The Cable

Liz Sherwood-Randall promoted to new White House position

The National Security Staff's Senior Director for Europe Liz Sherwood-Randall will take up a newly created senior White House post next month, called the White House coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction, and arms control, The Cable has learned.

Randall will take over all the main responsibilities of the White House's former "WMD Czar" Gary Samore, who left government late last year for a position at Harvard University. But the newly created job will add defense policy to Samore's former portfolio in a move that White House officials say is meant to recognize and better coordinate the relationship between these various issues. The job is also meant to help galvanize a renewed second-term administration push to implement the Prague agenda on nuclear weapons reductions that President Barack Obama announced in 2009.

"As one of the president's closest advisors for the past four years, Liz's leadership and advice have been instrumental as we have successfully strengthened our alliances and partnerships across Europe, helped to revitalize NATO, and worked with Europe to advance the president's global agenda," National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said in a statement to be released Tuesday, obtained in advance by The Cable. "Liz brings deep expertise and a track record of accomplishment in defense issues and in proliferation prevention. The president will look to her to bring significant energy and capability to his second term as we pursue the ambitious goals he set forth in his Prague speech in 2009 and prepare our military to defend the American people and our allies against the threats we face today and in the future."

Sherwood-Randall will become one of only three senior "coordinators" inside the NSS. Former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Phil Gordon began March 11 as the White House coordinator for Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf region. Michael Daniel is the White House cybersecurity coordinator.

In this new position, Sherwood-Randall will work closely with acting senior director for defense policy and strategy Lt. Col. Ron Clark (USMC), senior director for WMD terrorism and threat reduction Laura Holgate, and senior director for arms control and nonproliferation Lynn Rusten. The White House is now working on finding a replacement for Sherwood-Randall as senior director for Europe. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland is expected to be nominated to replace Gordon at State.

Sherwood-Randall worked at the Pentagon during the first term of the Clinton administration as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia and also served as chief foreign affairs and defense policy advisor to then Sen. Joseph Biden. Former Defense Secretary Bill Perry, Sherwood-Randall's mentor, praised the White House's decision to promote her in an interview with The Cable.

"Liz has a unique background and experience in all of those fields. I can't think of anybody else who has the same background," Perry said, noting that Sherwood-Randall is a Russian speaker and was a key staffer to him when he worked to remove nuclear weapons from the former Soviet states of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.

Sherwood-Randall and Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter were Perry's two key aides during that effort, Perry said. In fact, when Perry met with Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev to take a photo commemorating the departure of the last nuclear weapon from Ukraine, Grachev insisted Sherwood-Randall be in the picture.

"Wait a minute, bring Liz in here. She's the one who made this happen," Grachev said, according to Perry.

Perry said combining defense policy with arms control and WMD issues makes sense, as long as you have someone who has expertise in all of those areas.

"There's a lot of synergism. The problem is that you usually can't find someone with background in all those areas. If you have someone who has all of the background in those three areas, then it's a good idea to combine them," he said.

NSS Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told The Cable that the new position is meant to add senior level attention to the mission of aligning nuclear policy with defense strategy across the government.

"In the first term, the President laid out an ambitious nonproliferation and nuclear agenda in Prague, and last year he issued Defense Strategic Guidance that aims to ensure our military is postured appropriately around the world and has the capabilities to address the challenges we face in the future," she said. "Appointing Liz to this position will bring serious energy and experience to these two interconnected strategic priorities in the second term. She'll be able to rely on the relationships she's forged in the interagency and in Europe over the past few years, and on her relationship with the president."

Sherwood-Randall begins her new job April 8.

President Barack Obama talks with Liz Sherwood-Randall, NSC senior director for European Affairs, in the Oval Office, Feb. 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Cable

Kerry presses Singapore on death of American

Secretary of State John Kerry urged his Singaporean counterpart this week to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement agencies on the investigation into the suspicious death of American Shane Todd.

Todd was found hanging in the bathroom of his Singapore apartment last June, just days before he was planning to return to the United States. He had been working with the Institute of Microelectronics (IME), a research institution linked to the Singaporean government. Todd's parents, who believe he was murdered, retrieved a hard drive from his apartment they say shows Todd was worried Singapore was planning to share his highly sensitive research with Huawei, a firm many have alleged is closely tied to the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

The initial Singapore police autopsy report said that Todd's death was a suicide, according to a report in the Financial Times¸ but the Todd family said the autopsy report conflicted with what they found in Todd's apartment. Todd's parents also found an external hard drive that contained all of his research, including a plan for IME and Huawei to co-develop an amplifier device powered by gallium nitride (GaN), a durable semiconductor material that could also be applied to radar and satellite communications.

The Singapore police rejected the FBI's offers of assistance in the investigation for months, prompting the extensive intervention of Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). On Wednesday, Kerry raised the matter with Singaporean Foreign Minister K Shanmugam in their bilateral meeting, a State Department spokesman told The Cable.

"They discussed the case of Shane Todd's death in Singapore during their meeting," Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. "Secretary Kerry noted that the FBI and U.S. Embassy in Singapore continue their discussions with Singaporean authorities, and encouraged close cooperation going forward in the investigation."

State Department officials met with Todd's family in Washington on March 1, and Kerry met with Baucus on March 7 to discuss the case. The two men worked closely together in the Senate for many years.

"The senator asked the secretary to look into the Todd case, and the secretary agreed and is doing that, as discussed," Ventrell said.

Baucus also met with Shanmugan Wednesday and pledged to do "whatever it takes" to get to the bottom of what happened to Todd.

"Today's meeting is about getting answers -- getting complete answers. So far we've been unable to get the answers we need to know what happened to Shane Todd, and we are unable to know the degree to which there might be some breach of national security," Baucus said before the meeting.

Baucus has also met with the Todd family, as well as FBI Director Robert Mueller, the Singaporean ambassador to the United States, and White House officials on the matter. On Thursday, Baucus and Sen. John Tester (D-MT) introduced a bill that would withhold a $500,000 DOD grant to IME until the FBI gets full access to the investigation file.

The Todd family wants the FBI to take the lead on the death investigation. After his meetings, Shanmugam extended an offer to have the FBI be involved and review all the evidence, but not take over the probe.

"The institute involved, the research institute, is subject to a very rigorous audit, and we are very happy for a U.S. team to come down and look at the project, and it will be very clear that there was no transfer of technology," he said.

Baucus said that was a step in the right direction, but not enough. "Singapore's promise to share all evidence with the FBI is a significant step forward and I appreciate the minister's time and attention to Shane's case, now we have to keep the pressure on to ensure that commitment is fulfilled -- the proof is in the pudding," he said.

Huawei's spokesperson in Washington, Francis Hopkins, provided an official statement to The Cable denying that Huawei was ever involved in Todd's project in IME, though acknowledging that cooperation was discussed.

"IME approached Huawei on one occasion to cooperate with them in the GaN field, but we decided not to accept, and consequently do not have any cooperation with IME related to GaN," the statement said. "Huawei's global R&D and sales relate only to telecommunications solutions for civil and commercial use. Huawei does not do military equipment or technology nor do we discuss it with partners."