Publié le 17/06/2013


The second term of Barack Obama’s presidency has introduced new Foreign Policy leadership that suggests changes for the future. The White House will likely centralize foreign policy making and the Treasury Department may play a bigger role in the country’s global engagement. Despite new policy direction, no framework for the strategic renewal of U.S. global leadership has emerged.

As of early June 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama’s second term foreign policy team is taking shape. At the highest levels, this new team is what might have been expected in Obama’s first term, but for the bold and somewhat unexpected pick of Hillary Clinton (who then brought many of her own people with her) as Secretary of State in January 2009. At the White House and in his cabinet, Obama is now surrounded by his closest advisors from the 2008 election campaign. In contrast, within Secretary John Kerry’s State Department, a number of career diplomats not linked personally or politically to either the president or the secretary of state have been nominated for positions at the assistant secretary level. While “reading the tea leaves” of personnel appointments can be at times misleading, these appointments do offer some insight into the personalities and direction of Obama’s second-term foreign policy.

 The new team Obama is assembling suggests two significant structural shifts and three important substantive directions for the United States’ foreign policy over the remaining three and a half years of his presidency and, perhaps, for U.S. global leadership going forward. Structurally, foreign policymaking under this new team is likely to move significantly from the State Department to the White House, with the former playing a much-diminished role in the second term. Second, the personalities suggest a new relationship between the Secretary of State and the new national security advisor, Susan Rice, one that may at times lead to public disagreement.