April 16, 2021
FILE – U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his Inauguration speech after being sworn in as the 46th US President at the US Capitol in Washington. PHOTO: AFP
By Laura Kelly | The Hill News
WASHINGTON – President Biden on Thursday announced more than a dozen nominations for senior State Department positions and his first slate of foreign ambassador, elevating a significant number of Foreign Service Officers to top level jobs.
The nominations signal an effort by the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to rebuild trust with the State Department’s staff by promoting career officials and experts in their foreign policy fields who were often sidelined during the former Trump administration.
The announcement is for seven senior State Department positions and nine ambassador posts in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. A majority of the nominees are career Foreign Service Officers with extensive experience in their designated regions.
The nominees also feature a significant number of women and people of color, also part of the Biden administration’s push to increase diversity among senior staff and diplomats.
This includes Karen Erika Donfried, the president of the German Marshall Fund, a premier transatlantic policy think tank, to be assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. Donfried also served as president and senior director for European affairs at the National Security Council during the Obama administration.
The president has also nominated Barbara Leaf for assistant secretary of State for near eastern affairs. Leaf is currently the special assistant to the president and senior director for Middle East and North Africa affairs on the National Security Council.
Mary Catherine Phee is nominated to be assistant secretary of State for African affairs and member of the board of directors of the African Development Foundation. Phee is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who currently serves as the principal deputy special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation. She served as U.S. ambassador to South Sudan between 2015 and 2017.
Other nominees include Michele Jeanne Sison for assistant secretary of State for international organization affairs; Anne A. Witkowsky for assistant secretary of State for conflict and stabilization operations and coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization; Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat for director general of the Foreign Service and chair of the board of the Foreign Service; and Gentry O. Smith for assistant secretary of State for diplomatic security.
For ambassadors, the president has nominated:
- Larry Edward André, Jr. — to the Federal Republic of Somalia
- Elizabeth Moore Aubin — to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
- Steven C. Bondy — to the Kingdom of Bahrain
- Maria E. Brewer — to the Kingdom of Lesotho
- Marc Evans Knapper — to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
- Christopher John Lamora — to the Republic of Cameroon
- Tulinabo S. Mushingi — to the Republic of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome & Principe
- Michael Raynor — to the Republic of Senegal, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as ambassador to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau
- Eugene S. Young — to the Republic of the Congo