The Cable has confirmed that career Foreign Service officer Victoria "Toria" Nuland will soon be named as the State Department's top spokesperson, the latest in a string of promotions for senior career officers in Foggy Bottom.
Nuland's job will somewhat different than her predecessor P.J. Crowley, who resigned after making off-message comments criticizing the Defense Department's treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning. Unlike Crowley, Nuland will not be dual-hatted as assistant secretary of State for Public Affairs. Former National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer will be officially named to that job soon, a State Department official confirmed.
Hammer is also a career Foreign Service officer who was temporarily assigned to the NSC. He returned to State with another Foreign Service officer who spent time at the White House, Ben Chang. The arrangement will be a new one, where Nuland will conduct the daily briefings and be the point person on dealing with the press, while Hammer will manage the public affairs bureaucracy behind the scenes. We're told that space is being cleared out in the front office on the 6th floor of State Department headquarters that Nuland will soon call home.
"The FSO's run State," one State Department official said, noting the trend of giving career officers high-profile posts.
Nuland has had a long career in the Foreign Service, working for both Democratic and Republican administrations. She is now the special envoy for Conventional Armed Forces in Europe; during the George W. Bush administration, she was the U.S. ambassador to NATO, and before that the principal deputy foreign policy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney.
During the first term of Bill Clinton's administration, she was chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and then moved on to serve as deputy director for former Soviet Union affairs.
In an interview, Talbott, now president of the Brookings Institution, praised Nuland as a consummate professional who proved that Foreign Service officers could be trusted to put professionalism over politics.
"Her appointment demonstrates that Secretary Clinton has, quite rightly, an extremely high estimation of the value and confidence in the Foreign Service," Talbott said, "The more use that's made of the foreign policy civil service and the Foreign Service, the better."
He noted Nuland's public role as the U.S. envoy to NATO as evidence she can handle the spotlight and highlighted her roles across several administrations as evidence of her apolitical nature.
"She has a high degree of self confidence and an absolute dedication to working for the administration she is working for, whatever administration that is," Talbot said.
Several State Department officials noted that career civil servants and career Foreign Service officers are on the rise at State. The clearest example is the promotion of Bill Burns to the position of deputy secretary, making him the first career officer to fill that post since Walter Stoessel in 1982.
Burns's replacement for the post of undersecretary of State for Political Affairs is also expected to be a career Foreign Service officer. The smart money is on recently departed Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson, although our sources insist that two others are still under consideration -- former State Department counselor Wendy Sherman and Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens.
Nuland is married to Washington Post columnist Bob Kagan and is the daughter of Yale professor Sherwin B. Nuland. The announcement of her new role is expected this week.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.