State Department Announces Reorganization Changes

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January 26, 2012

On Jan. 5, 2012 the Department of State held a briefing on the establishment of the Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.  It was held one day after State announced that the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism is being upgraded to become the Bureau of Counterterrorism. The realignment is designed to increase coordination and cooperation among the different offices at State. The changes were called for by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).

“As we are seeing the increasing importance of using non-military tools to address transnational threats, it is very important for the State Department to develop its own capacity to address civilian security,” said Maria Otero, the leader of the newly formed office. Otero, who had previously served as the undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global affairs, explained the reorganization will allow State to better focus on helping countries build and strengthen their own societies, “grounded in democratic principles, that guarantee respect for human rights, and that apply the rule of law.”

She will be in charge of five bureaus and three offices at State, informally called the “J Family” (J stands for “Just Societies”) including:
  • Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO); Established in November 2011 to focus on conflict prevention, crisis response, and stabilization activities. CSO will work with a range of non-governmental and international partners to prevent conflict, address sources of violence, build on existing resiliencies, and promote burden-sharing.  In particular, CSO will encourage greater involvement of local civil society to prevent and respond to conflict. CSO will be led by Frederick Barton, a former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees and the founding Director of the Office of Transition Initiatives at USAID.
  • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), which is led by Assistant Secretary Michael Posner, produces the annual country reports on human rights practices around the globe. Starting in 1977, these reports have become one of the most trusted and comprehensive sources of information for human rights advocates and officials.
  • Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) led by acting Assistant Secretary David Robinson. Established in 1980, PRM helps refugees around the world through assistance to international groups and NGOs or by admitting refugees to the U.S.
  • Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT), to be led by Amb. Daniel Benjamin
At the Jan. 4 briefing, Benjamin said the Bureau of Counterterrorism will work with other departments and agencies in supporting “U.S. counterterrorism diplomacy” and will "partner with governments and civil society” in efforts to counter violent extremism. "I want to underscore we all know that there is no way to shoot our way out of this problem conclusively and forever," Benjamin said, "and that’s why strengthening our engagement with others to support their civilian institutions so that they can actually hold that territory, police that territory, try people who want to carry out violent attacks either against people who live there or abroad, is an absolutely vital undertaking."
Designating Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) will remain one of the core activities of the bureau, but it will have some bearing on domestic security.  It will collaborate with "the Department of Homeland Security to work jointly to stop terrorist travel, to improve aviation security," for instance, but will focus more on "the bilateral kind of diplomacy that we do with others on a number of different issues, whether it has to do with how we reduce the space that terrorist groups have to fundraise, [or] to operate," Benjamin explained. It will also work with the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications to counter violent extremist narratives.
According to ABC News, the new bureau is not expected to receive a larger budget, but officials say it will help raise State’s counterterrorism profile both within the U.S. government and overseas.