"Mari Stull, a former food and beverage lobbyist-turned-wine blogger under the name 'Vino Vixen,' has reviewed the social media pages of State Department staffers for signs of ideological deviation. She has researched the names of government officials to determine whether they signed off on Obama-era policies — though signing off does not mean officials personally endorsed them but merely cleared them through the bureaucratic chain. And she has inquired about Americans employed by international agencies, including the World Health Organization and the United Nations, asking their colleagues when they were hired and by whom, according the officials."
"There is nothing new about ambassadors making unfortunate remarks. But the growing list of top envoys who have provoked controversy even in posts of close allies, where diplomatic duties largely include party-giving and anodyne cheerleading, has been unusual — and, for the Trump administration, potentially perilous."
“John Feeley, the Ambassador to Panama and a former Marine helicopter pilot, is not averse to strong language, but he was nevertheless startled by his first encounter with President Donald Trump. Summoned to deliver a briefing in June, 2017, he was outside the Oval Office when he overheard Trump concluding a heated conversation, ‘Fuck him! Tell him to sue the government.’ Feeley was escorted in, and saw that Mike Pence, John Kelly, and several other officials were in the room. As he took a seat, Trump asked, ‘So tell me—what do we get from Panama? What’s in it for us?’ Feeley presented a litany of benefits: help with counter-narcotics work and migration control, commercial efforts linked to the Panama Canal, a close relationship with the current President, Juan Carlos Varela. When he finished, Trump chuckled and said, ‘Who knew?’ He then turned the conversation to the Trump International Hotel and Tower, in Panama City. ‘How about the hotel?’ he said. ‘We still have the tallest building on the skyline down there?’”
"Whether we like it or not, we live in an increasingly interdependent world. Isolationism and wishful thinking did not work in the 1930s—and will not be any more successful in confronting the even more complex global challenges that we face today. If the United States is serious about safeguarding and promoting U.S. national interests, then it is imperative that the country assumes a leadership role within the international community."
"Most ambassadors may not be household names, but they are crucial to diplomacy, serving as the go-betweens for foreign governments and the U.S. government. Typically, about a third are political appointees. The rest are career diplomats. Their impact varies: Some come and go without making a splash. A few have caused headaches for Washington with culturally insensitive gaffes and missteps. Others are diplomatic rock stars, boosting U.S. influence and prestige abroad, and serving as consiglieres to the president. Foreign leaders take notice when the top U.S. post in their countries sits empty for too long. Here are some of the most conspicuous absences."
"Over 200 former ambassadors and veteran diplomats have signed a letter urging the Senate Foreign Relations committee to grill Mike Pompeo, who is President Trump's nominee to become the next Secretary of State.
The letter, sent to Republican committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker and ranking Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, raises concerns that American diplomacy has been crippled and calls on the committee to question Pompeo on how he plans to fix it. The committee will conduct Pompeo's hearing to become the next Secretary of State sometime next month."
"'Our great country faces challenges both today and in the future which require that we have a diplomatic force ready to keep America safe in partnership with the brave men and women of our armed forces,' the authors wrote.
Among the letter's signatories are senior diplomats who've served under Republican and Democratic presidents in posts around the world. The majority were career officials, and all served as either ambassadors, assistant secretaries of state, or under secretaries of state. One of the authors, Amb. Bill Burns, attained the rank of deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration."
"'He’ll work to put loyalists in key vantage points and marginalize those he distrusts,' Matthew Waxman, a former colleague of Bolton’s in the George W. Bush administration, wrote in a recent Lawfare column.
When it comes to installing allies, Tillerson has left Pompeo and Bolton with ample opportunities, given his failure to put his own political appointees in place. Eight of the top 10 State Department jobs are vacant, and some of the people Tillerson managed to get nominated, such as Susan Thornton and Eric Ueland, could have their nominations pulled."
"With his voicing cracking at a hastily arranged news conference, Tillerson praised his colleagues and urged senior staff to stay on through the transition. While he said he’d remain in his job through March 31, he said he was handing over all responsibilities to his deputy, John Sullivan.
Sullivan won’t have a lot of company in the job. Eight of 10 top jobs at the State Department are now vacant, either because staff have left, been fired or the posts were never filled. Those vacant assignments include positions overseeing the agency’s role in U.S. trade policy, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, refugee issues and efforts to counter human trafficking."
"President Trump on Tuesday ousted his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, extending a shake-up of his administration, 14 months into his tumultuous presidency, and potentially transforming the nation’s economic and foreign policy.
Mr. Trump announced he would replace Mr. Tillerson with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director and former Tea Party congressman, who forged a close relationship with the president and is viewed as being more in sync with Mr. Trump’s America First credo."
"The funding shortfall for the State Department and USAID affects operations for the current fiscal year, and for 2019. The sweeping budget deal hammered out last week among congressional leaders and the White House averted a prolonged government shutdown by setting spending levels for fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2019. But while the deal boosted funding for the U.S. military, it reduced nondefense funding in the Overseas Contingency Operations budget, which has previously provided one-third of the budget for the State Department and USAID."
"It is hard to be optimistic about the current state of U.S. foreign policy. The United States is still trying to manage an impossible array of international problems, still engaged in several endless wars, largely bereft of a clear and compelling strategy, and under the leadership of the least competent president in modern memory. Yet the present crisis of American diplomacy is also an opportunity to design a new set of diplomatic institutions, build a broader consensus on the value of diplomacy itself, and eventually forge a new approach toward dealing with other nations. For those of us who recognize the value of skilled diplomacy, there’s nowhere to go but up.
"The freeze prevented embassies from filling vacant positions as diplomats and their family members rotated to new posts, creating a cascading backlog of unfinished work at embassies while a growing pool of family members waited to be hired without any clear direction from Washington. As a result, morale deteriorated among a workforce that already perceived a marginalized role for diplomacy in the Trump administration.
'Routine bureaucratic processes just got entirely sucked up,' said one U.S. diplomat of ambassador rank, speaking on condition of anonymity. The diplomat said it caused a knock-on effect of 'mayhem' all over the world."
"The State Department’s civilian workforce shrank more than 6 percent overall during the initial eight months of the Trump administration, but that figure masks significantly higher departure rates in critical areas of the country’s diplomatic apparatus.
In December 2016, the department employed 2,580 people under the foreign affairs occupation series, according to data from the Office of Personnel Management. By September 2017, the most recent data available, that number fell to 2,273, a decrease of roughly 11.9 percent."
"In the closing paragraph of her letter, Shackelford called on Tillerson 'to stem the bleeding by showing leadership and a commitment to our people, our mission, and our mandate as the foreign policy arm of the United States.'
'If you are unable to do so effectively within this Administration, I would humbly recommend you follow me out the door.'"
"Whenever my students ask me whether they should serve in government under this administration, I remind them that the reason we love America so much is that, here, the government is not one man or woman. The government is us, and public service is both a great privilege and a shared responsibility. This is our republic. We must do all we can to keep it strong."
"Mr. Tillerson’s obsession with downsizing our diplomacy has colored his time at the State Department. Instead of defending the department against the White House’s proposed 30 percent budget cut, he embraced it. Fortunately, Congress stopped — for now — the gutting of our diplomatic, democracy and development programs. Mr. Tillerson imposed a hiring freeze, canceled programs to diversify the department’s personnel, left empty dozens of the most senior positions requiring Senate confirmation and encouraged officers to leave by dangling $25,000 buyouts."
"We are ringing the village bell in alarm because Mr. Trump’s neglect of the State Department will harm our country at an already dangerous time. The Foreign Service is a jewel of the American national security establishment, with the deepest and most effective diplomatic corps in the world. All that is now at risk."
"The departure is a blow for Tillerson, who had brought in Beams to oversee the signature initiative of his term so far -- a restructuring intended to eliminate inefficiencies and overlap at the department. The plan has run up against resistance within the department and in Congress, where critics say it has contributed to key positions going unfilled and plummeting morale."
"The number of those with the department’s top two ranks of career ambassador and career minister — equivalent to four- and three-star generals — will have been cut in half by Dec. 1, from 39 to 19. And of the 431 minister-counselors, who have two-star-equivalent ranks, 369 remain and another 14 have indicated that they will leave soon — an 18 percent drop — according to an accounting provided by the American Foreign Service Association.