After serving one full year as the 70th Secretary of State, Secretary Pompeo unveiled the “new professional ethos” for the State Department last Friday. The celebration was done on a glorious spring day when the tulips were in full bloom and the cherry blossoms were nodding their heads in the wind. The event reportedly featured “Happy!” by Pharrell Williams, and all the happy people they could find. It sounds like for Mr. Pompeo and his top level buddies, this is the best of times, even touting a year, in their view, of “enormous success.” This in the face of another fiscal year with a new round of proposed deep budget cuts for Pompeo’s agency, cuts that this secretary of state supported and defended.
The good news is (coz we have to find one) although the “new professional ethos” went though some 30 versions, and involved some sort of “listening tour”, we have not yet heard that this cost thousands of dollars in public money for management consultants’ fees. (If you know otherwise, let us know). The banner and printed paper featuring the new professional ethos killed some trees, so we all definitely need to plant new trees next Arbor Day. Also, the rumored language alluding to leaks, and to NDAs apparently got killed somewhere along the way (not that you need a new NDA when you already have OF312). Soon there will be an “Ethos Award”, and when that is done, how long before we see the “Best in Swagger” Award?
If the “ethos” initiative is intended to help shore up morale in Foggy Bottom, they’ll have a long way to go. As of this month, halfway through this administration’s term, the career appointments to ambassadorial posts is 51%. In actual numbers that means, 74 career professionals were nominated and confirmed as chief of mission, while 70 political appointees were nominated and confirmed as ambassadors.
When it comes to senior officials in Foggy Bottom, the situation is much worse; in two under secretary offices (M, R) overseeing multiple bureaus, the appointees in acting capacity are not even Senate-confirmed officials. And you can definitely count career appointees with one hand. With the exception of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs and the Director General of the Foreign Service (who are both active senior Foreign Service officers), and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs who is a retired FSO, all the regional and functional bureaus are headed by political appointees. According to the AFSA tracker, the assistant secretary career appointments during the last several presidential terms are as follows: GWBush – 32%, Clinton-53%, GHWBush-50%, Reagan-39%, Carter-48.5%, Ford-78%).
Budget and staffing. Money and people. Secretary Pompeo may say and write the right things to employees, and may be more accessible than his immediate predecessor, and he may be well-intentioned with his “new ethos” and swagger “initiatives” but in the grand scheme of things … as“Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying.”
Mike Pompeo held a one-year anniversary event today at the State Department featuring “Happy!” by Pharrell Williams. But he’s struggled to make progress on key goals, @TracyKWilkinson reports https://t.co/1BIUBwWDJz
— Chris Megerian (@ChrisMegerian) April 26, 2019
Trump and his top foreign policy officials Pompeo & Bolton are angering allies every few days with hardline actions. That leaves openings for China & Russia to build ties. Much of the damage is over US obsessions that pose no big threat, like Iran & Cuba. https://t.co/TLzLjCDFOm
— Edward Wong (@ewong) April 26, 2019
Pompeo deserves credit for rescuing the State Dept from the hapless management of Tillerson BUT that’s a historically low bar. 1/ https://t.co/jz3XvVEMcS
— Laura Kennedy (@AmbKennedy_ret) April 27, 2019