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Liz Sherwood-Randall promoted to new White House position

The National Security Staff’s Senior Director for Europe Liz Sherwood-Randall will take up a newly created senior White House post next month, called the White House coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction, and arms control, The Cable has learned. Randall will take over all the main responsibilities of the White House’s former ...

President Barack Obama talks with Liz Sherwood-Randall, NSC senior director for European Affairs, in the Oval Office, Feb. 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama talks with Liz Sherwood-Randall, NSC senior director for European Affairs, in the Oval Office, Feb. 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama talks with Liz Sherwood-Randall, NSC senior director for European Affairs, in the Oval Office, Feb. 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The National Security Staff's Senior Director for Europe Liz Sherwood-Randall will take up a newly created senior White House post next month, called the White House coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction, and arms control, The Cable has learned.

Randall will take over all the main responsibilities of the White House's former "WMD Czar" Gary Samore, who left government late last year for a position at Harvard University. But the newly created job will add defense policy to Samore's former portfolio in a move that White House officials say is meant to recognize and better coordinate the relationship between these various issues. The job is also meant to help galvanize a renewed second-term administration push to implement the Prague agenda on nuclear weapons reductions that President Barack Obama announced in 2009.

The National Security Staff’s Senior Director for Europe Liz Sherwood-Randall will take up a newly created senior White House post next month, called the White House coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction, and arms control, The Cable has learned.

Randall will take over all the main responsibilities of the White House’s former "WMD Czar" Gary Samore, who left government late last year for a position at Harvard University. But the newly created job will add defense policy to Samore’s former portfolio in a move that White House officials say is meant to recognize and better coordinate the relationship between these various issues. The job is also meant to help galvanize a renewed second-term administration push to implement the Prague agenda on nuclear weapons reductions that President Barack Obama announced in 2009.

"As one of the president’s closest advisors for the past four years, Liz’s leadership and advice have been instrumental as we have successfully strengthened our alliances and partnerships across Europe, helped to revitalize NATO, and worked with Europe to advance the president’s global agenda," National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said in a statement to be released Tuesday, obtained in advance by The Cable. "Liz brings deep expertise and a track record of accomplishment in defense issues and in proliferation prevention. The president will look to her to bring significant energy and capability to his second term as we pursue the ambitious goals he set forth in his Prague speech in 2009 and prepare our military to defend the American people and our allies against the threats we face today and in the future."

Sherwood-Randall will become one of only three senior "coordinators" inside the NSS. Former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Phil Gordon began March 11 as the White House coordinator for Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf region. Michael Daniel is the White House cybersecurity coordinator.

In this new position, Sherwood-Randall will work closely with acting senior director for defense policy and strategy Lt. Col. Ron Clark (USMC), senior director for WMD terrorism and threat reduction Laura Holgate, and senior director for arms control and nonproliferation Lynn Rusten. The White House is now working on finding a replacement for Sherwood-Randall as senior director for Europe. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland is expected to be nominated to replace Gordon at State.

Sherwood-Randall worked at the Pentagon during the first term of the Clinton administration as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia and also served as chief foreign affairs and defense policy advisor to then Sen. Joseph Biden. Former Defense Secretary Bill Perry, Sherwood-Randall’s mentor, praised the White House’s decision to promote her in an interview with The Cable.

"Liz has a unique background and experience in all of those fields. I can’t think of anybody else who has the same background," Perry said, noting that Sherwood-Randall is a Russian speaker and was a key staffer to him when he worked to remove nuclear weapons from the former Soviet states of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.

Sherwood-Randall and Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter were Perry’s two key aides during that effort, Perry said. In fact, when Perry met with Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev to take a photo commemorating the departure of the last nuclear weapon from Ukraine, Grachev insisted Sherwood-Randall be in the picture.

"Wait a minute, bring Liz in here. She’s the one who made this happen," Grachev said, according to Perry.

Perry said combining defense policy with arms control and WMD issues makes sense, as long as you have someone who has expertise in all of those areas.

"There’s a lot of synergism. The problem is that you usually can’t find someone with background in all those areas. If you have someone who has all of the background in those three areas, then it’s a good idea to combine them," he said.

NSS Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told The Cable that the new position is meant to add senior level attention to the mission of aligning nuclear policy with defense strategy across the government.

"In the first term, the President laid out an ambitious nonproliferation and nuclear agenda in Prague, and last year he issued Defense Strategic Guidance that aims to ensure our military is postured appropriately around the world and has the capabilities to address the challenges we face in the future," she said. "Appointing Liz to this position will bring serious energy and experience to these two interconnected strategic priorities in the second term. She’ll be able to rely on the relationships she’s forged in the interagency and in Europe over the past few years, and on her relationship with the president."

Sherwood-Randall begins her new job April 8.

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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