SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
3000 DEFENSE PENTAGON
WASHINGTON, DC 20301 41060
December 20, 2018
Dear Mr. President:
I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.
I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.
One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.
Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions – to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.
My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.
Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability Within the Department.
I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.
I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.
On June 29, U.S. Ambassador to Estonia James Melville announced on Facebook his intent to retire from the Foreign Service after 33 years of public service. See US Ambassador to Estonia James Melville Pens Resignation on FB Over Trump Policies. On October 3, WaPo published his op-ed explaining his departure.
James D. Melville Jr. served as ambassador to Estonia from 2015 until his resignation in July.
— Washington Post Opinions (@PostOpinions) October 3, 2018
The former #US ambassador to #Estonia, James Melville, explains in an op-ed in the @washingtonpost his reasons for stepping down from his post, delivering a sharp criticism of the current US administration. https://t.co/KZ4pntw5RC pic.twitter.com/O49v46TA6R
— Estonian World (@EstonianWorld) October 3, 2018
Posted: 2:50 am ET
CNN reported late on March 13 that Tillerson’s chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, and deputy chief of staff, Christine Ciccone, also submitted their resignations on Tuesday, according to two senior State Department officials. Both are expected to serve until Tillerson leaves on March 31.
We wrote about Tillerson’s inner circle at State last June, see Rex Tillerson’s Inner Circle Photo Album, Say Cheese Con Quezo!
Politico’ Nahal Toosi also reported these departures on March 14 and notes that “Many State staffers say the two were widely disliked for severely limiting access to the secretary, sidelining career diplomats and slowing down an already cumbersome decision-making process.” And that’s not an exhaustive list.
We’d like to know what happens to the staffers that Tillerson’s aides brought with them to Foggy Bottom now that they’re leaving. Are they leaving, too? Any personnel conversions to Civil Service or conversions to special government service (SGEs)? Curious minds would like to know.
Chief of staff Margaret Peterlin watches Tillerson from the wings pic.twitter.com/y6qEfVGX1M
— Josh Lederman (@joshledermanAP) March 13, 2018
— POLITICO (@politico) March 14, 2018
No love lost for Tillerson's chief of staff & other aides. One State Dept. official tells me: “I think the record will show it wasn’t Rex who got himself fired. It was the echelon of inept and obstructionist staff he came with who got him fired.” https://t.co/Lf5BlAoiTQ
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) March 13, 2018
Peterlin was a controversial figure at State. Some officials blame her for some of the personnel and procedural chaos at State during the redesign
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) March 13, 2018
With Tillerson's team dropping like flies, the big unknown is Brian Hook and his 15-person team at Policy Planning. “Everyone wants to know what will happen to Hook,” one official said. https://t.co/2qdKfCCdLD pic.twitter.com/Ix57NXv3cB
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) March 14, 2018
State Dept announces Policy Planning chief Brian Hook will go to Vienna for an Iran deal meeting March 16. Hook, who was basically Tillerson's policy brain, cultivated good ties with the White House and is expected to survive his ouster.
— Nicholas Wadhams (@nwadhams) March 14, 2018
Not sure how long Hook is able to stay but S/P needs to return to its original role, and Pompeo needs a strong career "P" to support him. https://t.co/sQGoudb9vh
— Diplopundit (@Diplopundit) March 14, 2018
U.S. @StateDept Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State Brian Hook discussed the importance of the #IndoPacific region and U.S. policy toward Asia. Read the transcript here: https://t.co/7ItY6sgZxn #AsiaPacificMediaHub #peace #stability #prosperity pic.twitter.com/qpo4guPHjp
— US EAP Media Hub (@eAsiaMediaHub) January 20, 2018
Posted: 2:08 am ET
We’re late on this but a couple weeks back, Comedy Central’s Jordan Klepper sat down with former members of the State Department to discuss President Trump’s proposed budget cuts and his approach to diplomacy. Well, this is supposed to be funny but we’re crying, and not from laughing our heads off.
The former employees include two former press officers (Meaghan Monfort and Sri Kulkarni who is running for Congress in Texas and just advanced to the runoffs), David Rank (most recently CDA in Beijing), Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley (f0rmer U.S. Ambassador to Malta), Tom Countryman (former U/Secretary of State), and Michele Bond (former A/S for Consular Affairs).
Tonight (Feb 21) you can see me briefly, with several esteemed State Dept colleagues, on @TheOpposition on Comedy Central, right after the Daily Show.
— Thomas M. Countryman (@TMCountryman) February 21, 2018
— Richard Boucher (@RABoucher) February 22, 2018
Posted: 3:53 am ET
US Ambassador to Mexico & US Ambassador to Panama both resigning — within months of each other.
Ambassador Roberta Jacobson notes to US embassy personnel: "You know how great our two countries are. And that we are stronger together." pic.twitter.com/wakpysYW0G
— Kylie Atwood (@kylieatwood) March 1, 2018
— Roberta Jacobson (@EmbRoberta) March 1, 2018
EXCLUSIVE: Trump plans to nominate Ed Whitacre (former AT&T, GM CEO) as new US Ambassador to Mexico, sources tell me. In 1990, Whitacre was key biz partner to billionaire Carlos Slim in his historic bid for Telmex. He would replace career diplomat Roberta Jacobson via @Reforma pic.twitter.com/Ot5elmS0EB
— José Díaz-Briseño (@diazbriseno) March 1, 2018
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) March 1, 2018
I wish @EmbRoberta, a long-time friend and colleague, the very best. We @statedept greatly appreciate her 31 years of exemplary government service, including as U.S. Ambassador to #Mexico and as Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
— Francisco Palmieri (@WHAAsstSecty) March 1, 2018
— Arturo Sarukhan (@Arturo_Sarukhan) March 1, 2018
Roberta Jacobson is the latest senior Foreign Service pro to resign: U.S. ambassador to Mexico is stepping down, to be replaced by a former CEO of GM and AT&T https://t.co/9mx28zAqv9
— Anne Rumsey Gearan (@agearan) March 1, 2018
Posted: 1:12 am ET
Congress first authorized the position of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the Department of State Organization Act of July 30, 1959. Under Secretary Tom Shannon is the 22nd incumbent to the third highest ranking position in Foggy Bottom since 1959. He is only the 16th career diplomat to be appointed as “P”. He was nominated by President Obama in September 2015 but he did not get confirmed until February 2016. He officially signed his appointment and assumed post in April 2016, so he’s barely two years on the job. We understand that he recently turned 60 years old and wants to set a new direction in his life but we should also note that he is five years short of the mandatory Foreign Service retirement age inscribed in the Foreign Service Act of 1980.
Signed “Warm Regards, Tom Shannon,” the following is the text of the note addressed to friends and colleagues sent by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs announcing his retirement from the Foreign Service and the State Department:
Yesterday I spoke with the Secretary and informed him of my decision to retire from the United States Foreign Service and the Department of State. After more than 34 years of service to our great Republic, I have decided that it is time to step aside. I do so confident in the next generation of Foreign Service leadership, and proud of what we have accomplished across four decades of American diplomacy.
My decision is personal, and driven by a desire to attend to my family, take stock of my life, and set a new direction for my remaining years.
The Secretary has asked me to stay on until my successor is named, and to ensure a smooth transition to the new Under Secretary for Political Affairs. I have agreed to do so.
I want to express my profound gratitude to the Secretary and the President for the privilege of serving at the highest levels of the Department during this past year. I have had the honor of serving under six presidents and ten secretaries of state. All have been extraordinary public servants and great Americans. As with each of you, my service has been defined by our oath of office and the commitment we make to protect and defend our Constitution, our institutions, and our values. Underlying this commitment is our deep respect for the will of the American people and a determination to advance the interests and well-being of our nation by ensuring the success of our elected governments. The sense of duty and obligation that this implies, and the discipline it imparts, has allowed the Department of State and its officers to serve successfully since the earliest days of our Republic.
One of the greatest honors I have been afforded during my career is the opportunity to have worked with all of you. I am deeply grateful for your friendship and solidarity, and I have been humbled by your generosity of spirit, your courage in confronting the dangers and risks inherent in our profession, and your joyful embrace of a life spent far from home and hearth.
To be an American diplomat is a high calling. I salute you all, and look forward to having the opportunity to say my farewells to you in the weeks to come.
- Ambassador Tom Shannon, New Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (P) Assumes Post @StateDept
- Senate Confirmations: Shannon, Egan, Raji, Heins, Estrada, McKean, and Marciel
- Senator Grassley Explains Hold on Thomas Shannon’s Nomination to be @StateDept’s #4
- Senator Grassley Lifts Hold on 20 Foreign Service Nominations, Places New Hold on “P”
- Obama Nominates FSO Thomas A. Shannon as Foggy Bottom’s New “P”
- Quickie: Senator LeMieux on Thomas Shannon and Latin America
- Officially In: Thomas Shannon to Brasilia
Secretary Tillerson: I want to congratulate Tom Shannon on his distinguished career, a record of service that spans almost 35 years. His time was well spent. Tom exhibits a devotion to service that has and shall continue to inspire @StateDept colleagues. https://t.co/unPuVLimiA
— Department of State (@StateDept) February 1, 2018
Congrats on a well-deserved retirement for Tom Shannon. We are all – all ten secretaries he worked with – better off for the gift of his service. My thoughts: https://t.co/WU5tdpKew0 pic.twitter.com/P0eWrRuFuT
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) February 1, 2018
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) February 1, 2018
Posted: 12:14 am ET
Posted: 4:59 am ET
The Foreign Service Act and appropriate personnel regulations require three (3) commitments from candidates for appointment to the Foreign Service: availability for worldwide assignment, willingness to accept out-of-function assignments, and observance of Foreign Service discipline with respect to public support of established United States policy – is a condition of employment with the Foreign Service. That third commitment refers to this:
In the official performance of their duties as representatives of the United States Government, Foreign Service members may be called upon to support and defend policies with which they may not be personally in full agreement. On such occasions, normal standards of Foreign Service discipline will apply. Ample opportunity is provided within official channels for discussion and dissent with respect to the development and conduct of United States Foreign policy.
On January 12, the U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley, a 28-year veteran of the Foreign Service did the honorable thing and tendered his resignation over Administration policies he is no longer able to support and defend. The Panama assignment is Ambassador Feeley’s first as chief of mission. He was on the second year of a three-year assignment.
Below is a brief summary of his long career in the diplomatic service:
John Feeley was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Panama on January 15, 2016, and assumed his post in early February. He is a career diplomat who has focused much of his work on Latin American and Caribbean issues, both in Washington and in the region.
Ambassador Feeley most recently served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2012 to 2015, responsible for the daily management of regional policy implementation and the supervision of 50 diplomatic posts across the Americas.
Previously he was the State Department’s Summit of the Americas Coordinator, overseeing the substantive preparation for Secretary Clinton’s engagement in the 2012 Cartagena Summit, a role he reprised for Secretary Kerry during the 2015 Summit in Panama.
From 2009 to 2012, Ambassador Feeley served as deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, where he managed a 37-agency country team that implemented the Merida Initiative. He has also been the Department’s Director for Central American Affairs and Deputy Director for Caribbean Affairs. From 2004 to 2006, Mr. Feeley served as a Deputy Executive Secretary in the Office of the Secretary of State, where he was responsible for managing information flow to Secretaries Powell and Rice, as well as coordinating their overseas travel.
A 2004 Distinguished Graduate of the National War College, Mr. Feeley’s overseas assignments include two tours in Mexico City, Santo Domingo, and Bogota.
Prior to joining the State Department in 1990, Mr. Feeley served on active military duty as a helicopter pilot in the United States Marine Corps. He is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and is married to retired career diplomat, Cherie Feeley. The Ambassador and his wife speak Spanish. The couple has two adult sons and one grandson.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) January 12, 2018
John Feeley statement: “I signed an oath to serve faithfully the president… in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies. My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come.”
— Enrique Acevedo (@Enrique_Acevedo) January 12, 2018
John Feeley, @USEmbPAN Ambassador, sent a letter of resignation on December 27 informing the administration of his decision to retire for personal reasons as of March 9 of this year. Ambassador Feeley did not resign over alleged comments about the visa lottery system.
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) January 12, 2018
US Amb to Panama John Feeley was one of the finest career foreign service professionals I have ever known. Practical, diligent, tough-minded and diligent, his resignation is a loss to the US-Panamanian bilateral relationship, the US govt, diplomatic service, and American people. https://t.co/ajjZJCdjXU
— Jonathan M Winer (@JonathanMaWiner) January 12, 2018
Proud of my former colleague Amb John Feeley. We served together as junior officers in the Dominican Republic. John, you don't seem to have aged a bit, but you sure have wisdom beyond your years. Thank you for standing up for decency, for human dignity and mutual respect https://t.co/7KsZxZYp2L
— Jennifer Roberts (@JenRobertsNC) January 12, 2018