Thursday, December 14, 2017

The very best stories of how Rex Tillerson is destroying the State Department - Ed Straker

by Ed Straker

Why Tillerson is the most loathed Trump Cabinet member among the mainstream media.

Rex Tillerson should be the darling of the liberal media. He supported sticking with the Iran deal, which basically allows Iran to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. He opposed stating the obvious: that Israel's capital is Jerusalem. And he supported the ridiculous Paris climate change treaty.

But the media have been harder on him than on any other Cabinet member. A week does not pass without the publication of explicit articles or opinion pieces calling on Tillerson to resign (such as here, here, here, and here).


Because Tillerson has been working assiduously to cut the staff of the State Department. He wants to cut the State Department staff by 8%. Liberals are horrified. They don't have the faintest idea how many people should be working at the State Department. All they know is that however many there are, there shouldn't be fewer. Even worse, Tillerson hasn't filled many senior political positions at the State Department, and he's been criticized for not consulting with the staff there – he makes them feel unimportant!

The media are full of stories of the "understaffed" State Department.

Vox says the understaffed State Department makes the situation with North Korea more dangerous.
The result is a North Korea crisis where America's typical tools for crisis management – high-level statements and consultation with allies – aren't functioning. And experts agree that the consequences are unpredictable, but potentially severe.

We need a fully staffed State Department to "make high-level statements." Or do we? But in the same article, Vox, incredibly, admits that perhaps the State Department just doesn't matter:
It's more than possible that all of this amounts to nothing – that we muddle through this latest North Korea provocation and future ones on the strength of America's long-term commitment to South Korean and Japanese security[.]

Here's another great quote from the WaPo where in one sentence it also says the understaffing will have a terrible effect – and no effect at all!
The lack of movement on filling ambassadorial posts is not likely to damage U.S. credibility or leverage abroad right away, diplomats and others said, but it threatens to undermine the work of a department that is understaffed and facing severe budget cuts.

Many at the State Department have nothing to do.
Some try to conduct policy meetings just to retain the muscle memory and focus, but, said another department employee, "in the last couple months, it's been a lot more sitting around and going home earlier than usual." Some wander around the streets of Foggy Bottom, going for long, aimless lunches. "I'm used to going to three or four interagency policy meetings a week," the employee added, referring to the meetings in which policy is developed in coordination with other government departments. "I've had exactly one of those meetings in the last five weeks." Even the torrent of inter-department email has slowed to a trickle. The State Department staffer told me that where she once used to get two hundred emails a day, it's down to two dozen now. "Not since I began at the department a decade ago has it been so quiet," she said. "Colleagues tell me it's the same for them."

Morale is down:
Nick Burns was an Under-Secretary of State in the Bush administration. He told The New Yorker that Tillerson's cuts "will decimate the Foreign Service."

"My fundamental concern is that [Tillerson] is so decimating the senior levels of the Foreign Service that there's no one to show up at meetings where the US needs to be represented," a retired diplomat told The New Yorker.

"Whether it's the oceans, the environment, science, human rights, broadband assignments, drugs and thugs, civil aviation – it's a huge range of issues on which there are countless treaties and agreements that all require management. And, if we are not there, things will start to fall apart."

Oh, one to represent us on the environment, human rights, or broadband assignments! Even worse:
"There's no one protecting the institution of the State Department," one foreign service officer told Foreign Policy. "They don't give a [s---] about what's happening to us."

The State Department has meanwhile been losing a lot of its two-, three-, and four-star generals. Yes, the State Department compares its senior diplomats to four-star generals.
The new AFSA data focuses on the top-ranking career officials – meaning people who have spent their lives in the State Department. This includes minister counselors (the equivalent of two-star generals), career ministers (the three-star equivalent), and career ambassadors (the four-star equivalent).

The number of people in each of those posts has declined dramatically since President Trump took office in January. The number of minister counselors in the State Department has gone down by 15 percent, career ministers by 42 percent, and career ambassadors by a whopping 60 percent.

But Secretary Tillerson keeps morale up by finding valuable work for the staff to do: processing Freedom of Information Act requests.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's assignment of as many as several hundred State Department officials to quickly clear a huge backlog of public records requests is being met with deep skepticism by rank-and-file employees.

Tillerson says his goal is transparency. But many State workers fear the real reason is political: expediting the public release of thousands of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's official emails.

The staffers also suspect the move – which will reassign many of them from far more substantive duties and has already sparked a union complaint – is meant to force many of them to resign out of frustration with what are essentially clerical positions.

I love this man.

By the way, nowhere in any of these articles is there any concrete mention of how the work of the State Department has actually suffered due to the lack of staffing. Nowhere does any of these articles talk about the failures of the "fully staffed" State Department, whether on the Iran deal or the dubious global warming treaty. In fact, reading any of these articles, you'd be hard pressed to find any serious discussion of the duties of the State Department. After all these gallons of virtual spilled ink, it's impossible to figure out exactly what it is that the State Department does.

That's why I think Rex Tillerson is one of the greatest secretaries of state ever. Intentionally or not, he is terrorizing and demoralizing the fat, bloated, and largely unnecessary Department of State. While he may have liberal views, it is obvious he has no influence with Trump, so he does no harm there. His legacy is cutting self-important "four-star generals" down to size by making them process FOIA requests and driving countless others off the public teat. I say he's a great man and the perfect choice to steer the State Department into the ground.

Ed Straker is the senior writer at


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