Posted: 2:26 am ET
As best we could tell, Secretary Tillerson first talked about the redesign at his agency as an “employee-led” effort on August 9, 2017 at a quick stop at the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia:
We’ve taken that information now and we’ve set up a number of work teams. Now this whole effort is led by the employees of the State Department, your colleagues. We have a steering team that helps guide them that’s chaired by Deputy Secretary Sullivan. But we really are wanting this to be an employee-led redesign effort, and it’s all about looking at how we get our work done.
But back in July, an unnamed State Department spokesperson appeared on the July 17, 2017 Foreign Policy piece Tillerson to Shutter State Department War Crimes Office, talking about the “employee-led redesign initiative.”
— Tamara Cofman Wittes, Dr Wittes if you're nasty. (@tcwittes) July 18, 2017
So, it’s quite hilarious to read the State Department spokesperson’s response during the Daily Press Briefing of November 27 when asked about the departure of Maliz Beams.
Keep in mind that Maliz Beams did not join the State Department until August 17, 2017 (see Former Voya Financial CEO Maliz Beams Reportedly Appointed @StateDept Counselor; @StateDept Now Has an Official Bio For New Counselor of the State Department Maliz E. Beams).
When asked why Ms. Beams left her post, Official Spokesperson Heather Nauert said “She said to me that she came here to set the vision for the redesign.” Further Ms. Nauert said, “She sets the vision. She’s done that for this organization. She feels that she’s accomplished that in setting the vision. She said to me, quote, “I feel good about it.”
A member of the press corps was quick to ask a fairly simple follow-up question – “in a sentence, what is the vision that she has set for the redesign?” The official response is a pretzels demo:
“Well, one of the things that we’ve said is that this is an employee-driven process. And a lot of folks made fun of this, but asking employees what they want, what changes they want, is something that is new and something that is significant, and that is something that they have been able to do to determine where there are redundancies. And that’s one of the ways that we will do that.”
Is Ms. Nauert suggesting that the “employee-driven” or employee-led” process was Ms. Beams’ vision for the redesign? And if so, how was Ms. Beams able to do this when a month before she joined the State Department, an unnamed spokesperson was already talking about the redesign in those same terms?
If the spox was not suggesting that the “employee-driven process” was Ms. Beams’ vision at the State Department, what the heck was she talking about. What was the vision-setting that Ms. Beams accomplished at the agency during her three-month tenure?
Excerpt from the transcript:
QUESTION: Why did Maliz Beams leave her post as counselor of the department?
MS NAUERT: So Maliz Beams was brought in to help pull together the redesign. That’s one of the things that the Secretary said is important to him and important to the State Department. And frankly, when you ask people here, the rank and file, what they think about the redesign, while our communications have not been fantastic – I will admit that – the – they support by and large the efforts of the redesign, acknowledging that the State Department can become more efficient and operate more effectively with the redesign.
Maliz Beams – I spoke with her earlier today at length. I was there yesterday when she announced to senior staff that she would be leaving the State Department. Maliz made the decision to resign from the State Department. She said to me that she came here to set the vision for the redesign. She has done this for many companies. She’s had a 30-year career in this line of work. She sets the vision. She’s done that for this organization. She feels that she’s accomplished that in setting the vision. She said to me, quote, “I feel good about it.” So now is the time when she decided that she wanted to step back and that it was the time for the State Department to be able to pick it up from here.
We are in phase three of the redesign right now. There are 70 initiatives that she helped enable to prepare to launch. Those initiatives are being chaired by some of our top career people who have been here for many, many years, included among them names and faces you will know: Ambassador Bill Todd, also Ambassador Marcia Bernicat from Bangladesh. They are involved in these 70 initiatives. They are people that the building knows, they are people that the building trust, they are people who love this institution. I can tell you that the Secretary is expected to speak with staff here at the State Department sometime in the near future. I don’t have a date for that just yet. And then we have our new under secretary for public diplomacy and political affairs, who will be handling some of the communications going forward.
QUESTION: She was not asked or encouraged to leave?
MS NAUERT: She made the decision to step down.
QUESTION: No, no. She couldn’t make the decision to step down after having been encouraged to consider whether to step down?
MS NAUERT: She made the decision to step down.
QUESTION: But was not encouraged or asked to step down?
MS NAUERT: Not to my knowledge. I was not in the meeting at the time, but I spoke with her. I also spoke with our deputy secretary and others about this, and this was her decision.
QUESTION: Heather, in a sentence, what is the vision that she has set for the redesign?
MS NAUERT: Well, one of the things that we’ve said is that this is an employee-driven process. And a lot of folks made fun of this, but asking employees what they want, what changes they want, is something that is new and something that is significant, and that is something that they have been able to do to determine where there are redundancies. And that’s one of the ways that we will do that. Among the other things in the redesign that has been highlighted as important to this department and it may seem kind of dopey to a lot of folks who have great computers and comms like you all do, but to get a better computer system in place. I cannot stress —
QUESTION: A better commuter system?
MS NAUERT: Computer system.
QUESTION: Oh, oh, oh. Because I was going to go all in on the better commuter system. (Laughter.) The Metro is awful.
MS NAUERT: It is extremely frustrating when you are trying to respond to press questions, for example. How many times have you all heard from me or from Robert or Robert’s predecessor, Mark Stroh, when our comms are down for a very long time? It is embarrassing. We can’t get to you, you can’t get to us. Well, imagine if we need to reach folks around the world. So that has been a problem. And that’s one of the things that the Secretary and Maliz Beams has identified as being something that we want to make more efficient and better. Okay.