The Cable

State Dept creates super office for “civilian security”

The State Department is continuing to roll out big changes to its bureaucracy,  inaugurating today a new "super office" to focus on protecting individuals by working outside of formal state-to-state channels, called the Office of Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

Similar to last month's rollout of the super office of economics, energy, and the environment, this new office combines new and existing bureaus at State to increase coordination and tackle these issues more efficiently. The changes were spelled out last year in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) and take effect today. The new structure will be described in State's brief shorthand as the "J" family.

The office's main mission is to improve the ways in which the U.S. government can promote the protection of individuals abroad and increase interactions with foreign civilian organizations.

"As we are seeing the increasing importance of using non-military tools to address transnational threats, it is very important for the State Department to develop its own capacity to address civilian security," said Maria Otero, the leader of the new office, in a Thursday interview with The Cable. Otero was previously the undersecretary of State for democracy and global affairs. In her new position, she will be charged with overseeing over 1,500 people all over the world.

"This piece focuses on protecting individuals. It focuses not just engaging state to state, but taking on the bold foreign policy statement that we need to engage also with players and actors outside of the traditional ones we've engaged in."

State will now be able to better coordinate its engagement with civil society, the private sector, and other non-governmental actors, she said. She referenced Egypt, where State works on security sector reform and human rights, as an example.  Now officials can coordinate to "be able to engage not only with the SCAF but also with the bloggers," Otero said.

Other regions where Otero is looking to focus the attention of her new super office are Burma, Central America, Africa's Great Lakes region, and North Africa. Otero has visited Central America, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Tunisia, and several other countries over the last year.

Otero said the changes will allow State to do more without an increase in financial resources, but will require a light increase in staffing.

She will now be in charge of 5 functional bureaus and three offices. They are the brand new Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), to be led by nominated Assistant Secretary Rick Barton; the brand new Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT), to be led by Amb. Daniel Benjamin; the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), which is led by Assistant Secretary Michael Posner; the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), led by Assistant Secretary William Brownfield; and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) led by acting Assistant Secretary David Robinson.

Otero already had jurisdiction over DRL and PRM, but is now taking over INL from the office of Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of political affairs. The SCO and CT bureaus were offices reporting directly to Clinton before.

The J family also now includes the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP), led by Ambassador Luis CdeBaca; the Office of Global Criminal Justice (CGJ), formerly the Office of War Crimes Issues (WCI), led by Ambassador-at-Large Stephen Rapp; and the Office of Global Youth Issues, led by future Rhodes scholar, Yale Law graduate, and country-music recording artist Ronan Farrow.

Some in State see the recent bureaucratic changes there as part of Clinton's plan to institutionalize her priorities by turning individual offices that reported directly to her into permanent structures that will remain after her departure, which is widely expected to occur next year. Otero said the changes were a response to the changing diplomatic landscape, which is increasingly influenced by non-state actors.

"This is the implementation of the vision the secretary had," she said. "She's done a strategic review, she's made changes, and now the form is following the substance."

The organizational chart for the new office can be found here.

Getty Images

The Cable

State Department to hold first ever Twitter briefing

The State Department will hold its first ever public briefing tomorrow using questions submitted on Twitter, an experiment in State's ever-evolving strategy that it has dubbed "21st Century Statecraft."

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland will stand at the press briefing podium tomorrow and give live video answers to questions sent in by Twitter users. The answers will then be made into video files and tweeted back to the users with translations in their native languages, Nuland said. Nuland will do this every Friday in January as an experiment.

The choice of languages reveals the priorities State sees in conducting its public diplomacy. Its outreach is directed toward Twitter users in the Arab world, China, Iran, the French-speaking world, the Portuguese-speaking world (namely Brazil), Russia, Spanish speakers, and those who speak Urdu (Pakistan). Twitter users who speak languages such as Japanese, Korean, or Turkish are out of luck for now.

The digital media team at State is sorting through the questions now and choosing 10 to 15 for Nuland to tackle.

"The guidance we've given them is to focus on the issues that are really trending around the world," a State Department official said.

The questions might be duplicative of questions asked by reporters at the daily briefings, so it's not clear how much news will come out of the event -- but that's ok, the official said.

"The members of the public who are responding on Twitter sometimes may not be paying close attention to the daily press briefings," the official said.

Questions can be submitted using the hashtag #AskState to any of these Twitter feeds:

Video clips of the questions Nuland answers will be subtitled in the language of the original submitted question and made available on the department's YouTube Channel.