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Meet your next Deputy Secretary of State: Thomas Nides

On Wednesday, just one day before Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew was confirmed as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sat down with his incoming replacement, Thomas Nides. Nides is currently the chief operating officer of Morgan Stanley, and previously worked as chief administrative officer ...

Bloomberg
Bloomberg
Bloomberg

On Wednesday, just one day before Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew was confirmed as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sat down with his incoming replacement, Thomas Nides.

Nides is currently the chief operating officer of Morgan Stanley, and previously worked as chief administrative officer of Credit Suisse First Boston, chief executive officer of public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, and senior vice president of Fannie Mae. He has also served in various government posts, including as chief of staff to U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, executive assistant to House Speaker Tom Foley, and assistant to House Majority Whip Tony Coelho.

"This is a job that Tom's been nominated for that will require managing a large, complex and sometimes unwieldy bureaucracy," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), who introduced Nides at his nomination hearing. "It is an assignment that I know he's uniquely qualified for based on firsthand experience with Tom's ability to manage another large, complex and unwieldy bureaucracy, namely my 2000 vice presidential campaign."

On Wednesday, just one day before Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew was confirmed as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sat down with his incoming replacement, Thomas Nides.

Nides is currently the chief operating officer of Morgan Stanley, and previously worked as chief administrative officer of Credit Suisse First Boston, chief executive officer of public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, and senior vice president of Fannie Mae. He has also served in various government posts, including as chief of staff to U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, executive assistant to House Speaker Tom Foley, and assistant to House Majority Whip Tony Coelho.

“This is a job that Tom’s been nominated for that will require managing a large, complex and sometimes unwieldy bureaucracy,” said Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), who introduced Nides at his nomination hearing. “It is an assignment that I know he’s uniquely qualified for based on firsthand experience with Tom’s ability to manage another large, complex and unwieldy bureaucracy, namely my 2000 vice presidential campaign.”

Nides began his remarks by praising Lew. “I come here today against the advice of a friend who warned me that it is never wise to follow a legend,” he said.

Nides will be a key actor in implementing the State Department’s first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, whenever it gets finished, and he promised to make “the effort to elevate civilian power … a core element of our foreign policy.”. But he’s admitted that this effort “remains a work in progress.”

His second priority, if confirmed, will be to streamline operations between State, USAID, and other government agencies. He warned that the tough fiscal environment might require State to find ways to trim spending after increasing budgets and expanding hiring over the last two years.

“We need to build a budget that aligns scarce resources with our highest priorities and finds efficiencies across bureaus and agencies working in the same areas,” Nides said. “I will help the secretary make the strongest argument for the resources that State and USAID need. But I will also continue my predecessor’s efforts to drive hard choices and cease lower-priority programs and activities that cannot be justified in this economic and fiscal climate.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA) warned Nides that his job in fighting for State Department money was going to be a difficult one.

“You are going to have the primary responsibility for shepherding and defending the president’s fiscal year 2012 international affairs budget request, and it’s pretty obvious that we face an increasingly uncertain complicated budget environment, particularly when it comes to foreign affairs,” Kerry said.

The committee also heard the testimony of three other State Department nominees, Suzan Johnson Cook to serve as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, William Brownfield to be assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, and Paige Alexander, the administration’s nominee to be USAID assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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