Mike Pompeo is about to move into the toughest job of his life. But he might be just the right guy for what ails Foggy Bottom.
From patrolling the Iron Curtain as an Army officer, to winning a seat in Congress as a businessman/outsider, to being head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during uncertain times, Pompeo has had a unique path to the nomination for the nation’s top diplomat.
For Pompeo, though it’s a career that now moves into its toughest and most public phase, there are four reasons he just might have what it takes to succeed at State:
- Pompeo has the confidence of the president.Every successful chief diplomat enjoys the confidence that Pompeo will begin with on day one. In public or private, President Trump is not known to have said a critical word about Mike Pompeo. That is not something that can be said about his predecessor.
Foreign capitals are acutely aware of this dynamic and if they believe it is more productive to speak to the defense secretary or the president’s son-in-law, for example, then they will do that. The problem from a diplomacy perspective when that occurs is all the career professionals and regional experts at the State Department are also marginalized, leaving significant talent and expertise on the sideline.
- Pompeo is a delegator.As a successful Army officer, businessman, congressman and CIA director, Pompeo had one constant: empower those beneath him to make decisions and then hold them accountable.
In a complete 180 degree turn from how CIA was run in the past, Pompeo directed that decisions be pushed down to the directorates. He made clear that only the things that mattered most to the organization and to the administration should bubble up to him, while holding subordinates to account.
That is a much more effective way to do business at the State Department, in my view, where employees are scattered all over the world in different countries and different time zones by people who have entirely divergent backgrounds, relationships and skill sets.
- Pompeo believes in diplomacy.I would expect Director Pompeo to reverse the process of dismantling and starving out the State Department, which at times seemed more about the exercise of doing it than achieving an objective. From his past experiences in the military and in Congress, Pompeo understands completely the value of diplomacy to further America’s national security interests.
I suspect he will work to refocus the State Department on the Trump administration’s priorities, while empowering it to have the resources, and authorities necessary to effectively promote those priorities. This should return the State Department to its rightful seat at the table of the national security policy-making process.
- Pompeo’s policies are in line with the administration’s.From big picture issues like North Korea, Iran, China, or Russia to economic issues like enforcing free trade and cracking down on the theft of intellectual property, Pompeo’s views are squarely in line with those of the commander-in-chief he serves. Pompeo is unlikely to get frustrated by the policy direction or the aggressive approach of the administration.
Clearly, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and I had it right when we suggested to then-Speaker John Boehner and his team to put a sophomore Congressman from Kansas on the House Intelligence Committee. We saw a national security star then that the world is about to get to know now.
Though a million things can go sideways for a chief diplomat even in a conventional administration, it’s clear that America will have a 70th United States secretary of State who is smart, tested and in a strong position to effectively advocate for the country he has served with honor for so many years.
This post was originally published by The Hill on March 13. The author, Andy Keiser, is a Meridian Global Leadership Council member and former deputy national security senior advisor to the Trump transition team and a senior advisor to the House Intelligence Committee. He is currently a principal at Navigators Global and a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. Follow him on Twitter @AndyKeiser.