State Department employees are anxious about possible changes coming to the agency, which may include deep cuts and the elimination of entire divisions.
More than a dozen people with knowledge of restructuring at the State Department spoke to Politico about their concerns, and said they’re looking to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s personal plans and a Heritage Foundation report for a sense of what to expect. Tillerson is expected to implement major cuts to environmental and cultural programs, and may even cut certain divisions entirely, which could affect diplomat’s working on women’s or youth issues, the sources said. Some State Department employees are trying to figure out ways to shield some of the programs they helped build and run from cuts.
One State Department official told Politico that Tillerson may go above and beyond the tweaks typical of an incoming secretary.
“My sense is that Tillerson wants to go big,” the official said. “In terms of streamlining, he seems to like straight lines, direct lines, clear hierarchies with a small number of people reporting to him.”
So far, Tillerson appears to be making good on that management style, as he’s declined to fill numerous roles under the deputy secretary for management position. Tillerson has also left numerous other leadership positions untouched.
Politico reports the atmosphere inside the department is “nervous.”
The Atlantic reported in March that many State Department employees are feeling pushed out of the decision-making circle, and so their once-busy schedules have trickled to a bare minimum.
“Every administration makes changes, but I suspect there’s going to be a little bit more along the way of changes under this administration than in previous ones,” said Brett Schaefer, author of the 2016 report by the Heritage Foundation.
The report calls for a huge decrease in the number of special envoys and making USAID accountable to a specific undersecretary, among other recommendations.
Making USAID part of the State Department may require approval from Congress.
At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon told the audience that both he and the president are interested in a “deconstruction of the administrative state.”
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