Names: Countryman for ISN Assistant Secretary
Tom Countryman, currently a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs has been selected to fill the vacant post of assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN), multiple administration sources confirmed to The Cable. Countryman’s pending nomination, which is still going through the final stages ...
Tom Countryman, currently a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs has been selected to fill the vacant post of assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN), multiple administration sources confirmed to The Cable.
Countryman’s pending nomination, which is still going through the final stages of State Department and White House approval, fills a void in the office of arms control and international security (T), led by Undersecretary Ellen Tauscher. The vacancy at the top of the ISN bureau has hampered Tauscher’s plan to reorganize the T family, the State Department’s arms control bureaucracy. Even Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) has noted that this will be more difficult without an assistant secretary at the helm.
“The ISN bureau has been languishing for the last two years,” said one State Department source. “Getting a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary in place will go a long ways toward restoring morale and elevating this bureau’s profile within the Department.”
Inside the State Department, Countryman is seen as an able manager who knows how to navigate the bureaucracy and get things done. He’s not a nonproliferation specialist by any means, but insiders believe his stature and skill can compensate for his lack of subject matter expertise. ISN also got a new deputy assistant secretary last month, Tauscher’s former chief of staff Simon Limage.
Acting Assistant Secretary Vann Van Diepen has been in charge of ISN, but Van Diepen was never nominated to take on the position permanently. He was deemed un-confirmable due to lingering GOP complaints regarding his role in crafting a controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program.
Van Diepen was one of three principal authors of the report, which concluded, “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”
In a little-noticed congressional hearing in late March, Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) pressed Van Diepen on the issue. Van Diepen defended the NIE, saying, “by ‘nuclear weapons program’ we mean Iran’s nuclear weapon design and weaponization work…. We do not mean Iran’s…uranium conversion and enrichment.”
Countryman, a career diplomat with tours in Yugoslavia and Egypt, was previously principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Political and Military Affairs but moved over to the European bureau at the personal request of Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg to give added attention to the Balkans. During the Clinton administration, he worked in the State Department’s counterterrorism office, advised U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright on Middle Eastern affairs, and then moved to the position of director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council.
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 email@example.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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