The Philippine Star
Fil-Am formerly with CIA now with Secretary Pompeo
Last week, I accompanied Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and National Security Adviser Jun Esperon to the US State Department for a meeting with State Secretary Mike Pompeo. I was pleased to learn that a Filipino-American, Brian Bulatao, has been nominated by President Donald Trump as the State Department’s Under Secretary of State for Management – a position that was held by Patrick Francis Kennedy from 2007 to January last year.
Bulatao and Secretary Mike Pompeo are very close, having been classmates in the US Military Academy at West Point where they graduated in 1986. Both men also went to Harvard – Pompeo finishing law at Harvard Law School while Bulatao finished his MBA at the Harvard Business School. In 1998, Pompeo and Bulatao, along with some other West Point alumni, founded Thayer Aerospace where both stayed on until 2006.
Although the military school mates eventually ventured into other business pursuits – with Pompeo eventually going into politics as Kansas Congressman from 2011 to January 2017 – it’s obvious that they have remained close because one of the first things that Mike Pompeo did when he became Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director in January last year is to bring along Brian Bulatao, first as a senior adviser and then as chief operating officer (a position formerly known as “executive director”).
As the CIA’s Number 3 man, Bulatao brought his expertise in business management to institute reforms in the Agency and make it more efficient management-wise – streamlining operations, cutting down programs perceived to be non-essential and pushing for greater autonomy in decision making for agents on the ground. As some described it, Bulatao gave the CIA a “business-style makeover,” asking program heads under his jurisdiction to outline their strategic plans and objectives as well as priorities.
When President Trump named Mike Pompeo as the new State Secretary following the departure of Rex Tillerson last March, speculations ran high on whether Bulatao would join his army buddy at the State Department. The answer came a few weeks ago when President Trump named the former US Army Ranger as among those who would be occupying senior positions in his administration. The Under Secretary of State for Management serves as the principal adviser to the State Secretary and Deputy State Secretary on management issues and matters pertaining to budget, personnel, facilities, technology, logistics, the day-today operations and other matters necessary for the US to carry out its foreign policy mission.
Naturally, the Filipino-American community is very proud of Brian and his accomplishments. People like him are a source of pride for Fil-Ams because they help reinforce the positive image of Filipinos in the US.
Last Thursday, I had an open forum session with The Washington Diplomat (an independent monthly publication on various issues that include foreign policy, international relations, politics, trade and diplomacy) and one of the questions was about the new immigration bill and how it would affect Filipinos. I told them that Filipinos are known for being industrious and hardworking – the kind of image US legislators have about Filipinos. The assurance I get is that the new immigration bill will be more than fair for new immigrants including Filipinos.
Aside from Brian Bulatao, another Filipino-American, Richard Buangan who has been with the State Department since 2000, will join Secretary Pompeo as Executive Assistant. No doubt, there are also many other Filipino-Americans who have distinguished themselves in their respective professions, such as former White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford, the first woman and the first of Asian descent to hold such a position, serving under the administration of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
And then there is Dr. Connie Mariano who is the first female to head the White House medical unit, serving presidents George H. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Dr. Mariano also has the distinction of being the first Filipino-American to reach the rank of Rear Admiral in the US Navy.
Other well-known Fil-Am doctors in the US are Dr. Jorge Garcia whom I get to play golf with. Jorge has the reputation of being one of the best heart surgeons in the world whose patients include state leaders and celebrities; another golfer is Dr. Alex Aquino, a distinguished kidney transplant specialist; and Dr. Elwin Bustos, a nephrologist based in Washington, D.C. who also happens to be my personal physician.
In the US military, one of the most distinguished is retired Lt. General Edward Soriano who has the distinction of being the highest Filipino-American to have served in the military and the first one to be promoted to the rank of general. Just recently, he was with retired US Army Major General Antonio Taguba for the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to Filipino World War II Veterans at the War Memorial Veterans Building in San Francisco.
Another Fil-Am and a good friend is USAID Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia Dr. Gloria Steele, who played a very critical role as USAID Philippines Mission Director supervising the agency’s Rebuild project in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.
There is really a great sense of pride when you meet many Filipino-Americans who have done well in the US. As the Philippine Ambassador here in DC, I really feel good when I meet many US officials, private individuals including colleagues in the diplomatic corps who tell me that they are fortunate to have Filipinos in their staff. Indeed, as former Ambassador to Japan Manolo Lopez told me, “it is both fulfilling and rewarding.”
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