When President Donald Trump appointed former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as the next Secretary of State, Tillerson drew upon his experience at the head of a bureaucracy to support his claims that the State Department was a bloated mess in need of trimming. Since taking on the position, Tillerson has reduced the number of active diplomats working on behalf of the U.S. — to a dangerous degree, according to people like Senators John McCain and Jeanne Shaheen.
Tillerson achieved the cuts by "firing most of the department's leading African-American and Latino diplomats."
Under Tillerson's watch, applications for diplomatic positions have plummeted. The number of career ministers on staff has fallen from 33 to 19 and the number of minster counselors has gone from 431 to 369. Of the 44 positions that opened when Trump became President, 34 remain unfilled.
It doesn't appear Tillerson wants to change this, as he has yet to nominate anyone for the roles.
Though Tillerson's cuts have been felt throughout the department (he plans to lay off as many as 2,000 staffers), it would seem minorities working as representatives of the U.S. were the first to go, either by firing or resignation. Dana Shell Smith resigned her roles as ambassador to Qatar in June, and shortly thereafter told the New York Times:
These people either do not believe the U.S. should be a world leader, or they’re utterly incompetent.
Former Ambassador to Liberia and African Affairs secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield also commented:
I don’t feel targeted as an African-American. I feel targeted as a professional.
Tillerson is reportedly so gung-ho about shrinking his department that he's offered a $25,000 incentive to any diplomats willing to resign their posts and go home. Meanwhile, back in Washington, the secretary has centralized the policy-making process to a degree unprecedented in modern times. A leaked flow chart presented to Tillerson's State Department outlines the process of establishing U.S. foreign policy. New policies require passage through only one State Department entity: the 25-person committee known as the Policy Planning Committee. In previous administrations, this committee was used to examine long-term goals and predict the evolving shape of international politics. They worked alongside teams of diplomats based out of the relevant countries to collaboratively establish foreign policy.
Our teams overseas have been cut out of the process, in what many see as an extension of Trump's "America First" sensibility.
As crises continue around the world, members of Congress are speaking out against Tillerson's cuts, saying they are "undermining America internally." The State Department's hiring freeze also drew letters of condemnation from the Democrats of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the aforementioned Senators John McCain and Jeanne Shaheen.
One former State Department official warned that "having so many vacancies in essential places is a disaster waiting to happen."
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