• What Will Rex Tillerson Inherit at the State Department?

    February 2, 2017

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Trump

    As Secretary of State, what will Rex Tillerson inherit at the State Department?

    The media has been aflame recently trying to stretch the facts — personnel changes and some unhappy employees in the midst of a major governmental transition — to fit the narrative of a State Department on the verge of collapse. But while rumors of the State Department’s demise are largely exaggerated, the organization may yet find itself shunted aside into irrelevance.

    There has been a lot of hot-blooded talk about Donald Trump and the federal workforce. The media once claimed Trump would not be able to fill his political appointee positions, and then suggested employees might resign en masse before he even was inaugerated. Another round of stories fanned panic that Trump had dumped his existing ambassadors, when in fact it was only the Obama-appointed ones who tendered resignations by tradition, as happens every four years.

    Then only last week the Washington Post published a bombastic story claiming the State Department’s entire senior management team had resigned in protest. The real story, however, was that all/most of the six were de facto fired. Several were connected to the Clinton emails or Clinton’s handling of Benghazi. One of these people, Pat Kennedy, played a significant role in both. These were not protest resignations, they were housecleaning by the new boss in town.

    As for plunging the State Department into chaos, the loss of six employees is not going to bring on Armageddon. Reports that these people represent “senior management” at State confuse terms. Because of the odd way State is organized, four of the six work in the Management Bureau, M in State talk. Kennedy was the head of the Bureau. The four play varying roles and collectively are not the senior management of the State Department. Two work in other parts of the Department directly tied to Obama-era policies likely to change under the new administration.

    In addition, all six persons come from offices with a deep bench. It is highly unlikely that any of the work of the State Department will be impeded. This is all part of the standard transition process. The same applies to embassies overseas that lost their Obama-appointed ambassadors.

    The latest Chicken Little reporting concerns “dissent” messages circulating within the State Department, aimed at Trump’s executive order on immigration; one media outlet characterized this as a “revolt” waiting for Tillerson on his Day One.

    Such bombastic language misses the mark completely. Though State’s internal process requires a response from senior leaders, they have 60 days to provide it, it is not public, and if experience serves will almost certainly be of the “we acknowledge your concerns” content-free variety.

    Others feel that while having no practical impact on policy, such dissent measures the state of employee thought, and there may be some truth to that. The average State Department Foreign Service officer has served 12 years, meaning a large number have never worked for any president other than Barack Obama and more than half have seen only the current presidential transition.

    These employees have never had their oath of service to the Constitution, not to Barack Obama or Donald Trump, tested. Government carries out the policies of the president on behalf of the United States. It’s called public service for a reason. Those concerned because the wrong candidate won are probably simply learning they are in the wrong business. Though indelicate in his phrasing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was actually only expressing a version of official policy when he said of those diplomats they “should either get with the program, or they can go.”

    As a reality check, out of a workforce of thousands at the State Department there were only three resignations of conscience over the 2003 Iraq War, one other related to Afghanistan. There were no publicly known resignations related to torture, Guantanamo, drone assassination or any of the other horrors of the War on Terror stretched across two administrations. The last time more than a handful of diplomats resigned in protest was at the height of the Vietnam War.

    So it is without much evidence that Rex Tillerson will walk into a State Department weakened by dissent. But what he may preside over is an institution largely devoid of relevance, and suffering budget and personnel cuts in line with that.

    The signature issues Secretaries Clinton and Kerry supported — women’s and LGBTQ rights, social media messaging, soft power, climate change — are unlikely to get much attention under the Trump administration. In addition, given State’s role in hiding Clinton’s email server for years, and then slow-walking the release of her emails until ordered by the courts to speed up, it is doubtful there is good will and trust accumulated from the campaign. Foreign policy has increasingly gravitated under Bush and Obama deeper into the military, National Security Council, and the Oval Office anyway. None of that is likely to change.

    Kerry’s original legacy issue, peace in Syria, is literally in flames. The United States was not even invited to the Russian-Turkish brokered peace talks, and there is little stomach anywhere for deposing Assad and generating more chaos. Kerry’s second shot at legacy, the Iran nuclear accords, seem destined to at best merely linger around if it does not just collapse. Iraq and Afghan policy, such as it is, appears mostly in the hands of the Pentagon, and Trump has chosen a powerful, experienced Secretary of Defense. No side sees the U.S. as an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Issues with China will fall into the lanes of trade and defense. It appears big-picture policy toward Russia, Mexico and elsewhere will be run directly out of the Oval Office.

    At the same time, Trump’s federal hiring freeze has already impacted State. Even before the freeze there were more military band members than State Department Foreign Service Officers. The whole of the Foreign Service is smaller than the complement aboard one aircraft carrier. Yet Paul Teller, Trump’s liaison to the right wing of the House Republican Party, has already spoken of cutting back further on the number of America’s diplomats. If employees do leave on their own, or, more likely, stay at their desks in zombie state waiting out their pensions, that will only make State less useful to anyone in Washington.

    What’s really left for State to do?

    Tillerson will find himself in charge of a Cabinet agency is search of a mission. He may very well end up somewhere between the traditional ceremonial role of the Vice President, attending conferences and funerals, or perhaps simply overseeing his network of embassies serve as America’s concierge abroad, providing cover stories for the intelligence community, arranging official visits for fact-finding Members of Congress, and hosting senior Washington policy makers in town to do the heavy lifting of international relations. State will still hold the monopoly inside government on things like Sports Diplomacy and paying for reality TV shows in Niger to influence those there with TVs.

    If that all doesn’t sound like a very attractive job, you’re right. It’s difficult to imagine Tillerson sticking around for four years. Who knows, the resignation out of the State Department that attracts the most attention of all might be his.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      Crickets and a demoralized, castrated agency.

      Unless, Tillerson surprises us and does a James Baker

      Baker was the last S/S with a real backbone who actually did something to address the Palestinian Israeli crises.

      02/2/17 11:45 AM | Comment Link

    • b. traven said...


      Do you think that Tillerson will be the key ‘go to’ guy for Trump on negotiations with Putin?
      and stabilizing that relationship?

      02/2/17 11:45 AM | Comment Link

    • rich bauer said...


      Rex Tillerson will do for State what the Exxon Valdez did for Alaska.

      02/2/17 12:23 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Kyzi- Who here doesn’t get the fact that the Israelites have made outstanding accomplishments in the sciences and arts. What have the Palestinians accomplished? Why would an exceptional tribe want to hobnob with one way below their class? I wish the Israelites would show some compassion and want to help a lesser tribe get up to their level. That doesn’t seem likely.

      02/2/17 12:39 PM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...


      Who here doesn’t get the fact that JP makes less sense than Sean Spicer.

      02/2/17 12:45 PM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...


      And Steve Bannon and Rex Tillerson

      “The United States will go to war with China in “five to 10 years” over the South China Sea dispute, according to Steve Bannon, who is President Donald Trump’s chief political strategist.

      These comments by Bannon were made last March, but they resurfaced Thursday at a time when Washington and Beijing’s relations have soured after Trump questioned the “One China” policy and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China should be barred from islands in the contested region.

      “We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years, aren’t we? There’s no doubt about that. They’re taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those. They come here to the United States in front of our face — and you understand how important face is — and say it’s an ancient territorial sea,” Bannon said on a radio show hosted for Breitbart in March 2016.

      Last month, Tillerson aggravated the already tense relations between the two countries by saying that China should not be allowed access to the islands in the South China Sea.

      “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed,” Tillerson said.

      Oh sure, Rex. China ain’t Iraq or some other punching bag.

      Punch a bully- Nazi in the face and watch him run home to the homeland.

      02/2/17 12:57 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Bauer let me explain again to you. The Jews and the Palestinians don’t get along-never did and never will. So it is pointless of a Secretary of State to try and fix things between them. That isn’t realpolitik it is just a sad realization about human nature. One only respects an equal never a lesser. One can have sympathy and pity but that usually ends in disdain. Clear enough now?
      I’ll pay your way to the ME if you have a plan to make the Jews and Palestinians get along. What is your plan?

      02/2/17 2:17 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      Remember Humans, Help your neighbors. Have a nice day.

      02/2/17 2:43 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      Hello JP –

      Palestinian-Israeli conflict dates to 1918-1919, which is also when the first Palestinian-Jewish riot occurs. This was under OETA (Occupied Enemy Territory Administration), a colonial system put in place just before the Mandate was set up. Before this – there was NO Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

      I don’t subscribe to notions of lesser or superior when it comes to humans. Lately, everyone is equally disappointing – choose your conflict/country/subject of interest

      02/2/17 3:29 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      People like to claim, yeah, well..the Bible says —

      Well, yeah …there were TWO Israels. Both were kingdoms neither a parliament. Women couldn’t work or leave the house unless fully veiled, head-to-toe. There was no driving any day of the week, or electricity, or most of what we have today.

      So no cherry-picking – it’s all of the Bible history and traditions, if we are going to back to that or cite these, or find a more appropriate paradigm

      So get back to praying dawn-to-dusk, all ye Men, or tilling your land with your beasts of burden!! If you really want to harkon back to ‘The Bible says …”

      *gets off the history soapbox*

      02/2/17 3:33 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Kyzi- there are lessers and superiors regarding humans just as there are in cars. Drive a Yugo then a Mercedes. One was built by a certain group and the other another group. The Jews just don’t like the Persians and Arabs. Why is that so difficult to understand. They reluctantly get along for certain periods. There are losers and winners. The Jews won the ’67 war but the losers refused to high tail it out of “there”. I know I would have. I wouldn’t have been put in a refugee camp. It is an awful aspect of human nature but there it is. You lose a match but then refuse to relinquish the ring.

      02/2/17 3:36 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      I was in love with a Jewish women, and loved her family. They said I had to convert, or else. Went to Temple and it was the day the Rabbi said don’t bring in outsiders! She and family said sorry years later!

      02/2/17 3:53 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...



      02/2/17 4:06 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      Amerika has been infiltrated, not by the people for years. Two corrupt Parties, not working for the people. Shit hits fan. Have a nice day. How is Donna Brazile? Off to vomit with Debbie WS thoughts. Why is Bernie not Pres.? Answer, PIGS. Eat Pork (sorry vegans, etc.)

      02/2/17 4:27 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      Rissist… Plan B soon. Hope, Change, Believe. Trump says “We need clean Coal” Exceptionalism! Close Gitmo, etc…

      02/2/17 4:30 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      The Dems will save us. Oh shut up. The people will. Imagine…

      02/2/17 4:36 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      My relative was not killed in Yemen! Bad news, his team is deployed. Wage Peace…Imagine, I’m not the only one. Join u.s ?

      02/2/17 4:38 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      chuck/2020 IWILLCLOSEGITMO. I do not know how to facebook, tweet, etc.. God (if there is more than dog spelled backwards) If I do, watch out. Sext me.

      02/2/17 4:45 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...



      02/2/17 4:46 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      Step it up neighbors.

      02/2/17 4:53 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      time out and help your neighbors

      02/2/17 4:58 PM | Comment Link

    • b. traven said...


      John Poole. I have relatives in Israel and part of my family was murdered in Aushwitz. My Uncle was a slave laborer for the Wehrmacht in the Ukraine. that was going on while I was blind to it all in the Army Air Corps.
      Jews are no better or worse than other humans.
      All humans whether in Amerika,Israel, or the occupied Palestine territories are equal. Society ( (including religion and country) makes them different. There are no lesser or greater. Germans were once the font of “civilized culture” in 1933 and look where they ended up. Now Merkel has welcomed one million of “those people ” into her country and slowly they will become Germans. I have done UN missions in Asia, South America, Moslem Africa,and the Carrebean and found all people have the same ambitions but their own cultureal limitations, as we , Exceptional Americans are now finding out with our new President. Don’t throw stones at glass walls.

      02/2/17 5:38 PM | Comment Link

    • jo6pac said...


      Chuck, little donna is busy.


      rich bauer said…# 3

      That about right.

      Well Rex T or T Rex could pull a Ronnie-ray-gunn and fire them all.

      02/2/17 5:58 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      b traven. It isn’t about DNA inferiority or superiority but let’s just say the Jews have out accomplished the Palestinians in every endeavor. Let’s deal with accomplishments- forget the Bible- it’s mythology. There is no Jewish God – no Allah. All of that stuff was just clever positioning by certain tribes who knew the power of “association”.

      02/2/17 6:11 PM | Comment Link

    • b. traven said...


      John. You are right. And if the Romans had not driven the Jews out of Palestine and the Khazars, in the Caucasus, not converted to Judaism in the 12th century the Jews would be just another tribal group in the middle east. We are all Les Enfants du Paradis

      02/2/17 6:31 PM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...


      If Sean Spicer had been Rome’s spokesman, he would have blamed the Jews for burning it to the ground:

      White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer followed the leads of President Trump and National Security Adviser Mike Flynn Thursday when he warned Iran that it is “on notice” for a recent ballistic missile test. Then S.S. mentioned another Iranian transgression: the “actions that it took against our Navy vessel.” Only, that never happened.

      S.S. is likely referring to an attack on Monday on a Saudi frigate, which was not carried out by Iran. Rather, the Pentagon tells the Intercept, Houthi rebels, an Iranian-backed group fighting in Yemen, are the prime suspects. To recap: It wasn’t a U.S. ship and the attackers weren’t Iranians.

      02/3/17 7:28 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      UN Resolution being violated (Israel to build more settlements). Are Sanctions next?!

      02/3/17 10:22 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Rich said:
      “Then S.S. mentioned another Iranian transgression: the “actions that it took against our Navy vessel.” Only, that never happened.”

      Hahahahahahaha! I saw his “press conference”.

      Spicer makes Monte Python look like amateurs.

      Speaking of never happened, Ms. MakeAmericaGagAgain
      continues to prove what an utter moron she is. She redefines the word skank.


      I really don’t understand how this maggot can face a camera anymore. Any normal person would have killed themself a month ago. The only conclusion I have is she is immune to humiliation.

      02/3/17 10:43 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      The U.S. media will push Iran and fear til Feb. 15th, and then kneel to the Philly thug BB, War Criminal.

      02/3/17 10:51 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      wait… wait…

      Oh. My. God.


      Now I understand.


      geeezus..I cringed so hard even my toes hurt.

      god…I need a shower after that.

      02/3/17 10:56 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Oh. My. God.



      Seriously. This skank must have skin thick as truck tire.

      02/3/17 11:04 AM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...



      Not sure how it can be claimed the jews have out-accomplished palestinians.

      Is there a tally board? Is it not possible to google Palestinian accomplishments? How about googling denial of access to jobs and schools, not to mention an occassional court case to equalize the status only to be ignored by some other sector of government no interested in any group who is NOT a member of the state religion?

      Bernard Lewis used to love to write about the constraints of the dhimitude under Ottoman rule? When did it suddenly become a role-model system worthy of our tax money?

      02/3/17 11:32 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      b. traven. Agree, every single person is sort of a sad and pathetic critter (homosapien). Sometimes we get it “right” and at other times there appears a Buchenwald. The Greeks would have speculated that we are just pawns in a game for their enjoyment. They set us up to do outlandish and monstrous things so they can have a good hoot.

      02/3/17 1:37 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      traven- “the gods” of the Greeks not the actual Greeks.

      02/3/17 3:03 PM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...


      It’s all Greek to me. Another idiot shoots his poorly educated mouth off:

      Republican leader in Michigan apologized Friday after making a pair of controversial statements on social media suggesting “another Kent State might be the only solution” to ending protests on college campus, MichiganLive reports.

      Dan Adamini, Secretary of the Marquette County Republican Party, was reacting to the protests at University of California at Berkeley on Wednesday, when thousands of demonstrators rallied against a planned speech by alt-right hype man Milo Yiannopoulos. The protests quickly devolved into riots, and the university called off Yiannopoulos’ appearance to the chagrin of many conservatives.

      “The violent protests at our university certainly indicate Portage acacian – Greek for poor education- at the lower level,” Adamini wrote in a since-deleted post on Facebook. “I’m thinking another Kent State might be the only solution protest stopped after only one death.”

      Where did this idiot go to school?

      02/3/17 4:16 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Kyzi- well I’ll defer to, :”Where’s the Zulu Tolstoy?” meme.
      People can accomplish great things while being an oppressed underdog. Anything notable in the a rts coming out of those Palestinian refugee camps?

      02/3/17 4:57 PM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...


      What will Rex inherit at State? if Trump’s crazy uniform immigration vetting policy is instituted, a mess at every consulate that will take longer to issue visas than it took to clean the Exxon Valdez mess. Oh, Trumpie, you’ve done it again.

      02/3/17 7:34 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      02/3/17 9:19 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      John – Zulu Tolstoy – sounds like a story there:)

      Saw this trailer in the UK Guardian for a film about female Palestinian race car drivers:


      02/4/17 2:15 AM | Comment Link

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