News: The Trump administration fires top State Department officials. https://t.co/wnz2QvNb6S
— Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) January 26, 2017
How many workers does the federal government need? There’s probably not a bigger political football out there, and it’s one getting a pretty heavy kicking these days, with Donald Trump freezing, among other things, new hiring. While Trump is hardly the first President to freeze the federal workforce, news from the State Department offers a worrying trend that senior officials may have decided they were better off elsewhere. However, the above live CNN report indicates the Trump administration’s claim that the entire senior management team was told to submit their resignations.
The story’s rather muddled at this point, but the Washington Post first reported that the State Department’s entire senior staff quit. The WaPo described this as part of an ongoing Washington standard wherein federal employees resign if they feel they can’t support the policies of the President. Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond, and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith are following several colleagues who retired on Inauguration Day out the door. Many of them had served under both Republican and Democratic Presidents.
With these resignations, effectively Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has no senior management to do his job. It’s not clear, however, how many of the resignations were protests and how many were forced:
Whether Kennedy left on his own volition or was pushed out by the incoming Trump team is a matter of dispute inside the department. Just days before he resigned, Kennedy was taking on more responsibility inside the department and working closely with the transition. His departure was a surprise to other State Department officials who were working with him.
As the Post notes, the fundamental issue is that managing the State Department is a complicated job at best. The department currently has 69,000 employees posted across the world performing various functions, from diplomacy to the work-a-day paperwork involved in representing the US and its interests in a foreign country. Losing senior management creates a gap in both organization and experience that Tillerson and Trump will need to quickly fill, and may have difficulty doing.