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Al Kamen on Overtuning of Brussels Backdoor Assignment

*A Diplomat's Plum Post, Plucked Away   *
*Friday, December 22, 2006; A31*
*The Washington Post*
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/21/AR2006122101510.html>
*By Al Kamen*

The career diplomats at the State Department are celebrating a decision
this week by the department's director general to overturn the
assignment of an aide to Undersecretary Karen Hughes to a top job
running the new Public Diplomacy Rapid Response office in Brussels.

The American Foreign Service Association two months ago protested the
selection of mid-level civil servant Diane Zeleny for the job, calling
it a "pre-cooked deal" done by manipulating the process and violating
personnel rules. AFSA filed a grievance asking foreign service director
general George Staples to "undo this assignment."

Staples did, though he gave Zeleny until next summer to leave Brussels.
Staples, in a joint announcement with AFSA chief J. Anthony Holmes, said
"we understand that she is doing an excellent job and is to be
commended" for her work. But foreign service officers may now begin
applying for the job, they said.

Foggy Bottom folks said the opening was never properly advertised so
senior officials looking for new postings would know about it. And then
it was announced at the last minute, so there was no way top officers,
who had already gotten new assignments, could apply for it.

The Zeleny appointment came at a time when career diplomats were
seething over jumps by several other lower-level officers with political
connections into top jobs that the career folks thought should have gone
to more senior officers.

It probably didn't help matters, in this case, that Zeleny, a talented
civil servant -- but not a foreign service officer -- who has some
experience overseas, is married to prominent neocon Reuel Marc Gerecht,
an Iraq war promoter and occasional Bush adviser.

In addition to Zeleny's removal, the joint cable by Holmes and Staples
announced, the "procedures" that led to her getting the assignment in
the first place were "not clear," and it outlined steps being taken to
"ensure that any future assignments of this nature will be guided by
negotiated, established procedures that are fair and transparent."

Some career folks said they were surprised to see that Staples, also a
career diplomat, moved with such dispatch to overturn a move made by the
political powers.
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