Names: Countryman confirmed to lead State’s ISN bureau
The Senate confirmed Tom Countryman as assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation (ISN) on Monday evening, officially ending a two-year vacancy that had been filled by acting assistant secretary Vann Van Diepen. Countryman, a career diplomat with tours in Yugoslavia and Egypt, was previously principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of ...
The Senate confirmed Tom Countryman as assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation (ISN) on Monday evening, officially ending a two-year vacancy that had been filled by acting assistant secretary Vann Van Diepen.
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 late last year, at the personal request of former 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.S Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright on Middle Eastern affairs, and then served as the National Security Council’s director for Near East and South Asian affairs.
The ISN bureau covers aspects of nuclear energy, conventional counterproliferation, nonproliferation, and export control issues. It falls under the "T" office, run by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, who is back at work full time and doing great after undergoing cancer surgery late last year.
Van Diepen has been in charge of ISN for over two years, but 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.
"The big question is why did it take so long to find a permanent leader [for ISN]," one State Department source told The Cable, explaining that Countryman represents steady leadership for a bureau that had suffered somewhat from the uncertainty of not having someone at the helm for a long time.
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.
Nothing is set in stone, but the expectation is that Van Diepen will return to his position as a deputy assistant secretary, a slot that was being filled temporarily by Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Ann Ganzer. Van Diepen will join the two other deputy assistant secretaries in ISN, Elliot Kang and former Tauscher chief of staff Simon Limage.
The Senate also confirmed Monday John A. Heffern to be ambassador to Armenia. No word yet on the nominations of Robert Ford for Syria, Frank Ricciardone for Turkey, or Norm Eisen for the Czech Republic, all of whom are serving under recess appointments that expire at the end of this year.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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