the latest salvo, two retired senior U.S. diplomats said the
agency is being undermined by proposed budget cuts of about 30
percent and is being deliberately taken apart.
"President Trump's draconian budget cuts for the State
Department and his dismissive attitude toward our diplomats and
diplomacy itself threaten to dismantle a great Foreign Service,"
Nicholas Burns and Ryan Crocker wrote in the New York Times on
"This is not about belt tightening. It is a deliberate effort to
deconstruct the State Department and the Foreign Service,"
Burns, a former No. 3 official at the agency, and Crocker, a
six-time U.S. ambassador, added.
The forcing out of many senior diplomats, the failure to
nominate or to win Senate confirmation for officials to fill
many major agency roles, and a perception that Tillerson is
inaccessible have eroded morale, according to current officials.
Tillerson said, however, the department is running well and that
the department budget had grown dramatically. The planned cuts
would restore it to historical norms, he said.
He also praised officials serving as acting assistant
secretaries of state, typically among the agency's key jobs,
saying they have helped to devise approaches on issues from
North Korea and Syria to Iran and Ukraine.
"There is no hollowing out," Tillerson said after a speech at a
think tank. "I am offended on their behalf when people say,
somehow, we donít have a State Department that functions ... I
can tell you, itís functioning very well from my perspective."
Tillerson said the process of winning Senate confirmation of
appointments has been "excruciatingly slow." However, the Trump
administration has failed to nominate people to serve in many
key agency slots, leaving the Senate unable to consider them.
According to a database compiled by the Washington Post
newspaper and the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public
Service, there are no nominees for the assistant secretaries of
state for African, East Asian, South and Central Asian, Near
Eastern or Western Hemisphere affairs.
This means that the top diplomats for major regions do not enjoy
status that comes from being chosen by the president and
confirmed by the Senate.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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