The entire senior level management at the State Department has resigned in an apparent act of defiance less than a week into the Trump administration.
The group of senior career diplomats are stepping down from their positions, in a move that will put increasing pressure on incoming secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
It is part of amass exodus of senior foreign officials who don’t want to be involved in Trump’s presidency, the Washington Post reported.
Trump has yet to fill many top diplomatic jobs, and will now have to find replacements, a job past State Department staffers believe will be very difficult.
Until the appointments are made, subordinates will fill the high-level positions on a temporary basis.
Trump’s pick for secretary of state, former Exxon CEO Tillerson, is expected to be confirmed by the Senate next week, and is already facing an uphill battle at the start of his tenure.
The Post reported that Tillerson was in the State Department headquarters at Foggy Bottom taking meetings this week.
David Wade, who served as State Department chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry, told the newspaper: ‘It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate.
‘Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.’
The State Department confirmed several senior staff and a top arms control diplomat would be leaving.
All had submitted their resignations prior to Trump’s January 20 inauguration as is required of officials holding jobs appointed by the president.
They were not required to leave the foreign service but chose to retire or resign for personal reasons, the department said.
While none of the officials has linked his or her departure explicitly to Trump, many diplomats have privately expressed concern about serving in his administration given the unorthodox positions he’s taken on many foreign policy issues.
Turnover among senior leadership during presidential transitions is not unusual, although the career diplomats who are leaving the foreign service entirely had served under both Republican and Democratic presidents.
More resignations are expected to be accepted as Trump’s diplomatic team takes shape, according to the officials who were not authorized to discuss personnel matters publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The now vacant jobs will be filled by subordinates on an acting basis until their full-time appointments are named, the officials said.
Among those whose resignations have been accepted are Thomas Countryman, who had been serving as the acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.
Others include Undersecretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy; two assistant secretaries, Joyce Barr and Michele Bond; and Gentry Smith, who directs the Office of Foreign Missions.
They had been willing to remain at their posts but had no expectation of staying, according to several State Department officials familiar with the resignations.
Other senior career diplomats to have left the State Department since Trump’s election include Victoria Nuland, the former assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Gregory Starr, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security. Starr retired on Inauguration Day as did Lydia Muniz, a non-career political appointee who had run Overseas Building Operations.
Kennedy was relied upon by both Democrats and Republicans. He was tapped for the undersecretary post in 2007 by President George W. Bush and stayed on throughout President Barack Obama’s term.
His position oversees the department’s budget and finances, security, global facilities and consular services.
Kennedy, a diplomat since 1973, was criticized for the department’s insufficient security at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were killed in 2012.
In testy congressional hearings, Kennedy defended then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the situation and insisted there was no ‘stand down’ order to the U.S. military during the attack.
Bureau records also showed Kennedy asked for the FBI’s help in 2015 to change the classification level of an email from Clinton’s private server. The FBI ultimately rejected the request.
SOURCE: Mail Online, The Associated Press