Former State Department counselor Wendy Sherman, a long time confidant of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has emerged as the "leading candidate" to replace Bill Burns as the third-highest ranking official in Foggy Bottom, according to two State Department officials.
Sherman, currently the vice chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, was counselor to Secretary of State Madeline Albright, where she also held the role of North Korean policy coordinator. She served as assistant secretary of State for legislative affairs from 1993 to 1996 under Secretary of State Warren Christopher. She is also chair of the board of directors of Oxfam America and serves on the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Policy Board.
Sherman is a long time friend of Clinton's and was a major part of her nomination preparation and transition teams, one State Department official said. She served as an agency review lead for the State Department's transition after the 2008 election along with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. And, as an official with some experience dealing with East Asia she will help to fill the void being left by the departing Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, the current No. 2.
Steinberg is leaving to take over as dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. He will be replaced by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns. The short list for Burns' replacement included Sherman and former Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson, but President Barack Obama announced last week he intended to nominate Patterson as ambassador to Egypt.
We're told that the Sherman appointment is not a 100 percent done deal, but very close. If confirmed, she would be a political appointee taking over a job that is normally filled by a career foreign service officer. But Burns, a career foreign service officer, is taking over a job normally reserved for a political appointee, so the general balance of the leadership atop the State Department between politicos and diplomats would remain roughly the same.
Burns, who has been integral to the State Department's response to the Arab revolutions, had his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
"We have our share of problems, but it is a mistake to underestimate our enduring strengths and our capacity to do big and difficult things," Burns said in his hearing. "That capacity will be tested in the months and years ahead."