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The White House

President Obama Announces Intent to Nominate Key Administration Posts, 6-4-09


Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             June 4, 2009

President Obama Announces Intent to Nominate Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals for key administration posts: Carlos Pascual, Ambassador to Mexico; David Jacobson, Ambassador to Canada; Brigadier General James B. Smith, Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Donald Gips, Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa; Patricia N. Moller, Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea; Nicole A. Avant, Ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas; Kenneth H. Merten, Ambassador to the Republic of Haiti; and Anne E. Derse, Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania.

President Obama said, "I am grateful that these individuals will help represent our nation abroad during this important time for our country and the world. They bring a depth of experience and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come."

President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals today:

Carlos Pascual, Nominee for Ambassador to Mexico
Mr. Carlos Pascual is vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC where he has overseen applied research programs on Latin America, China, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.  Mr. Pascual directed a major global initiative on transnational threats, developing proposals to build a new alignment of global powers that would increase responsibility and accountability for emerging economies in international security and multilateral bodies.  Before joining Brookings, he was a career Foreign Service Officer, serving in government for 23 years.  Mr. Pascual served as the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the US Department of State. Prior to that, he was the Coordinator for US Assistance to Europe and Eurasia.  Mr. Pascual served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from October 2000 until August 2003. He formerly served as a special assistant to President Clinton and National Security Council senior director for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia.  Mr. Pascual was Deputy Assistant Administrator in USAID for Europe and Eurasia, guiding the development of programs in Central Europe and the former Soviet Union.  He served with USAID in Sudan, South Africa and Mozambique.   He received an M.P.P. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a B.A. from Stanford University.

David Jacobson, Nominee for Ambassador to Canada
Mr. Jacobson is currently serving as Special Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel. Prior to serving in the White House, Mr. Jacobson spent 30 years gaining expertise in the areas of complex commercial, class action, securities, insurance and business litigation as a partner at the law firm Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal LLP. While working as a partner at Sonnenschien, Mr. Jacobson also founded AtomWorks, an organization to bring together corporate, civic and academic leaders in order to foster nanotechnology in the Midwest. He also served as a member of CEOs for Cities, a national bipartisan alliance of 75 mayors, corporate executives, university presidents and nonprofit leaders organized to advance the economic competitiveness of cities. Mr. Jacobson received a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and was the Administrative Editor of the Georgetown Law Journal. He received his B.A. from Johns Hopkins University.

Brigadier General James B. Smith, Nominee for Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Brigadier General Smith (USAF, Ret.) is International Business Development Executive, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems.  Previous assignments at Raytheon include Vice President of Government Business in Wichita, Kansas, and Vice President of Precision Engagement in Tucson, Arizona.  Prior to joining Raytheon, he was director of Navy C2 programs for Lockheed Martin Mission Systems.  Gen. Smith served as deputy commander at the Joint Warfighting Center of the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Suffolk, Virginia, where he was responsible for managing the joint force exercise and training development program. General Smith’s distinguished aviation career includes combat sorties during Desert Storm. He commanded the 94th Tactical Fighter Squadron and 325th Operations Group. He served as the CSAF chair at the National War College and as Vice Director of Operations for the North American Air Defense Command. Gen. Smith previously served as commander of the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base in Japan. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in military history from the U.S. Air Force Academy and a Master’s degree in history from Indiana University. Gen. Smith is a distinguished graduate of the Naval War College, the Air Command and Staff College and the National War College.

Donald Gips, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa
Donald Gips is currently the Assistant to the President and Director for Presidential Personnel.  Prior to serving in the White House, Gips helped lead then President-elect Obama’s Presidential Transition Team as a Co-Chair for the Agency Review team.  From 1998-2008, Gips was Group Vice President of Global Corporate Development for Level 3 Communications, where he led merger and acquisition efforts and was the Chief Strategy Officer.  Gips previously served in the White House as Chief Domestic Policy Advisor to Vice President Al Gore.  Mr. Gips also was Chief of the International Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission where he was responsible for the WTO negotiations and all spectrum policy, and helped launch the Americorps Program at the Corporation for National Service.  Before entering government, he was an Executive Manager at McKinsey & Company.  Gips his MBA from the Yale School of Management and received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University. 

Patricia N. Moller, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea
Ambassador Patricia Moller, a member of the foreign service since 1987, has served as U.S. Ambassador to Burundi since 2006.  In the course of her career Ambassador Moller has served in five other overseas locations including in Munich, Germany, Chennai, India, Belgrade, Serbia, Yerevan, Armenia, and Tbilisi, Georgia.  From 1991 – 1996 in Washington DC, she served first as a Watch Officer, then as Staff Aid to the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research, and later as Vietnam Desk Officer bilateral negotiations to reestablish diplomatic ties between the two countries.   From 1996 to 1999, she was assigned to Belgrade, Serbia, departing when NATO bombing of the country began.  From 2000 to 2002, she served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Yerevan, Armenia and from 2002 to 2005 as Deputy Chief of Mission in Tbilisi, Georgia.  Ambassador Moller has three times received the Department’s Superior Honor Award and three times been granted a Senior Foreign Service Performance Award. Ambassador Moller has a BA from the University of Tampa.

Nicole A. Avant, Nominee for Ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas
Ms. Avant serves as Vice President of Interior Music and Avant Garde Music Publishing. A business woman, philanthropist and activist, she has been recognized for her tireless efforts to mobilize the younger generation towards greater charitable and political involvement. She has worked as an academic counselor at The Neighborhood Academic Initiative, a USC mentorship program for high school students. Ms. Avant serves as a board member for the Bogart Pediatric Cancer Research Program, the Center for American Progress and Best Buddies, and was named one of the American Cancer Society Next Generation Leaders in 2007.

Kenneth H. Merten, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Haiti
Kenneth Merten currently serves as Deputy Executive Secretary at the Department of State.  A career Foreign Service Officer, he joined the Foreign Service in 1987.  His previous overseas diplomatic assignments include Economic Counselor in Paris, France, Economic Section Chief, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Economic Officer at the U.S. Mission to the European Union, in Brussels, Belgium, Economic Officer in Bonn, Germany and Vice Consul in Port-au-Prince.  Mr. Merten’s Washington assignments include two tours in the State Department Operations Center and service in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and on the Cuba Desk, as well as a year as Special Assistant to the Special Advisors on Haiti.  Mr. Merten holds a B.A. from Miami University in Ohio, and a Masters in Public Administration from American University.  Studies at the Université d’Aix-Marseille in France and at Karl Franzens Universität in Austria complement his other academic work.

Anne E. Derse, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania
Anne Derse is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service since 1981 and has served as Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan since May 2006.  As Director for Biodefense Policy at the Homeland Security Council (HSC) 2005-2006, Anne Derse helped develop the Implementation Plan for the U.S. National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.  Prior to that, She helped establish the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in 2004-2005 as Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs.  Ms. Derse worked as Executive Assistant in the Department of State’s Under Secretary for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs from 2003-2004.  As Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the European Union (USEU) from 1999 to 2003, she led the USEU team managing U.S.-EU economic relations. She served as U.S. Commissioner on the Tripartite Gold Commission, adjudicating sovereign claims for gold seized by the Nazis and recovered by the Allies after World War II, while assigned as Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels 1997-1999.  Ms. Derse helped coordinate United States’ participation in the 1996 APEC Summit as Economic Counselor and Deputy Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines 1995-1997.   She served as Special Assistant for Asian Affairs to State’s Under Secretary for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs from 1993 to 1995.  As Finance and Development officer and Deputy Economic Counselor in Korea 1989-1993, she helped establish the Presidents’ Economic Initiative, the Dialogue for Economic Cooperation and Treasury-Ministry of Finance Financial Policy Talks.  She also served as trade officer in Singapore 1985-1988, staff assistant to the Counselor of the Department of State 1983-84, and as Vice Consul in Trinidad and Tobago 1981-1983.  Ms. Derse received an MA from Johns Hopkins University and a BA from Macalester College.