Rob Lively retired after 28 years of military service, as the Command Sergeant Major of a Special Missions Unit within The United States Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Memorial Day, by definition, is a federal holiday designated on the last Monday in May to honor those ...

Imagine a general who says, “I’m the only one who matters here.” The response, as we used to say in junior high, might be, “You and what army?” Yet President Donald Trump can say “I’m the only one that matters,” when asked about unfilled State Department posts, and think he’s ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled the Trump administration will be leaning on India to offset China’s regional influence, hailing deeper defense cooperation with New Delhi in remarks Wednesday. “Our defense ties are growing,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International ...

Rex Tillerson could be the worst of the 69 secretaries of state in the history of the republic, but he did not deserve the drubbing he took Sunday from his boss. Moreover, Washington’s efforts to disarm North Korea were not served by the public humiliation of America’s chief diplomat over ...

At a time when U.S.-Russia relations are at an extreme low, Tuesday’s nomination hearing for the new U.S. Ambassador to Russia attracted less than a full house in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The nominee, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, told the Senators this is a “critical period” in U.S.-Russia ...

When a new U.S. president takes office the January after an election, his or her administration takes over not only the world’s strongest and most powerful military, but also a robust and complex foreign policy bureaucracy. From the moment of inauguration, the work done by the incoming president’s transition team ...

North Korea is testing its nuclear program seemingly at will. Afghanistan and Iraq struggle with enormous security threats years after the U.S. intervened to help them.  Russian aggression and Chinese expansionism challenge the West.  Terror and cyber attacks are on the rise.  The national security challenges facing the United States ...

A new presidential administration needs a team of political and career appointees to run the government, including the world’s most powerful military and a vast diplomatic and national security team. So far, President Donald Trump has nominated 347 individuals, but only 140 have been confirmed. At the same point in ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants to eliminate dozens of special envoy positions at the State Department. Some would be removed altogether, like the special envoy for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, reflecting President Donald Trump’s rejection of the Obama Administration’s failed attempt to shut the prison. ...

The United States is cutting back on issuing non-immigrant visas to Russians.  The U.S. Embassy in Moscow will temporarily stop issuing the visas next week, and consular offices will stop issuing them indefinitely, the State Department announced on Monday. After September 1, visa issuances would be performed "on a greatly ...

  Son Sen was the Khmer Rouge’s Heinrich Himmler, in charge of carrying out Cambodia’s own holocaust that killed up to two million in the 1970s. As U.S. representative at UN-led negotiations, I observed Son Sen closely over a year’s time across a negotiating table during deliberations of the Supreme ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says “neither the President or I are very happy” with a new Congressional bill sanctioning Russia, but he expects President Trump will sign it, even though it will make “our life more difficult.” In a surprise appearance at Tuesday’s State Department briefing, Tillerson discussed a ...

President Donald Trump has nominated Jon Huntsman for U.S. ambassador to Russia as his administration comes under ever-increasing scrutiny over its ties to Russia. If confirmed, Huntsman will face a difficult landscape trying to balance the president’s desire to improve relations with the Kremlin’s machinations in Ukraine, Syria, elections in ...

The main loss from the departure of Chris Painter, America’s top cyber diplomat, will not be the loss of one of the top U.S. civil servants in the field, with 26 years in government. Nor will the biggest hit be to U.S. airlines, whose business models have increasingly been depending ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was on Capitol Hill Tuesday, defending deep cuts to the proposed 2018 State Department budget and explaining how the department is handling expected job losses and slashes to foreign aid. Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations committee the Department’s proposed budget of $37.6 billion, a ...

Sudan, along with Iran and Syria, remains one of three countries listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department. However, after years of increased counterterrorism cooperation between the Sudanese and U.S. governments, it may be time to reconsider Sudan’s designation and the multitude of sanctions that ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel spoke with retired Ambassador Phil Carter, former Senior Advisor, Acting Assistant Secretary, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Africa Bureau, to discuss Sudan’s progress on counterterrorism and whether State should continue to list the country as a state sponsor of terror. The ...

As with comedy, timing is everything for the politics of being a state sponsor of terrorism. Political considerations, as much as supposed improvements in counterterrorism efforts, saw Cuba, North Korea, and Libya removed in recent years from the U.S. State Department list of state sponsors, while Sudan has remained. Sudan ...

In a wide-ranging address to State Department employees Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out his vision for the future of the department, the Trump’s Administration’s “America First” approach to foreign policy, and global issues touching nearly every continent. Tillerson’s speech, his second to department workers since being sworn ...

Even by the standards of the Trump Administration’s generally rocky start, the State Department has fared badly in media reporting and insider commentary. Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS program March 19, summed up the alleged litany of problems, from the huge budget cuts ...

The Trump Administration has proposed a 28 percent cut to State Department funding and other international programs in order to help pay for an increase of $54 billion to military spending next year. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with J. J. Messner, the Executive Director of the Fund for ...

The Trump Administration’s proposal to hike military expenditures at the expense of foreign assistance is being challenged by a group of former military leaders. “We believe in the premise that the nation needs hard power (planes, tanks, warships, well trained combat troops) and soft power (diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign aid, ...

The Trump Administration is considering whether to designate the Muslim Brotherhood – a movement that espouses a doctrine of political Islam and has millions of supporters across the Middle East – as a terrorist organization. But experts caution about the potential for unintended consequences, backlash, and legal challenges to such ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Michele Dunne, Director and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Middle East Center, to discuss the potential implications of the U.S. State Department designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. According to Dunne, such a move may actually backfire and ...

The Muslim Brotherhood preaches a violent, exclusivist ideology.  Its websites and social media accounts are chock-full of anti-Christian and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.  Its affiliated networks in Istanbul have threatened foreign nationals in Egypt.  Its leading figures and platforms have embraced violence and martyrdom explicitly. And its motto – which concludes with “jihad is our way, death for the sake of Allah ...

Four top State Department officials were reported Thursday to have resigned, and the head of the U.S. Border Patrol left his job. The Washington Post reported that those heading out the door at State include Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, Assistant Secretary for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary for ...

Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson on Wednesday sharply differed from President-elect Donald Trump on a number of key foreign policy issues, suggesting he’d take a much tougher line on Russia while at the same time declining to make any pledges regarding sanctions in response to Russian interference in the ...

Washington understandably is exercised over the controversy between the Trump transition team and the Intelligence Community (IC) concerning the apparent Russian government hacking of websites related to the Presidential election.  This controversy obviously has immediate implications for the Trump Administration's relations with Moscow, and longer term ones for the climate ...

Exxon Mobil Chief Rex Tillerson, like almost all post World War II Secretary of State nominees, if confirmed, will come to the job with extensive international experience and a global network of high level contacts. International business experience with its focus on underlying political and economic trends, as in Tillerson's ...

On the night of September 11, 2012, four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed in terrorist attacks at U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. These attacks highlighted the highly volatile environments in which U.S. diplomatic personnel sometimes operate, and led to a period of sustained scrutiny of the ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Kevin Hulbert, a former senior intelligence officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, to get his thoughts on embassy security three years after the Benghazi attacks. Kevin consults on a variety of international and security issues and served multiple overseas tours as CIA Chief of ...

The State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, which grew out of the Inman Report recommendations, was never meant to be a war zone security force.  But then again, diplomats were never meant to conduct business as usual in places that were still, in effect, war zones.  Simply put: Iraq was a ...

It was just after lunchtime on April 18, 1983, when a suicide bomber attacked the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.  63 people were killed and the shocking nature of the attack prompted the U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz to order an evaluation of the State Department’s security posture overseas.  ...