Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Says Goodbye to Foggy Bottom

Posted: 1:58 pm  ET





Trump Formally Nominates Pompeo to be 70th Secretary of State as Tillerson Exits

Posted: 3:14 am  ET


Plus 1:


Tillerson’s COS Margaret Peterlin, and D/COS Christine Ciccone to Leave on 3/31

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.


Trump Fires Tillerson: Reactions From Around the World

Posted: 4:06 am  ET


President Trump finally announced via Twitter the firing of his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on 13 Mar 2018, Tuesday at 9:44 AM. Below are some reactions from around the world, with a couple of cartoons thrown in.


Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson (February 1, 2017-March 13, 2018)


The 69th Secretary of State Rex Tillerson via

Good afternoon, all. I received a call today from the President of the United States a little after noontime from Air Force One, and I’ve also spoken to White House Chief of Staff Kelly to ensure we have clarity as to the days ahead. What is most important is to ensure an orderly and smooth transition during a time that the country continues to face significant policy and national security challenges.

As such, effective at the end of the day, I’m delegating all responsibilities of the office of the Secretary to Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan. My commission as Secretary of State will terminate at midnight, March the 31st. Between now and then, I will address a few administrative matters related to my departure and work towards a smooth and orderly transition for Secretary of State-Designate Mike Pompeo.

I’m encouraging my policy planning team and under secretaries and assistant secretaries – those confirmed as well as those in acting positions – to remain at their post and continue our mission at the State Department in working with the interagency process. I will be meeting members of my front office team and policy planning later today to thank them for their service. They have been extraordinarily dedicated to our mission, which includes promoting values that I view as being very important: the safety and security of our State Department personnel; accountability, which means treating each other with honesty and integrity; and respect for one another, most recently in particular to address challenges of sexual harassment within the department.

I want to speak now to my State Department colleagues and to our interagency colleagues and partners at DOD and the Joint Chiefs of Staff most particularly. To my Foreign Service officers and Civil Service colleagues, we all took the same oath of office. Whether you’re career, employee, or political appointee, we are all bound by that common commitment: to support and defend the constitution, to bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and to faithfully discharge the duties of our office.

As a State Department, we’re bound together by that oath. We remain steadfast here in Washington and at posts across the world, many of whom are in danger pay situations without their families. The world needs selfless leaders like these, ready to work with longstanding allies, new emerging partners and allies, who now – many are struggling as democracies, and in some cases are dealing with human tragedy, crisis of natural disasters, literally crawling themselves out of those circumstances. These are experiences that no lecture hall in a academic environment or at a think tank can teach you. Only by people going to the front lines to serve can they develop this kind of talent.

To the men and women in uniform, I’m told for the first time in most people’s memory, the Department of State and Department of Defense have a close working relationship where we all agree that U.S. leadership starts with diplomacy. The men and women in uniform at the Department of Defense, under the leadership of Secretary Mattis and General Dunford, protect us as Americans and our way of life daily, at home and abroad. As an all-volunteer military, they do it for love of country, they do it for you, and they do it for me, and for no other reason. As Americans, we are all eternally grateful to each of them, and we honor their sacrifices.

The rewarding part of having leadership and partnerships in place is that you can actually get some things done. And I want to give recognition to the State Department and our partners for a few of their accomplishments under this administration.

First, working with allies, we exceeded the expectations of almost everyone with the DPRK maximum pressure campaign. With the announcement on my very first trip as Secretary of State to the region that the era of strategic patience was over, and we commenced the steps to dramatically increase not just the scope but the effectiveness of the sanctions. The department undertook a global campaign to bring partners and allies on board in every country around the world, with every embassy and mission raising this to the highest levels. And at every meeting I’ve had throughout the year, this has been on the agenda to discuss.

The adoption of the South Asia strategy with a conditions-based military plan is the tool to compel the Taliban to reconciliation and peace talks with the Afghan Government. Finally equipped are military planners with a strategy which they can execute as opposed to a succession of 16 one-year strategies. This clear military commitment attracted the support of allies broadly and equipped our diplomats with a whole new level of certainty around how to prepare for the peace talks and achieve the final objectives.

In other areas, while progress has been made, much work remains. In Syria, we did achieve important ceasefires and stabilizations, which we know has saved thousands of lives. There’s more to be done in Syria, particularly with respect to achieving the peace, as well as stabilizing Iraq and seeing a healthy government installed, and more broadly in the entire global campaign to defeat ISIS. Nothing is possible without allies and partners, though.

Much work remains to establish a clear view of the nature of our future relationship with China. How shall we deal with one another over the next 50 years and ensure a period of prosperity for all of our peoples, free of conflict between two very powerful nations?

And much work remains to respond to the troubling behavior and actions on the part of the Russian Government. Russia must assess carefully as to how its actions are in the best interest of the Russian people and of the world more broadly. Continuing on their current trajectory is likely to lead to greater isolation on their part, a situation which is not in anyone’s interest.

So to my colleagues in the State Department and in the interagency, much remains to be done to achieve our mission on behalf of the American people with allies and with partners. I close by thanking all for the privilege of serving beside you for the last 14 months. Importantly, to the 300-plus million Americans, thank you for your devotion to a free and open society, to acts of kindness towards one another, to honesty, and the quiet hard work that you do every day to support this government with your tax dollars.

All of us, we know, want to leave this place as a better place for the next generation. I’ll now return to private life as a private citizen, as a proud American, proud of the opportunity I’ve had to serve my country. God bless all of you. God bless the American people. God bless America.



Trump Dumps Tillerson as 69th Secretary of State, to Appoint CIA’s Pompeo as 70th SoS

Posted: 9:44 am  PT




Under Budget Cut Clouds, Tillerson Visits Memorial For @USEmbassyKenya Bombing Victims

Posted: 2:21 am ET


On March 11, Secretary Tillerson delivered the following remarks at the Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the August 7th Memorial Park;  in Nairobi, Kenya.

As all of you well know, 1998 terrorists thought they could demoralize and destroy the Kenyan and American people by attacking the U.S. embassy here in Nairobi. Of course, they were wrong. Nearly 20 years later, we meet here to honor those who we lost and those who were injured. Hundreds of lives were taken and hundreds if not a thousand more were changed forever. Some of our current embassy colleagues who survived this tragedy, including Ambassador Godec and his wife Lori and our current locally employed staff at the embassy that day of the bombing, are with us as well. And it’s an honor to meet all of you, and I appreciate you being here.

To the survivors present, please know that the American people remember your service and your sacrifice as well as those who are not with us today and have been forever lost. Our hearts are with the many who lost family, friends, and colleagues on that tragic day.

Today we remember them and their bravery, the compassion, and the sacrifice, as well as many who without hesitation that day and at risk to themselves rushed into action to save lives and help others. We honor those heroes and the courage they displayed as well. They are all examples to us.

As our work continues to end terrorism, those who sought to divide us here have failed. Our commitment to work together as Americans and Kenyans is steadfast, it is enduring, and we will build on the shared values and our shared future, which remains very strong. We will never forget the names on this wall. Thank you.

The FBI says that the investigation continues, with the following fugitives still wanted for their alleged roles in the attacks:

January 1999: Report of the Accountability Review Boards on the Embassy Bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam on August 7, 1998.

As the NYT notes, the Africa Embassy bombings “may have done more to transform the State Department than any other event of the past 50 years.”

It also points a fact that’s not lost on anyone — “Mr. Tillerson has twice proposed slashing the department’s budget to about $35 billion from about $50 billion, saying that doing so would return spending levels to those before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”

And just watch, he won’t stop at his second try.


Tillerson Meets Erdoğan in Ankara With Turkish Foreign Minister as Interpreter

Posted: 12:35 am ET


AND NOW THIS, from people paying attention:


After Congressional Queries, @StateDept to Mandate Sexual Harassment Training

Posted: 3:31 am ET


On January 11, Deputy Secretary Sullivan held a session “Harassment in the Workplace” at the State Department (see @StateDept to Hold “Harassment in the Workplace” Session But First, Read This FSI Sexual Harassment Case).  The following day, Secretary Tillerson delivered his remarks on values, also specifically addressing sexual harassment.

We understand that for a while there on January 12, Secretary Tillerson’s Conversation on the Value of Respect was reportedly the “tip of the day” when you log in to the Department’s OpenNet. That’s right, just mere hours after the President of the United States was reported to call certain countries “shitholes” during a meeting with lawmakers at the White House. Click here for reactions from different countries.

We’re not sure why both Deputy Secretary and the Secretary talked about sexual harassment two days in a row. Our most charitable take is that this is something the State Department cares very much, and the senior leadership would like to impress upon employees the  importance it places on sexual harassment (see our posts on sexual harassment here).  The less charitable take is that they’ve heard about folks talking to Congress about sexual harassment at the State Department, and they did not want to be perceived as not doing anything. (See Senators Seek Review/Analysis of @StateDept and @USAID Sexual Harassment and Assault DataCongress Seeks Info on @StateDept Senior Executives Who Are Subjects of Multiple ComplaintsInbox: “State Department absolutely deserves to have a trial by media”).

Of course, we also have our jaded take and we’re not alone on this — that Tillerson’s folks had atrocious timing, and did not want to seem like the Secretary was criticizing his boss on the day when the “shitholes” comment was  bouncing around the globe.

Fast-forward to February 12, Tillerson has now reportedly announced mandatory sexual harassment training for State Department employees. Reuters reports that the mandatory training is supposed to be completed by June 1:

“There is no form of disrespect for the individual that I can identify, anything more demeaning than for someone to suffer this kind of treatment,” he said. 

“It’s not OK if you’re seeing it happening and just look away. You must do something. You must notify someone. You must step in and intervene,” Tillerson added, speaking in Cairo to about 150 U.S. embassy staff outside the ambassador’s residence.

We’d be interested to know who provides the training, and what’s the source of the training material. For those who experienced sexual harassment first hand, we’d like to know if you think this mandatory training would help remedy the problem.

AND NOW THIS — Randy Rainbow’s ‘Stand By Your Man’ is quite memorable.


A Look at @StateDept Staffing Losses Between FY2016-FY2017 #ThisCouldGetWorse

Posted: 12:28 pm PT
Updated: Feb 13, 2:02 pm PT


We’ve written previously about staffing and attrition at the State Department in this blog. We’ve decided to put the staffing numbers in FY16 and FY17 next to each other for comparison. The numbers are publicly released by State/HR, and links are provided below.

Since the State Department had also released an update of its staffing numbers dated December 31, 2017 for the first quarter of FY2018, we’ve added that in the table below.

FY2016 saw a high water mark in the total number of State Department employees worldwide at 75,231.  There were 13,980 Foreign Service employees (officers and specialists), 11,147 Civil Service employees and 50,104 locally employed (LE) staff members at 275 overseas posts.

The Trump Administration took office on January 20, 2017. On February 1, 2017, Rex W. Tillerson was sworn in as the 69th Secretary of State. With the exception of the month of January, note that Secretary Tillerson was at the helm at State for eight months in FY2017 (February-September 30, 2017), and the first three months of FY2018 (October 2017-December 2017).

With 75,231 overall number as our marker, we find that the State Department overall was reduced by 351 employees at the end of FY2017.  On the first quarter of FY18, this number was reduced further by 476 employees.  Between September 30, 2016, and December 31, 2017 — 15 months — the agency was reduced  overall by 827 employees (including LE employees).

FY2017 did see six, that’s right, six new FS specialists, and 256 LE staffers added to its rolls (see That FSS Number for additional discussion on that six FSS gains). Note that LE staffers are generally host country nationals paid in local compensation plans with non-dollarized salaries.

Data also shows that there were 68 more FS/CS employees overseas. We interpret this to mean 68 more FS/CS employees assigned overseas, and not/not necessarily new hires. The FSO ranks were reduced by 107 officers, and the Civil Service corps was reduced by 500 out of a total of 25,127 American employees by September 2017. The Foreign Service was further reduced by 197 employees, and the Civil Service reduced by 144 employees by December 31, 2017.

Tillerson on Track

Mr. Tillerson goal is reportedly to reduce the department’s full-time American employees by 8 percent by the end of September 2018, the date by which Mr. Tillerson has purportedly promised to complete the first round of cuts. A November 2017 report  calculated the 8 percent as 1,982 people with 1,341 expected to retire or quit, and 641 employees expected to take buyouts. The data below indicates that the State Department’s American FS/CS employees at 25,127 in FY2016 was reduced by 948 employees by December 31, 2017, a reduction of 3.8 percent.  If the buyouts, as reported, occurs in April 2018, Tillerson would be at 6.3 percent reduction by spring, with five months to get to the remaining 1.7 percent to make his 8 percent target by September 30. And this is just the first round.

Projected Attrition

In 2016, the State Department already projected that between FY 2016 and FY 2020, close to 5,400 career FS and CS employees (21 percent) will leave the Department due to various types of attrition (non-retirements, retirements, voluntary, involuntary). That’s an average of 1,080 reduction each fiscal year from FY2016-FY2020.  Even without a threat of staff reduction, it was already anticipated that the State Department was going to shrink by 1,080 employees every year until 2020.  We think that part of this estimate has to do with the graying of the federal service, and the mandatory age retirement for the Foreign Service, but also because of the built-in RIF in the Foreign Service with its “up or out” system. Anytime we hear the State Department trimming its promotion numbers, we also anticipate more departures for people who could not get promoted.

It’s Not a RIF, Just Shrinking the Promotion Numbers

Tillerson made the staff reduction his own by announcing a staffing cut and a buyout. This was obviously a mistake, but what do we know? What this signals to us is a lack of understanding of how the system was intended to work most especially in the Foreign Service. This is a mistake that he could have easily avoided had he not walled himself away from career people who knew the building and the system that he was trying to redesign.

Yes, the reduction in State Department workforce was in the stars whether Tillerson became Secretary of State or not. There is a regular brain drain because the Foreign Service is an “up or out” system. Some diplomats who are at the prime of their careers but are not promoted are often forced to leave.  But to get more people to leave, Tillerson does not even need to announce a RIF, he only need to shrink the promotion numbers. A source familiar with the numbers told us that in 2017, 41 FSOs were promoted from FS01 to the Senior Foreign Service (SFS), down from an average over the past five years of 101, or a 60% decrease. Across the Foreign Service, we understand that the average decrease in promotion numbers is about 30% percent.

In the rules books, the Director General of the Foreign Service is supposed to determine the number of promotions of members of the Foreign Service reviewed by the selection boards by “taking into account such factors as vacancies, availability of funds, estimated attrition, projected needs of the Service, and the need for retention of expertise and experience.” This decisions is based on “a systematic, long-term projection of personnel flows and needs designed to provide: (1)  A regular, predictable flow of recruitment into the Service; (2)  Effective career development to meet Service needs; and (3)  A regular, predictable flow of talent upwards through the ranks and into the SFS.”

The State Department does not even have a Senate-confirmed DGHR. The last Senate confirmed Director General Arnold Chacon left his post in June 2017 (see DGHR Arnold Chacón Steps Down, One More @StateDept Office Goes Vacant). Bill Todd who is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary is now acting Director General of the Foreign Service & acting Director of Human Resources, as well as “M” Coordinator. The Trump Administration has nominated ex-FSO  Stephen Akard to be the next DGHR (see Ten Ex-Directors General Call on the SFRC to Oppose Stephen Akard’s Confirmation).

Burning Both Ends of the Candle

The surprise is not that people are leaving, it is that people that you don’t expect to leave now are leaving or have left. An ambassador who retires in the middle of a three-year tenure. The highest ranking female diplomat who potentially could have been “P” retired. A senior diplomat retiring while at the pinnacle of his diplomatic career five years short of mandatory age retirement. A talented diplomat calling it quits while there’s a whole new world yet to be explored. The highest numbers of departures are occurring at the Minister Counselor level, and at the FS01s and below level (PDF). That said, these numbers as released and shown below, are still within the previously projected attrition numbers for FY2017. The FY2018 numbers is the one we’re anxious to see.

Tillerson’s staff reduction is not even the most glaring problem he gave himself. Basically, Tillerson’s State Department is burning both ends of the candle. The diplomatic ranks were reduced by 225 in December 31 last year but State will reportedly only hire a hundred in FY2018. There are rumors of only hiring at 3 for 1 to attrition. If this is the plan, Tillerson will surely shrink the diplomatic service but by not ensuring a smooth flow of new blood into the Service, he will put the institution and its people at risk. For instance, there are about 2,000 Diplomatic Security agents. Let’s say 21 percent or 420 agents leave the agency between now and 2020, and the State Department hires 140 new agents during the same period. The work will still be there, it will just remain unfilled or the positions get eliminated. A three-person security office could shrink to two, to one, or none. In the meantime, the United States has 275 posts overseas, including high threat/high risk priority posts that require those security agents.  What happens then? Are we going to see more contractors? Since contractor numbers are typically not released by the State Department, we won’t have any idea how many will supplement the agency’s workforce domestically and overseas.

The Foreign Service Specialists (FSS) Count

So if we look at the first table below (thanks JR), note that the total Foreign Service Specialists (FSSs) number is 5,821. A State Department release in November 29, 2017 confirms the 5,821 figure. But this figure as you can see here (PDF) includes Consular Fellow gains (previously known as Consular Adjudicators) in FY2017 (231), FY2016 (141), FY2015 (70), FY2014 (35) and FY2013 (37). The numbers are not clear from FY13 and FY14 because the counts were not done at the end of the fiscal year but midyear and end of the year. As best we can tell, the State Department HR Fact Sheet counts Consular Fellows as part of its FSS count in fiscal years 2015-2017.

The result is that the career FSS count is artificially inflated by the inclusion of the Consular Fellows in the count. While the first table below shows an FSS gain of six specialists, in reality, the CF inclusion in the count hides the career FSS losses in the last three fiscal years that ended. Why does that count matter? Because the Consular Fellow LNA appointments max out at 60 months.

11/29/17  Department of State Facts About Our Most Valuable Asset – Our People (September 30, 2017 Counts) 

Consular Fellows are hired via limited non-career appointments (LNAs). The Consular Fellows program, similar to its predecessor, the Consular Adjudicator Limited Non-Career Appointment (CA LNA) program, is not an alternate entry method to the Foreign Service or the U.S. Department of State, i.e. this service does not lead to onward employment at the U.S. Department of State or with the U.S. government. In fact notes that Consular Fellows are welcome to apply to become Foreign Service Specialists, Foreign Service Generalists, or Civil Service employees, but they must complete the standard application and assessment processes. So for Congressional folks keeping track of the career Foreign Service numbers, this would be a notable distinction.

Trump’s 2019 Budget and the Next 27% Cut

Trump’s fiscal 2019 proposed budget includes a 27% cut to the State Department. This potentially could get a lot worse; when the Administration starts shrinking programs, and priorities at this rate, it will inevitably create a cascading effect impacting overseas presence and personnel. State Department officials may say no post closures, and no reduction-in-force now but we probably will see those down the road, even if not immediately.  Remember when State was shrunk in the early 1990’s? It took a while before people could start picking up the pieces, and the replenishment for the workforce did not happen until almost a decade later. (see The Last Time @StateDept Had a 27% Budget Cut, Congress Killed ACDA and USIA).

Still, we have to remind ourselves that the budget proposal is just that, a proposal, and that Congress has the power of the purse. Is it foolish to hang our hopes on our elected reps?

HR Fact Sheet as of December 31, 2017 (PDF)

HR Fact Sheet as of 9/30/2017 (PDF)
Oops, looks like this file was subsequently removed after post went up.
See copy via the Internet Archive

HR Fact Sheet as of 9/30/2016 (Archived PDF)

HR Fact Sheet as of 9/30/2015 (PDF)

Below is a bonus chart with the FY2015 staffing numbers (yellow column#1), and the gains/losses between September 2015 to December 2017 (yellow column ##2). We’re sure that Mr. Tillerson’s aides would say that yes, there are staffing losses but look, the State Department’s overall workforce is still larger at the end of 2017 when compared to 2015. And that is true. Except that if you look closely at the numbers, you will quickly note that the gains of 1,346 employees are all LE staffers on local compensation.


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