Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.
Tillerson was actually inside the State Department’s headquarters in Foggy Bottom on Wednesday, taking meetings and getting the lay of the land. I reported Wednesday morning that the Trump team was narrowing its search for his No. 2, and that it was looking to replace the State Department’s long-serving undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy. Kennedy, who has been in that job for nine years, was actively involved in the transition and was angling to keep that job under Tillerson, three State Department officials told me.
Then suddenly on Wednesday afternoon, Kennedy and three of his top officials resigned unexpectedly, four State Department officials confirmed. Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions, followed him out the door. All are career foreign service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Kennedy will retire from the foreign service at the end of the month, officials said. The other officials could be given assignments elsewhere in the foreign service.
In addition, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr retired Jan. 20, and the director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, Lydia Muniz, departed the same day. That amounts to a near-complete housecleaning of all the senior officials that deal with managing the State Department, its overseas posts and its people.
“It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate,” said David Wade, who served as State Department chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry. “Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.”
These are the top managers at the department that would have helped Tillerson run the day-to-day operations at State. They are all gone, and it looks like they are gone under their own volition. FOr Undersecretary Kennedy to retire and his entire management team to leave? Something in the Trump regime's foreign policy apparatus is rotten (not that any of it would be good, mind you) and I dearly hope the media keeps on this story to find out why.
This is a big one, guys. Career foreign service people just don't walk out the door like this. If Tillerson and the Trump regime made it clear they were all gone out of spite (as these are all appointed positions that would require Senate confirmation) that's terrifying. And if Tillerson is so incompetent that they left rather than serve, that's terrifying too.
I'm not sure which scenario is worse.
EDIT: CNN is reporting Kennedy and his staff were all fired by the Trump regime Wednesday afternoon.
Two senior administration officials said Thursday that the Trump administration fired four top State Department management officials as part of an effort to "clean house" at Foggy Bottom.
Patrick Kennedy, who served for nine years as the undersecretary for management, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Ambassador Gentry Smith, director of the Office for Foreign Missions, were sent letters by the White House that their service was no longer required, the sources told CNN.
All four submitted letters of resignation, per tradition at the beginning of the administration. The letters from the White House said that their resignations were accepted and they were thanked for their service.
Whether or not that really happened? With this White House? Who knows?