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Who might Kerry bring with him to the State Department?

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaves her post next month, several top State Department officials are expected to leave with her. But her successor Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) already has a full team of foreign-policy professionals waiting in the wings to fill those slots in Foggy Bottom. "In a sense, John’s entire life has ...

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Getty Images
Getty Images

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaves her post next month, several top State Department officials are expected to leave with her. But her successor Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) already has a full team of foreign-policy professionals waiting in the wings to fill those slots in Foggy Bottom.

"In a sense, John’s entire life has prepared him for this role. As the son of a Foreign Service officer, he has a deep respect for the men and women of the State Department — the role they play in advancing our interests and values, the risks that they undertake and the sacrifices that they make along with their families," President Barack Obama said in nominating Kerry Friday.

Clinton has pledged to remain in the job until Kerry is confirmed, which Obama said he was confident would happen "quickly." The Senate is expected to take up Kerry’s nomination in early January, but multiple Republican senators have already said they won’t agree to a vote on Kerry’s nomination until Clinton testifies about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Illness and a concussion has prevented Clinton from appearing thus far.

When Clinton does depart, several longtime aides and officials she brought with her to Foggy Bottom are also expected to leave. They include Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, Deputy Chief of Staff and Policy Planning Director Jake Sullivan, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Strategic Communications Philippe Reines, and many more.

Several top State Department positions are vacant and awaiting the new secretary to be filled. They include the posts of Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (Marc Grossman resigned), State Department Counselor (Harold Koh resigned), and Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs (Beth Jones returned from retirement temporarily in an acting capacity).

Inside the State Department, rank and file employees are waiting with bated breath to learn who Kerry might appoint to fill these senior roles. Sources close to Kerry told The Cable that the nominee hasn’t yet begun formally arranging his new team, but he has a large team of experts and friends accumulated over the years from which to draw.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee majority staff would be a natural place for Kerry to start. That staff is led by Bill Danvers, who was brought in by Kerry himself and is widely expected to have a top role in a Kerry State Department.

Andrew Keller, chief counsel for the committee, is also a Kerry hire and could make the move to Foggy Bottom. Communications Director Jodi Seth will not go with Kerry to State, having already accepted a position with Facebook.

For the Asia position, Kerry has an able staffer in Michael Schiffer, who was brought on to the committee earlier this year after serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs. A former staffer for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Schiffer could fill the opening to be left by Campbell, unless the White House prefers to send over Danny Russel, the NSC’s top Asia official.

Shannon Smith is Kerry’s top staffer for Africa and Global Health and could also be on the list to move over to State. Smith was key in dealing with Sudan and South Sudan and is a highly trusted senior staffer. 

Fatema Sumar has been the committee’s top staffer for Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2009. Well regarded both on the Hill and in the administration, she is not senior enough to become SRAP, but could be a key part of Kerry’s Af-Pak team nonetheless. Perry Cammack is Kerry’s key Middle East staffer and could come along to Foggy Bottom even though he is a holdover from the Biden era at SFRC.

On issues of arms control and nuclear nonproliferation, two key SFRC staffers to watch are Anthony Wier and Greg Kausner. Wier has been with the committee since 2007. Kerry hired Kausner, a Navy aviator who traveled with Kerry when he worked at the Senate Navy Liaison office. Other committee staffers include Jason Bruder, who works on Europe, Ilan Goldenberg, who works on Israel and the Middle East, Andrew Imbrie, who works on foreign aid, Melanie Nakagawa, senior council on energy and the environment, and Tamara Klajn, who works on Africa issues.

There are also Kerry people spread out in the greater community, including former staff director Frank Lowenstein, currently at the Podesta Group, who could conceivably return to the fold when Kerry takes over at State.

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who withdrew herself from consideration to be secretary of state earlier this month, congratulated Kerry in a statement Friday.

"America is fortunate that Senator John Kerry will be our next Secretary of State, once confirmed by the Senate," she said. "For over four decades, Senator Kerry has served extremely ably and demonstrated selfless commitment to our country. From his heroic service in the U.S. Navy, his principled opposition to the Vietnam War, and his distinguished tenure in the U.S. Senate, to his wise chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Kerry has led tirelessly and effectively to advance U.S. interests and values around the globe. I have been honored to work with him in the past, and I look forward to working closely with him again on President Obama’s national security team."

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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