from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Kerry To Stockholm, Despite Vacancies Galore

May 13, 2013

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In a blog post here on April 15, I noted that Secretary of State Kerry was doing a great deal of traveling but was spending too little time tending to his own Department. His job now is not that of a senator; he must be a manager, and cannot succeed at that if there are vacancies in so many top jobs at State.

On April 17 Mr. Kerry testified on the Department’s FY 2014 budget and was asked about these vacancies. He acknowledged the problem but blamed the White House personnel office. This was the story in Foreign Policy:

The White House vetting process is to blame for all the senior-level vacancies around the State Department, but nominations for some of those positions should be coming soon, Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday.

Now it is nearly a month later and there has been no real progress. Critical jobs like Assistant Secretary for Europe, for Africa, for the Near East--and the list is quite long--sit vacant. Nor can Kerry blame the Senate for a slow confirmation process, for there are no nominees. His own web site proudly states that he has logged 41 travel days and now he is off to Stockholm.

Secretary Kerry will travel to Stockholm, Sweden, on May 14, where he will meet with Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt and Foreign Minister Bildt to discuss the Arctic Council, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and other issues of global importance. Secretary Kerry will then travel to Kiruna, Sweden, where he will attend the Arctic Council’s Ministerial Meeting on May 15.

Does this seem essential, compared with filling those vacant jobs? My (unsolicited) advice: stay home and go to the White House. See the National Security Advisor, the Chief of Staff, the Vice President, and the President, and tell them you cannot function without filling those vacant positions. A month ago Kerry said nominations would be coming "soon" but they have not come. It’s time for him to make this--not a discussion of Syria with the Swedes--his top priority.

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