The Cable

Nides: The federal government must treat new parents better

Something unique has been going on in the office of Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides: nearly a dozen of his staffers have had babies over the last two years. Nides' unique policies for new parents in his office may have had something to do with it.

Nides, who began his last week at the State Department Monday, sat down with several of his employees' young children (pictured above) for an exclusive interview with The Cable. Coming from the private sector, Nides said he couldn't believe how little flexibility and accommodation the federal government gave to new parents when he came into government, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

"There's so much excitement working for the deputy secretary, it translates into children," Nides joked. "Seriously though, the government does not have a great family leave policy, which is outrageous in my view. In the corporate world, you get three months of paid maternity leave. In the government, you get nothing."

Federal employees can take their own accumulated sick leave and vacation days to spend some time with their newborns, and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 says that new parents working for the government can take 12 weeks of leave, but all unpaid.

"I understand the rules, but for us to be behind where corporate America is in giving people the time to spend those first couple of months with their kids and have to worry about how they are going to pay their bills. In my personal view, I think it's ridiculous and we should try to figure it out," he said.

The State Department did rank 3rd in the 2012 list of best places to work in the federal government and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was widely admired inside the department for proactively addressing the issue of work-life balance during her tenure.

But the maternity leave rules across the government are still substandard, so Nides created his own family leave policy in his office, which included allowing staffers to create a bank of leave and share it with their colleagues. He also urged new parents not to rush back to work and made sure to give them schedules upon their return that eased their transition.

"My view was, I've got two kids and a working wife, and I really feel like these guys have got to have a break to do the work. I was very liberal," he said. "It's hard enough to balance making money, having a career, and trying to be a decent parent. It's hard as shit, quite frankly."

Since Nides took over as deputy secretary for resources and management from Jack Lew in January 2011, he has taken on an extensive list of issues. In addition to being the lead State Department official in charge of the budget, economic statecraft, and tourism, he also played a key role dealing with the frontline states of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, traveling to those countries 10 times.

Nides has also been the lead official in charge of "rightsizing" the mammoth U.S. Embassy in Iraq, which had swelled to over 16,000 personnel since 2003 and is now slowly tapering down in numbers. He led the administration's negotiations with Pakistan last year to reopen the NATO supply lines to Afghanistan, which had been shut down since U.S. pilots accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the border in November 2011. Nides is also currently the lead official implementing the recommendations of the Accountability Review Board that looked into the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

For now, all of those responsibilities will go to the other deputy secretary of state, Bill Burns, Nides said, while the search for his replacement continues. If Nides has any idea of who that might be, he isn't saying.

After this week, Nides will return to the private sector, probably returning to Wall Street, he said. Asked if he had any advice for his successor, he said the trick was to exert leadership as a political appointee while bringing along the professionals.

"You can push, but you need to embrace," he said. "There's a huge amount of talent in this institution. If you embrace it and you work with it, you can accomplish a lot. If you come in with the attitude that you know better than everybody else, you will fail."

He was thrilled to be part of the State Department for the last two years.

"You could never have an experience like this," Nides added. "Plus I like the people here."

Department of State

The Cable

Campbell and Flournoy to join CNAS board

Kurt Campbell, one of the key architects of the Obama administration's Asia "pivot," has left the State Department and is set to be the next chairman of the board at the Center for a New American Security, the think tank he helped found in 2008, multiple sources told The Cable.

Campbell will be joined on the CNAS board by Michèle Flournoy, the former undersecretary of defense for policy, who was the founding president of CNAS when Campbell was the founding CEO. Campbell's last day at State was last Friday. Flournoy attended his goodbye party in the State Department's diplomatic reception room, where a hot topic of discussion was who will replace Campbell as the State Department's top Asia official.

The smart money is on National Security Staff Senior Director for Asia Danny Russel, whom the White House is said to favor, according to administration sources. Kerry is said to prefer someone with more name recognition in the region, such as Harvard Professor Joe Nye, these sources said (Nye told FP, "I haven't heard anything from him."). Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and Pacific Affairs Mark Lippert, a longtime friend of President Barack Obama, is also a real possibility for the job and is said to want to move over to State.

The issue is now a matter of negotiation between the White House and Secretary of State John Kerry's team, and it is wrapped up in the negotiations over several other top State Department positions that are currently in flux. Interviews for the job have not yet been completed, we're told, and therefore it could be some time before a decision is made.

Several other names are being discussed for Campbell's job. Here are some identified by Chris Nelson in the Friday edition of the Nelson Report, an insider's newsletter on Asia policy:

"We were told authoritatively yesterday that Kerry is looking at former Amb. to S. Korea Kathy Stephens, and UCSD prof. Susan Shirk, a China DAS under then-Sec. Albright during Clinton 2. And/but...similarly placed sources feel that Kerry's list includes Brookings' Richard Bush, former AIT president and NIO for Asia at the CIA, former DOD DAS, now Senate Foreign Relations staffer Michael Schiffer, and the staffer Michael replaced, Frank Januzzi, now running Amnesty International's DC office."

We've also heard that U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim is under consideration. Kim served as the State Department's special envoy to the six party talks on North Korea's nuclear program before he became America's envoy to Seoul.

In the meantime, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joe Yun will take over as acting assistant secretary until a replacement for Campbell is named. 

In addition to chairing the board at CNAS, Campbell is embarking on several additional projects. He is negotiating the details of a new book, tentatively entitled, The Pivot, which is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Asia "rebalancing" policy he helped shape and implement over the last four years. The administration doesn't like the term "pivot" because it implies a turn away from the Middle East and Europe.

Campbell has also started a new consulting firm called The Asia Group, and has brought along his former deputy assistant secretary Nirav Patel to be the firm's chief operating officer. The firm will have offices in Washington and Singapore and will focus both on bringing U.S. businesses into Asian markets and bringing Asian businesses to the United States. 

"A key focus area of the first four years of this administration has been the rebalance towards Asia and a key piece of all of that has been helping American businesses enter new markets and we want to be part of that," Patel told The Cable. "Also, Asian businesses are seeking to invest in the U.S. and that's the part of the story that hasn't been effectively told."

Patel has been replaced in his DAS position by Michael Fuchs, who formerly worked for Jake Sullivan in the Policy Planning shop at State. 

Meanwhile, David Wade has been selected as Kerry's chief of staff and Bill Danvers is now deputy chief of staff, according to Mike Allen's Playbook. Wade was Kerry's chief of staff in his personal office and Danvers was Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff director. Heather Higginbottom, deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, will be State Department counselor, Allen reported.

"John Kerry's trek from failed 2004 presidential contender to secretary of state wasn't made alone. He was accompanied, supported, and guided every step of the way by his past and current chief of staff, David Wade. Wade was originally hired by Kerry as a speechwriter. Now he is overseeing all policy development, speechmaking, travel, and personnel for the nation's chief diplomat, with the singular State Department acronym of ‘COS,'" Allen reported. "Wade also brings foreign policy chops to his new role by dint of Kerry's tenure as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose work Wade also supervised. Quite simply, he is the secretary's closest confidante."