WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled picks for several high-profile ambassadorial postings, tapping career diplomats steeped in foreign policy experience — as well as political allies and aviation hero "Sully" Sullenberger.
The picks include former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as ambassador to Mexico and former Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides as ambassador to Israel. Retired airline pilot C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger, most famous for negotiating the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River with no fatalities, has been named to serve as U.S. representative on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The announcement comes as Biden is on the tail end of an eight-day European trip that included stops in the United Kingdom for a meeting of the Group of Seven leaders and Belgium for a gathering of the 27 NATO countries and the U.S.-EU summit. The trip culminates in Geneva on Wednesday with a highly anticipated meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, where the leaders are to discuss rising tensions between their countries.
As a candidate, Biden declined to rule out appointing political donors to ambassadorships or other posts if he was elected. But he pledged that his nominees, regardless of their contributor status, would be the "best people" for their posts — suggesting he would move away from former President Donald Trump’s heavy reliance on political appointees and rely more on the State Department’s well of career foreign service officers.
FILE - Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger arrives at The 22nd Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on Dec. 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California.
More than 43% of Trump’s ambassadorial appointments were political appointees, compared with 30.5% for Barack Obama and 31.8% for George W. Bush, according to the American Foreign Service Association. Biden hopes to keep political appointments to about 30% of ambassador picks, according to the White House.
"Nobody, in fact, will be appointed by me based on anything they contributed," Biden promised last year.
All the nominees must receive Senate confirmation before they can assume their roles.
Biden’s other picks include:
—Julie Jiyoon Chung, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to serve as ambassador to Sri Lanka.
—Sharon Cromer, who currently serves as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director at the U.S. Embassy, Accra, Ghana, to serve as ambassador to Gambia.
—Troy Fitrell, currently the director of the Office of West African Affairs at the State Department, to serve as ambassador to Guinea. He has served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassies in Ethiopia and Mauritius, as deputy director of the Department’s Office of Southern African Affairs, and as deputy director of the Office of International Security Cooperation in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
—Marc Ostfield, a 30-year veteran of the State Department, to serve as ambassador to Paraguay. Ostfield is currently the ombudsman of the State Department.
—Julianne "Julie" Smith, a former Obama administration national security aide currently serving as a senior adviser to the Secretary of State, to serve as permanent representative on the NATO council. She served as deputy national security adviser to Biden when he was vice president.
—Cynthia Telles, a clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, to serve as ambassador to Costa Rica. Telles also was a prominent fundraiser for the Biden White House campaign.