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January 26, 2009

Musical Chairs on State's Mahogany Row

It's called "Mahogany Row" -- the wood-paneled suite of offices on the State Department's 7th Floor that includes the office of new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her most senior aides.

We hear a bit of a real-estate battle is underway, not unlike the quadrennial turf battles that occur over offices in the White House's West Wing.

The quandry is this: Clinton will have two deputies, not one, as always been the case in the past. James Steinberg, the incoming deputy for policy, will take over the Deputy Secretary's office recently vacated by John Negroponte. No problem there. But what to do with Jacob Lew, the newly added deputy for management and budget issues?

Well, Lew, we are told, is taking over the suite of offices inhabitated by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns. Burns will move further down the corridor. (Burns' job has been traditionally seen as the third-ranking job in the department, and is known by the designation P. The Secretary of State is S, the deputy is D, and so on...)

Losing out in all this is the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, perhaps not by coincidence a job that has not yet been filled. State's chief image-maker (designated R in bureaucratic parlance) is moving across the building to a lovely, two-story high office once inhabited by George C. Marshall, our source says. It's really quite nice digs, if a bit farther away from the center of power.

That office had most recently been occupied by the director of U.S. foreign assistance, know as ... you guessed it .... F.


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Mike Schneider

The wood in "Mahogany Row" is prized American cherry - cut in extraordinarily wide panels. In my brief time at State I never heard it referred to as "Mahogany Row," but perhaps so. Isn't the putative move of R down the 7th floor to the 8th floor of Old State where the USAID Administrtor once sat - not across the hall? Even more distant from the center, but distance from the Secstate from the vantage of development folks might not be so bad, insofar as they consider our development programs long-term to be effective, not to become too much the tool of short-term policy needs.

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"Nukes & Spooks" is written by McClatchy correspondents Jonathan S. Landay (national security and intelligence), Warren P. Strobel (foreign affairs and the State Department), and Nancy Youssef (Pentagon).

jon, nancy & warren

Landay, Youssef and Strobel.

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