Rex Tillerson, with no previous government experience and a 40-year career at a single corporation, has made considerable progress in what appears to be his chief objective at the State Department—wrecking the place. He calls it reorganizing for efficiency.
This is not to say everything was hunky dory at State before January or that U.S. foreign policy was wholly on the right track until then. But combined with the erratic nature of his boss as well as that man’s profound ignorance of world affairs, Tillerson with his aloof leadership and failure to listen to or credit the work of career staff are surely generating negative impacts on some of the most fundamental aspects of U.S. relations around the planet. As for how to deal with a serious international crisis, having this pair in charge is akin to having climate science deniers in running environmental policy. Oh, right, we do have.
Gardiner Harris reports at The New York Times today that what began this year among foreign service professionals as guarded optimism about their new boss turned by summer into concern, then quiet anger, and now, as large numbers of them are fired or spurred to resign, into fear about the impacts at home and abroad of Tillerson’s to gut the department he believes is over-staffed and unproductive.
Even before he showed up at work, he had made clear his intent to cut the budget 31 percent. He recently offered $25,000 in a buyout proposal that he hopes will encourage 2,000 more employees to leave by the end of the fiscal year next September.
Tillerson’s aides have fired some diplomats outright and pushed others out by failing to give them assignments they have sought or not giving them any duties at all. Most of the most experienced black and Latino diplomats have been booted, along with many women. The top two ranks of career ambassadors and career ministers will have been cut from 39 to 19 by the end of next week. Firings and expected departures in the third rank—minister-counselors—will soon have reduced their numbers by 18 percent.