chairman of the senator’s presidential transition team,” McKean’s State Department biography reads.

McKean replaces Jake Sullivan, who was dual-hatted as Clinton’s director of Policy Planning and her deputy chief of staff — titles that, if anything, understated his personal closeness to Clinton.

Sullivan is said to be headed to the office of Vice President Joe Biden to replace Tony Blinken, who took over as principal deputy national security advisor for Denis McDonough, who is now the White House chief of staff. (White House sources say Sullivan’s move to OVP is not yet finalized.) Sullivan is also said to want to return to Minnesota to start a political career.

Sullivan’s time as Policy Planning director was characterized by his effort to move that office away from the job of implementing the QDDR and toward a focus on more over-the-horizon planning for U.S. foreign policy in the mid to long term. That body of work could come in handy if and when Clinton decides to run for the presidency in 2016.

McKean’s appointment could signal a return of focus for the Policy Planning shop to the nuts-and-bolts mission of cementing the reorganization of the State Department and USAID bureaucracy, which was the focus of Clinton’s first Policy Planning director, Princeton University professor Anne-Marie Slaughter.

“I take David’s appointment as an important signal that Secretary Kerry intends to continue and build on Secretary Clinton’s decision to have a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. David McKean has been tasked with the implementation of the first QDDR… he will now be in the position to help design and oversee the second,” Slaughter told The Cable. “For these reviews to have any impact, it is important that the person in charge be close to the secretary and determined to implement the secretary’s longer-term agenda, which David is.”

“It’s also a signal that Kerry wants to continue to elevate development, because the significance of the QDDR is not just a 4 year planning exercise and strategic review, but that it knits diplomacy and development together as core pillars of foreign policy that Secretary Clinton wanted to make as equal as possible,” she added.

In 1997 and 1998 McKean served as the minority staff director for the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. McKean taught at the Waterford Kamhlaba School in Swaziland from 1981-1982, according to his State Department bio.

McKean is the author of three books on American political history: Friends in High Places (with Douglas Frantz), Tommy the Cork, and The Great Decision (with Cliff Sloan). He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1980, and holds graduate degrees from both the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Duke Law School, his bio states.