Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


Kerry To Stockholm, Despite Vacancies Galore

by Elliott Abrams
May 13, 2013


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.

Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    The largest vacancy in the Department of State exists between Kerry’s ears .

  • Posted by neville craig

    Are these ‘assistant’ jobs really essential? In the private sector with modern ‘flat’ organisations they have become very rare.
    This smacks of the usual insider lobbying for ‘jobs for the boys’.

    Any neocon should surely be promoting LESS big government.
    Reminds me of 2002 which saw their arguing for lower taxes at the same time as for an open-ended spend to take over Iraq….

    I have read that Republicans are currently arguing against the privatisation of the TVA. Surely self-interest above consistency

  • Posted by Peter

    Nice one, Dean!

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required