The Cable

Source: State Department Slow-Walking Syria Aid

Despite promises of assistance for the Syrian rebels, half of the non-lethal aid promised to them remains on U.S. shelves. And now, Washington is pointing fingers over who's to blame.

One U.S. official familiar with the aid delivery process says the bottleneck is at the State Department. Foggy Bottom has yet to send out congressional notifications on certain traunches of aid shipments involving vehicles, medical supplies, communications equipment and night vision goggles, according to the source.

"It's just shocking that we are so slow on even non-lethal support to people who have now been well vetted," the source told The Cable. "We can't even take the most basic of bureaucratic steps forward with non-lethal aid. How on earth can we even manage lethal aid?"

This week, a spokesman at State blamed delays in aid shipments on the congressional notification process, the need to vet the recipients of aid and the time it takes to ship items overseas.

The spokesman told FP's Gordon Lubold that $127 million of aid is making its way to Syria now and an additional $123 million is going through the congressional notification process. The other government source speaking with The Cable says Congress has been pinging the State Department for notifications for the last two weeks on a multi-million dollar traunch of non-lethal aid but those notifications have yet to materialize.

By law, the State Department is required to send notifications to Congress with details on the cost and quantity of the aid before shipping it out. The source says Congress is likely to green light the notifications immediately, but that first bureaucratic step of sending out the notification is required to get the wheels in motion.

Another State Department official speaking with The Cable says these criticisms of Foggy Bottom are misplaced. "We work closely with Congress to notify them, that is happening right now and have made every effort to expedite move aid to the ground." 

Meanwhile, rebels are in an increasingly vulnerable situation as regime-backed Hezbollah fighters advance on the rebel stronghold of Aleppo following a devastating victory over anti-government forces in Qusair. They could use some help, now.

The Cable

Jeff Prescott Replaces Julie Smith as Biden’s Deputy National Security Advisor

Vice President Joe Biden's national security staff, a training ground for future senior White House talent, is undergoing big changes this week.

The Cable has learned Jeff Prescott will replace Julie Smith as Biden's deputy national security advisor.

Prescott, special advisor for Asian Affairs at Office of the Vice President, joined the Biden team in 2010 as a White House fellow. Before that, he was deputy director of Yale's China Law Center. An Asia hand through and through, Prescott accompanied Biden on his 2011 trip to Japan, Mongolia and China and advised him on his visits with then-Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.

On Monday, some 100 to 150 of Smith's current and former colleagues including Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, recently appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan bid Smith farewell beside a "giant cake," one source says could've fed 300 people.

In recent years, working on Biden's national security team has become a career trampoline for a number of staffers. Most recently, Blinken succeeded Denis McDonough in the White House after McDonough moved to White House chief of staff. When Smith moved to Biden's team, she replaced Brian McKeon who ultimately became chief of staff of the National Security Staff.

"Biden jokes that he doesn't like losing his best people," Smith told The Cable, "but it's one team, one fight, so he sees it as a good thing."

Before joining Biden's team in April 2012, Smith served as principal director for the Europe and NATO policy at the Pentagon beginning in 2009. She told The Cable she's taking the summer off to spend with her 3-year-old son who's taking swimming lessons.

"There's some truth to the ‘women can't have it all thing,'" she said, referring to Ann-Marie Slaughter's buzz-generating cover story in The Atlantic. "It's time to re-introduce myself to my son. My husband has left work everyday to make sure our son wasn't with the nanny 20 hours a day and he's stayed home every night. I'm forever grateful for that so now I've got to take the bedtime routine."