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Clinton names coordinator for cyber issues

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks about internet freedoms at George Washington University on Tuesday., Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Tuesday that former National Security Council Director Christopher Painter will lead  the department’s cyber security efforts.

During a speech about Internet freedoms at George Washington University, Clinton said Painter will head the department’s Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues.

State’s 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review established a coordinator for cyber issues to  “lead State’s engagement on
cybersecurity and other cyber issues.”  

Painter’s duties will include protecting ”the confidentiality of communications between and among governments.”

Clinton said the office will enhance current cybersecurity efforts and promote cooperation across the department and governmentwide.  She added that the administration will “complete an international strategy for cyberspace”  in the coming year.  

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Clinton on private security

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Yesterday, Secretary Hillary Clinton held a town hall meeting with State Department employees. One human resources intern, Chris Dilworth, had a very pointed question for her: Will you ban private security contractors?

Clinton, after noting that private security contracts are a concern and the contract with the controversial Blackwater Worldwide will be terminated, had this to say:

I certainly am of the mind that we should, insofar as possible, diminish our reliance on private security contractors. Whether we can go all the way to banning, under current circumstances, seems unlikely, but we ought to be engaged in a very careful review of where they should and shouldn’t be used, and under what circumstances. And that’s what we’re doing right now.

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Hillary Clinton: Rock star?

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was greeted like a rock star today when she made her first appearance at the department’s D.C. headquarters.

Hillary Clinton greets employees at Foggy Bottom.

Hillary Clinton greets employees at Foggy Bottom.

Clinton arrived this morning to thunderous applause outside the C Street entrance and, once inside, waded through a camera-toting crowd numbering well into the hundreds, taking time to shake hands with employees eager to get their first look at the new boss.  The applause didn’t die down for more than three minutes, at which point the brief lull gave way to another round of hoots and hollars.

“We love you Madam Secretary!” one female employee shouted.

“Thank you,” a jovial Clinton replied.

Clinton said she was “thrilled beyond words” to become the 67th Secretary of State. She thanked employees for the warm reception and said she was looking forward to sharing with them a great adventure, but cautioned that the work before them would not be easy.

This is going to be a challenging time and it will require 21st century tools and solutions to meet our problems and seize our opportunities. I’m going to be asking a lot of you. I want you to think outside the proverbial box. I want you to give me the best advice you can. I want you to understand there is nothing that I welcome more than a good debate and the kind of dialogue that will make us better. 

Clinton spoke for about 10 minutes, then spent another six or so minutes shaking as many hands as she could.

The department’s skilled video team captured the entire event, presented for you below.

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Clinton confirmed, holding on Holder

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The Senate just voted to confirm Hillary Clinton as the secretary of state. The final vote was 94-to-2: Only Sens. David Vitter, R-La., and Jim DeMint, R-S.C., voted ‘nay.’

But the Senate Judiciary committee is postponing its vote on Eric Holder’s nomination as attorney general. The Republicans on the committee apparently asked for the delay. Holder has proved controversial because of decisions he made as a deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration.

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Senate confirms seven Cabinet nominees

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President Barack Obama’s Cabinet now has eight official members.

The Senate voted by voice vote just before 4 p.m. today to confirm the following seven nominees: Steven Chu for Energy, Arne Duncan for Education, Janet Napolitano for Homeland Security, Peter Orszag for director of the Office of Management and Budget, Ken Salazar for Interior, Eric Shinseki for Veterans Affairs and Tom Vilsak for Agriculture.

His Cabinet already included Robert Gates, whom Obama asked to stay on as Defense secretary.

But things aren’t moving so quickly for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s secretary of state nomination. After her smooth hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, many expected Clinton to be confirmed today.

Enter Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who had questioned donations made by foreign groups and individuals to the foundation run by Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton. He threatened a filibuster and said he was not convinced steps she outlined to prevent conflicts of interest between herself and potential donors were enough, and that was enough to stall Clinton’s vote for at least a day.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made it clear on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon he had little patience for Cornyn’s moves. He announced the scheduling of a three-hour executive session of the Senate Wednesday to discuss Clinton’s confirmation and scheduled a roll call vote at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

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Collecting our confirmation coverage

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We’re camped out on Capitol Hill all week covering the transition hearings — and we thought you’d like a central place to follow our confirmation coverage. We’ll update this list as the week goes on. The full list is after the jump, and it’s sorted alphabetically by agency.

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Senate committee approves Clinton nomination

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning approved Hillary Clinton’s nomination to be Secretary of State on a 16 to 1 vote. Clinton must now face a vote before the entire Senate, but she enjoys strong support among her former colleagues and her confirmation is expected.

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Senator: Management of State top priority for Clinton

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Clinton and Obama

Clinton and Obama

I just got off a conference call with Sen. Robert Casey, D-Penn., about his meeting today with Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton. Casey, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will consider Clinton’s nomination Jan. 13, said he is very pleased with the direction Clinton wants to take State and expects she’ll be easily confirmed.

Most of today’s meeting dealt with State’s management, budget and personnel issues, Casey said, which will be among Clinton’s primary concerns. And one of Clinton’s first actions at State will be to elevate management issues to the deputy secretary level.

Eight years ago, Congress created a deputy secretary for management and resources position at State, but it was never officially filled and the job got busted down to undersecretary for management. Casey is glad to see Clinton restore clout to the management position, and said her selection of former Office of Management and Budget director Jacob Lew is the right move to make sure State’s initiatives succeed. “You can have all the right policies and goals, but if you can’t manage and don’t have someone whose expertise is in the world of budgets and dollars, you won’t be successful,” Casey said.

Casey said Clinton is also concerned that the Foreign Service is understaffed and could hire more, though he said Clinton did not say how many she’d like to hire. Casey also said State should improve its training of Foreign Service officers to keep their skills sharp when they are between assignments.

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Tracking the transition: Homeland security picks

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Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving weekend! (Back to reality, now.)

A quick heads-up: The president-elect will hold his fourth news conference in a week at 10:40 this morning. He’ll announce his national security team, which is expected to include Sen. Hillary Clinton at State and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano at the Homeland Security Department.

Both have received strong praise from experts and colleagues — and their management styles are profiled in this week’s Federal Times.

We’ll have a full rundown of Obama’s national security picks after the press conference.

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Clinton nomination a Constitutional quandary

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An obscure provision in the U.S. Constitution poses a potential roadblock on Sen. Hillary Clinton’s path to becoming Secretary of State.

It turns out that the Constitution (specifically Article I, Section 6) prohibits a lawmaker from taking any goverment job for which the salary was raised during the lawmaker’s elected term. As the Washington Post and numerous bloggers have noted, this would effectively preclude Clinton from taking the State Department gig. Salaries for Cabinet secretaries have been increased twice since Clinton started her second term as the junior New York senator in January 2007: to $191,300 in January 2008 and to $196,700 this coming January.

But it turns out lawmakers already have devised a way around the sticky Constitutional quandary. They can pass a measure stipulating that Clinton will take the job at the salary that was in place when she began her current term: $186,600. There’s even a name for the workaround: “The Saxbe Fix,” so named after a similar situation in 1973 when President Nixon nominated Ohio Sen. William Saxbe to be his attorney general.

This solution likely would rub strict constitutionalists the wrong way, but look at the upside: By taking the job at a reduced salary, Clinton would be a step ahead of the game in helping her new boss fulfill a campaign pledge to cut government spending.

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